Hormones and Weight Loss: Why it’s Harder for Women
Have you ever wondered why it seems so much harder for women to lose weight than it does for men? The answer lies in our body’s response to hormones. A woman’s hormone levels greatly affect how their body responds to the foods they eat, their desire to exercise, and their ability to shed pounds.
The female body is a complex machine, and it’s very difficult for those not trained in medical sciences to gain a complete picture of how all of the body’s powerful chemical messengers affect its functionality. However, the “rest of us” can try to understand, in the simplest terms, what the effects of individual hormones are on our physiology and how they might be hindering our best efforts to lose weight. The main hormones involved in female weight loss are cortisol, ghrelin, leptin, estrogen, and progesterone.
Also known as the “fight-or-flight” hormone, cortisol manages our body’s response to stress and enables us to flee from dangerous situations. However, excess cortisol levels can result in a heightened appetite and cravings for sugars and carbohydrates. This will inevitably lead to binge eating and, consequently, belly fat.
Ghrelin and Leptin.
Ghrelin, the hormone most commonly associated with hunger, tells our body when it’s the right time to eat. Leptin, however, tells our body when we are full. Although it would seem that these two hormones provide complementary functionality to one another, they do not always work together to help us stay healthy and lose weight.
Ghrelin plays on our desire to eat for pleasure, rather than just eating for survival. This affects both the quantity and quality of what we put in our bodies. Additionally, ghrelin levels increase during periods of emotional or physical, leading to increased frequency of food consumption.
The Reproductive Hormones: Estrogen and Progesterone
Estrogen directly encourages the release of neurotransmitters designed to make us feel “happy.” When estrogen levels drop (the week before a woman’s period begins), the body attempts to replace serotonin and dopamine with junk food. Progesterone, the pregnancy hormone, is responsible for preparing a woman’s body to sustain and carry a baby. Because of this, there are times during our monthly cycle which influence us to eat increasing amounts of food in anticipation of requiring more calories.
What about women who have advanced beyond their child-bearing years? When women reach menopause, their reproductive hormone levels will inevitably drop. However, weight gain causes an increase in hormones which leads to increased fat storage. Because of this, losing weight isn’t as simple as “calories in, calories out.” Instead, it requires prolonged discipline and self-control to resist the foods that the chemicals in our body are telling us we “need.”
All in all, occasionally it’s better to skip the Chinese food and reach for a healthier snack. It will fill you up without causing the unnecessary weight-gain, guilt, lethargy and the notorious “food coma.”
In A Nutshell:
Before you jump on the next diet bandwagon, it may help to learn more about what exactly your body is trying to tell you! Hormones have a significant influence on our ability to process and store calories, and can make weight loss increasingly difficult for women.