Balance These 4 Hormones If You Want To Lose Weight

Healthy Living: Lifestyle

By: // March 4, 2018

One of the most common questions women ask me as they get older is:“if I’m eating right and exercising, why is it so hard to lose weight?” You may be doing the same things you’ve always done, but suddenly find it’s not enough to stay fit. Even if you know you’re entering perimenopause or menopause, you might not realize that hormonal fluctuations could be playing a part in your weight gain. Your first thought now might be: “can estrogen cause weight gain?” Estrogen dominance can—it’s when you have a disproportionate amount of estrogen in relation to your progesterone. But there are also three other hormones that need to be balanced at any age in order to maintain a healthy weight. Read on to discover the four key hormones that affect your weight—estrogen, cortisol, leptin and insulin—and how to balance them naturally to lose weight and feel great.

How Your Hormones Affect Your Weight

Your hormones impact so many things—from your mood and energy levels to yes, your weight. Your hormones fluctuate monthly, but also throughout the course of your life as you go from puberty to adulthood and then into menopause. Unfortunately, our hormonal changes don’t get discussed much in the mainstream media. So I want to educate and empower you to know your body and know your hormones. If you have some stubborn weight that just won’t come off, you’ve probably gotten so frustrated that you feel like it’s impossible. But I’m here to empower you and show you that you can lose weight, and you can do it naturally by bringing key hormones into balance.

I’ve gotten a lot of great information on hormonal imbalances from Dr. Sara Gottfried. She is a Harvard-trained doctor and hormone expert, and she offers up ways to balance your hormones—whether they’ve become imbalanced due to perimenopause, menopause, or lifestyle choices. She has a fantastic program called The Hormone Reset Detox and lots of great tips about how hormonal imbalances make losing those last few pounds extra difficult. So let’s learn what hormones need to be balanced in your body to lose weight—and how to balance them naturally.



Estrogen is the hormone responsible for the development of female sexual characteristics (breasts and hips). There’s an interesting connection between estrogen and weight gain in menopause. During menopause, levels of all your hormones tend to decrease, including estrogen and progesterone. Your doctor may have told you that your estrogen levels are plummeting, which is why it’s confusing to hear that estrogen dominance can cause weight gain in menopause.

Women talking to each other

While estrogen levels decrease during menopause, if your progesterone levels are decreasing more than your estrogen, you can still have estrogen dominance. Estrogen dominance is really about the ratio of estrogen to progesterone—if you have too much estrogen compared to your progesterone (no matter how little it is) you can gain weight and store more fat around your middle. And, no surprise—it’s believed that most women tend to have an estrogen dominance. Another factor contributing to estrogen dominance is exposure to environmental estrogens which are estrogen-like chemicals in our environment. Some of these are things we ingest like pesticides, hormones in animal products, and plastics—all known as “endocrine disruptors.”

How To Balance Estrogen For Weight Loss

To avoid estrogen dominance, you want to keep a fine balance between your progesterone and estrogen. Dr. Gottfried recommends eating a pound of veggies per day, as she states the fiber will help remove any excess estrogen from the body. Of all the out-there medical recommendations or far-fetched advice, I have to say: this one is pretty simple! Gottfried also recommends that women seeking to lower their estrogen levels naturally aim for 35 to 45 gram of fiber per day, increasing their amount slowly so as not to cause stomach upset. You can also naturally balance estrogen dominance by:

  • Take Wild Yam (Dioscorea Villosa) in capsule or dried herb form (This contains a compound called Diosgenin which has been used as the base for synthetic hormone drugs but taken in its natural form can still help)
  • Reduce your red meat intake
  • Eliminate excess sugar or processed foods
  • Exercise daily to promote detoxification


Cortisol regulates your body’s response to stressful situations. Unfortunately, we are so inundated with a constant stream of modern stressors and the need to be task-switching and communicating across a variety of channels that many of us have a surplus amount of cortisol in our bodies. According to lead cardiovascular researchers at the University Medical Center in the Netherlands, having excess cortisol puts you at increased risk of heart disease, and it also cause you to store visceral fat around your internal organs, which often appears as excess belly fat.

Related: Can Stress Cause Belly Fat?

How To Balance Cortisol For Weight Loss

Simply put, you need to reset your body’s response to stress. Gottfried recommends slowly weaning yourself off excessive caffeine or switching from coffee to tea. If tea isn’t er, your cup of tea, you can also do other things to lower your cortisol levels, such as practicing mindfulness. This idea may seem vague, but it’s really straightforward: slow down, breathe, and pay attention to what you’re doing. So often we get distracted and rush from thing to thing, and this task-switching can significantly raise stress levels. Instead, try paying attention to one task at a time.  Other ways you can naturally lower your cortisol levels include:

  • Meditating
  • Taking a magnesium supplement or B vitamin
  • Consistently get better, longer sleep


Leptin is produced by the body’s fat cells and it’s primary function is to tell a part of our brain (the hypothalamus) that we’re satiated, or full. Our modern diet is saturated with a type of sugar called fructose, found in many processed foods (everything from pasta sauce to salad dressings). When too much fructose floods your body, your body stores it as fat. This leads to an excess of leptin; when one has too much leptin it’s possible to become leptin resistant, meaning your body no longer can tell if you’re full or not—and you keep eating and gaining weight.

