Hormones and weight gain – are your hormones making you fat?

Hormones and weight gain Follow Me on Pinterest Hormones and weight gain; you need to understand that there is a really big relationship between your hormones and possible weight gain, but it is not something that is often covered by weight loss books or weight loss programs. Your hormones may be contributing to you either gaining weight or not losing weight and it may be something that you have never considered before in your weight loss plans. The good news is that you are not completely at the mercy of your hormones and you can make some simple lifestyle changes that will help to control your hormones and weight gain.

First of all, what are hormones?

Hormones are special chemical messengers released by cells and glands in your body and carried in your blood. When they reach a receptor, the cell “reads” the message and carries out the job it is told to do. Think of a key and a keyhole, with the key being the hormone and the keyhole the receptor. When you put the key into the keyhole and turn it, it opens the lock. If you put the wrong key in the lock, it won’t open and that is how hormones work. They have to find the right receptor before they can tell the cell what to do.


The hormone insulin is probably one of the best examples, as most people have heard about it even if they are not quite sure what it does. I will be doing a post specifically on insulin soon for the hormones and weight gain thread. Insulin is produced by a small organ that sits just behind your stomach called the pancreas. As soon as you start to think about food, your body starts to produce insulin. When you start to eat, if you are eating carbohydrates (sugar, bread, rice, pasta, potato, fruits and vegetables), your pancreas produces more insulin. As the carbohydrates are broken down further into glucose, the simplest form of sugar that can be used by your cells, more insulin is produced. Insulin moves the glucose into the cells of the muscle or other cells to be used for energy or into the fat cells where it is stored. Excess glucose is taken to the liver where it is converted into triglycerides (fat) and stored. In terms of hormones and weight gain, insulin can be a big contributor, but more of insulin later.

These short 5-6 minute videos by Jon Gabriel from The Gabriel Method explain perfectly how too much insulin in your blood stream can contribute to you gaining weight.

Insulin – video 1:  Insulin, blood sugar and Type-2 diabetes

Insulin – video :2  What happens when your body becomes insulin resistant

Insulin – video :3  How to balance your blood sugar levels

Leptin and grehlin hormones and weight gain

Two hormones that you may not have heard about before are leptin and grehlin which were only reported in 1994 and 1999 respectively. The role of leptin is to send signals to your brain to signal satiety or to tell you that you are full, while grehlin’s role is to make you hungry so that you will eat.

Latest research has shown a strong connection between these two hormones and weight gain. The research revealed that chronic sleep deprivation causes the “hunger hormone” grehlin to increase, while the levels of leptin that tells you that you are full decreases. The decrease in leptin means that it takes longer to send the “full” signal to your brain, easily allowing you to eat too much.

Your body is not replenishing the energy it needs through a good night’s sleep, so it works to get that energy by making you want to eat extra calories. I know this is very true for me. If I have had a very late night (or early morning), I know that by the afternoon, I will be craving sweet foods, and when you are feeling tired it is very hard to resist those urges!

Stress, hormones and weight gain

Stress can contribute hugely to an imbalance of hormones and weight gain. When we lived as cave dwellers, we developed the “fight or flight” response which you have no doubt heard about. It prepared us for fighting off the enemy or fleeing large animals viewing us as lunch. Today we don’t have those sorts of stresses anymore, but we do have other modern day stressors that trigger the same physiological “flight or fight” response. Jon Gabriel covers stress, hormones and weight gain in full detail in his book, The Gabriel Method, and stress control is a very important component of his “no diet, diet”.

When under stress, you also produce more of the “hunger hormone” grehlin. It is thought to play a role in helping with anxiety and stress induced depression, which explains why we reach for the comfort foods that sooth us. Stress can also stimulate insulin to be produced. This ensures that glucose can quickly be moved into the cells for that fight or flight response, but it can also make you feel hungry.

The hormone cortisol is also produced when you are under stress and it is sometimes nicknamed the “stress hormone”. One of the roles of cortisol during stressful times is to stimulate the quick release of carbohydrates and fats so that they can be metabolised for quick energy release to fuel you for the anticipated fight or flight.

You can begin to see the relationship between stress, hormones and weight gain. Our hormones mobilise to make energy ready for that fight or flight response, they make us hungry but we don’t actually need all of those extra calories because we are not actually going to fight or run away anymore.

Keeping your hormones balanced

If you consider hormones and weight gain to be one of your weight loss challenges, then here are the two best strategies. First of all, make sure that you get a good night’s sleep, which means at least 6-8 hours. The second thing that you can do is to manage your stress levels to keep them to a minimum. If you can’t escape the stresses, try to change how you respond to them. I find that meditating for 10-15 minutes a day really helps me to remain calmer and more focused.

Further reading:

Hormones and weight gain, the role of insulin

Lose weight with Weight Watchers

Kick start your metabolism with The Diet Solution

The Gabriel Method (no diet, diet)

Quit Sugar

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18 Responses to Hormones and weight gain – are your hormones making you fat?

  1. elena anne March 4, 2012 at 4:32 am #

    Great post Jan :)
    The hormones are so little things, but their influence to our body is huge.
    Exercise also “beats” cortisol.It can increase the threshold of cortisol release. Even talking a walk for 30 minutes. The more training we do, we better deal with physical stresses.
    I ‘ve stopped long ago to eat simple carbs. Only complex and I have seen a big difference.

