Dietitian Susie Burrell explains how your hormones could be the reason you’re not seeing results on the scales – even if you’re doing ‘everything right’ when it comes to losing weight.
There are more than 200 different hormones working in the body that can influence anything from mood, sex drive and fertility to appetite, energy and metabolism.
While hormones are tiny substances, they are exceptionally powerful, and even slight changes to our normal hormone levels can result in subtle but significant changes impacting how we feel and ultimately how our body’s work on a daily basis.
Like what you see? Sign up to our bodyandsoul.com.au newsletter for more stories like this.
When it comes to weight control, there are number of hormones involved in fat metabolism, appetite regulation and muscle metabolism including ghrelin, leptin, cortisol and oestrogen but the standout hormone that is the primary regulator of both glucose and fat metabolism in the body is insulin.
Changes in our insulin levels over time impact where we store body fat, how well we metabolise glucose from carbohydrates and the amount of insulin that is released when we eat foods that contain carbohydrate ultimately determines whether or not our muscles can efficiently burn stored fat.
So if you have not been feeling quite right, and there is not a clear explanation for these changes, here are some of the tell-tale signs your hormones, and specifically your insulin levels may need further investigation.
#1. You cannot lose weight
Now, I am not talking about downing four chocolate biscuits each night and then not knowing why the scales won’t budge… But rather the scenario in which you are eating fewer calories, exercising more, and yet nothing changes on the scales.
While this may also be explained by issues with calorie intake or training inefficiently, if you consistently consume fewer calories than you burn, it is worth exploring if there’s any medical explanation as to why the weight won’t move.
Not only can fluctuations in oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone levels impact weight, but gradual increases in insulin levels over time too can block fat metabolism. To explore these hormone levels in more detail, seek the advice of a GP who specialises in women’s health. Or even better, an endocrinologist.
#2. Your fat distribution has changed
It is always worth paying attention whenever there are changes in or to your body. Specifically in the case of weight loss, if you have noticed that you are carrying weight in a particular area that you did not previously or are losing weight in some areas of the body or not others, it can be indicative that the hormones that regulate fat metabolism may be elevated.
Changes in the female sex hormones can also impact the distribution of both fat and muscle in the body, and be suggestive of changes in hormone levels over time.
#3. You are constantly craving sweet food
It is not normal to be feeling constantly hungry, craving sweet foods and eating a lot more than other people. In some cases there may be digestive issues resulting in malabsorption, but in more cases than not constant hunger is indicative of issues with blood glucose control.
Hypoglycaemia, insulin resistance as well as changes in ghrelin and leptin levels can all influence appetite. If food is constantly on your mind, and weight loss proving challenging as a result, it is time to take action and seek the underlying cause of this excessive need for food.
#4. You have no interest in sex
It is not uncommon for busy women to notice a shift in libido, especially when juggling a million different things. But hormonal changes too, can play a significant role. Chronic exposure to stress, as well as lack of sleep, can impact pituitary function. When this happens, one of the hormones impacted is DHEA, which is the precursor to testosterone.
Low levels of DHEA directly impact libido, as well as energy and body fat. So if you were previously into your partner and now you literally cannot stand the sight of him, you may be able to blame it on your hormones – and even get them sorted if getting back into the mood is your goal.
#5. You have ‘odd’ symptoms
You may be sweating more than you usually would, growing hair in places you never did before, or you may simply find yourself angry and irritated a lot more than usual. You could have dry eyes, are having trouble sleeping or have noticed your hair getting thinner. With so many hormones regulating processes in the body, it is no surprise that a number of physical and emotional symptoms can be attributed to changes in hormone levels.
While this may seem vague, these subtle changes can add up and provide much insight to health professionals to help determine what may be going on. Pay attention to the little changes in your body, because no one knows your body like you do.