As a woman, you may already understand some of the ways that hormones can affect your weight. As your menstrual cycle approaches, you may see a slight rise in your weight thanks to hormone changes that influence your metabolism and cause you to
Yet there are many more ways that hormones can influence your weight, whether you are a man or a woman. Your thyroid plays a significant role in your hormonal regulation, and changes in your thyroid can influence your weight.
“A low (or underactive) thyroid, called hypo- thyroidism, will cause weight gain, as well as hair loss, constipation, cold intolerance, and fatigue,” says Scott G. Anderson, MD FACOG of Blue Ridge Obstetrics. Alternatively, hyperthyroidism will cause weight loss. Thyroid medicine is sometimes abused for weight loss, but hyperthyroidism can also cause heart problems.”
Hormones can also change as you age, causing your metabolism to slow. The Mayo Clinic cited a study that followed over 100,000 men and women in good health and found an average weight gain of about 2 pounds every four years. Eating processed foods and sugary drinks contributed to higher weight gain, and eating a plant-heavy diet while also exercising slowed weight gain. Getting between six and eight hours of sleep also had a positive effect on keeping off the pounds.
The National Institutes of Health also noted that aging could lead to weight gain because of the loss of muscle tissue, which also plays a role in regulating metabolism and hormones. For women, the reproductive cycle has a strong influence on hormones and weight throughout life.
“As far as monthly fluctuations, a woman’s weight will definitely change over the month, mostly related to fluid shifts,” Anderson explains. “Progesterone levels tend to be high premenstrually, and one of the effects of progesterone is fluid retention, so women will weigh more premenstrually.”
This weight gain averages around 3 to 4 pounds, but it can be as high as 10 pounds. Eating a diet high in complex carbohydrates during these time may help you to reduce food cravings and minimize weight gain. Staying away from salt, fat, sugar and caffeine can help you to reduce water retention and weight gain. Taking a calcium supplement may help with the mood shifts caused by hormonal fluctuations, and taking a magnesium supplement may help with reducing bloat.
Hormonal changes can be significant leading up to and through menopause, and these can have a big influence on weight. “Menopause generally does two things,” Anderson says.
“One: It redistributes fat tissue. It won’t cause weight gain directly, but with the loss of estrogen and gain in testosterone type hormones, a more male distribution of weigh occurs. It moves away from the hips and buttocks and towards the abdomen/middle. Two: Menopause may slow metabolism. The slowing of the metabolism can cause weight gain. This can be fought with regular exercise and a good diet.”
Whether you are a male or female, hormonal fluctuations will occur in relation to your stress levels, your diet, how much sleep you are getting, and processes that are happening in your body as you age. Though you may not be able to do anything about some of these changes, you can minimize weight gain by following a healthy lifestyle that includes a diet with plenty ofcomplex carbohydrates and getting enough exercise and sleep.
NOTE: This article was originally published in July 2014 Thrive Magazine by Dr. Anderson.