Fix your hormones to lose weight? Women over 35 commonly tell me their hormones are why they can't lose weight, yet they are incredibly inconsistent with their habits or they have no healthy habits in place.
A woman recently told me she lost 30 pounds in 2020 then gained 15 pounds back in 2022. She told me she thought cortisol hormone was why she gained this 15 pounds back.
I asked her what she was doing to lose the 30 pounds that she's not doing now. She told me she is emotionally eating every night and that she stopped tracking her food.
She STOPPED doing the habits and actions she was doing that led her to losing the 30 pounds.
It is important for women over 35 to understand that if you STOP DOING THE ACTIONS AND HABITS you were doing in order to lose weight, you are GUARANTEED to gain the weight back.
Her problem was not a cortisol hormone problem. It was a habit problem. She stopped tracking her food and she started emotionally eating every night. This is why she gained the weight back!
Unfortunately, this example is one I see so commonly with women over 35 who come to me for help losing weight. They often assume it's their hormones and they never look at their habits.
It's easy for women over 35 to blame their hormones because at this phase of life hormones are changing, but this is a bias most women have. It's also an excuse to stop doing their habits.
The truth is many women over 35 do not have good nutrition and exercise habits and as a result, their hormones are responding to them having poor habits or inconsistent habits.
During menopause because of the changes the female body is going through, if you do not have good habits then your body will put so much weight on you, you won't know what hit you. Many of my menopausal clients feel like they suddenly gained weight overnight!
The truth is their habits are inconsistent or they have no healthy habits. They're eating low quality foods, not enough protein and fiber, not moving their bodies, drinking alcohol frequently, lacking sleep and not strength training.
Hormones respond to habits. For example, if you're not eating high protein, higher fiber meals most of the time then ghrelin hormone (hunger hormones) will increase and leptin hormone (satiety hormone) will lower making you hungrier. This makes you more prone to overeating high calorie snacks and foods.
Likewise, if you're doing HIIT workouts 7 days a week, your hormones will respond by making you more tired as your body tries to slow you down so that you recover more.
Hormones respond to the environment you give them. If your actions and habits are sending the wrong signals, then your hormones will respond negatively to that generally by increasing your weight. If your actions and habits send the right signals, then your hormones will respond positively!
The good news is you have control over how well your hormones function with your habits! Control what you CAN control!
If you want to fix your hormones to lose weight, you have to ensure you have your habits mastered FIRST. Habits are what hormones respond to and you are simply not going to be able to get away with not taking care of yourself like maybe you have in the past.
Now there are some women who truly do have hormonal problems. In this podcast episode, I talk more about that and the how your mindset may be sabotaging you from mastering healthy habits. This is something I see so frequently!
Is it your hormones or your habits? Listen to the podcast to find out!
In this Dish on Ditching Diets Podcast Episode, You Will Hear:
- How to fix your hormones to lose weight
- Difference between a habit and hormone problem with a client example
- Why you must MASTER the BASICS aka healthy habits before losing weight
- What the BASICS (habits) you need are
- How hormones respond to your habits
- The secret sauce no one is telling you about weight loss
- How your mind may be looking for problems that do not exist
- How your mindset may be sabotaging you by making the BASICS of losing weight mean punishment and misery
Related Dish On Ditching Diets Podcast Episodes
Fix Your Hormones Podcast Show Notes
Today let’s talk about your hormones and fixing your hormones to lose weight. Many of you come to me and tell me your hormones are why you can’t lose weight. And it makes sense with the age group of women that I work with, women over 35.
Many of you are in perimenopause or menopause and the thing about this phase of life is that it really highlights how you have been taking care of yourself both physically and emotionally. Especially in menopause. In menopause your body is changing, your emotions are heightened, you are more reactive to stress during menopause. Your body is going through a transition.
This transition is normal for women, but the thing is if you haven’t mastered healthy habits and you haven’t been doing what I call the basics for a long time leading up into menopause, menopause will put so much weight onto your body you won’t know what hit you.
For those of you who are new here, the basics or healthy habits I’m referring to are daily walking, getting proper sleep, drinking your water, eating high quality meals daily that are high in protein and fiber, resistance training, being mindful of stress and your overall calorie intake.
The thing is the majority of women, the majority of you, aren’t doing the basics and that’s where most of you are going wrong. You believe it’s just your hormones causing the weight gain and that if you fix your hormones your weight problem will go away.
But that’s not the truth. If you’re not taking care of the basics and you don’t have healthy habits that you repeat 80% of the time. Then your habits are a large part of what’s causing your hormones problems and your weight gain.
