You know the saying: life is all about balance. That means balancing your time, your relationships, your goals, and yes, your hormones.
Your body is a well-oiled machine: it functions best when all of your hormones are balanced. Unfortunately, an imbalance of hormones can lead to a slew of negative side effects that can affect everything from your mood to your weight.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways that you can balance your hormones at home to avoid or reverse an unwanted weight gain.
How Hormonal Imbalance Can Cause Weight Gain
For nearly every action that your body does to keep you alive, you can thank your hormones.
Think of hormones as messengers: they’re chemicals that travel throughout your body and give the signals for your nearly all of your cells and tissues to spur them into action. Collectively, these hormones and the glands that release them are known as your endocrine system.
When things are normal, your endocrine system keeps all of your essential body processes, like metabolism and growth, functioning smoothly. But if your hormones are out of whack, they can lead to various changes, both subtle and obvious, in how you feel.
Weight gain is one of these changes. Certain hormones have a variety of effects on your weight, ranging from appetite control to fat storage and metabolism speed. So an imbalance of these hormones can lead to an unhealthy and/or undesirable weight gain.
Some of the main hormones that could be causing weight gain can include (but certainly aren’t limited to:
- Thyroid hormones
- Growth hormones
If any of these hormone levels are too high or too low, it could really start reflecting on the scale.
A hormonal imbalance can be caused by things like menopause, where the levels of your reproductive hormones like estrogen and progesterone fall to bring about the end of your regular menstrual cycle. They can also be a side-effect of certain medications or could even be an indication of illness.
On the other hand, some forms of hormonal imbalance could also be a result of controllable lifestyle factors that you have the power to change.
How To Balance Hormones To Lose Weight
The healthiness of your lifestyle can determine how well your body operates, and hormone levels are no exception. If a hormonal imbalance is a result of poor diet or inactivity, you can make lifestyle changes to improve both your hormone balance and your overall healthiness.
So here’s how to balance your hormones to lose weight:
Physical activity is more than just getting a sweat on and building muscle - it’s also crucial for making sure that your internal body systems are functioning as they should be, hormones included. Exercise can help to improve the levels of various weight-related hormones including thyroid, insulin, and testosterone.
This can work two-fold: not only does enough exercise help to balance your hormones, but the calorie burn and muscle-building can also help with weight loss. So it’s potentially helping to fix both the underlying cause and the unwanted side-effect!
Watch what you eat
You probably already know that eating a diet full of simple sugars like the ones you find in baked goods and fast food isn’t the most calorie-friendly option. It turns out that they can also affect your hormones: simple carbohydrates like these can cause dramatic blood sugar spikes, and that can cause an increase in the hormone insulin. Then, the increase in insulin can lead to increased fat accumulation.
On the other hand, getting enough protein can help. Pairing your higher-quality complex carbohydrates (think whole grains and starchy vegetables) can decrease the effect that they have on your blood sugar to avoid affecting your insulin.
Get enough (high-quality) sleep
A lot of your hormones are released at night, which is why a good night’s rest can be so crucial when attempting to lose weight.
Interruptions in your sleep cycle might be associated with an imbalance of weight-related hormones like insulin, cortisol, ghrelin, leptin, and growth hormone. Try to establish a regular bedtime routine and minimize the distractions and blue light that could be interrupting a good night’s sleep.
Manage your stress
It might be a little easier said than done, but finding healthy ways to cope with your stress could be key in helping you reduce some elevated hormone levels like cortisol.
Elevated levels of the “stress hormone” cortisol can have a variety of effects on your weight, ranging from increased cravings to increased fat stores around your midsection. Look for healthy coping mechanisms to manage your stress like gentle exercise and meditation to decrease its effects on your weight.
When To Talk To Your Doctor
Your hormones are going to shift throughout your life, and it’s especially true during perimenopause and menopause.
But if you’ve been working on improving your diet, exercise, and other lifestyle factors and still aren’t seeing any progress (or progress in the wrong direction), it might be worth consulting a physician.
There are also more concerning effects of hormonal imbalance besides weight gain that can warrant a visit to your doctor, including:
- Hot flashes
Hormonal imbalances can also be linked to serious consequences like obesity, diabetes, thyroid disease, and heart disease, so it’s important to get checked if something feels wrong.
After the proper diagnosis, your doctor might prescribe a treatment like hormone replacement therapy to help treat the symptoms. Like the name suggests, these treatments replace the hormones that you’re deficient in to bring their levels up. For example, if your hormonal imbalance is due to menopause, they would give you low doses of estrogen.
This can help with treating the uncomfortable symptoms of hormone imbalance including weight gain. However, hormone therapy can have a few risks depending on the circumstances, so be sure to consult with your medical professional first to decide if hormone therapy would be the right move for you.
Your hormones are responsible for so many different functions in your body that when they’re off, you can really feel (and sometimes see) the differences. Making healthy diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes is the first step to balancing your hormones for weight loss.