03 Oct 2013

4 Sneaky Ways Your Body may be Sabotaging Your Weight Loss Work

As many women enter perimenopause or approach menopause, they find themselves experiencing unexplained weight gain — especially around the waist and hips — despite their best attempts to diet. And suddenly, the usual weight loss tool box in empty. Weight gain in the abdomen is one of the most common complaints of perimenopausal women. Yet most women have been told that an extra 10–20 pounds is simply a rite of passage at this time of life and they should just accept their “middle-age spread.”


There is no reason why you should settle for this. If you’re frustrated with weight loss, there may be more going on than “more calories in than out”. That simplistic formula gets a little more complicated after forty.

Hormone imbalances can play a big role in your ability to lose weight (or not). Here are 4 things to consider when the needle on the scale isn’t moving:

1. You have an estrogen to progesterone imbalance

Many women have an estrogen dominance problem – when estrogen is too high relative to low progesterone levels. This contributes to weight gain in the hips and thighs, water retention, sluggish metabolism and slow or stalled weight loss. And as you gain weight, your fat cells crank out more estrogen….which is just what you DON’T need!

What to do: If your estrogen levels are high make sure your fiber intake is in the 30-45 gram/day range. Your body eliminates estrogen in poop and fiber keeps things moving along. Chasteberry can help balance estrogen and progesterone in perimenopausal women if progesterone is low.

2. You have elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol and low levels of the androgens DHEA and testosterone

High levels of cortisol – the “stress hormone” – are a big reason the human body tends to store fat, particularly in your middle. Chronic stress sends your body into hoarding mode, so that fat’s not going anywhere until stressors are minimized or eliminated. This is a survival response as old as time.

High cortisol also increases blood sugar and insulin levels, which increases fat storage. When it comes to weight gain, high stress hormones are robbers of available DHEA and testosterone, thus working against your goal of having a lean body. The more lean muscle mass you lose, the more it is replaced by F.A.T..

What to do: if you feel like you need to be on caffeine drip at all times, consider cortisol as the culprit. Hormone testing can determine the extent of imbalance and changes in lifestyle along with stress reduction and adrenal support can get you off the cortisol roller-coaster.

3.You’re Vitamin D deficient 

Our vitamin D levels are much lower than they were 30 or so years ago. Why? We’re inside much more and when we’re outside, we’re soaked in sunscreen to prevent skin cancer. Vitamin D acts like a hormone in our bodies; and its deficiency can be linked to weight gain, particularly of deep visceral fat (the type that is most hazardous to your health), fatigue, food allergies, MS and even cancer.

A level below 50 ng/mL indicates deficiency. For supplementation, the rule of thumb is that 1000IU raises your level 10 ng/mL. Your goal is a level between 50 and 80 ng/mL.

4. Your thyroid’s acting up

Hypothyroid issues that manifest as steady weight gain and slow or stalled weight loss are linked to imbalances of one or more hormones. Excess estrogen, for example, increases the production of binding proteins that reduce the availability of thyroid hormone to your body.

High cortisol levels are also strongly associated with hypothyroidism, sluggish metabolism and obesity. Once hormone imbalances are found and corrected, thyroid function may be kick-started again.

The Bottom Line

The truth is that weight loss is not about willpower or calories in/calories out. Both are myths given to us by the diet industry that doom us to failure. Fad diets simply don’t work — over 95% of dieters gain back the weight they lose and more — because they oversimplify a very complicated process. One that is more complicated during menopause because of the factors mentioned above.

The links between hormonal balance, toxicity, inflammation and body fat aren’t the only factors that block weight loss. Unresolved emotional issues are often the root cause of unhealthy eating habits — and they can be their own kind of toxin!

You have to get healthy before you can lose weight and keep it off. Once you establish baseline health, your body will naturally seek and maintain its ideal weight. Change can be hard. If you’re wanting something different for yourself, but aren’t sure what the first step is, consider getting your hormones tested. If you’d like to talk more about that, please go to www.drannagarrett.com and click the Let’s Talk tab. I’m happy to offer a free 30-minute consultation to explore your needs and ways we can partner to get you on the healthy and happy track!

Dr. Anna Garrett


  1. […] Click here to find out more about thyroid’s effects on weight. […]

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