How Hormones Affect Your Weight

Do you know how hormones affect your weight? If you’re trying to slim down but are plateauing, this may be the reason. Read on to learn more. 


Our body’s little chemical messengers are busy at work telling different parts of our system how to operate. They go the distance (literally!) throughout our body via blood plasma and help regulate, maintain and even modify function with everything from blood pressure to stress, with food and sex in between. These messengers are called hormones. For those that are constantly feeling the frustration of trying to slim down and maintain a healthy weight, there are 3 of these messengers in our body that we need to take a closer look at when it comes to weight gain or loss.  Let’s get to it and start with the first more well-known hormone:


How Hormones Affect Your Weight:


Most of us think of “belly fat” when we think of cortisol.  But put that negative thought aside for a bit and realize that we need cortisol in our system when we get stressed!  It’s job is to maintain proper blood glucose levels, because when we get stressed our blood sugar drops.  The way cortisol helps maintain this level is to signal our body to start using up stored fat which in turn helps elevate blood glucose.  Short term stress that leads to elevated sugar in the bloodstream helps give you that extra energy you need.  But the problem is the long-term, continual stress that seems to be the norm today….leading to our cortisol level being chronically elevated.

So here’s where weight gain comes in.  The more stress we have, the higher the cortisol level, and this high level in our system causes overeating and yep, weight gain.  And belly fat is linked to this weight gain via cortisol.  So the goal is to REDUCE the ongoing daily stress and dial back the release of the cortisol hormone.  

  • Ways to Help Manage Cortisol Levels
    • Proper Nutrition: According to a Natural Medicine Journal Abstract: “An effective way to manage chronically elevated cortisol levels is to ensure that the adrenal glands are supported by proper nutrition. Vitamin B6, vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), and vitamin C often become depleted with prolonged hyperactivity of adrenal gland activity and increased production of cortisol.”
    • Listen to Music
    • Use  Adaptogens  to Squash Stress and Anxiety
    • Stick With an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
    • Improve Your Health and Wellness Through Grounding
    • Limit Alcohol



This is the hormone that directs your brain to stop you from overeating once it believes there’s enough fat in storage, as well as regulating how many calories we burn. It’s actually produced by the body’s fat cells. Problems occur when this hormone is out of whack due to sleep deprivation, eating inflammatory foods, and leptin resistance which seems to be more prevalent in obese people.  It’s a complex issue and, ironically, attempting to lose weight signals the brain that there’s a change in leptin level and that you need to increase your food intake.

  • Ways to Help Manage Leptin Levels
    • Sleep: By watching your leptin level you’ll be able to get a better night’s sleep.  Most of us already know that not getting enough sleep has been linked to all sorts of chronic illnesses.  And researchers found a link between reduced leptin and reduced sleep.  This same research also tied increased levels of ghrelin and obesity to lack of sleep.
    • Combat Leptin Resistance: Medical News Today cites a research report that suggests “Sometimes, leptin resistance is caused by a malfunction of the brain’s leptin receptor.”  But it can also occur for other reasons. Research is now signalling that inflammation is a big cause of leptin resistance.  Here’s an interesting research paper on “teasaponin” (a tea extract) showing its anti-inflammatory properties and its effect on leptin resistance.
    • Avoid Lectins and Watch Your Fructose:  According to research cited in  Mark’s Daily Apple, “[..] lectins, specifically those from cereal grains, are direct causes of leptin resistance.”  And high fructose intake and its resulting leptin resistance contribute to obesity.
    • Eat Zinc Rich Foods: Obesity shows a relationship between low zinc and high leptin levels in this research paper on zinc. Adding foods like oysters, dark chocolate, pumpkin (and seeds), garlic, mushrooms, beef and the dark meat of chicken will give you a great start.  As well as beans like white, kidney and chickpea.  Snack on nuts like cashews, pecan, pine nuts and pistachios.



Where leptin tells you that you’re full and to stop eating, ghrelin tells you that you’re hungry and to start eating! Ghrelin is released in the stomach and does not have the resistance property that leptin has, although it’s believed that leptin helps regulate ghrelin.  But make no mistake, it’s goal is to make you take in more calories and store fat.

  • Ways To Manage the Ghrelin Hormone:
    • Eat High-Protein Foods: Aside from the fact that a high-protein diet makes it easier to maintain an ideal weight and is known to burn more calories,  a high-protein breakfast was shown to be more effective than a high carb breakfast in helping keep the ghrelin hormone in check.  Eating more protein seems to reduce ghrelin levels the best so add eggs, fish, beef and chicken to your daily menu. Vegan   options include lentils, black beans, chickpeas, almonds, amaranth just to name a few.
    • Get Your Omega 3s: The ghrelin hormone, as well as leptin and cortisol, can benefit from anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. Make sure you’re getting an adequate amount of omega-3s by eating salmon, sardines, seaweed, super sea veggies, and other foods that contain DHA.
    • Eat Natural, Not Processed:  Stay away from processed, pre-packaged foods in boxes and go for the natural foods without additives and plant-based whenever possible to keep the nutritional value.
    • Exercise does seem to have a positive effect on weight and overeating even though studies also show that exercise can increase hunger.  Exercise not only affects the ghrelin hormone, and weight loss, but rather other hormones that also come into play when exercise includes brisk walking or running,  as mentioned in this New York Times article.

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