Weight gain and weight loss—a vicious cat and mouse game that you can never seem to win, right? That’s because, for many people—especially at middle age—weight management is not as simple as calories in and calories out.
The equation complex and becomes even more complicated as you age. Hormones play a significant role in weight management, including muscle mass maintenance, energy for physical activity, and appetite regulation. Menopause in women, low testosterone and thyroid hormone disorders are just a few conditions of hormonal imbalance that can affect your weight.
Hormonal imbalance can derail any weight-loss plan, but there is good news: hormone replacement therapy can help you reach your weight loss goals.
Unexplained Weight Gain and Hormone Health
If every effort toward weight loss or maintenance seems like an uphill battle that you simply cannot win, it’s time to consider the possibility of a hormone imbalance.
Why Weight Gain Often Happens After Menopause
Menopause affects every woman—naturally or artificially (due to a hysterectomy)—and the negative effects are often the result of a hormonal imbalance. Hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings are well-known symptoms of menopause. But, menopausal women and post-menopausal women are highly susceptible to weight gain—despite best efforts against it. That’s because menopausal weight gain occurs with various hormonal shifts. For many women, progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone become imbalanced during (and sometimes before or after) menopause. Low levels of progesterone can impact sleep, in particular, but also affect the production of the other sex hormones. If testosterone levels drop, many women will lose muscle mass that helps support a healthy metabolism and lean body mass. Energy for exercise (and activities of daily living, in general) can be impaired by low levels of testosterone and progesterone too. This is why hormone treatment is a good option for weight loss among menopausal women.
The Impact of Estrogen on Weight Loss and Gain
The role of estrogen in women is often bittersweet. The well-known female sex hormone is a key ingredient for all things feminine. Research has shown that certain estrogen compounds play a role in preventing tumor growth with certain types of cancer. On the other hand, in the early 2000s, estrogen earned a bad reputation when supplementing estrogen and progestin was found to increase the risk of breast cancer and heart disease during a large study trial on hormone therapy. Estrogen became a very scary hormone. The relationship between estrogen and healthy weight management is equally daunting.
Research has shown that higher levels of estrogen can impact cortisol levels and contribute to fat storage, particularly around the abdomen. An imbalance of estrogen and progesterone can contribute to insulin resistance, another factor that can inhibit successful weight loss.
In more recent studies, lower levels of estrogen have been shown to speed fat release, which explains why men often lose more weight in shorter periods of time than most women.
Estrogen is an essential hormone, but optimal function requires maintenance of a very delicate balance in the body. This is why it is important for men and women considering hormone treatment for weight loss to complete comprehensive lab testing prior to beginning therapy. You must be certain a hormonal imbalance is to blame for the added pounds.
Low T and Middle-Aged Weight Gain
Testosterone plays a starring role in a man’s physiology, but it is a key hormone for women too. The well-known hormone is responsible for building and maintaining muscle mass, as well as energy, strength, and stamina. All of these factors are closely linked to healthy weight management. However, as testosterone levels begin to plummet at middle age, both men and women can experience undesirable weight gain or muscle loss, which might not tip the scales upward, but it certainly can change the body’s shape in unflattering ways. Testosterone hormone therapy can be an effective strategy for men and women who have low levels of testosterone and struggling to reclaim lost energy, build muscle mass, and lose weight.
The Effect of Thyroid Hormones on Weight Loss
Hypothyroidism is a common cause of weight gain caused by hormonal imbalance. Hypothyroidism is characterized by a dysfunction of the thyroid gland—producing too few of the vital hormones that regulate your metabolism, among other functions. There are three hormones produced by the thyroid gland: thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine). If even one of these hormones is out of balance, thyroid function becomes suboptimal and weight gain can result. Hormonal therapy can restore the balance of these hormones and improve healthy weight management.
Do You Need Hormone Therapy for Weight Loss?
Weight gain that is a result of hormonal imbalance often occurs gradually and it can be easy to mistake those added pounds as a consequence of stress or aging. However, if you look back over the days, weeks, or months since the weight gain began, you may find that the signs of hormonal imbalance are evident. If you have experienced any combination of the symptoms below in conjunction with weight gain or an inability to lose weight—despite healthy eating and routine exercise–it’s time to get tested for a hormonal imbalance.
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Noticeable sugar cravings that may increase during certain periods of the day
- Fat deposits within the abdominal area more than in other areas of the body
- Lower back pain from weight gain in the stomach
- Hair Loss
- Muscle Atrophy
- Mood Swings
Certain medications or significant life changes (puberty, pregnancy, etc.) can contribute to weight gain or the inability to lose weight. For this reason, you must speak with your doctor before considering bio-identical hormone therapy for weight loss.
To know for sure if hormone therapy for weight loss is right for you, specific laboratory testing is essential. Testing can determine if hormones are the root cause of your weight gain and help pinpoint which hormone (or hormones) is causing the problem.
Find out if Hormone Therapy for Weight Loss is Right for You
There are a number of weight loss strategies and tactics to help people struggling with weight gain and healthy weight management reach their goals. Walk into any bookstore and the front shelves are lined with “how-to” books on weight loss. Celebrities and reality TVs stars all swear by this diet or that exercise to “get your best body ever.” The truth is that weight loss and the cause of weight gain are very personal. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all treatment for healthy weight loss and management.
Hormone therapy for weight loss is an effective treatment option for people who are struggling with inexplicable weight gain or the inability to lose weight as the result of hormonal imbalance. It can be more difficult to identify weight gain and weight loss struggles that are rooted in hormone imbalance because the accompanying symptoms are so much like common discomforts of everyday life, such as chronic fatigue, sugar cravings, or mood swings.
That is why the practitioners of the BodyLogicMD network do more than consult with patients. Each patient must undergo comprehensive testing to assess their health and hormone levels. Advanced testing allows your doctor time to carefully review your case and prepare for your consultation. During the consultation, your physician will discuss your recent personal experiences with symptoms, your medical history, and your lab results. Together, the two of you will build a treatment plan that targets the root cause of your symptoms and fits your lifestyle.
It is important to remember that all treatments take time to show results. Your symptoms and discomforts did not pop up overnight (though it sometimes may seem like they did), therefore it will take time to restore balance and optimal function. You will need to maintain continuous, open communication with your practitioner. At follow-up consultations, discussions on your symptoms and wellbeing will continue. If you are not reaching set milestones, your dosages may need to be adjusted. Attending all your follow-up appointments and communicating honestly with your physician is the fastest way to reach your goals—especially when it comes to weight loss. It is no secret that accountability and consistency are the two key ingredients of the most successful weight loss plans.