Do hormones cause weight gain? Yes, if they are out of balance.
Hormonal weight gain is a thing.
We all know it; premenstrual bloating. The perimenopausal chub. The postmenopausal saggy fat. Men, as well, you have hormonal weight gain too; The Dadbod. The beer belly. The middle-age spread. we will discuss your bellies later.
Today it’s about you ladies. How to keep your hormones in balance so you can stay fit! This is a big topic (no pun intended) so let’s start with part one of Hormonal Weight Gain – Bloating.
It is not just young women, that experience this, but older women as well. Especially those using hormone replacement therapy, even bioidentical hormones, can suffer from Bloating!
Some women are so sensitive to bloating that they will put on 8-10 pounds of water weight. They will blame it on salty foods, poor circulation, their period. But it is hormonal.
So what is out of balance? Estrogen! If you are carrying water weight, are you making too much estrogen? Probably not. Your Estrogen is out of balance with your Progesterone.
Remember you need to make 10-50 times more progesterone than estrogen in order to stay in balance. If you are stressed, your progesterone is used by your adrenals to fuel the stress response. Meaning your estrogen becomes unopposed. If this lasts a long time, you become estrogen dominant. Not that you make too much estrogen. The problem is you’re not making enough progesterone.
Estrogen dominance happens in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Because they do not ovulate consistently, they do not make enough progesterone to counterbalance estrogen. So why would estrogen cause bloat? Remember estrogen is the fertilizer. Progesterone is the gardener.
Estrogen also keeps cells and tissues juicy. Without estrogen, your eyes are dry, your mouth is dry, and your vagina is dry. Your skin and hair are dry, even your brain is dry. Estrogen keeps you juicy. And unopposed estrogen does not stop overwatering the garden. Your cells cannot hold that much fluid, so it leaks into the interstitial space between the cells.
That is the water weight you feel: Too much fluid in your tissues. You feel tight. You cannot squeeze into the same jeans you wore yesterday. It’s not overnight fat deposits, it’s water.
It is common to have a little premenstrual bloating, as progesterone production drops to get your period started. Yet during menopause, women also experience bloating and weight gain. Even if they are not taking hormones. Why? Because once you stop ovulating, there is no more progesterone production.
But remember, your adrenal DHEA can be converted into estrogen. And you store estrogen in your fat cells (thank goodness for your brain or you would not remember why you are here). But this is not great for your tissues, as they fill up with fluid. Have you ever been so bloated you can press on your ankles and leave a dent?
So what can you do to relieve yourself of this uncomfortable water weight?
Hormone healing Tip: Stop Bloating with DIM
DIM is a natural supplement derived from cruciferous vegetables. Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale. These vegetables’ stinky sulfur smell is where DIM comes from. Alternatively, you can take 200mg of DIM once or twice a day to naturally relieve bloating.
Why not just eat broccoli? Of course, enjoy your cruciferous veggies, but you have to eat a couple of pounds of broccoli to get 200mg of DIM? That is a lot of gas.
DIM works by improving your estrogen metabolism. You do not want to turn your estrogen off. You need estrogen. But, you do want to improve estrogen metabolism to favor safe, non-inflammatory 2OH estrone. And DIM helps your body make the safest form of estrogen.
The Effects of Estrogen on our Weight
Estrogen is your youth hormone; without adequate estrogen, the skin looks saggy, like that of an elephant. One thing that makes young women look more youthful than old women is that layer of subcutaneous fat under their skin.
The plump smooth cheeks of a young woman’s face are due to estrogen, as are her full lips and breasts. All the smooth curves of youth are due to estrogen, even those full thighs, and hips. You may not like them, but that brown fat stored in your hips and thighs guarantees you have enough estrogen to support a pregnancy. It is beautiful biology.
Thank goodness, then, that young women have abundant estrogen. All that estrogen comes from the hundreds of thousands of ovum (eggs) stored in the ovaries. With each menstrual cycle, about 300 eggs develop into follicles, each vying to be the egg of the month. The follicle that pops out may become fertilized, implant in your uterus, and become a baby.
Yet, by her early to mid-thirties, a woman has half the amount of ovum, which means fewer follicles producing less estrogen. The skin of aging women starts to develop fine lines and wrinkles. Tight smooth skin is also a function of estrogen, as I said, Estrogen is our youth hormone. As women get older, they also make less progesterone. Even as a woman has less estrogen at the age of forty than she had at twenty, she becomes estrogen dominant and starts to put on a padding of fat.
You cannot control the clock, you are going to get older, but you can control your body fat.
You see, estrogen stimulates your insulin receptors, which is a good thing because that allows your cells to make more energy. But it is a bad thing if you do not expend that energy. Remember, you are going to have to store that energy somewhere, and our fat cells are our fat storage.
