Balanced Life Q & A: Difficulty with Weight Loss

weight-gainDear WIBI:

I am 42 years old, have irregular periods, and consider myself perimenopausal.  I have been trying to lose 15 pounds for 5 years.  I eat 1300 calories per day, work out at the gym 3-5 times per week, eat organic foods, and take probiotics.   Could my difficulty with weight loss have something to do with my hormones? 

Difficulty with weight loss is a common problem that many perimenopausal and menopausal women experience.  The hormone shifts happening in your body right now not only play a role in reproduction, but also energy levels, brain health, metabolism, and more.  Hormone imbalance is certainly playing a role in the difficulty you are experiencing with weight loss.

Factors that contribute to difficulty with weight loss in menopause are:

  1. Insulin resistance.  A decline in estrogen levels plays a role, though still undetermined, in insulin resistance.  Insulin resistance is a condition where carbohydrates are more difficult to metabolize and use for energy and instead get easily stored as fat.  Easy weight gain=difficulty losing weight.
  2. An increase in abdominal fat.  Abdominal fat is different from fat around the hips, thighs, or arms.  This type of fat is harder to lose and hormonally active.  There is an increase in this type of fat accumulation after menopause, which suggests that the decline in estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone may affect abdominal weight gain.
  3. Fewer hours at the gym.  As women age they tend to exercise less.  Fatigue, joint pain,a hectic schedule, or bad habits may all contribute to this tendency.
  4. Changes in the stress hormone cortisol. This can affect the ability to lose weight.  Cortisol is one of our main stress hormones, also used by the body to balance low blood sugar.  It also has an effect on insulin, the hormone which stores sugar in the cells as fat.
  5. Lower estrogen.  Lower estrogen can affect neurotransmitters, predisposing women to cravings

So to answer your question:  Yes, hormone imbalance could be having an effect on your inability to lose weight.  Talk to your health care provider about how to balance your hormones for optimal metabolism.  If you are looking for a health care provider, please check out our provider locator tool at:  http://providers.womeninbalance.org/