Health

Hormones may be causing your weight gain

What you can do to deal with hormones that may be working against you

We often beat ourselves up for overeating or not going to the gym when we notice we can no longer fit into our favourite jeans. But it is worth noting that weight gain can be triggered by many factors like age, genes and even hormones.

Find out how different hormones are getting in the way of your weight loss efforts and how you can deal with them.

INSULIN

This is secreted by your pancreas and plays an important role in maintaining your body's blood glucose levels.

However, overconsumption of processed food and unhealthy snacks can cause your body to develop a resistance to insulin, affecting its function to regulate blood glucose levels. This may lead to weight gain or even Type 2 diabetes. Age will also cause your body to become more insulin-resistant, resulting in your body storing more fat.

What you can do: Have a balanced diet by incorporating more green, leafy vegetables and fruits. If that is a tall order, you can always start small by cutting down on sugary beverages like soft drinks and bubble tea. This ensures you keep your blood sugar level in check.

LEPTIN

Leptin is the hormone that signals when you are full. Insulin resistance also has a part to play in elevating leptin levels.

Unfortunately, that does not mean you're more likely to stop eating. Instead, it may lead to leptin resistance, and your brain will no longer be able to receive the signal to stop eating even when you are full.

What you can do: Fructose found in processed foods inhibits your leptin receptors, so opt for whole foods instead. Eating more foods rich in protein and omega-3 will also help regulate leptin levels.

GHRELIN

Commonly known as the hunger hormone, it stimulates appetite and increases fat deposition. Ghrelin levels are especially high for people who are dieting, which is why crash diets often lead to binge eating, crushing your weight loss efforts.

A study published in the Journal of King Saud University found that ghrelin levels only decrease slightly for obese subjects, meaning they are unable to receive the signal to stop eating even if they have eaten enough.

What you can do: To improve the function of ghrelin in your body, avoid sugary foods that may affect ghrelin response after meals. Incorporating protein into every meal is a great way to keep ghrelin levels low by keeping you full for longer.

THYROID

The thyroid gland at the base of your neck is responsible for producing hormones to maintain your body's metabolism. Low levels of thyroid hormones may lead to hypothyroidism - a disorder that comes with symptoms like fatigue, constipation, mood swings and weight gain.

What you can do: Steer clear of processed foods laden with sugar and preservatives.

However, if you suspect you have a thyroid problem, avoid raw cruciferous veggies like cauliflower and cabbage as they could affect thyroid hormone synthesis. But you don't have to give up these nutritious foods completely - simply have them cooked or lightly steamed to reap their benefits.

TESTOSTERONE

The female body also secretes testosterone, which plays a huge role in burning fat and strengthening bone and muscle to improve metabolism.

Testosterone levels tend to be lower among older women, leading to loss of muscle mass and weight gain.

What you can do: Exercise is a great way to boost testosterone levels. Other than cardio, try to incorporate more resistance training like weight lifting to give testosterone levels a boost. A healthy balance of protein, carbs and fats is also crucial when it comes to optimising testosterone levels.

CORTISOL

Always craving unhealthy snacks while you are busy trying to meet tight deadlines? This stress hormone may be the culprit behind your serious weight gain. Aside from inducing cravings for sugary things, high levels of stress may also cause your body to store more fat and stimulate maturation of fat cells.

And if you're on a strict diet, it could backfire. According to a study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, a low-calorie diet may raise cortisol levels causing you to have a higher tendency to overeat.

What you can do: Learn to recognise your stress triggers to keep your mental health in check. Even when you are caught up with work, take a couple of minutes to practise deep breathing or meditation to relax. It is also crucial to allocate sufficient time for sleep.

OESTROGEN

Many women may notice sudden weight gain during menopause. Oestrogen has a part to play in regulating metabolism and body weight.

As oestrogen levels decline during menopause, it is common for fat to start building up in the abdominal area.

If you are not going through menopause, your oestrogen levels can also be affected by vigorous exercise or eating disorders like anorexia.

What you can do: Incorporate exercise into your daily life to prevent oestrogen levels from fluctuating too much.

This article first appeared in Shape (www.shape.com.sg)

WELLNESS & BEAUTY