How Your Hormones Dictate Where You Put On Weight

If you know how your hormones and lifestyle influence your body shape there’s help to improve it.


Why won’t the fat shift?

However good the diet and the exercise you do there are times when some places in your body just won’t let that weight go.

You may know all about healthy habits, but factors like stress, your sleep pattern and certain items in your diet will all combine to help that weight stay on.

Oestrogen dominance is talked about a lot in terms of hormone imbalance symptoms, but a key factor in oestrogen’s role in the body is the development of fatty deposits. It is what gives a woman her curves and at menopause, to compensate for the naturally declining levels, the body shifts its production into producing oestrogen from the fat cells of the abdomen, hips and thighs so it deposits more fat there.

Natural help: Ensuring good hormone balance so that oestrogen is in the right ratio to progesterone will keep oestrogen deposits in check. Because of progesterone’s function as a diuretic it will also help shift pounds due to water retention.

The bulging back – the thyroid effect

Seen from the back, do you have a bulging bra where flesh rides over the top and is visible to everyone but you? This kind of fat is common in women who have an under active thyroid and it affects around 1 in 13 in the UK.

If you are not producing enough thyroxine you are more likely to put on weight as it is the hormone which controls the rate you burn calories. If you have other symptoms such as tiredness, lack of focus and feel cold more often than most then it is worth having your thyroid levels checked by your doctor.

Natural help: You can use progesterone to boost your thyroid as it supports thyroid function, and get natural sources from dark, leafy green vegetables such as kale and spinach as well as seafood and shellfish.

Flabby underarms – check testosterone

Women do need small amounts of testosterone, it is why we produce it from progesterone, one of our primary sex hormones, but it drops naturally in the body as we age. It is essential for building muscle mass, but very low levels can trigger excess fat in the upper arms.

Natural help: Women’s testosterone levels naturally drop with age, and because progesterone is a precursor for testosterone supplementing with progesterone can help.

However testosterone supplementation in any form should always be under the direction of a doctor as its safety in women has not been established and because of side effects associated with it.

Natural help: There are good dietary sources such as salmon and avocado. Flavonoids boost levels as well so include flax seeds, apples, berries, onions, soya products and green tea.

Moderate daily exercise is a must as lack of it suppresses testosterone production.

Tums, bums and thighs – essential hormone balance

This can be the hardest fat to shift as your body thinks it is helping by giving you extra oestrogen as your own levels decline. But unless it is balanced by progesterone you will have oestrogen dominance and it is encouraged by sources such as excess hormonal oestrogen as well as the xenoestrogens in the food and water supply.

Don’t think that exercise will necessarily help. In moderation yes, but a study found that exercising for longer than 45 minutes could increase fat around the stomach so keep an eye on the time!

Natural help: The best way to ensure oestrogen is kept in check is to have good progesterone levels to stop it proliferating.

Add in a diet that contains cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cabbage as they help regulate liver enzymes that metabolise oestrogen and remove it from the body. Probiotics and live yoghurt also help you to remove oestrogen from the gut and reducing items such as alcohol, painkillers, processed meat and coffee will make a difference too.

Fight the flab – cut down cortisol

Cortisol is the stress hormone and can impact virtually every system in your body. If your fat is confined to just your stomach, then that can be a sign of stress and that are producing too much cortisol for your body to cope with.

It increases levels of fat and sugar in the bloodstream to prepare you for fight or flight so unless you give it the conditions to use up those new supplies (in exercise for example) then it will simply offload that as fat and your stomach is the handiest place.

A study by Yale University in the USA found that even slim women are more likely to have excess abdominal fat if they feel stressed regularly. That’s because abdominal fat has more cortisol receptors than any where else in your body.

Natural help: Again ensure hormone balance to relieve the stress and let progesterone help elevate your mood.

Make sure you balance your blood sugar by eating little and often to control cortisol production. Go for slow release forms of energy such as oats and pulses and again don’t over do it on the exercise front.

If you like to go for a run, bear in mind that the body releases cortisol in response to the stress of running so keep it short and calm down afterwards with yoga or meditation.

Helpful information

If you know that your diet could do the little bit of help in order to get weight gain back under control, then try something different.

Nutritionist Patrick Halford has devised several effective weight loss programmes and the diet below helps not just with weight loss but can increase your energy too.