Tips & Advice

From Dr. Liz Herself

January 4, 2018
The Major Hormones That Affect Your Weight
Woman Jogging to Maintain Healthy

It is beyond frustrating when you know you are eating right, exercising enough, and trying hard to manage your stress…and you STILL cannot achieve your weight loss goals.

What if 2018 can be a year of reaching (and even surpassing) your weight loss goals instead of another year of frustration?

Here’s a hint: if your hormones are out of balance (or not at optimal levels), you could be headed for failure instead of success.

By the way, this is not about being skinny or about how you look to others. This is about feeling good in your own body, that one precious body you have been issued for this lifetime. At a healthy weight, you also lower your risk of heart disease, cancer, and dementia.

Easy way to tell if you are at a “healthy weight”: women should have a waist circumference below 35 inches, and men should have a waist circumference below 40 inches; above these numbers your risks of heart disease, diabetes and other chronic illnesses increase significantly.

Here are the major hormones that affect your weight:

Let’s take them one at a time:


When we are stressed, our adrenals respond by making cortisol. This hormone raises our blood sugar so we can do the “fight or flight” we are built for. When stress causes our adrenals to make too much cortisol, this contributes to impaired sugar metabolism and weight gain.

However, when we live with chronic ongoing stress (including traffic, cell phones and email), your fasting cortisol level might not be high because the adrenal glands can burn out. In either case (high or low cortisol), other adrenal hormones that help with metabolism (like DHEA) might also be low, which works against your weight loss efforts.


Too much estrogen can lead to water retention, but in perimenopause and menopause, it’s more common that there is not enough estrogen, which can cause resistance to weight loss efforts.

Also, the extra fat tissue we carry can produce a bad form of estrogen, which is linked to breast cancer in women. In men, the estrogen stored in fat can block testosterone, giving men symptoms of low testosterone (including weight gain, irritability, and lower sexual function).


This hormone is the number one reason men generally have such an easier time with their weight compared to women. From ages 20 to 40, women lose up to HALF of their testosterone production, and from ages 30 to 70, men lose 1-3% of their testosterone production every year.

Women in premenopause or menopause can have low testosterone, and benefit greatly from supplementing this useful hormone. In addition to feeling better with good levels of testosterone, men also lower their risk of heart disease and all-cause mortality.


Thyroid hormone is possibly the single most important hormonal regulator of metabolism in both men and women. While thyroid hormone is not by itself a weight loss medication, it is often a critical part of a well-balanced hormonal symphony. Women are diagnosed with low thyroid eight times as often as men.

Not all thyroid supplements or medications are created equal; most thyroid medications only include the inactive form (T4) which is expected to convert in the body to the active form (T3) – this does not always happen, and your doctor usually will not check.

Your doctor can check your levels of these hormones. If you know you’re giving it your best and you’re not getting the weight loss results you expect, your hormones may be to blame.

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