The Surprising Hormone Stopping You From Losing Weight

 We know that metabolism slows down as you age, but we also know that it is very heavily influenced by our hormones, meaning if our hormones are out of whack, then it results in  many things in the body going awry.

These include not being able to lose fat, because instead of burning it, the body stores it; feeling fatigued and sluggish and even an inability to brighten up your mood.

Yeah, we rely on our metabolism for A LOT, so when things are off-set it, it’s not pretty for us.

If you’re on the path to losing weight or just trying to keep your body in tip top condition, then you need to understand how hormonal imbalances impact your body.

“Almost anyone who struggles with weight also battles a hormone imbalance. It amazes me how easy weight loss becomes once hormones are back in their sweet spot. Hormones control how efficiently a calorie makes you fat.

Most diets don’t work for women, because they fail to address the hormonal root causes that are the most common reasons for weight loss resistance, like excess cortisol, insulin and/or leptin blockage, estrogen dominance, a sluggish thyroid, low testosterone, and problems with the HPA (hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal) control system,” Dr Sara Gottfried, New York Times bestselling author of The Hormone Reset Diet and Younger tells GOOP.

When asked what the typical hormonal imbalance that makes losing weight hard, Gottfried, singled out cortisol.

“Ninety percent of the time, I find that the main hormone that’s out of whack is cortisol (which ends up disrupting other hormones, too),” she says.

“Your body makes cortisol in response to stress, but most of us run around stressed too much of the time, and our cortisol is off as a result. High or dysregulated cortisol levels wreak havoc over time, depleting your happy brain chemicals like serotonin, robbing your sleep, and making you store fat—especially in your belly. High cortisol is likewise linked to depression, food addiction, and sugar cravings.”

Cortisol, also known as the ‘stress hormone’ is interestingly one of the major drivers of metabolism.

 “Its main function is to prepare the body in times of stress. One way it does this is by blocking the absorption of glucose in order to provide an easy energy source if you need to fight, run, or think quickly,” says says Rocio Salas-Whalen, M.D., an endocrinologist in New York City.

However, the trouble starts when stress becomes chronic and your cortisol levels remain elevated, which results in driving your blood sugar levels up, as well as slowing down your metabolism. This then results in weight gain, feeling fatigued but experiencing trouble sleeping.

So what causes the cortisol imbalances?

According to Gottfried it is usually due to a dysregulated HPA axis, which is the boss of all your hormones.

“When the HPA is up-regulated, you churn out too much cortisol, like I did. Result? Muffin top, feeling like you’re constantly racing from task to task, feeling wired but tired, quickness to anger and irritability, rapid weight gain,” Gottfried notes.

“Over time, the HPA can get burned out and become down-regulated. Then you feel a lack of stamina, have a tendency to hold a negative point of view, catch colds frequently, and you may experience thyroid problems that improve briefly before you crash again,” she continues.

Sounds familiar?


To reset your HPA, and your cortisol, a good place to start is being aware of your stressors and balancing your cortisol. Gottfried outlines a list to help and it is as follows:

Here is my (simplified) protocol for becoming more objective about your stressors and balancing cortisol in women (all suggestions that are proven in randomized trials, the best evidence we have):

  • Talk through what’s stressing you with a girlfriend.
  • Practice some form of “witness” consciousness like meditation or yoga.
  • Add B vitamins and omega-3s if you’re deficient.
  • Take phosphatidyl serine until you perceive less stress and your HPA is no longer hyper-vigilant.
  • Get a massage once or twice per month.
  • Limit alcohol and coffee, or ideally switch to green tea, which contains L-theanine, an amino acid that reduces stress without sedation.
  • Eat extra dark chocolate (80 percent cacao or higher).

If your symptoms don’t resolve, add plant medicine. Ashwagandha is my favorite adaptogen that helps to reset cortisol, so it’s not too high nor too low during the day. If it doesn’t work for you, try rhodiola.

The best way to get your hormones back on track is to take real care of yourself and put your health first.  This means improving your diet, doing adaptive exercises such as yoga, dance or Pilates, incorporating weight training and walking. Not only will this a this make you feel loads better, but losing weight will be much easier.

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Your Metabolism: More Important Than You Think

When you hear the word ‘metabolism’ the thoughts that pop up are usually along the lines of the body burning calories when active.

 Metabolism brings to mind sweat, weights and movement in the gym, however, the process is much more than simply the body burning calories.

Metabolism literally means ‘a state of change’ and whether you’re in the middle of a deep sleep, reading a book or playing with your pets, the body is always active.

 There is never a time when you’re not using calories, because the body is always storing and consuming energy as well as building up and breaking down molecules necessary to maintain health.

That process is what metabolism is all about and why when it is working as it should, you don’t feel sluggish or fatigued; rather you’re full of energy throughout the day and have brighter moods.

 This is also the reason why it’s easier to gain muscle mass and lose fat, because your body is sending the right hormone signals to your metabolic system.

Is it any surprise then that the body tries its best to tightly control this process?

Metabolism is a super important process in the body and so to keep control, the body sends out swarms of hormones to travel throughout the body.

 The connection between your hormones and metabolism influences everything in your body, so checking your hormone levels can give you a great gauge of how healthy your metabolism and overall body really are.

“Metabolism isn’t just about how quickly you burn calories—it encompasses all the ways your body stores and uses energy from food,” says Rocio Salas-Whalen, M.D., an endocrinologist in New York City.

Metabolism turns the proteins, fats and carbs from your delicious meals into compounds like amino acids, fatty acids and simple glucose, before transporting them into your cells.

The process is necessary to grow and maintain muscles and to break down fat that is stored by your body.

All these metabolic functions are completely controlled by your hormones,” she adds.

To keep your body’s systems humming along smoothly, your hormones need to be in balance. If one shoots up too high or dips too low, your metabolism can get thrown out of whack, which can affect your workout, your mood, and your weight, says Liz Lyster, M.D., an ob-gyn in Foster City, California, who specializes in hormone imbalances.

As you can see, your metabolism is necessary for all processes of your body to be completed properly, but for women, one of the many factors which impacts our metabolic rate is your period, which can throw our hormones out of whack and affect our bodies, moods and how much energy we have.

When thinking about your metabolism, your menstrual cycle and your period are very important factors to consider.

“Throughout the menstrual cycle, the hormone levels in a person’s body change,” says Dr Virginia J. Vitzthum, director of scientific research at period tracking app, Clue,. “Oestrogen will rise during days 1-14 in an average 28-day cycle (known as the follicular phase), dip during ovulation (around day 14), briefly rise again afterwards (the part of the cycle after ovulation is called theluteal phase), falling back to baseline during the final days of the cycle as your period approaches again.

Progesterone levels also fluctuate – these are very low until the point of ovulation, then rise during the early luteal phase until, like oestrogen, they fall in the final days of the cycle,” the doctor continues.

The expert explains that these hormonal fluctuations are thought to be responsible for a number of changes within the body as well as influencing female metabolism.

While it is thought that metabolism speeds up around the third quarter of your 28-day cycle, meaning your urge to eat is greater, the truth is that the process is  different for everyone, as metabolism and your cycle are both affected by many factors, including age, diet and daily activities.

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