Can Your Hormones Be Preventing You From Losing Weight?

Maggie Ney, ND

How frustrating is it to be eating well and exercising but not see a change in your body?  This is a very common experience among the women I see in my practice. Understanding weight loss and metabolism is so much more complex and interesting than calorie in and calorie out. When weight is stagnant, despite a healthy diet and exercise, it is essential to do a comprehensive review of your entire health so that all variables that affect metabolism are explored. 

I am going to focus on hormones in this article, but I want you to have a list of other potential factors that can be an obstacle to weight loss:

  • Food sensitivities
  • Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth
  • Microbiome imbalance
  • Inflammation
  • Toxins
  • Leptin Resistance
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Insomnia
  • Dehydration
  • Genetic predisposition to slower liver detoxification. 

Cortisol – our stress hormone

Stress is a major factor that can lead to weight gain. When we feel stress, our brain sends a message to our adrenal glands to produce our stress hormone, cortisol – a hormone which helps keeps us alive in stressful situations. Our bodies want us to survive and thrive and has incredibly sophisticated and beautiful ways to keep us alive, healthy, and fertile. When cortisol is produced in higher amounts, it tells our body we need to prepare for danger. Our body starts to store as much fat as possible and wants us to consume food so we have the energy to survive a famine.  Our metabolism slows down when cortisol increases and weight gain gets concentrated around our abdomen while our brain continues to signal to our body to eat more – and, usually, this leads to higher consumption of processed carbs and sugar. When the adrenal glands have been stressed for a long time (such as a stressful job or unhealthy relationship), they can become “tired” and this is when we often crave a quick pick me up in the form of sugar and coffee. This only makes the situation worse, causing blood sugar to go out of control and food cravings to increase. 

Stress often manifests when we feel out of control in a situation. It helps to remember that while we certainly cannot always control our situation, we can control how we respond to them. 

Sex Hormones

Weight gain is affected by hormonal imbalances. When estrogen is not being efficiently metabolized and cleared from the body, it can contribute to water retention, bloating, and weight gain. This is often present in women who experience PMS and PCOS. During perimenopause, women tend to have a high estrogen to progesterone ratio. This is caused by lower progesterone production and also less regular ovulation (no ovulation means no progesterone production). This also contributes to weight gain. And, when hormone levels decline in menopause, we become more insulin resistant, our metabolism slows, our hunger increases, and our ability to burn fat is reduced.  Restoring hormonal balance throughout our lifespan can remove a barrier to weight loss. 


Our thyroid hormones influence how our body metabolize carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Thyroid levels often decline during the aging process and contributes to a slower metabolism and a steady weight gain. There is also a big normal range for TSH – Thyroid Stimulating Hormone- the main marker tested in assessing thyroid health and activity. And while your TSH may be in the normal range it may not be in the optimal range for optimal health, aging, and metabolism. Also, make sure a thorough thyroid panel is ordered, this includes: TSH, Free T3, Free T4, reverse T3, and Thyroid Antibodies. 


Unhealthy sleep patterns can affect melatonin production. Lower levels of melatonin have been associated with increased insulin levels which can trigger weight gain, inflammation, and food cravings. 

If you would like to learn more about weight loss – beyond just what to eat and how to exercise, schedule a visit with an Akasha physician to get a comprehensive, functional health analysis so obstacles to healthy metabolism and weight loss can be identified and addressed.

Dr. Maggie Ney is director of the Women’s Clinic at the Akasha Center for Integrative Medicine and specializes in female hormone balancing and healthy aging. You can Schedule an appointment with her by calling 310-451-8880 or