That is where exercise comes in. I know you wanted a magic bullet to blast that fat. Well, balancing your Hypothalamus is the only magic bullet that I know of. By this I mean, if your Hypothalamus is functioning optimally, your hormones stay in perfect balance and you age gracefully. And stay fit. And more importantly, you don’t have to be an exercise fanatic to keep that extra body fat off.
The other thing that makes young women look youthful compared to old women is their better muscle tone. This is where cellulite comes in. Cellulite is the easy method your body uses to package your fat. Instead of soft smoothie adipose cells, your fat is loosely trapped in the connective tissue between your muscles and skin.
If you lose muscle tone with age and lack of fitness, your body will develop cellulite. Even thin women can have cellulite deposits on their hips, thighs, and buttocks. Those are skinny fat women who appear thin but have a layer of subcutaneous fat over underdeveloped muscles. They may appear thin in their youth, but as they age fat dominates their lean body mass.
Your lean body mass is your muscles, bones, and vital organs. Women need at least ten to thirteen percent (10-13%) body fat to be hormonally balanced. Twenty-one to twenty-four percent (21-24%) body fat to be fit. Over twenty-five percent means less than seventy-five percent (75%) of your body weight is lean body mass. And lean body mass is metabolically active. Fat is not. So the more lean body mass you have, the higher your metabolism. If you want to get rid of extra fat and especially cellulite, you must tone up your muscles.
Hormone Healing Tip: Exercise to Lose Hormonally Induced Fat and Cellulite
Aerobic exercise is the best for losing extra body fat. Weight-resistant exercise is the best for toning your muscles and diminishing cellulite. We must do both to stay fit. Move your body, at least three times a week, during which an exerciser must get their heart rate up for at least thirty minutes. You can know if your heart raise is elevated if your breath is quick enough that it is hard to talk while working out. You can do anything:
- aerobic class
- or even aqua aerobics.
Just move to use up that extra energy so it does not get stored in your fat cells. Aerobic exercise makes your muscles more metabolically active, so they burn the extra sugar floating around in your bloodstream.
Once a week, go for an LSD… no not acid! A Long Slow Distance; go far, not fast. After forty-five minutes of exercise, you will go into your fat stores. And the effect can last at least two days. If you do not fill up your fat stores with carbs afterward, you will continue to burn fat.
Then if you want to lose that cellulite, do some weight resistance exercise. You do not have to pump iron. Pilates and yoga are great weight resistant exercise that uses your own body weight. Isometric exercise works too. Cross-training, which combines weight-resistant intervals with aerobic conditioning, is perfect for toning your muscles. Be sure to work out the parts of your body that stores fat as cellulite.
You’ve seen it.
You may have it.
You may not like it.
If you are a man it is not good for you…
Women can tolerate much more body fat and stay healthy. Women are the survivors. That extra body fat helps women reproduce and helps them make breast milk. You may be in sync with your wife and gain some pregnancy weight too, but she needs it, you do not.
Essential body fat for men is only two to five percent (2-5%), which means you can still make hormones with less than five percent (5%) fat. Women need twice that much body fat to stay alive and three times that to reproduce. Superfit male athletes have up to thirteen percent (13%) body fat. The average man has eighteen to twenty-four percent (18-24%) body fat which is similar to a body composition for a fit woman. The average man makes too much estrogen. And that is where his pudge comes from.
You see, testosterone can be converted to estrogen by an enzyme in your fat cells called aromatase. The more fat you have, the more aromatase you have, and the more estrogen you make. In fact, if your body has too much estrogen, then you will develop gynecomastia otherwise known as man boobs. It is a metabolic issue. And it will kill you. So time to get in shape. And keep your testosterone in balance. Supporting your hypothalamus nutritionally will help by raising your metabolism, burning that belly fat, and preventing your testosterone from converting to estrogen.
Hormonal Weight Gain Healing Tip: Men, Carbs Are Not Your Friend
Exercise is key to burn the energy you are storing in your belly fat. But you must use stop filling up the pantry. Carbohydrates are what you are storing in your belly fat. So stop eating starchy and sugary carbs. And definitely stop drinking sweetened drinks. If you don’t give your body the fast energy from sugar and starches, your body will use the energy you’re storing in your belly fat.
So here is a quick list of the carbs you need to avoid to lose that belly fat:
- Anything white – white rice, white potatoes, white bread, pasta, white flour, white sugar, fries
- All drinks with sugar natural or added including juice, sodas, alcohol, beer
- Baked goods – donuts, cookies, cakes, breads
- Snacks – chips, candy, ice cream, frozen treats
Forget low-sugar snacks or artificial sweeteners. You’re just going to induce an insulin reaction and stimulate your fat cells to produce more aromatase. Whole grains are fine… but eat them in moderation. One cup is a serving. Measure it. Fill up your plate with vegetables. You can eat all you want of non-starchy veggies. Limit starchy vegetables to one cup. That includes yams, winter squashes, corn, peas.