How to Balance Leptin For Weight Loss

A huge component to balancing your leptin levels is getting enough sleep. When you don’t get enough sleep, your leptin levels are lower and you don’t feel as satisfied after you eat. (Harvard studies show that sleep deprivation reduces leptin levels and actually increases your body’s desire for fatty or carbohydrate-rich foods.) So if you suspect a leptin imbalance is to blame for your weight gain, make sleep a priority each and every night—we should all be prioritizing sleep anyway for its myriad of health benefits, but if weight loss is the kick in the pants you need to start catching more zzz’s, then do it! Other ways to balance your leptin levels include:

  • Taking an Omega 3 supplement or eat more Omega 3 rich foods such as fish, grass-fed meats, and chia seeds
  • Decreasing your fructose intake by eating little to no added sugar
  • Exercising regularly


Insulin is a hormone created by your pancreas and it helps regulate glucose (blood sugar) in your body. If you’re overweight or even “skinny fat” (storing too much visceral fat around your organs) your body’s glucose regulator (insulin!) gets thrown off balance and you have a harder time losing weight. In addition, if you tend to eat sugary foods throughout the day, you keep your insulin working overtime trying to clear the sugar from your blood. What does insulin do with the extra sugar you ask? It stores it as fat. 

How To Balance Insulin For Weight Loss

Learn how cutting down on sugar can help balance your hormones, particularly insulin.

Dr. Gottfried recommends starting the day by drinking filtered water with two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to regulate your blood sugar first thing in the morning. If the apple cider vinegar sounds too nasty to try, ease into it or at least drink 16 oz of water every morning before you eat or drink anything else. This acts as a natural body flush. (I like to add lemon to my water.) Other ways to naturally balance your insulin levels include:

  • Getting enough protein with every meal
  • Eating smaller (healthy) meals more often
  • Eating low-glycemic carbs (fruits, beans, non-starchy veggies)
  • Eliminating added sugars from your diet

The bottom line is this: if you’ve been struggling to lose weight but can’t figure out what you’re doing wrong, your hormones may be to blame. You can ask your doctor to test your hormones, as well as use the above information to try different techniques to bring suspected problem hormones back into balance. It’s your body, and you should know everything you can to not only lose weight but feel happy, healthy and whole.

READ THIS NEXT: How To Prevent Menopausal Weight Gain

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on March 18, 2018 at 8:03 AM Reply

I do all that you say to do. I am also taking bio-identical hormones. I exercise, don't eat sweets. Keto diet. Half my portions and cannot lose weight. If I cheat at all, just a little, I gain 4 to 5 lbs in a day.

on February 10, 2018 at 10:01 PM Reply

There's no special "maintenance phase." When dieters' weight reaches a plateau, they keep on eating in the same way they did when they were actively losing weight. Whatever changes dieters make in their eating, they make permanently.

on January 22, 2018 at 11:29 AM Reply

Thank you so much for this useful information . especially it is for women

on December 31, 2017 at 9:02 AM Reply

Thank you for this conversation - it is so difficult living in a house full of men (husband and two sons) who can eat anything and lose 5 lbs with a trip to the bathroom. Their advice of "oh just eat a little less and move a little more" elicits thoughts of a throat punch. I appreciate your support and honesty of experiences!

on December 10, 2017 at 6:57 AM Reply

I have tender beast, dryness, and weight gain. I don't eat that much and very little sugar and carbs.

on November 7, 2017 at 12:58 PM Reply

I know this is a late reply but I have fibromyalgia and I spent $5,400.00 on a personal trainer for over a year and ate what is suggested here/by the trainer and did not lose more than 5 pounds in that year's time. I kept telling the trainer AND my doctor that its got nothing to do with my diet. I was at 1200 calories. I even cut it down to 800 a day at one point to prove a point to the doctor and ended up fatigued with no energy/no weight loss and then gave up. I stopped the gym, began 1600 calories instead (nothing outrageous mind you, nothing fried) and lost 5 pounds then I added DHEA slowly and went up to 25mg. Then I just added pregnenolone and progesterone. Turns out all those low cal diets and exercise exhausted my Andrenals which are ALSO part of the hormones complex. Best thing to do is to get a hormone test of all of them to see what's out of whack and then work with someone that knows what supplements to recommend. I supplement now with a high amount of D3, DHEA, pregnenolone, Magnesium Glycinate and progesterone cream daily. Amazing the energy I've regained, the food I can eat without gaining (I'm still at the same weight since losing that 5 pounds 5 months ago since going up to 1600 cals), so now so I can begin to go back to exercising and lose the weight I want (I'm 50 lbs over weight). I can even run up and down the office building stairs several times a day whereas I couldn't before even during my personal training year. And the fibromyaglia pain is not so bad anymore. (I'm age 51 and perimenopause since tubal ligation 6 years ago.)

