May 30, 2022

Hormones and Weight

The Qilo Team avatar
The Qilo Team
Dr Victoria Abbey avatar
Medically reviewed BY
Dr Victoria Abbey
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We have made a tonne of articles about how weight gain is caused by consuming more calories than we can burn. This is true however sometimes, you might notice that after months of hard work and strict diets, the scale refuses to budge. This is because sometimes weight gain and loss are a bit more complicated than just burning more calories than we consume. There is one key factor you might want to consider in all of these, and this is the role of hormones. 

The Biochemistry of Hormones

Hormones are a big deal. They help keep your body working the way it's supposed to and they are also responsible for controlling your moods, making you hungry or full, and even giving you energy.

A little biochemistry about hormones. Hormones are chemical messengers that tell our bodies what to do in any given situation. Hormones are made in the endocrine glands, which sit atop the kidneys and pancreas. The glands producing hormones include the pituitary; thyroid; parathyroid; pancreas; adrenal glands; ovaries and testes. Each gland has specific functions related to its specialized hormone production. 

When hormones are released into the bloodstream, they travel to target cells—usually, those that reside close to where they're produced—and interact with DNA or receptors on the surface of these cells to regulate certain processes within them. 

Just to keep things simple, you can think of a hormone simply as the body's messenger but in chemical form. 

Some hormones direct immediate responses such as fight or flight, while others affect long-term processes like growth and metabolism. Our hormones help us maintain a healthy weight by letting us know when we are hungry or full and telling our body how to store energy from food as fat.

Can Hormones Cause Weight Gain?

It's time to take a closer look at your hormones and how they impact your weight. 

When it comes to hormones and weight gain/loss, some people think it's all about genetics. Well, your genes can play a role in how your body responds to certain hormones, but they aren't the only factor at play. For example, if you're overweight or obese and have high levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), this can lead to increased food cravings and decreased muscle mass. On the other hand, if you're trying to lose weight and are under chronic stress, your body may produce too much cortisol which can cause muscle loss and fat gain around your midsection—especially if you're not getting enough sleep!

Hormonal changes and shifts can greatly affect weight. For example, when a woman starts birth control pills, she may gain weight as the hormones change her body. Additionally, some people find that their hormones drive them to eat at certain times more than others; this could be the cause of some extra pounds gained over time.

The truth is that hormone imbalances can cause weight gain or loss in any person – regardless of gender or age! There is no one way for everyone to lose weight: different hormones work differently for different bodies so there are many different ways to shed unwanted pounds. The important thing is not how much you weigh but how healthy your body feels and looks on the inside (and sometimes outside).

Hormonal Change Through Life

To understand how hormones affect weight gain or loss at any age, it's helpful to know how they work. Hormone levels change throughout the different stages of life. For example; As a child, you produce more growth hormones. As you age, however, your body produces fewer hormones than it did before. Hormone levels change throughout life. The same is true for growth hormone; as your body ages and grows less active (and as you go through puberty), the amount of this hormone in your bloodstream decreases.


Puberty is a time when there is a major shift in hormone levels as your body matures into adulthood. During this time you may notice changes such as increased height/weight gain or increase in breast tissue for women; accelerated growth for both sexes; acne breakouts for girls; hair loss for boys or facial hair growth in boys (this can also occur later). All of these are caused by hormones.

Middle Age

Middle age refers generally speaking between ages 40-65 where men tend towards going bald while women experience menopause symptoms mentioned above along with increased belly fat deposits around the waist area caused by the aging process itself plus lack of exercise due to busy schedules etc. 

Old Age

Old Age refers mostly to post 65 when hormone levels drop dramatically making it harder for elderly people who were active when younger now require assistance doing basic tasks like walking, cooking, cleaning, shopping, etc. 

Aging affects hormone levels and hormonal balance in two ways:

  • Hormone levels decline with age; this is known as a decrease in secretion.
  • Hormone levels increase with age; this is known as an increase in secretion.

As you age, your thyroid gland's ability to make thyroid hormone decreases. This can lead to weight gain, especially around the midsection. The thyroid gland is located in the front of your neck and produces hormones that control metabolism. The thyroid hormone is important for keeping our metabolism running smoothly so we can burn calories efficiently. In addition, it plays a role in brain development and nervous system function.


During pregnancy, it's common to experience emotional swings with irritability being one of the most commonly reported symptoms due to changing hormones during this time. Some of these hormonal changes can lead to cravings for food and sometimes overeating.


