Updated: Feb. 18th, 2024

“I just want to lose this last ten pounds!” That was one of Amanda’s first statements to me when we started working together. She’d been on a weight loss journey and it had been going really well…until it didn’t. She’d stalled out, and she was growing increasingly frustrated when her efforts to drop that last few pounds failed, no matter what she tried. 

Nearly every woman I’ve known has struggled with their weight at some point in their lives. Some, like Amanda, are trying to lose that last few pounds. Others have 20, 30 or 100 pounds to lose. Whatever the number, they all feel the same way when the scale display doesn’t change: defeated, angry, hopeless and frustrated. They say they’re doing everything “right,” but nothing seems to make a difference.

The worst part is that these women have been told so often that weight loss is a matter of will power, so they blame themselves. But the truth is, willpower is not the problem. Trust me when I say that if it was that simple, there would be no need for the myriad weight loss programs out there, and women wouldn’t be spending billions of dollars each year trying to shed those stubborn pounds.

Weight loss is complicated and individual. No one program will work for everyone. Your body, and what goes on inside it, is so very unique, and different from what’s going on for anyone else. Every single person alive has a distinct biochemistry, and if you don’t know what yours looks like, it can be nearly impossible to meet the goals you set for yourself.

Hormones are a major piece of this puzzle. Hormones send messages about everything that’s going on in your body to your brain. And if the messages aren’t accurate, your body may hit the brakes on weight loss in a noble – but unnecessary – attempt to protect itself.

I have so much information about hormones in my health library. This article is a specific look at how hormonal imbalances are connected to weight loss – and what you can do to shift the balance and start losing weight!

How Are Hormones Connected to Weight Loss?

Hormones are chemical messengers that let your brain know what your body needs – including how fast your metabolism needs to work, and how much fat you need to store for leaner times. But here’s the problem — those messages often get distorted, and your body ends up holding on to fat even when there’s no threat to survival.

The levels of specific hormones circulating through your body can vary hour to hour – or even minute to minute, depending on the signals your brain is receiving. Different levels of hormones are released at different times of day, and change throughout your menstrual cycle as well. 

As we age, some hormone levels naturally decrease, which isn’t a problem on its own. Difficulties begin when the levels are out of balance with each other. Ratios between certain hormones are important. If the balance of these hormones is off, weight loss becomes incredibly difficult no matter what you do!

Hormone production begins with the HPA (hyothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis. Right from the beginning, there are multiple things that can go wrong. That’s why it’s so important to look for the root cause of weight loss resistance instead of taking drastic measures to try and drop your weight. That weight is a symptom – and you need to know what caused the gain in the first place if you want the interventions you choose to be effective.

My own experience with hormones and weight gain

When it comes to hormonal imbalance, Cortisol is one of the biggest issues. When cortisol levels are skewed, it impacts so many other hormones. That’s why I suggest starting with looking at your cortisol production – and the stress in your life.

I have personal experience with the effects that stress has on weight. When my mother got sick, I was in perimenopause. Not only was I caring for her, I was also raising three young children, and working insane hours in my thriving practice. 

During this time, I gained 20 pounds, seemingly out of nowhere. I couldn’t believe it — I had changed nothing about the way I ate, but my body was certainly changing! I tried everything to drop those extra pounds. I joined a weight loss program and actually ran to meetings for weigh-in, then ran back home again. I failed to recognize that I was increasing the stress on my body, thereby making the problem worse!

It wasn’t until I took a step back and realized that I was directly contradicting the advice I gave other women that I knew what I needed to do. Stress reduction was a necessity, not a luxury!

It’s funny how much you can miss when it comes to your own life, isn’t it? I knew that stress and rising cortisol levels could impact weight, but it’s like I forgot it all when I got caught up in my own personal stress cycle. I’m so grateful for my education and training, because it allowed me to eventually remember that all the information I gave women in my practice daily applied to my own situation as well! 

As soon as I stopped and took the time I needed for myself to reduce stress, get present in the moment, and enjoy the life I had instead of simply tearing through it, the weight began to come off.

Other hormones that impact weight loss

As important as cortisol is to hormonal balance and weight loss, it’s certainly not the only hormone that impacts weight. Let’s talk about some other important players.


Insulin regulates the amount of glucose that can be absorbed by your cells. When insulin levels are off, or your body can’t produce insulin as needed, you may end up with insulin resistance. That means that the glucose made by the food you eat can’t be properly absorbed. And since your body has to do something with this extra blood sugar, your liver converts the glucose to fat. 


Leptin is directly connected to appetite. Leptin carries the message “I’m full” to your brain, which in turn sends out the signal to stop eating. When you have too much leptin circulating, however, you may find yourself constantly hungry, eating too much or too often, and consequently gaining weight. That’s because your brain can’t keep up with the constant flood of leptin. Receptors stop working, the “full” signal is missed, and you just keep eating.


Thyroid hormones and metabolism are intimately connected. The more thyroid hormones your body produces, the faster you’ll burn calories. So if you’re suffering from hypothyroidism, where your thyroid gland can’t produce enough thyroid hormones, your metabolism will slow. This can cause you to gain weight — along with a host of other uncomfortable symptoms.

Estrogen and Progesterone

Estrogen is on every woman’s mind as she gets older and enters perimenopause or menopause. The effects of estrogen dominance are well documented, including weight loss resistance, mood disorders, PMS and irregular periods. With estrogen dominance, the ratio of estrogen to progesterone is off. This balance is essential to healthy functioning. Estrogen levels may fall in the “normal range” but if you have too much in comparison to the amount of progesterone in your body, big problems can result.