on March 22, 2017 at 8:19 PM Reply

What about progesterone? I am 25 and have recently gone on to the mini pill as my stroke risk is to high for the combined and have experienced crazy hunger, terrible skin and weight gain - combined with much bigger boobs and butt (I don't really mind that part). How can I balance out this progesterone to stop the side effects??

    on March 23, 2017 at 7:41 PM Reply

    Hi - Well I’m not familiar enough with the progesterone levels in the mini-pill. I have often heard that the mini pill is progesterone dominant and that would help with weight loss - it’s a natural anti-inflammatory and helps to regulate appetite. But if you are estrogen dominant - that increases your risk of cancer and stroke. So I’m assuming you are getting more progesterone in the mini-pill which should be better for you? But yes - you want to balance the 2 horomones for best results. That being said exercising regularly can help with hormone levels. And if you are looking to increase your progesterone levels for some reason - check out this article:

on February 8, 2017 at 7:48 AM Reply

Hi everyone- I am really happy to find this post too. I have some of the same issues flooding my life with the up down weight gain or loss. I hate it! Just 10 years ago I could practically eat what I enjoy (healthy with few cheats) and not gain weight. I went from 131 to 150. For the last 9 years I weighed a healthy 141 and in one night gained 7 pounds that was not water weight. The weight stayed with me no matter what I tried. Protein diets, calorie diets, hormone docs, hormone pills and creams and more. I made an appointment with a endocrinologist this month. We shall see what happens because I would like to get this uncomfortable weight off. Otherwise I have healthy labs and my docs tell me to go with the flow. That is NOT my style! Talk to y'all soon!!

    on September 11, 2017 at 9:12 AM Reply

    Kat I'm going to my OB tomorrow for same issues hoping she will order full blood panel and get some answers (possible hormone imbalance or thyroid issue is what my signs lean towards). What was your results with endo doctor?

    on February 11, 2017 at 9:26 AM Reply

    Hi Kat, this sounds exactly like my me! I can't lose the weight no matter what I do. Excited to see your results.

on January 20, 2017 at 12:12 PM Reply

My name is Amy. I am 43 years old. My cycles stopped 2.5 years ago on their own. Since they stopped things just haven't been right with me. I exercise 1-1.5 hours each day, weigh and measure my food and eat not gluten or sugar. I have been able to maintain my weight with the routine I have. The last year has been horrible for me. Bloating, breast swelling and tenderness, depression, no libido to list a few. I have been going to see an herbalist because I didn't want to be prescribed an anti-depressant and birth control from my ob. They referred me to a doctor for testosterone pellets. The beginning of November 2016 I had 2 pellets inserted and they also put in an estrogen blocker pellet. The first 7 days after the pellets I felt like I had been cured. Then day 8 I bottomed out again and things have been horrible since The pellets are suppose to last 8-12 weeks. Right now I am at the end of the pellets as they have been totally absorbed in my body. Now things are even worse. So with the pellets my testosterone increased to a way to high 743 but my estrogen was blocked until now when my testosterone is all absorbed and the estrogen blocker is too. Now my body is making an abundance of estrogen to make up for when it was blocked This is horrible I just want to give up. I am in the process of doing urine testing to check my hormone levels and praying that this reveals what is going on and I can get relief and feel like living again. Please share if you have a similar story and have recovered or any advise/help. Thank you so much

    on February 26, 2017 at 6:55 PM Reply

    Hi Amy, I read your post and was in somewhat of a situation myself a while back...I am 48 and a few years back was sick of the weight I had gained, started walking went through have a breast biopsy (no cancer, Thank God) and just felt on an emotional rollercoaster. In Sept-Oct of 2015 I was always feeling bloated, not sleeping well and was just not myself. I was looking for something all natural to help me, a friend of mine introduced me to Thrive. An all natural 3 step nutritional program that has changed my life, my husbands and many of my family. I spoke with a dietician and others who have studies nutrition extensively and trust and love the product and what they have told me. This is just the short version of what I've been through but hope it helps in some way. I sleep great again, last year I found another lump, but miraculously it went away, I'm calmer, & healthier than I've ever felt! Good luck with everything! I hope you find what works for you.

on September 22, 2016 at 10:03 AM Reply

I also read on Wellness MGT corp. website, that it is highly important to balance testosterone level in order to lose weight, especially for men.

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