Key Hormones That Could Be Sabotaging Your Weight Loss Efforts

It’s a new year and the new you wants to lose some unwanted nagging pounds but you’re over 40 and you just can’t lose it as fast as you used to. Time spent in the gym may or may not be fruitful depending on how your body responds to the physical stress you’re putting yourself through. As we get older, our body does not respond the same way to the routine we used to have in managing weight. Everything changes; the hormones that helped us to stay trim and t don’t work like they should or there are just not enough of them. There are some key hormones you need to keep in mind if you want to lose weight and keep it off after 40.

Estrogen and Progesterone Imbalance

When the amount of estrogen in the body outweighs levels of its hormonal counterpart, progesterone, both sexes are at greater risk for obesity. This imbalance between estrogen and progesterone is commonly referred to as estrogen dominance. Excess estrogen, a female sex hormone, can result from exposure to xenoestrogens (compounds that dress themselves up like estrogen once they enter the body). These estrogen imposters are found in pesticides, meat and dairy products produced using growth hormones, plastics that contain phalates, and skin products containing parabens. Excessive alcohol use and a high fat diet can also cause estrogen to accumulate in the body. The number one trigger for estrogen imbalance is obesity. The heavier you are, the more estrogen your fat cells produce. This estrogen imbalance can put you at risk for hormone-dependent cancers like breast and uterine cancer.

Estrogen levels start to drop for women going through peri-menopause, and by menopause, these levels plummet. This is probably why 30 percent of women between the ages of 50 and 59 are obese. There appears to be a connection between estrogen and body weight regulation. Lower estrogen levels may slow down your metabolic rate. An imbalance in estrogen levels (too high or too low) appears to lead to fat storage.

 Progesterone and estrogen both play a role in keeping women’s waists smaller. This is due to the fact that estrogen works against the action of insulin while both estrogen and progesterone oppose the action of cortisol (our stress hormone). Progesterone together with estrogen halts the storage of fat around the waist, but stress sometimes can have a negative impact on progesterone’s action. If you see fat accumulating around your belly, it could be that your body is so stressed out that it’s using any progesterone you’re producing and converting it to cortisol, making you retain fat. This is seen more so in menopause.
Insulin Resistance

Insulin is a hormone that is released from the pancreas in response to a meal. Insulin processes the sugars from carbohydrates and carries them to your cells, which in turn uses the carbs for energy or stores them for later. When there is an overproduction of insulin, largely due to a diet rich in processed carbohydrates, high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners, the body stores unused sugars as fat. Overproduction of insulin can lead to insulin resistance and eventually type 2 diabetes. Too much insulin can impact weight loss by creating low blood sugar that makes you constantly tired and hungry.

Signs that your pancreas is in insulin production overdrive include excess belly fat, constant hunger and cravings, water retention, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. In addition, other symptoms include poor concentration, anxiety, fatigue and irritability. These symptoms should sound familiar, similar to what you would experience after a high carb crash.


Hypothyroidism or low thyroid affects 10-20 percent of Americans. Some classic symptoms include unexplained weight gain, fatigue, and depression. T4 and T3 are two thyroid hormones that affect metabolism. Low levels or an inability to convert the inactive T4 to T3 can slow metabolism. Thyroid dysfunction and imbalance in these hormones can be hereditary. However, diet, menopause, stress and other factors can also have an impact.

Estrogen and progesterone can affect proper thyroid functioning. The delicate balance between estrogen and progesterone is critical for a woman’s overall health and balance. Unfortunately, progesterone levels begin to drop more quickly in women in their late 30s. This leaves estrogen unopposed and creates an imbalance called estrogen dominance. Estrogen dominance causes the liver to produce high levels of a protein that binds thyroid hormone and decreases the amount of thyroid hormone that can be used by cells.


Testosterone and DHEA-S (dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate) are hormones called androgens which are “male” reproductive hormones. In men, these hormones decline with age, impacting metabolism. In women, excess androgen hormones can lead to insulin resistance that can affect weight loss. A deficiency in women can also cause decreased metabolism, making it difficult to lose weight.

DHEA-S helps to support our stress and without it, we feel worn out and unmotivated – especially to work out. Testosterone and DHEA-S help to increase muscle mass and build bone. Declining levels of testosterone can lead to more belly fat.


Last but not least, the 21st century’s number one enemy, the chronically high stress hormone, cortisol, is a major culprit in weight gain and stubborn belly fat. Your body needs a boost in adrenaline and cortisol for short-term stressors but in this day and age it seems that we are in a perpetual state of cortisol overload. This state can be destructive especially when it comes to weight loss. Too much cortisol can suppress all hormones that help you burn fat. It can lower levels of metabolism, boosting thyroid hormones; promote the loss of muscle tissue; increase appetite-stimulating hormones, and make you crave more carbohydrate-rich comfort foods. In fact, a telltale sign of chronically high cortisol levels is stubborn belly fat. Other signs of cortisol imbalance other than the extra pudge around the middle include: difficulty falling asleep, waking between 2-4 a.m., digestive problems, sugar and salt cravings, muscle tension, headaches, anxiety, and depression.

Cortisol and insulin together with lower testosterone and estrogen levels are all implicated in stubborn belly fat! Hormones all work together for proper functioning in the body. However, when there is disruption or dysfunction that occurs somewhere in the hormone pathway, the body becomes unbalanced and weight loss becomes virtually impossible!

What to Do

Weight loss is hard enough without needing to fight against your own body. Get your hormones tested if you’re a female between the ages of 35-55 or if you’ve got symptoms that make you suspect hormone imbalance. Saliva and blood testing are available. A base line of your sex hormones such as estradiol, progesterone, testosterone, and DHEA-S, including a thyroid panel and salivary cortisol levels, can help your practitioner or a compounding pharmacist specially trained in this area to help
you regain your balance for optimum weight management.

Eat more ber and less processed, high carb foods to help decrease your insulin levels to decrease belly fat. Manage your stress with more sleep, yoga, Pilates, walking, enjoying time with your family, and just laughing out loud! Life gets too serious and we show it on the outside with the extra fluff we carry around, especially around the middle.

Zoom Heaton is the owner of TLC Medical Centre Inc., an Independent Community Pharmacy and Medical Equipment facility located at 190 Crepe Myrtle Drive off Silver Bluff Road. A pharmacist, she is a graduate of the University of South Carolina. She is a Certi ed Diabetes Educator and is certified in Immunization; she is also the chief compounding pharmacist at Custom Prescription Compounders, LLC, inside TLC Medical Centre, Inc., specializing in Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy and Women’s Health. Call 803.648.7800 or visit for more information.