Am I destined to gain weight in menopause?

Let’s pause here to take a look at menopause and weight. I’ve heard so many incorrect assumptions about menopause, including the false notion that weight gain is inevitable and there’s nothing they can do to stop it. But you aren’t doomed to gain weight in menopause; you just need to understand what’s happening in your body!

There’s always something you can do. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not easy, and it’s not all about willpower! It’s not about having the desire to change (I think we can agree women already have that) it’s about having the tools! And the first tool you need is information.

 It’s really no surprise that so many women struggle with weight gain in menopause. Hormone production is changing while at the same time, stress is hitting an all time high. Parents are aging but children are still young; careers are heading towards their peak; women are pulled in so many directions, tending to everyone else – and forgetting to care for themselves!

You can’t always change when these stressors show up, and you can’t make them disappear. What you can change is your attitudes and beliefs. Rather than being a period of life that is feared, perimenopause and menopause should be celebrated!

With the right perspective, this can be the best time of your life. The first step is to not throw up your hands and give in when a few extra pounds mysteriously appear. Instead, stop and take a close look at all the areas that can impact your hormonal health and stall weight loss.

5 tips to promote hormonal balance

I know how hard it is to find motivation and strength to make even very small changes when it feels like stress is the only thing in your life you can count on. That’s why extreme diets and weight loss programs so often fail – they’re asking way too much!

When I responded to all that stress and those extra twenty pounds by jumping into an intense weight loss regimen, I failed. But when I took a step back and tried to find small ways to decrease stress – and subsequently lower cortisol levels – things began to shift. It didn’t happen overnight; there are no quick fixes. But it did happen. Every small thing I did to care for myself helped me make a little more headway, until those pounds were just a memory. 

And here’s another “lightbulb” moment I had, which has kept me moving forward all these years. The weight loss was just a bonus! When I started focusing on myself, and what I needed, I began to really feel good for the first time in years. I had more energy, I felt joyful, and I was better able to cope with the everyday stressors. By taking the time to get my hormones in check, I became a better mother, better daughter, better health care professional. I was simply a better me! You can be too, starting today with these five tips.

1. Honestly assess your diet and make small changes wherever you can. 

Extreme programs rarely work because they simply aren’t sustainable. Cutting out everything you love, every food that has positive memories attached or has comforted you for years, will soon lead to a crash. No one enjoys feeling deprived! 

The key is to add healthy choices while slowly eliminating the less healthy options. So instead of saying you won’t eat anything sweet at all, try baking with xylitol, and paying close attention to portion size. Substitute a salad filled with colorful veggies for a starchy side. Instead of a glass of wine, pour seltzer into a wine glass and add fresh fruit for color. 

There are so many small ways to change your diet a little at a time. Soon, you may find you don’t miss your old habits at all!

2. Don’t try to manage it all alone

So many women I know think they have to manage everything all on their own. But trying to do it all without support only increases stress levels.

If you have a partner, talk openly and honestly about what you need – they can’t read your mind, and it’s not fair to expect them to. Discuss symptoms with a trusted healthcare professional who can help you determine the best treatment for your unique situation. Reach out to friends for support instead of telling them everything is “fine.”

Don’t ignore the emotional side – a counselor or personal growth experience can identify internal stressors you may not even recognize, and help you let them go.

3. Supplement wisely

Hormonal balance depends on your body getting all of the nutrients it needs. When there are nutritional gaps, which are so common in our modern lifestyles, you might need to add a little extra support until your hormones level out. I recommend that all women take a high-quality multivitamin, along with omega-3 and Vitamin D supplements. Targeted supplements that help ease stress and allow for better quality sleep might be necessary while you heal.

4. Cultivate joy and self-care every day

If you never take time to stop and give yourself the loving attention you need, it’s very likely that your hormonal balance will suffer. Self-care is more than a massage or manicure once in a while. You deserve attention every single day, in whatever form makes you feel happy and at peace. 

Whether you love spending time in nature, dancing, singing, writing, socializing with friends, or reading a good book purely for pleasure, it’s crucial to find time every single day to pursue your passions — whatever they are!

5. Be mindful and present 

If your mind isn’t fully focused on whatever you’re doing at the moment, it’s far too easy to lose track of healthy choices that influence your hormonal health. How many times have you mindlessly eaten an entire bag of chips? Had one too many drinks at a party? Gone a full day without a single glass of water because you were “too busy” to stop what you were doing? Realized it was 1 o’clock in the morning and you are still working, when you need to be up at 5 am?

Setting up a daily mindfulness practice – even for five minutes – can help you stop and take notice of the choices you are making all day long.

Balanced hormones make weight loss easier – and life a lot more fun!

I’m not trying to make light of the hard work it takes to be sure your hormones are working for you instead of against you. Trust me, I know from personal experience how difficult it can be to stop and alter the course of your life. But I know it can be done!

Amanda listened to my story, and to the things that had helped me find balance. She said she’d been an avid hiker, but let that slide when life got so crazy. She made a commitment to at least a short hike several times each week. She also added some targeted supplements to her daily regimen, and began reaching out to friends. She discovered that many of them had the same struggles, and they started supporting each other in making healthier choices. Soon, those last ten pounds were gone! 

With a few lifestyle changes and attention to hormonal balance, you can create a life you love – just like Amanda did. And you don’t have to go it alone. I’m here to help every step of the way!