So, my question for you is – is it your hormones or is it really your habits?
What’s really interesting about the basics is that I talk to many women in my free consultations, and they tell me things like why should I bother going on a walk? Nothing’s working. Why should I bother eating high protein meals. Nothing’s working? Why should I bother drinking water? Nothing’s working? You know this why bother mindset is really a terrible mindset to get into and I’m going to talk more about this in a few minutes.
I have many clients who are in their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s who have been dieting since they were teenagers. And all they know is how to eat less, how to restrict foods, how to deprive themselves and any other way of thinking is like a foreign language to them.
So, a lot of change is needed particularly in their mindset in order for them to see the success they desire.
A lot of women who want to lose weight go down this path of eat less and moving more. Don’t feel bad. It makes you normal. This is what we have been told forever and when you hear it from so-called authorities like people you see on social media or even a doctor which doctors do not receive more than 1-2 courses in nutrition.
You believe what they say, and you start to believe it’s just my fault. Everyone is saying eat less and move more and so you begin to believe it’s just you. There’s something wrong with you.
You think you’re doing everything right – you think you’re being consistent, but what I will say is it’s likely your perception and reality are disconnected. And you’re not truly aware of what you’re eating, how many calories you’re eating and how consistent you truly are.
You may be like but I’m hardly eating anything. I barely eat! Sometimes I forget to eat. How can I be gaining weight? Why am I not losing weight? I only eat clean!
But when you start peeling back the layers of the onion, you begin to realize that weeknight snacks and alcohol are happening. Or that weekend binges are happening. Or you’re snacking off your kids’ plates. Or you’re grabbing snacks and candy here and there throughout the day. Or you’re cooking with a bunch of oil and not measuring it. Or you’re going out to eat more than you realize.
As you peel back the layers of the onion, you begin to see that your perception is not your reality. You are eating more food than you think you are or you’re not as consistent as you believe you are - you’re just unaware of it. You are biased. You’re not tracking your food, maybe you’re not aware of the caloric density of foods.
Maybe you’re not even aware that you need to have a calorie deficit to lose weight. You’re just blissfully I’d say unaware of the eating you are doing and your lack of consistency. Again, your perception is not the reality. And at this phase of life, I think it is really easy to jump to the conclusion that it must be my hormones.
It’s very easy to latch onto that story, hold onto like a comfort blanket and not want to let go of it and NOT see that your habits – the BASICS - are a big part of what’s contributing to your hormone problem and weight problem.
Here is an example from a woman I recently spoke to – to help illustrate this to you. And ladies when I share these examples with you, it’s because I know so many of you have the exact same problem because so many of you believe it’s just you and that there’s just something wrong with you.
So, when I share these specific examples with you, just know I’m sharing them so you can see you are normal and that many women are experiencing the same problems as you.
So, this woman told me she lost 30 pounds in 2020. She was working from home, feeling great. She counted her calories, got herself into a calorie deficit and tracked everything she ate. She didn’t cut out foods, she just made healthier choices while tracking her calories. Which is great!
But then she went on to tell me how she gained 15 pounds back this year and how she’s scared because of this weight gain. She told me she had to go back to working in her office – she’s no longer working from home.
She has a lot of anger and resentment toward her job and now when she comes home from work at night, she emotionally eats all the way up until she goes to bed, and she told me she also stopped tracking her food and how she thinks the reason she gained these 15 pounds was cortisol – the stress hormone. Lol.
Okay… so this is where all of you go wrong. You start to believe it’s your hormones when it’s not your hormones. It’s your habits.
Listen to what she said…she stopped tracking her food and she’s emotionally eating at night. She is no longer in a calorie deficit. She is no longer doing the actions that she was doing that led to her losing weight in the first place.
I also suspect the foods she’s emotionally eating at night may be foods she restricted or deprived herself of when she was losing her 30 pounds. When you have strong emotions like anger and resentment come up – you are guaranteed to binge on the foods you restrict and deprive yourself of. Guaranteed – I talked about that in episode 75.
So, here’s the thing. If you STOP doing the habits and actions that led to you losing weight, then of course you will gain weight back. If you begin emotionally eating at night, then of course you will see weight gain.
She stopped doing the habits and actions that led to her weight loss and she started emotionally eating. There’s not some mysterious hormone issue going on here. This is not a cortisol issue. This is a habit issue. Do you understand what I’m saying?
