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Why Weight Loss is more than Counting Calories – Part 1: Hormones Play a Role

Why Weight Loss is more than Counting Calories – Part 1: Hormones Play a Role

If you have ever tried to lose weight, you’ve likely learned that in order to lose 1Lbs, you need to reduce your food intake by 3500 calories or increase your physical activity so that you expend 3500 calories. Every time you have a deficit of 3500 calories, you lose 1Lbs. The basic knowledge of reducing calories and increasing physical activity has been the cornerstone for many weight loss programs over the years.

This oversimplified approach to weight loss fails to acknowledge a number of other factors that can contribute to weight gain, fluctuation or difficulty losing weight. I always say “if you want to see a change you have a make a change” and while reducing portions and incorporating exercise into your daily routine will result in positive changes, making these changes alone may not be enough for you to reach your weight loss and wellness goals.

Hormones play a major role

If you want to lose weight for life, you have to address hormonal imbalances. Simply put, hormones are chemical messengers secreted by various glands throughout the body. Different hormones have different roles and control different systems within the body. Below I’ve explained 4 hormones that play a role in weight gain. These are not the only hormones that affect weight!!! There are many others!

Insulin: Insulin is secreted by the pancreas and is responsible for controlling blood sugar. Diets high in refined sugars can result in insulin resistance and eventually, Type II Diabetes. Since insulin is also a fat-storing hormone, people who have more circulating insulin within their blood are more likely to store fat, mainly around their belly. High levels of insulin can also make you feel tired, bloating and cause sugar cravings.

People with Type II Diabetes require medication such as Metformin to stabilize their blood sugar levels because their own cells become unresponsive to the insulin produced by the pancreas. Balancing blood sugar levels and re-teaching the body how to break down sugars is essential to weight loss and weight management care. In many cases, Metformin doses can be reduced and in some cases, discontinued.


Thyroid Hormone: The Thyroid gland produces, stores and secretes thyroid hormone and is responsible for regulating metabolism. When the thyroid does not produce or make enough thyroid hormone, metabolism slows down leading to weight gain. Other common symptoms of decreased thyroid functioning include but are not limited to: feeling cold, depression, fatigue, constipation, dry skin and hair loss of outer edge of eyebrow. Blood work does not always detect thyroid imbalances so if clinical symptoms exist, re-test blood work monthly or consider further testing such as salivary thyroid testing. People battling a hypothyroidism (low thyroid function) may make dietary changes and add physical activity but see no change in weight until the imbalance in addressed.

Cortisol: Cortisol plays a major role in weight management and must be addressed. The body does not know the difference between good and bad stress so whether you are planning a wedding or a funeral, the response is the same. In response to a perceived stress, the adrenal glands release cortisol. Cortisol puts the body in to a “fight or flight” response and causes spikes in blood sugar. Prolonged stress and continuous cortisol release increases a person’s risk of developing Type II diabetes, causes fat cells to increase in size and contributes to increased appetite and high calorie food cravings. Cortisol can affect the integrity of the digestive system and can lead to inflammation and the development of food sensitivities, which can also impede weight loss.


Estrogen: You’ve hit menopause and suddenly you’re noticing weight gain in places you never expected. Believe it or not, estrogen plays a role in weight management. Reduced estrogen may lead to an increase in hunger while slowing your metabolism and encouraging fat gain around the waist. Women who are going through or who have gone through menopause are also more likely to develop symptoms of low thyroid functioning with blood work showing normal levels.

As you can see, there are a number of hormones that play a role in weight gain, fluctuation and difficulty losing weight. While I discussed the most common hormones, I did not mention a number of others that are equally important. If you want to lose weight and keep it off, you need to start thinking of weight loss as more of a scientific strategy rather than just a “crash diet.”

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