11 Hormones That Make it Hard to Lose Weight (and Affect Weight Gain and Obesity)

by Millie
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Weight gain and obesity are complex and multifaceted problems and it’s no wonder that hormones play a major role. While there are a variety of factors that can contribute to weight gain and obesity, there are certain hormones that have a direct effect on our ability to lose weight and keep it off even when making healthy lifestyle changes. In this blog, we will explore the hormones that make it hard to lose weight and how those hormones influence weight gain and obesity.

What Are Hormones?

hormones word cube on leaves
Hormones are important messengers

Hormones are powerful molecules that play an essential role in the functioning of the human body. They are secreted by various organs and act as messengers that regulate the body’s processes. They affect everything from metabolism and growth to mood and behavior. Without hormones, your body would not be able to grow and maintain normal functioning.

But when hormones become imbalanced, it can lead to a variety of physical and mental health issues. Understanding what happens when there is a hormonal imbalance is key to finding the right treatment and restoring balance to the body.

Hormones that Make it Hard to Lose Weight

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There are 11 hormones that make it hard to lose weight

Weight loss can be daunting, especially when hormones work against you. Many people struggle to lose weight and keep it off, not realizing that the hormones in their bodies can be the reason.

Understanding the hormones that affect your weight, can help you manage your weight loss and weight maintenance more effectively. Let’s take a look at them.

1. Cortisol

woman feeling stressed
Cortisol is known as the stress hormone

One of the most important factors affecting body weight is the hormone cortisol. Known as the stress hormone, it is released by the adrenal glands in response to stress. While cortisol can be beneficial in times of stress, too much of it can have a negative impact on your weight.

When we are under stress, cortisol increases the amount of sugar available to the body, boosts energy levels, and increases alertness. In addition, it can also trigger the body to store fat and break down muscle to use as energy. This can make it difficult to lose weight.

When cortisol levels are too high, the body begins to store fat, especially around the abdominal area. This type of fat is referred to as visceral fat and is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and other chronic diseases.

High cortisol levels can also cause cravings for sugary and processed foods, which can lead to overeating and excess weight.

Also read: Can Stress Cause Weight Gain Without Overeating?

Fortunately, there are several things you can do to reduce cortisol levels and help manage your weight. Regular exercise can help reduce stress and lower cortisol levels. Getting enough sleep and better stress management can also help. Additionally, eating a balanced diet can help.

2. Insulin

donuts and marshmallows on pink background
Insulin regulates the amount of sugar in the bloodstream

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps the body regulate the amount of sugar in the bloodstream by signaling the cells to take up the sugar and store it as glycogen or fat to be used later.

When insulin levels are high, the body is more likely to store food as fat, making it harder to lose weight. On the other hand, when insulin levels are low, the body is more likely to burn fat for energy, making it easier to lose weight.

Insulin resistance is when your cells become less responsive to insulin and as a result, you need to produce more insulin to keep blood sugar levels in check. This can cause you to put on weight since your body is unable to burn off the extra calories it is taking in.

Another way insulin affects weight is by causing you to store more fat. When insulin levels are high, the body is more likely to store fat instead of using it for energy. This makes it harder to lose weight since you will have difficulty burning off the stored fat.

If you are trying to lose weight, it is important to keep your insulin levels in check. Eating a healthy diet with low glycemic foods, exercising regularly, and getting adequate sleep can help keep your insulin levels in check. In addition, taking omega-3 supplements can help.

3. Ghrelin

heart fried egg on pink plate
Ghrelin regulates hunger

Ghrelin plays a key role in regulating hunger and energy balance in the body. As such it is sometimes called the hunger hormone. It is released from the stomach and stimulates hunger, increases food intake, and promotes fat storage.

It is well known that people who are overweight have higher levels of ghrelin in their bloodstream. Studies have also shown that ghrelin levels may also increase with weight gain and decrease with weight loss. This suggests that ghrelin is an important factor in weight.

Ghrelin is produced in the body when the stomach is empty and stimulates the hypothalamus to release hunger hormones. It also increases glucose levels, thus increasing the feeling of hunger.

When ghrelin is present, the body is more likely to store fat rather than burn it. This is because ghrelin suppresses the activity of lipoprotein lipase, an enzyme responsible for breaking down fat. This means that fat cells are better able to store fat, thus contributing to weight gain.

In addition, ghrelin also increases the urge to eat, particularly when it is released in high concentrations. This can make it difficult to stick to a diet and lose weight.

One way to reduce ghrelin levels and make it easier to lose weight is to eat regularly throughout the day. Quality sleep can also help to reduce ghrelin levels.

Also read: Everything You Need to Know About Sleep and Weight Loss

4. Leptin

woman holding full stomach
Leptin tell your brain you’re full

The hormone leptin is released from fat cells in the body and acts as a feedback loop to your brain, telling it you’re full. When we feel full leptin is released and signals our brain to reduce hunger, decrease appetite, and increase metabolism.

However, when our bodies are deprived of energy, leptin production decreases and our bodies think that it is starving. This triggers a feeling of increased hunger, resulting in us eating more food and gaining weight. In fact, some obese people may experience leptin resistance.

The solution to this problem is to increase leptin production. To do this, you can exercise regularly and get good quality sleep.

