Blame Your Weight Gain on the Hormones!
Dr. Geeta Aurangabadkar

Dr. Geeta Aurangabadkar

May 24General wellness

Blame Your Weight Gain on the Hormones!

Disclaimer: Proactive For Her does not in any way endorse or encourage fat phobia. Body acceptance and mental health go hand in hand with great physical health. This article merely provides an insight into how different hormones affect weight.

This article is compiled by Sanjana Varma, a freelance writer at Proactive For Her.

Weight gain comes with physical, psychological and metabolic problems. You’ve tried each and every possible trick in the book in vain. Gaining a few pounds might be the result of hormones going off the charts and food cravings. Everything from PMSing to pregnancy, menopause to daily stress could take you through a variety of ups and downs, courtesy of your hormones.

Research has also revealed that appetite, weight loss, metabolism and female hormones are all closely linked. So, if you can't find a happy solution to your weight gain, it is probably because of your skewed hormonal balance. Let us have a look at all the hormones that impact weight gain.

What are the symptoms of hormonal weight gain?

Hormones can wreak havoc on your system. Simple symptoms like these could be our body’s way of communicating about the hormonal imbalance in our body. We suggest that whenever you realize that you are facing the symptoms mentioned below regularly, kindly consult your doctor.

  • Fatigue
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Headache
  • Difficulty in falling asleep
  • Dark skin patches
  • Puffy face
  • Indigestion
  • Appetite changes
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Anxiety

Hormones responsible for weight gain

  1. Insulin
  • The hormone insulin is the one produced by beta cells in the pancreas which is primarily responsible for the regulation of carbohydrates and fat in the body. Insulin allows the body to use glucose. It’s secreted in small amounts throughout the day and in larger amounts after meals. Insulin is also the main fat storage hormone in the body. It tells fat cells to store fat and prevents stored fat from being broken down.
  • Elevated insulin levels (termed hyperinsulinemia) over a long period can lead to many health problems, including obesity and metabolic syndrome. Overeating especially sugar, refined carbohydrates, and fast food drives higher insulin secretion and increases insulin levels. Accumulation of fat around the organs can make the existing insulin work with less power, leading to insulin resistance. When cells are insulin resistant, both blood sugar and insulin levels, in turn, go up significantly.
  • Reducing sugar intake, cutting carbs in your diet, and doing regular exercise are the best ways to lower insulin levels.

2. Cortisol

  • It is a hormone that is released when you are stressed or are sleep deprived. Physical, mental, emotional, all forms of stress can affect your cortisol levels in the body.
  • Elevated cortisol levels can lead to weight gain, majorly in the abdominal area. It triggers food cravings and you end up munching on junk food more than you would have otherwise.
  • High cortisol levels can increase food intake and promote weight gain. Eating a balanced diet, managing stress and sleeping more can help normalize cortisol production.

3. Oestrogen

Oestrogen is mainly the female sex hormone. Fat cells are also found to be another source of oestrogen that converts calories into fats ultimately leading to obesity. A drop in the level of oestrogen around menopause is linked to abdominal obesity.

Estrogen is one of the main female reproductive hormones. Too little or too much of it, both are bad for you. Around the time of menopause, a drop in estrogen levels tends to affect the body’s metabolism. A slowed metabolism makes it harder to lose weight. Estrogen also impacts how our body utilizes carbohydrates - simple and complex. When this regulation is lost, our body increases fat storage and obesity worsens

4. Progesterone

The level of progesterone in the body decreases during menopause. Decreased levels of this hormone first result in water retention and bloating and later makes your body feel fuller and heavier.

Progesterone needs to balance out with estrogen to help in the smooth functioning of the body. Menopause, stress, antibiotics intake, contraceptives intake can all reduce the levels of progesterone in the body.

5. Testosterone (T)

High levels of masculinizing hormones such as testosterone, DHT etc are seen in conditions like PCOS. Abnormally high levels of T can worsen insulin resistance, affect ovulation and cause weight gain, particularly around the belly in most women.

6. Thyroid

The thyroid gland of our body is the one that makes and stores hormones that are required to regulate the metabolism rate, sleep rate, and heart rate of our body. Now, when the thyroid gland doesn’t produce sufficient of these thyroid hormones, this slows down both the healthy heart rate and overall metabolism rate of the body leading to weight gain.

7. Estrogen

Estrogen is responsible for the sexual and reproductive growth of women. During menopause, when estrogen levels drop because it is produced less in the ovaries, the site for fat storage shifts from the hips and thighs to visceral fat in the abdomen. This promotes insulin resistance. The relation between estrogen and weight gain is complex. When estrogen levels are too high or low, weight gain may occur. This depends on age and other hormonal factors.

8. Leptin

This is the hormone that controls the energy that the body uses and it also controls the amount of food that the body consumes for energy. It is considered the “satiety hormone” that reduces appetite and makes you feel full. This hormone is generated from the fat cells of the body.

