Hormone Roadblocks to Lose Weight

Feb 14, 2009 | February 2009, Health, Nutrition

By Sarah Treat, MS CCN

Americans spend over $40 billion annually on diets and weight loss products, but 65% of us are still overweight. The failure rate of fad diets and diet chains is 97%.  What do most diets focus on?  Cutting calories and increasing exercise.  This works beautifully when you are healthy and your hormones and body chemistry in balance. 

There is a myth behind most diets that needs to be revealed, that weight control is just a matter of calorie control; especially for women. This is untrue and misleading. Why, even with dieting, can women often have a hard time losing weight?

Here’s the deal. You MUST restore your health and hormonal balance before you try to lose weight.  Think of it as getting healthy from the inside out.  

Let’s look at the hormonal roadblocks that prevent women from achieving a healthy weight.

Roadblock #1 Insulin

Insulin is a hormone that regulates carbohydrate metabolism.  When a diet is high in the wrong kinds of carbohydrates, the constant insulin demands create insulin resistance.  When you are insulin resistant, your body converts most calories it can into fat, even when you’re dieting.

Here are some signs of insulin resistance:

* Excess fat around waist and buttocks    

* Dieting doesn’t work now matter how hard you try    

* Lack of energy especially in the afternoon    

* Lack of concentration or mental fatigue during the day    

* Health problems with high blood sugar, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure

Roadblock #2 Cortisol and Adrenal dysfunction

Cortisol is a hormone released from the adrenal glands.   It plays an important role in controlling blood sugar levels, energy production, inflammation, and regulating a healthy immune system. Cortisol causes problems only when it is chronically elevated or too low as a result of long term stress.   Cortisol excess can contribute to excessive abdominal fat and inability to lose weight.  When stress levels are high for a long period of time, this can lead to low cortisol levels and adrenal exhaustion.  Exhausted adrenals are the root issue to many health problems including depression, chronic fatigue, PMS, allergies, frequent colds and infections, and candida (yeast overgrowth).

Signs of adrenal fatigue:

-difficulty getting up in the morning


-increased PMS

-continued fatigue not relieved by sleep or rest

-decreased ability to handle stress

-constant feelings of being overwhelmed, anxiety, low mood

-sleep disturbances and un-restful sleep

Roadblock #3 Hypothyroidism

Many women go to the doctor to get their blood tested thinking they have symptoms of hypothyroidism.

They are disappointed when because their blood work comes back normal but they still feel exhausted.

Body temperature may be a better indicator of thyroid function than the blood tests. If your body temp is less than 97.6 degrees on average, you could have a problem with your thyroid.  There are treatments, both natural and medical, that can help.

Roadblock #4 Estrogen

Estrogen loss most generally occurs after menopause.  As estrogen production falls, your body turns to secondary production sites, including body fat.  If your body is struggling to maintain it’s hormonal balance, body fat becomes more valuable. 

However, many more women have estrogen dominance vs estrogen loss.  Estrogen dominance means too much estrogen relative to progesterone.  Progesterone is a powerful hormone that regulates periods, has a calming effect, and supports pregnancy. 

The following symptoms arise when estrogen over-stimulates both the brain and the body, which can be worsened by stress:

-irregular periods

-extreme bloating and water retention

-breast swelling and tenderness

-fibrocystic breasts

-premenstrual headaches

-mood swings and irritability

-weight gain

-thyroid dysfunction


-trouble sleeping


I recommend diet, exercise, stress reduction, and simple supplementation before resorting to hormone replacement.  Give the following recommendations an honest try for 3 months. If your fail to lose weight, then seek an expert who uses natural methods to boost hormone production. 

Diet Action Steps

* Begin with a purification program focusing on improving digestive and liver health    

* Eat 7-9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day    

*  Lean protein at each meal    

* Plenty of good fats such as olive oil, fish oil, nuts, coconut oil etc.    

* 30 grams of fiber a day from fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes    

*  Eat small, healthy snacks between meals    

* Stay off of sugar, starches, and alcohol for the first eight weeks    

* Take a green-food like Barley Grass Juice everyday    

* Stop drinking sodas and increase water intake

Exercise Action Steps

Hormone balance will not be restored without activity, both cardiovascular and resistance training.  I recommend cardiovascular training in the fat burning zone. This means keeping the heart rate below 130 for 30-45 minutes a day.  Weight training is a necessity and should be done 2 days a week to build lean muscle and burn fat.

Stress Reduction

Stress is the number one reason many women have hormone problems in the first place.  A combination of too many responsibilities, trying to be superwoman, and wearing too many hats can wear out our hormones.  You will have to learn to say no, rest more, make time for yourself, and be your own best friend.  Low self-esteem will negatively affect your body chemistry more than any junk food can.


I recommend starting with a simple supplement regimen.  A high quality multi-vitamin, green-food, and fish oils are a must.  This will boost your nutrition base, lower inflammation, and increase your energy levels.
Women have a god-given right to feel good, have energy for their daily activities and enjoy their families.  If this isn’t you, decide that you aren’t going to live stressed out, overweight, and feeling bad everyday.  Take action and do the right things to get your life back.

Sarah Treat is a certified clinical nutritionist with a Master’s of Science in Nutrition. She is an experienced speaker on the topic of health and nutrition. To learn more about Sarah Treat, go to www.sarahtreat.com

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