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Your Weight Is Largely Controlled by Hormones

Weight gain isn’t just associated with the food you eat or how much you exercise, it can also be affected by your hormones.


Many times, a person’s weight gain is normally associated with a change in diet or exercise habits. It is always important to look deeper beyond food, calories and exercise. Often larger weight fluctuations are due to a change or imbalance in your hormones which is something a lot of people don’t even consider.


A research published in the Diabetes Care Journal shows that hormones have an impact on your appetite, including how much you eat, what you are craving and how much fat you store so just saying one must “exercise and eat right” isn’t always enough to create a real difference in your life particularly if hormones are involved in your weight gain.



Here are 5 hormones that control your weight


1) Insulin

Insulin is produced by the beta cells of your pancreas. Its major job is to store fat, it is a fat storing hormone, it tells fat cells to store fat and stops stored fat from being broken down.


Insulin is secreted in small amounts throughout the day and in larger amounts after meals.


When insulin levels become continuously chronically elevated, cells can become insulin resistant. Insulin resistance is when your cells don’t respond well to insulin and can’t take up glucose from the blood.


Chronically high insulin levels can lead to many health problems including obesity and metabolic syndrome. A recent study published in the JAMA Network Open Journal reported that high insulin levels is associated with obesity; insulin levels rise first, and the people develop obesity


It is important to keep insulin’s workload as light as possible because if insulin is working hard, you are storing fat.


Here are some tips to normalise insulin levels, keep it low and improve insulin sensitivity

·      To keep insulin levels low, it is important to keep your blood sugar stable. Stay off the blood sugar roller coaster that drives insulin up by               combining your carbohydrate with protein and healthy fats. When your insulin levels go higher, you store fat and you gain weight.

·      Exercise regularly.

·      Cut back on refined carbohydrate, starchy carbohydrates and sugar.



2) Leptin

Leptin is produced by your fat cells. It is regarded as the “satiety hormone” that reduces your appetite and makes you full.


It is a signalling hormone that communicates with the portion of your brain that regulates appetite and food intake. It tells the brain that there is enough fat in storage and no more is needed, which will prevent you from overeating.


If the leptin system doesn’t work the way it was designed to work, this is called leptin resistance, the message to stop eating doesn’t get through to the brain, your brain thinks you are starving, so you are driven to eat more.


Another study published in the International Journal of Obesity & Related Metabolic Disorders reported that two potential causes of leptin resistance are chronically elevated insulin levels and inflammation.


Here are a few suggestions for improving leptin sensitivity

·      Avoid foods that cause inflammation especially sugary drinks and trans fats

·      Eat more anti-inflammatory foods

·      Exercise regularly

·      Get enough sleep



3) Ghrelin

Ghrelin is known as the “hunger hormone”. When you haven’t eaten and your stomach is empty, it releases ghrelin, which sends a message to your brain telling you to eat.


Usually, ghrelin levels are at the highest before eating and lowest about an hour after you have eaten meal.


A study published in the Journal of King Saud University – Science has shown that after obese people eat a meal, ghrelin only decreases slightly, because of this, the brain doesn’t receive much of a signal to stop eating, which can lead to overeating.


Here are a few tips to improve the ghrelin function:

·      Eat protein with all your meals including snacks, this can reduce ghrelin levels and make you feel full for longer.

·      Avoid sugar, high-fructose corn syrup which can weaken ghrelin response after meals.



4) Cortisol

Cortisol is the hormone that helps you handle stress. It is produced by the adrenal glands. It regulates your “fight or flight” response. It is triggered when you are in danger and is meant to be released in small doses and for short lengths of time.


It is important for survival. When you are stressed, cortisol increases your blood sugar and blood pressure, this causes insulin your fat storing hormone to be released to do its job of transporting sugar from your bloodstream to your cells for energy and the rest is stored as fat and you gain weight. A study published in the Psychoneuroendocrinology journal showed that chronically elevated levels of cortisol can lead to overeating and weight gain.


Here are a few tips to keep cortisol balanced

·      Manage your stress – through meditation, exercise, breathing, listening to music and many more

·      Follow a balanced diet, eat real food

·      Get enough sleep


5) Estrogen

Estrogen is the most significant female sex hormone produced mainly by the ovaries.

Very high and low levels of estrogen can lead to weight gain, this depends on the age, action of other hormones, and your general state of health.


When estrogen is out of balance, it leads to weight gain. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, found that during the reproductive years, to maintain fertility, estrogen starts promoting fat storage at puberty. Also, it may stimulate weight gain in the first half of pregnancy.


Another study published in the BioMed Research International Journal found out that during menopause, estrogen levels drop because less is produced in the ovaries, the fat storage now shifts from the hips and thighs to visceral fat in the abdomen. This promotes insulin resistance and increase the risk of disease.


Here are a few tips to help manage estrogen:

·      Eat a balanced diet – include enough fibre and cruciferous vegetables

·      Cut back on processed food

·      Exercise regularly

·      Manage stress

·      Get enough sleep



The Bottom Line

Hormones work together to increase or reduce your appetite and fat storage. If your hormones are out of balance and do not work properly, you may struggle with weight issues constantly. Making changes to your diet and lifestyle can have amazing positive effects on these hormones.

If you're struggling with your weight and you want to lose weight, in a healthy way that its not only long term but sustainable as well. You can book your complementary strategy call today 



1.   Chaudri O B, Wynne K, Bloom S R (2008) Can Gut Hormones Control Appetite and Prevent Obesity, Diabetes Care S284-S289. PubMed

2.   Wiebe N, Ye F, Crumley E T (2021) Temporal Associations Among Body Mass Index, Fasting Insulin, and Systemic Inflammation, JAMA Network Open, 4(3): e211263

3.   Lustig R H, Sen S, Soberman J E, Velasquesz-Mieyer P A (2004) Obesity, leptin resistance, and the effects of insulin reduction, International Journal of Obesity & Related Metabolic Disorders: 28(10):1344-1348. PubMed

4.   Daghestani M H (2009) A preprandial and postprandial plasma levels of ghrelin hormone in lean, overweight and obese Saudi females, Journal of King Saud University – Science: 21: 119-124.

5.   Epel E, Lapidus R, McEwan B, Brownell K (2001) Stress may add bite to appetite in women: a laboratory study of stress-induced cortisol and eating behaviour, Psychoneuroendocrinology,26: 37-49. PubMed.

6.   Pedersen S B, Kristensen K, Hermaan P A, Katzenellenbogen J A, Richelsen b (2004) Estrogen controls lipolysis by up-regulating alpha2A-adrenergic receptors directly in human adipose tissue through the estrogen receptor alpha. Implications for the female fat distribution. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 89:1869-1878. PubMed

7.   Lizcano F, Guzman G (2014) Estrogen Deficiency and the Origin of Obesity during Menopause, BioMed Research International Journal, 2014:757461. PMC


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