Leptin tells the brain that there’s enough fat in storage and no more is needed, which helps prevent overeating. People who are overweight or obese usually have very high levels of leptin in their blood. In fact, one study found that leptin levels in obese people were 4 times higher than in people of normal weight. Unfortunately, in obesity, the leptin system doesn’t work as it should. This is referred to as leptin resistance. When leptin signalling is impaired, the message to stop eating doesn’t get through to the brain, so it doesn’t realize you have enough energy stored.

Consuming anti-inflammatory foods, exercising and getting enough sleep may improve leptin sensitivity.

9. Melatonin

Melatonin is produced in the pineal gland deep within your brain. It helps maintain your circadian rhythm, so you sleep and wake up on cue. When your melatonin levels naturally rise at night, growth hormone is released, which helps the body heal, build lean muscle and improve bone density.

But if your circadian rhythm is interrupted, you don’t get enough sleep, or your body isn’t getting enough restful sleep at night, your body initiates a stress response, which can lead to inflammation-induced weight gain. To make sure your melatonin levels are in check, rise with the sun and get that morning light, and avoid blue light and eating after dark.

10. Glucocorticoids

Inflammation is an important part of the healing process, but chronic inflammation can lead to some unfortunate outcomes, including weight gain. Glucocorticoids actually help reduce inflammation. But they also regulate the use of sugar, fats, and proteins in your body.

It has been found that glucocorticoids can lead to higher blood sugar levels due to insulin resistance, and usually, obesity or even diabetes if it’s left unchecked.

11. Ghrelin

Ghrelin is known as a “hunger hormone.” When your stomach is empty, it releases ghrelin, which sends a message to the brain telling you to eat. Normally, ghrelin levels are highest before eating and lowest about an hour after you’ve had a meal. However, in overweight and obese people, fasting ghrelin levels are often lower than in people of normal weight.

Studies have also shown that after obese people eat a meal, ghrelin only decreases slightly. Because of this, the brain doesn’t receive as strong of a signal to stop eating, which can lead to overeating. Eating plenty of protein and avoiding foods and beverages high in sugar can help optimize ghrelin levels.

12. Neuropeptide Y (NPY)

Neuropeptide Y (NPY) is a hormone produced by cells in the brain and nervous system. It stimulates appetite, particularly for carbohydrates, and is highest during periods of fasting or food deprivation. Levels of neuropeptide Y are elevated during times of stress, which can lead to overeating and abdominal fat gain. Neuropeptide Y (NPY) stimulates hunger, particularly during fasting and times of stress. Protein and soluble fibre can help lower NPY.

13. Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 (GLP-1)

Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) is a hormone produced in your gut when nutrients, especially carbohydrates enter the intestines. GLP-1 plays a major role in keeping blood sugar levels stable, and also makes you feel full.

Researchers believe the decrease in appetite that occurs immediately after weight loss surgery is partly due to increased production of GLP-1. GLP-1 can decrease appetite and increase weight loss. Consuming a diet high in protein and greens can help boost your levels.

14. Cholecystokinin (CCK)

Like GLP-1, cholecystokinin (CCK) is another satiety hormone produced by cells in your gut. Higher amounts of CCK have been shown to reduce food intake in both lean and obese people. CCK is a hormone that reduces appetite and is produced when you eat protein, fat, and fibre.

15. Peptide YY (PYY)

Peptide YY (PYY) is another gut hormone that controls appetite. It is released by cells in the intestines and colon. Peptide YY is believed to play a major role in reducing food intake and decreasing your risk of obesity.

To increase PPY levels and reduce appetite, try avoiding processed carbohydrates and eating plenty of protein and fibre. Hormones work together to increase or decrease appetite and fat storage. If the system doesn’t work properly, you may find yourself struggling with weight issues on an ongoing basis.

How to avoid weight gain caused by a hormonal imbalance?

Weight gain due to hormones can be stressful as it becomes incredibly hard to lose weight. However, healthy practices will always make a way to make weight loss possible. Here’s a list of some preventive measures to fight weight gain:

  • Increase the intake of protein will help improve the metabolism rate
  • Consider getting tested if you experience any of the symptoms of hormonal weight gain
  • Speak with your doctor if you have a family history of hormonal imbalance like insulin resistance or hyperthyroidism
  • Engaging in physical activities will help lead an active lifestyle.
  • Keep your stress under control.
  • Reduce or end alcohol consumption
  • Eat foods that are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids like Spinach, Salmon and Tofu.
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Declutter your mind of inhibitions and make space for positive thoughts

Nothing should come in between your love for your body. A slim figure does not ensure good health. Weight gain shouldn’t deter you from living life to the full. Good sense and good health are life’s blessings that are hard to achieve but surely aren’t unachievable. Understand and love the mechanism of the body. And then feed the body with all things healthy. This will lead to your body’s and your happiness ever after. Chin up people, you got this!

Disclaimer - This information is provided for educational purposes and should not be construed as medical advice. Please consult with your healthcare practitioners before undertaking any changes in your diet or adding supplements.

Proactive is a digital clinic for women, offering accessible, personalized, and confidential healthcare solutions. We offer products and services for out-patient health concerns of Indian women, across their lifetime - from puberty to pregnancy to menopause. To know more on the sexual and reproductive health of women, visit