    • jan March 4, 2012 at 10:28 pm #

      A good point elena anne
      Exercise is definitely good for helping with stress – one of our Weight Watchers lecturers asked us one week, who feels bad after you have done some exercise – and of course nobody does. Although it sometimes can be hard to get your butt out the door if you are feeling a bit down!

  2. Darrell March 4, 2012 at 4:56 am #

    Exercise is a very good way to try and kill that cortisol that does nothing but add to that belly fat. A decent diet and a half hour of exercise can most assuredly go a long way. Getting rid of love handles may seem difficult but it just takes a few lifestyle changes to successfully get started.

    • jan March 4, 2012 at 11:12 pm #

      Definitely Darrell!

      I have also read a book this week and in it the author mentioned that before women hit menopause the hormone insulin protects them from adding weight around the middle. Once estrogen levels drop it allows insulin to add fat into the cells around the middle rather than below the waist :( That explains why I now put weight on in that area where I have never put it before!

  3. AbuBaqr March 5, 2012 at 12:14 am #

    I was pretty pleased to uncover this great site. I want to to thank you for just this wonderful read!! I definitely loved every part of it and i also have bookmarked it to fav to check out for new information in your site.

    • jan March 5, 2012 at 1:24 am #

      Glad that you found it useful!

  4. Glenn Stanza March 6, 2012 at 10:57 am #

    Our hormones are just another example that weight loss and health in general is a complex issue with many factors involved. The key is balance and balance is a reflection of our overall lifestyle.

    Our bodies have an amazing ability to balance. Look at the uncountable adjustments our physical body makes everyday to maintain that level of balance from our body temperature to our digestion. We can tap into that natural ability to balance by paying attention to what messages we are getting and taking action accordingly.

    When stressed or lacking sleep it’s a message to do something. The higher our level of awareness of where we are the more easily we move back into a balanced healthy state.

    • jan March 13, 2012 at 12:02 pm #

      Hi Glenn
      Thanks so much for your insightful comment – I must have missed coming back to reply to you. You are right, our bodies do have that amazing ability to keep everything in balance, I guess we just have to try to help it as much as we can. Thanks for your great comment.

  5. Paul March 15, 2012 at 1:17 am #

    Leptin is a hormont that I was not aware of. Wonder if there is any way that we can increase the level of Leptin in our bodies. Would truly be a great aid to not only losing weight but also to maintain our weight at good levels. I like probably a lot of other people over eat because of not feeling full even though I am. Being able to shut off sooner would truly be a blessing. In an effort to combat my tendency to over eat I use a small plate to keep my portion size small, and no seconds.

    Thank you for the info you have shared.

    • jan March 16, 2012 at 7:42 pm #

      Hi Paul

      Using a smaller plate is a great idea – I don’t know how you would go psychologically though, whether you would just think that you have had a smaller serve – can mind over matter work in this case that is the big question?

      I think there was much excitement when they first discovered leptin and you can buy supplements and they have also done experiments injecting people with leptin, but if it really worked I think we would have heard a lot more about it by now.

      I hear ya on the overeating bit. There are times when I think, I KNOW I must be full, but I am still looking for more. It’s almost as if your appetite control has gone completely AWOL!! That’s when I know it is time to whip out the chromium picolinate (mineral) and that helps to get everything back on track until the next time it goes whacky doo!

    • Glenn Stanza March 28, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

      Paul –
      When leptin was discovered not too long ago scientists thought that this would be the magic bullet that would result in a “cure” for obesity. What they found however was that it is not the amount of leptin in our system but our sensitivity to it that is the issue. In that way leptin resistance is similar to insulin resistance, in fact they both seem to be related to eating foods that you would be better off without.

      When we are leptin resistant our hunger switch doesn’t respond quickly enough. The good news is that you can reverse leptin resistance by improving your diet – eating whole foods, protein and healthy fats, and then cutting out most sugars and refined junk carbs.

      • jan March 28, 2012 at 9:26 pm #

        Thanks Glen
        I think if we give our bodies what they need to function properly they will!

  6. win March 30, 2012 at 11:28 pm #

    I honestly do not understand about the influence of hormones against the body, but based on arikel and comments that have been read, it looks like it can be concluded that the hormone has effects on our bodies. Now the question for me whether it also has an influence on the bloodline.

    • jan April 1, 2012 at 8:45 pm #

      Hi Win
      They definitely affect us more that we realise – researching for this site has been an eye opener for me as well.

  7. Linda amy June 17, 2012 at 6:36 pm #

    Extreme combination is the first requirement to manage two different schemes. It’s a common concept that hormone can trouble the entire mechanism of the body while following diet food habit but your detail is enough informative to explore the fact. Thanks for the discussion to make us clear about it.

    • jan June 17, 2012 at 8:40 pm #

      Hi Linda
      I am learning more and more about the effects of hormones on our ability to lose weight and keep us healthy and balanced. You might like to read my new post Why do I always feel hungry which is linked below.

  8. Lee August 14, 2012 at 4:05 am #

    Hi great post. I also am one of the people who think exercise is such a great way of controlling hormones running through your body. Also such a good way of dee stressing. Even if tired after exercise you still feel energised not only physically but mentally too.

    Thanks lee

    • jan August 14, 2012 at 8:44 pm #

      You’re dead right there Lee, exercise is a great way to help you de-stress and control your hormones. It is probably a bit undervalued in these respects.

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