5. Estrogen

woman measuring belly fat
Low levels of estrogen amy cause belly fat

Estrogen is a sex hormone primarily responsible for regulating female reproductive functions. However, it can be a determining factor in why some people find it difficult to lose weight.

Estrogen levels changes during menstruation, pregnancy, nursing, and menopause. Obese people tend to have high levels which increase the risk of certain cancers and diseases. Conversely, low levels are associated with fat around the trunk of the body and may lead to heart disease, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure.

Unfortunately, the effects of estrogen on weight can be quite complex and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Because it can influence so many aspects of the body, it’s important to talk to a doctor before taking any supplements or medications that could affect your estrogen levels.

However, if you have an estrogen imbalance, there are a few ways to naturally increase your body’s estrogen levels, such as eating healthy foods and exercising regularly. Taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can also help to maintain healthy levels of estrogen.

6. Testosterone

testosterone, one of the hormones that make it hard to lose weight, written on torn paper
Testosterone can cause abdominal weight gain in women

Testosterone is produced mainly by the testes in men, and by the ovaries and adrenal glands in women. It is responsible for many physical changes that occur during puberty and adulthood, such as the growth and development of male sex organs, muscle mass and strength, development of body and facial hair, and changes in mood and behavior.

Testosterone is also a key factor in regulating body weight, and it plays an important role in helping to maintain a healthy weight.

In men, higher levels of this hormone are associated with an increase in lean body mass and a decrease in fat mass. On the other hand, lower levels of testosterone are associated with an increase in fat and can make it difficult to lose weight.

In women, however, higher levels of testosterone can result in insulin resistance and abdominal weight gain.

There are a variety of treatments available for those who are experiencing an imbalance in their testosterone levels, including lifestyle modifications, medications, and supplements.

7. Thyroid Hormone

woman holding thyroid on neck
Thyroid hormones can affect metabolism

Thyroid hormones are produced by the thyroid gland, located in the neck and it produces two hormones, triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). They are responsible for regulating the body’s metabolism, which is the process of turning food into energy.

If the thyroid hormone is out of balance, metabolism can slow down, leading to weight gain and the inability to lose weight.

The most common thyroid disorder is hypothyroidism, which is when the thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones. People with hypothyroidism will often experience fatigue, constipation, dry skin, hair loss, and unexplained weight gain. Unfortunately, hypothyroidism can be difficult to diagnose and is often overlooked.

When the thyroid hormone is too low, the body is unable to properly process the food you eat and turn it into energy. This slows down the metabolism, causing the body to store more calories as fat. Even if you are following a healthy diet and exercising regularly, your body may still be unable to lose weight due to a sluggish metabolism.

In order to correct the imbalance, it is important to work with a doctor who can provide the right diagnosis and treatment plan. Treatment usually involves taking synthetic hormone replacements, which can help to restore balance and boost the metabolism.

In addition to medications, lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly can help people with hypothyroidism achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

8. Neuropeptide Y

woman with no appetite

Neuropeptide Y (NPY) is produced in the brain and nervous system and regulates appetite as well as decreasing energy when stressed or fasting. When out of balance, NPY can lead to excess weight, increased fat, especially belly fat, and metabolic syndrome. The good news is that NPY levels can be reduced through lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise.

9. Glucagon-Like Peptide-1

sugar poured on donuts
GLP-1 keeps blood sugar in check

Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). GLP-1 is secreted in your gut and helps keep your blood sugar levels in check and helps you to feel full.

However, when GLP-1 levels are too high, it can make weight loss difficult. People with obesity have higher GLP-1 levels than people of a healthy weight. Research suggests that elevated GLP-1 levels can increase hunger and cravings. This leads to increased calorie intake, body fat, and weight gain.

Fortunately, there are ways to reduce elevated GLP-1 levels and make weight loss easier. Eating a balanced diet high in lean proteins and probiotics.

10. Cholecystokinin

woman with full stomach
CCK helps with satiety

Cholecystokinin (CCK) is secreted by the small intestine in response to a meal. It has been implicated in various physiological processes including digestion and satiety.

On the one hand, CCK can help stimulate satiety and reduce appetite, thus aiding in weight loss. On the other hand, obese people are less sensitive to CCK which leads to overeating and can cause weight gain. Regular physical activity and a high-protein diet can help to balance your CCK levels.

11. Peptide YY

Peptide YY (PYY) is another gut hormone that regulates appetite. When levels of PYY are high, it signals the body to suppress the appetite and increase feelings of fullness.

Research has found that higher levels of PYY are associated with lower body mass index (BMI) and lower levels of fat mass. However, a well-balanced diet and regular exercise will keep your PPY at the optimal level.

Could it be Your Hormones?

woman eating healthy to lose weight
Your weight loss struggles could be caused by your hormones

If you are struggling with your weight and finding it difficult to lose weight even when seriously dieting, you may have a hormone imbalance. It is clear that hormones can affect weight loss.

There are 11 hormones that can affect your appetite, satiety, cravings, metabolism, fat storage, belly fat, and more. And you may finally be able to achieve lasting weight loss once you are able to effectively manage the levels of these hormones.

However, as you have read generally there are effective strategies to achieve hormonal balance. But, you still need to eat right and exercise regularly to tackle your weight issues and consequently your hormone levels.

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