Menopause is a phase in a woman's lifecycle that occurs when menstruation stops which are as a result of low estrogen levels that contribute to weight gain along with hot flashes which can affect appetite causing some people to eat more at night than normal causing additional weight gain over time if not controlled properly through dieting exercise etc. 

Women also experience a decrease in progesterone production with age. As you age, your progesterone levels will decrease. Progesterone is a hormone that's produced in the ovaries and is important for regulating the menstrual cycle. You might experience an increase or decrease in your progesterone level depending on what stage of life you're in (for example, during pregnancy).

It's possible to increase your progesterone levels naturally with exercise and diet changes. Exercise has been shown to increase bone density, which can help reduce bone loss as you get older. Eating foods like soybeans and flaxseed daily may also help boost your body's ability to produce healthy hormones like estrogen and progesterone.

Lower estrogen and testosterone levels in women and men, respectively, can contribute to weight gain

Estrogen and testosterone are sex hormones that are released by the ovaries and testicles, respectively. Estrogen and testosterone are important for sexual development and reproductive function in men and women, respectively. As individuals age, their levels of estrogen and testosterone decrease naturally, causing weight gain to occur as the body becomes less efficient at burning calories.

Hormone fluctuations can cause a change in metabolism

Hormone fluctuations can cause a change in metabolism. Your hormones may fluctuate based on your diet, exercise, and other lifestyle factors. They can also fluctuate based on other health conditions that you may be experiencing or have previously experienced (such as pregnancy or menopause).

  • You might notice that your hormone levels tend to fluctuate more quickly as you age; this is especially true for women over 35 who have gone through menopause.
  • As mentioned above, estrogen levels will drop when a woman goes through menopause—this is why many people blame weight gain on this specific time in their life and not any other factor!
  • Estrogen helps maintain muscle mass while reducing body fat storage; however, when estrogen levels decrease during menopause (or after childbirth), some women can begin losing muscle mass instead of fat storage due to decreased production from the ovaries.*

Hormones Causing Weight Gain

The following hormones are associated with weight gain:


Cortisol is a stress hormone released by the adrenal glands whenever we're under pressure or facing an emergency (like being chased by a snake!). This hormone helps us mobilize energy quickly so we can act fast and think clearly when we need it most—but over secretion of cortisol during periods when we feel anxious about something or happy about something depending upon the situation at hand can cause a change in our eating habits which might affect weight.


Insulin is a hormone that helps to control blood sugar levels. When you eat, insulin helps your body use the food as fuel. This process keeps you from having too much sugar in your blood and saves that extra sugar for later use. If you're insulin resistant (a condition where your body doesn't respond well to insulin), then your body may not be able to put all of the energy from your food into storage for later use. This means that some of it may turn into fat instead of energy!

An increase in insulin can lead to excessive storage of fat and weight gain, particularly around the belly. This occurs because insulin increases lipogenesis (the production of fat). It does this by inhibiting the mobilization of fat from adipose tissue and also by increasing appetite. As a result, you may feel hungrier after eating a high-glycemic meal such as white bread or pasta than you would have done otherwise, which can lead to overeating and thus weight gain over time!


Leptin is a hormone made by fat cells that tell the brain when we've had enough to eat so we don't overeat. It also acts as a communication pathway between our brain and other organs like our heart, liver, kidneys, and muscles.


This is a female sex hormone responsible for all sorts of biological processes like menstrual cycles and pregnancy. Estrogen also plays a role in regulating hunger levels, moods, and even sleep patterns. When estrogen levels are low—like during menopause—women tend to eat more and gain weight while sleeping less than they normally would.


This is a male sex hormone that not only helps with muscle growth but also plays an important role in fat metabolism by increasing the number of calories burned each day. Studies have shown that testosterone deficiency can lead to weight gain in both males and females due to decreased metabolic rates as well as decreased energy expenditure (AKA laziness).


Throughout your life, many factors affect your hormones that may contribute to or cause weight gain or loss. Stress, aging, medication, and illness can all affect hormone levels.

It's important to realize that hormones are incredibly powerful, but they don't operate in isolation. For example, if you're feeling stressed out or depressed, it may cause your body to produce more cortisol (a hormone released by the adrenal gland), which can lead to weight gain and fatigue. Or perhaps you've been eating a lot of sugar lately, which causes your blood sugar levels to spike and then crash—causing cravings for more sugar as well as weight gain over time.

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