You can’t blame your hormones when you stopped doing the habits and actions that led to you losing weight in the first place. Your perception and reality are disconnected when you think this way. And for this woman, she had literally no idea. She just sincerely believed it was cortisol – the stress hormone. This is what we call human bias.
Have you ever bought a car and after you bought that car you saw it everywhere? But before you bought the car you never really saw it, you never really paid attention. Right! Because of human bias. You are now biased towards seeing the car and now, you see it everywhere because of your bias.
Your perception is disconnected from reality because of your own bias. So, once I showed this woman that her weight gain was because she stopped doing her habits and because she was emotionally eating, she was finally able to see it.
This is why coaching is so invaluable because we as humans are biased and often our bias only allows us to see one side of the story which for her was that cortisol hormone must be why she’s not losing weight. She couldn’t see it because she was biased.
Now the other part of this that I talked about in podcast 75 was that she was scaring herself. She told me she was scared because she was gaining this weight. Remember I said in the last podcast, many of you are trying to scare yourself into losing weight.
You can’t do that. Scaring yourself will always lead to overeating which is what she was doing. She was emotionally eating at night. She’s scaring herself over this 15 lb. weight gain and on top of it she’s already upset about having to go back to working in an office.
These are all negative emotions so she’s emotionally eating at night because of her negative emotions and what she’s making it mean in her mind to go back to working in an office. This isn’t a mysterious hormone issue. This is a habit issue and an emotional issue. She wasn’t handling her emotions well, in fact, she wasn’t really aware of the fact that her emotions were the exact thing causing her to overeat and not track her food.
Ladies… if you want to lose weight permanently, you have to look outside your own bias. I know it’s easy at this phase of life to blame hormones, but most of the time your habits are the problem not your hormones. Hormones respond to the signals we give them.
So, if you’re overeating at night, you are signaling stress with your overeating. It’s the overeating that’s the problem not the stress because the hormones are just responding to what you are doing. And if you are overeating, your emotions and mindset are at the root of that problem. Just like in the client example I shared.
Your cortisol didn’t say one day – hey let’s gain some weight. No! Hormones simply respond to the environment you give them. If you’re eating 800 calories a day and you’ve been doing that for many months, your hunger hormones will respond by increasing ghrelin your hunger hormone to make you hungrier, so you eat more food.
If you’re constantly skipping breakfast and thinking coffee is good enough, your hormones will respond by making you hungrier later in the day. Hormones respond to the environment you give them.
If you’ve been doing HIIT workouts 7 days a week and giving yourself no recovery, your hormones will respond by making you hungrier and lowering your energy.
Likewise, if you don’t go on daily walks or move your body at all, your hormones will respond to that too because not moving your body at all is a stress. Your hormones are chemical messengers that respond to the inputs you give them. Those inputs are your habits – the BASICS!
Now one thing I want to make very clear. If you truly believe something is going on with your body, go to the doctor. I cannot tell you how many clients – way too many - I see in my practice who have not had an annual checkup in years! It is astounding!
Ladies – you need to have annual labs done. Cholesterol, thyroid, blood sugar, vitamin D – these are minimum markers you should be tracking year over year. They tell you a tremendous amount about where your health is trending, and I see at least 50% of my clients who have not been doing this.
They are avoiding the doctor and yet they’re complaining to me about their hormones! It doesn’t even make sense.
Now some women do need hormone replacement therapy because they truly have hormone issues. But that is something to speak to a doctor about not a nutritionist. Hormone replacement therapy is not within a nutritionist’s scope of practice. See a doctor!
Now I do provide DUTCH hormone testing for clients. That test does measure reproductive hormones and cortisol, but here’s the deal. It’s a measurement of how well you have been taking care of yourself. A measurement of your habits because again, hormones are simply responding to your habits – the BASICS.
What’s very interesting is the vast majority of women over 35 who come to me and tell me their hormones are why they can’t lose weight, are not consistently executing the basics. Remember I said earlier about the why bother mindset? Many of them are in that frame of mind. Why bother doing the habits because nothing’s working!
I want you to just stop and think, are you doing the basics 80% or more of the time (24 out of 30 days in a month) and have you been doing the basics for a long time like 6-12 months or more? If you have not been doing that, I promise you it’s not a hormone problem. It’s a habit problem.
Do you think Michael Jordan said nah, I don’t need to practice free throws? Do you think Tiger Woods said, nah I don’t need to practice putting? Do you think these successful individuals practiced the basics? Of course, they practiced the basics!
They mastered the basics! To be successful, you must master the basics FIRST and I think the problem is when you have a goal like losing weight, your mindset and emotions interfere with you executing the basics consistently.