Be sure to get enough protein: twenty grams (20gm) per fifty pounds of lean body mass. Read labels, a three to four-ounce chicken breast is about twenty grams of protein. For those who do not know their lean body mass and want an easy measurement tool, I will post a link in the comment section.
Good luck, men. And blessings for the women who love you. You may be a bit grumpy at first, making these adjustments. Go take a walk, play basketball, ride a bike, and work it off. You will survive and be able to enjoy carbs in moderation again.
Cortisol and the Apple Body Type
You have many hormones that can contribute to weight gain. Of these, cortisol imbalance is a major factor. Have you heard of the “pear-shaped” body versus the “apple” body? If you have a pear-shaped body, you can thank Estrogen. And I mean “thank”, though you may not appreciate your curves, your heart does. Hip, butt, and thigh fat is not inflammatory and does not affect your heart. If you have an apple-shaped body, you can blame Cortisol. Yes, blame, because cortisol-induced fat is super inflammatory contributing to cardiovascular disease.
Remember that cortisol is part of your body’s natural stress response. It fuels the fight or flight response. When you first become stressed, you may actually lose weight. That is because cortisol is catabolic, meaning it breaks down tissues. At first, just releasing sugar stores, then fat stores which might seem good but then cortisol starts breaking down muscle and bone which is really bad.
And if the stress never lets up, your Hypothalamus perceives that you are not safe. Remember your Hypothalamus reacts to what you perceive as stress as if you’re in mortal danger like a tiger is chasing you. So it tells your body to store whatever calories you’re eating. That way, when you finally get treed by the tiger, you can last a while. Your Hypothalamus is just trying to save you. Thank you, Hypothalamus!
Guess where all that fat gets deposited; All around your middle, from your neck down to your hips. Your legs and arms may be thinner because you have lost muscle mass. But you develop a layer of fat like a buoy right around your body. You look like an apple with limbs.
So how are you going to lose that fat? First, you must support your hypothalamus. If you don’t, you’ll develop adrenal fatigue. Do you already have adrenal fatigue? Even more reason to support your Hypothalamus. If you don’t know how comment below and I’ll post a link. Second, you’ve must burn the fat and build some lean body mass. And the best way to do it is H.I.T.
Hormone Healing Tip: HIT to Pare down your Apple Figure
H.I.T. = High Intensity Training.
Wait, do not panic. I know you are pooped from all that stress. And stress can trigger weight gain. The H.I.T. routine I am suggesting is easy, doable, and it works! A few years ago I challenged a dozen of my “apple-bodied” patients to do my H.I.T. routine. I did it with them, just to be sure it was really doable. After six weeks of doing my H.I.T. routine, they all lost weight, but more to the point, they lost inches around their stomachs. Some of the women went down two sizes!
I did not expect them to lose a lot of weight. I did expect them to lose body fat. They did not lose as much weight as they looked like they lost because they had gained muscle and lean body mass weighs more than fat. Really, who cares if you’re a size five and weigh 140 pounds, when you used to be a size nine at 160 pounds? As long as you are healthier and love your body!
So here is my H.I.T. Routine, which can be done with any aerobic exercise (running, power walking, cycling, swimming, rowing) :
- Warm-up for 5-7 minutes
- Then do a 20-second burst of speed
- Followed by a 1-2 minute recovery at warm-up pace
- Repeat Speed bursts twice more
- Then cool down for 5-7 minutes
Do H.I.T. three times per week, that is all you need to do! You will be “sucking wind” the first few times. But I promise you it will get easier. And when you see results, well, you will be very happy!
Avoid Hormonal Weight Gain. Stay fit and healthy!
When your hormones are out of balance, it’s hard to avoid packing on the pounds. To help you even more, you can read about my 5 Tips to Avoid Hormonal Weight Gain and my 5 Tips to Help You Lose Hormonal Weight.
If you have any questions regarding hormonal weight gain, please join us in our Hormone Support Group. You’ll have access to that when you sign up for my free Hormone Reboot Training. I’d love for you to join us!
Insulin and obesity transform hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis stemness and function in a hyperactive state, Analysis of Western diet, palmitate and BMAL1 regulation of neuropeptide Y expression in the murine hypothalamus and BMAL1 knockout cell models, Recent advances in understanding body weight homeostasis in humans.
*Statements not reviewed by the FDA.