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  • Dr. Nancy

8 Key Hormones That Affect Your Weight

We're often led to believe that losing weight is solely about calories in versus calories out.

That doesn't always tell the full story, especially if your hormones aren't balanced.

Balance hormones for weight loss.

Your hormones can play a huge role in helping or hindering your weight loss efforts. They can affect everything from your appetite to where you’re most likely to store fat.

If certain hormones are out of balance, it can make it difficult to lose weight.

But here’s the good news: it’s easier than you might think to control these hormones and keep your weight in check.

Here are some important hormones that can affect your weight.

Stress Hormones

Being stressed and busy can mean that stress hormones such as cortisol are constantly being released.

High cortisol levels are linked to overeating and weight gain, especially around the belly.

Often, you'll be craving high carb and sugar-rich foods, especially if other hormones are also out of balance.

Managing stress, getting regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy sleep pattern can help avoid high cortisol levels.

Estrogen and Progesterone

Estrogen levels can be affected by factors such as body fat, intense exercise, and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).

If your estrogen levels are high, it can make it a whole heap harder to lose weight. It can sometimes be a factor in insulin resistance too.

Low levels of estrogen can also affect weight, especially around menopause.

Progesterone is another sex hormone that has an impact on weight. It can be easily depleted by factors such as stress, birth control pills, and menopause.

Ideally, you want to have a healthy ratio of estrogen and progesterone — if one is higher or lower than it should be, it can quickly affect the other. Estrogen dominance and low progesterone can have similar symptoms and it’s common for them to go hand-in-hand.

If your sex hormones are out of balance, you’ll probably also notice other unpleasant and debilitating health problems, including headaches, mood swings, fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, and menstrual problems.


Every time you eat or drink something that’s sugary or rich in carbs, your blood sugar spikes.

This triggers insulin production and makes it a lot less likely that the calories will be stored as fat.

Refined carbs such as white pasta, white bread and other foods that are high on the Glycemic Index are common culprits for blood sugar spikes.

Swapping these for whole grains and other options that are lower on the Glycemic Index slows down the absorption into the bloodstream, so your blood sugar is more likely to stay stable for longer, along with your body’s insulin response.

According to studies, eating refined carbs and sugar in just the short term can pave the way for this.

And as an added bonus, the extra fiber from non-refined carbs will keep you feeling fuller, and snacking is less of a problem.

The end result? It's easier to keep weight in check when your blood sugar and insulin levels aren't erratic.

Leptin and Ghrelin

Leptin and ghrelin are two more hormones that are heavily linked to appetite.

When your leptin levels are balanced, you feel full after meals.

If you're still feeling super hungry even after eating a big meal, leptin may be at least partly to blame.

Leptin levels can be balanced out through diet and exercise.

For some people, it may need a bit more than this, especially if you've been eating a ton of unhealthy foods for years and are experiencing Leptin resistance.

According to studies, leptin resistance is more likely to occur if you’re overweight. Even if you have higher levels of leptin in your body, it doesn’t have a huge impact.

It’s thought this might be due to the inflammatory chemicals pumped out by fat cells, which impede the effects of leptin and encourage you to keep seeking out high-calorie foods.

Ghrelin is also an important hormone for keeping appetite in check.

Ghrelin stimulates appetite. Under normal circumstances, ghrelin levels fall after eating and rise again when you're hungry.

This balance avoids overeating, but it can quickly be tipped the wrong way, especially if you're overweight. Not eating enough protein and going overboard on sugary foods and drinks can also affect ghrelin levels.


Adiponectin, a hormone found in fat tissue can support weight loss. It’s helpful for boosting metabolism.

In a study published in Nature Medicine, mice who were injected with adiponectin lost weight, even though there were no changes to their appetite or the amount of food they ate.

Thyroid Hormones

Your thyroid can play a key role in your metabolism.

If you have a sluggish thyroid, it can be a super strong culprit for weight gain and fluid retention. It can also contribute to lots of other issues, including tiredness, dry skin, sensitivity to the cold, and depression.

Blood tests can flag up thyroid imbalances so it’s important to get this ruled out if you’re struggling to lose weight despite a healthy lifestyle.

As you can see losing weight is far more complex than just a “calories in” versus “calories burned” scenario. These hormones play a critical role in achieving and maintaining an ideal weight.

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