So, then you only commit to doing the basics when you have a guarantee that you will lose weight, or you get instant gratification of seeing physical changes quickly. That is a terrible mindset to be in and if you are in that mindset, you better get out of it right now because you will never make this the last time you lose weight with that mindset.
You will never be able to maintain weight loss that way. If you need a guarantee to do the basics or you need instant gratification of seeing physical changes to know drinking water, going on a daily walk and fueling your body with high protein and fiber at every meal is good for you, it will be impossible for you to keep weight off for life.
Once you go into maintenance there is no instant gratification anymore. The scale will stop going down and your body will stay the same. That’s when it becomes very easy to look for instant gratification in food and gain weight back.
You have to practice the basics FIRST. Any successful person who has ever lost weight and kept it off will tell you this.
What I see a lot of women doing is they get mad and stop doing the basics because they’re not losing weight, or the weight loss isn’t fast enough. Again, this goes back to needing instant gratification.
Think about this. If your kid stared practicing soccer and they got mad after 2 or 3 months that the coach was still having them run drills instead of playing in the game. Would you tell them to give up? Would you tell them they’re a failure, they’re never going to play soccer and that they might as well give up?
No! You recognize that your child must put their time into mastering the drills, mastering the basics, before they can play the game.
This is the same mindset you must carry over into weight loss. Master your habits then you work on getting into a small calorie deficit to lose weight. Most of you are trying to lose weight without mastering the basics. Then you get mad it’s not working and blame your hormones.
80% of the women over 35 who come work with me do not have the basics down, so we have to spend the first 3-4 months just working on the basics. Because we can’t get to the weight loss part until they have the basics down.
We can’t work on a calorie deficit without the basics because the basics are the foundation, and those basics are what will help you keep the weight off forever! And yes, the basics are boring! Everyone wants to jump to some fancy thing. Stop trying to overcomplicate it. I want you to listen closely to what I’m about to say.
It is really damaging to always think that you’re missing some key ingredient in your weight loss. It’s a very common mindset to have. That there must be something missing. There must be something wrong.
There must be some secret sauce that no one’s telling me. There must be a secret meal plan. There must be something wrong with my hormones. I’m not seeing the results that I want. I don’t feel my best. I don’t look my best. There HAS to be something I’m missing!
The thing that you’re missing is not some fancy hormone protocol. It’s not some elaborate meal plan. It’s literally execution of basic healthy habits for a long period of time and then once you have mastered the basics then getting yourself into a small calorie deficit for a short period of time. That’s it!
Sustainability, consistency, patience, do that for a really long time. That’s what you’re missing. It’s not something you don’t already know. Anything that’s going on with you not feeling your best can be fixed by revisiting your foundation – your basics. Look at your basics!
And by the way, if this feels too easy. You’re probably the person who needs to hear this the most. If it feels too boring, you’re probably the person who needs to hear this the most. Easy and boring is how this works.
Remember what I said about that other client? Her bias was getting in the way. Humans are biased and so we latch onto the belief that it must be our hormones or some other mysterious thing when the truth is she was self-sabotaging because of her negative emotions.
Now I do have many clients who have the basics down and they have been consistently executing the basics for years, but they are stuck with their weight, and they are biased too because they will tell me it’s their hormones.
So, about 80% of my clients aren’t executing the basics and about 20% have been executing the basics for a very long time.
Remember I stated earlier that hormones respond to the environment you give them? The thing I have observed about my clients in this category who have been executing the basics for years and are stuck is that they are stressing out their bodies too much.
They are in prolonged calorie deficits, eating too few calories for the high amount of physical activity they do, they are not sleeping, they exercise too much and don’t recover enough, they are eating too few carbohydrates for the high activity level they do, and some have an obsessive mindset about clean foods. All of those things are habits, and those habits send stress signals to your hormones.
Thyroid hormone downregulates, digestion slows down, lower levels of leptin your fullness hormone and higher levels of ghrelin your hunger hormone making you hungrier, you may have higher cortisol or flatline cortisol (either one means your body is too stressed) which will make you more tired and slow you down. Some women even experience more colds because the immune system becomes suppressed, you may experience more injuries, some women lose their menstrual cycles.
It all goes back to a habit problem. Not a hormone problem or cortisol problem. Cortisol is simply reacting to the things you are doing to stress your body out repeatedly.
Hormones are responding to the habits – eating too little signals too much stress, exercising too much – signals too much stress. It’s not a hormone problem, it’s a habit problem so fix your habits and you fix your hormones.
