Why Is It Important to Balance Our Hormones?
Maintaining a healthy weight is a challenge that many women struggle with, and it’s not always a straightforward journey. Beyond the conventional advice of diet and exercise, hormonal balance plays a pivotal role in achieving sustainable weight loss and maintaining it over time. Hormones are chemical messengers that regulate numerous bodily functions, including metabolism, appetite, and fat storage. When these hormones are out of balance, they can disrupt the body’s natural mechanisms, making weight management more challenging. Throw menopause into the mix and most women just want to give up! Menopause is a natural biological transition in a woman’s life, marking the end of reproductive years. During this phase, hormonal changes can lead to a range of physical and emotional symptoms. If you feel that you can’t lose weight, no matter what you try, then read on to see how hormones play an important part in weight loss :)
Which hormones play an important part in weight loss?
One of the key hormones that affect weight in women is insulin. Insulin is produced by the pancreas and plays a key role in regulating blood sugar levels. When there’s a resistance to insulin or an inability to effectively use it, as is often seen in conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), weight gain can occur. High insulin levels lead to increased fat storage, particularly around the abdomen. By addressing insulin resistance through dietary changes, exercise, and sometimes medication, women can better manage their weight. As women age and go through menopause, their bodies may become less sensitive to insulin (due to the decline of oestrogen and progesterone), increasing the risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Regular exercise increases insulin sensitivity, helping the body utilise glucose more effectively.
Oestrogen, another crucial hormone, also influences weight regulation. Fluctuations in oestrogen levels, such as those experienced during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause, can impact metabolism and appetite. During menopause, for instance, the decrease in oestrogen is associated with a shift in fat distribution, leading to more fat being stored around the abdominal area. This not only affects body composition but also increases the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular issues. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is one option for managing these hormonal changes, potentially aiding in weight management.
Leptin and Ghrelin
Leptin and ghrelin are hormones that directly influence hunger and appetite. Leptin, produced by fat cells, signals to the brain that the body has sufficient energy stores, thus suppressing appetite. Ghrelin, on the other hand, stimulates appetite and promotes fat storage. Sleep deprivation and irregular eating patterns can disrupt the balance of these hormones, leading to overeating and weight gain. Prioritising sleep, eating regular meals, and choosing nutrient-dense foods can help to regulate this hunger hormone. So, we need to increase our levels of leptin and decrease our levels of ghrelin! You can increase your leptin levels by eating a healthy diet rich in lean protein, healthy fats and fibre, and avoiding processed foods and sugary drinks. Add beans, peas, lentils, lean meat, poultry and fish to your diet to boost leptin functionality. It is recommended to avoid inflammatory foods such as red meat, processed meats such as bacon and hot dogs, white bread, white rice, white pasta, breakfast cereals, snack foods including crisps, cookies and pastries, and sweetened drinks, as these interfere with leptin sensitivity. Regular exercise can also boost leptin levels, just 30 minutes a day is all that is needed to trigger a leptin response, as can getting enough quality sleep. Decrease your ghrelin levels by exercising regularly, eating a high protein breakfast and consuming fibre-rich foods. Try to avoid too many foods high in fructose, such as most fruit, especially dried fruit and fruit in cans, vegetables including artichoke, mushrooms, onion and tomatoes, wheat (wheat bread, wheat pasta), sweeteners, sweetened drinks and desserts sweetened with fructose, as these may increase ghrelin levels. Also, make sure to get enough sleep and minimise stress levels.
Thyroid hormones, primarily thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), play a central role in metabolism regulation. An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) can lead to weight gain due to a slowdown in metabolic processes. Symptoms include fatigue, sluggishness, and difficulty losing weight. Proper diagnosis and medication management with the guidance of a medical professional can help normalise thyroid function and support weight loss.
Chronic stress can also contribute to hormonal imbalances that affect weight. When the body is under stress, it produces cortisol, known as the ‘stress hormone’. Elevated cortisol levels can lead to increased appetite, particularly for high-calorie, sugary foods. Additionally, chronic stress can lead to insulin resistance, making weight loss more challenging. Stress management techniques such as meditation, yoga, and deep breathing exercises can help regulate cortisol levels and support hormonal balance. Simply take some time for yourself, whether that’s to read, have a relaxing bath, go for a walk or watch your favourite tv programme, to relax and manage stress levels. One of the best ways to manage stress is physical exercise as it stimulates the production of feel-good hormones like endorphins, which can counteract the effects of stress-induced hormones.
So what do I need to do?
In conclusion, balancing hormones for weight loss and maintenance requires a combination of dietary changes, physical activity, and stress reduction strategies. A diet rich in whole foods, including lean proteins, fibre-rich fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats, supports hormonal health by providing essential nutrients for hormone production and regulation. Avoiding processed foods, sugary snacks, and excessive caffeine can prevent blood sugar spikes and crashes that disrupt hormonal balance. Be mindful of portion sizes as it is very easy to overeat.
Balancing hormones during menopause is crucial for a woman’s overall health and well-being. Regular physical activity is essential for helping to balance hormones and manage stress levels.
Book your free visit with us at www.wfitness.co.uk to see how we can help with your 30 minutes a day exercise plan! We’ve been told that we’re pretty good at helping to alleviate stress too lol! Come and have a chat in our safe, friendly, ladies only fitness studio 😊
Caroline & Hannah xx