Which in this type of scenario, means eating more and resting more to reduce the stress from those habits. You need to eat more food and back way off the exercise.
Remove the stress from eating too few calories and over exercising and remove your bias because your biased in thinking you are helping your body when your results demonstrate the opposite.
So, like I said the majority of my clients don’t fit into that category. The majority of my clients are not even doing the basics. But either way, you have to get your habits, the basics, in check.
When your body is fighting against you, it’s trying to protect you. When you don’t feel your best, it’s an opportunity to evaluate the basics and how consistent you are with the basics. Remember I said usually our perception is not our reality.
So, drinking water, sleeping and recovering properly, eating enough food consistently throughout the day and making it high quality most of the time high protein-high fiber, walking daily and resistance training.
It is stupid how simple it is if you stop searching for problems that don’t exist. Master the fundamentals and then once you have mastered the basics, then go into a small calorie deficit for a short period of time to lose weight.
I also think some women forget the calorie deficit part or perhaps they don’t understand that a small calorie deficit is needed to lose weight, so they only focus on habits and then get mad that they don’t lose weight from just changing their habits.
You need both the habits and the calorie deficit. The only way weight loss happens is by being in a calorie deficit and there are many ways to get into a calorie deficit, and you don’t have to count calories to get in a calorie deficit. The point is I think a lot of women do not understand that you have to be in a calorie deficit to lose weight.
But again, DO NOT jump to a calorie deficit before you work on the basics. This is the thing I see over and over again. Women jumping to the weight loss part, but they haven’t built the sustainable habits yet.
They haven’t built the foundation. Master the basics, the fundamentals and then once you have the basics mastered, work on the weight loss part.
And remember, mastering the basics isn’t about taking away all your favorite foods or you sitting at home eating alone because you can’t go out to eat because of your diet.
If you’re spending most of the time feeling afraid of food and saying no to invitations to going out, terrified of the holidays, and going on vacation, you’re not going to be able to sustain that. That is suffering. You are equating your healthy habits to punishment.
This is why so many women say to me they want to lose weight, but they don’t understand why they’re not doing what it takes to lose weight. They’re not doing what it takes because their brain equates it to misery and punishment. No one wants to do that.
Most of you want to lose weight so you can go out to eat without overeating. If you’re approaching your habits this way or thinking about healthy habits this way, you’re not building a life you really want. You have to look at what you’re making it mean to build healthy habits.
If you make it mean punishment and misery, you’ve got some work to do on your thinking and mindset before you can even work on the basics.
Women tell me this all the time. I really want to lose weight. I just don’t know why I’m not doing what I need to be doing. It’s because you really want the weight loss, but you don’t want the process.
If you have a lot of diet trauma and have been on a bajillion diets in the past, let’s say you did a diet that took a way all of your favorite foods so you spent most of your time not going out to dinner with friends, saying no to invitations, being afraid to go on vacations, you end up with diet trauma. Your brain remembers the suffering involved.
So now anytime you start to do any healthy habit, like daily walking, in your mind you equate it to suffering. You have a hard time taking the basics I’m telling you to do in the podcast and executing them.
Your old thinking where you brain is trying to use its old experience from past diet trauma and apply it here. It’s thinking you’re going to lose out on your social life, it’s thinking you know you’re going to be so hungry and eating boring foods, it’s thinking your kids are gonna have to suffer so much because you’re gonna go out on a 30-minute walk.
If you want to make this the last time you lose weight, you have to unlearn that old thinking. Ask yourself what do I think it means for me to do the basics? What am I making it mean to create healthy habits?
If you’re making it means something along the lines of misery, suffering and punishment, then you have diet trauma and you have to work on unlearning your old way of thinking. Your thinking drives your habits so if you’re struggling to do the basics consistently that’s where the real work is!
Okay but back to hormones… so ladies take some time today to evaluate your habits. Is it your hormones or is it really your habits? I know it can feel frustrating at this phase of life, but the truth is the only thing you can control are your habits – the basics. Habits influence your hormones.
Hormones are responding to your habits and at this phase of life if you don’t have a great foundation it’s going to be very easy to gain weight.
Are you doing the basics 80% of the time? Are you really as consistent as you think you are? Is it really true that you’re barely eating anything or is it more truthful that you are eating very little early in the day then overeating at night? Have you even ever been in a calorie deficit to lose weight?
Start tracking what you’re doing with your habits and food. Before assuming it’s cortisol or some mysterious hormone issue, track the data so you can see! Then work on mastering your habits before trying to lose weight.