Despite what you've heard about healthy eating and regular exercise for weight loss, the reality is 99% of weight loss resistance is hormonal. Meaning, diet and exercise will only get you so far.
Anyone with low thyroid disorder--whether diagnosed or not--knows the frustration of eating salads every day, exercising five days a week, but the scale doesn't budge.
I'm the founder of Miss Lizzy Thyroid Supplements. I know from first-hand experience, most diets don't work for women because they fail to address the hormonal root causes of weight loss resistance, including low thyroid function, iodine deficiency, cortisol imbalances, HPA axis issues, insulin/leptin blockage, and estrogen dominance.
The root causes of hormone imbalance are interconnected systems, like dominos, affecting weight and metabolic function. Here are the top reasons why women have weight loss resistance and tips for what you can do about it.
Hypothyroidism and Weight Loss Resistance
The thyroid gland is the master metabolic regulator, and it requires Iodide to make thyroid hormones -- mostly T4 and a little T3. Under the right conditions, T4 converts into active T3 for metabolism and energy. Most of the conversion happens in the liver, but estrogen dominance, excess cortisol, and a selenium deficiency can impair thyroid function.
If your body isn't making enough T4 or properly converting that T4 into T3, you can develop hypothyroid symptoms. These include weight gain, fatigue, low libido, constipation, low mood, hair loss, brain fog, and irregular periods.
Here's where it gets interesting.
High Cortisol and Weight Loss Resistance
When Hypothyroid conditions are untreated or need to be optimized, the adrenal glands may work harder to help the struggling thyroid, resulting in extra cortisol. Excess cortisol can inhibit the conversion of T4 into T3 in the liver, leading to increased Reverse T3 and further blocking thyroid function.
Symptoms of adrenal gland dysfunction include abdominal weight gain, fluid retention in the arms and legs, irritability, sleep issues, cravings for salt or cravings, dizziness, difficulty waking up, lowered immune function, and fatigue. (1)
High levels of cortisol will increase Iodide's excretion from the kidneys, further inhibiting TSH production and increasing the risk of hypothyroid symptoms and weight gain.
Estrogen Dominance and Weight Loss Resistance
Like the thyroid gland requires Iodide to function and maintain metabolism, the ovaries need Iodine in the molecular form.
The ovaries use Iodine to make estrogen in favor of estriol --the "good" estrogen while helping eliminate the "bad" estrogen responsible for estrogen dominance.
Estrogen dominance can lead to weight gain and increase the risk of fibrocystic breast disease, uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, and breast cancer. (2, 3)
Remember how thyroid hormones get converted in the liver under proper conditions?
When there is excess estrogen, thyroid hormone conversion in the liver is impaired. As a result, the liver produces thyroid-binding globulin (TGB), which fights against your body's thyroid hormones, leading to hypothyroid symptoms. The worsening hypothyroidism further impairs the elimination of excess estrogen. (2)
Thyroid hormones, in conjunction with cortisol and estrogen, can have a direct impact on weight.
Estrogen dominance can cause weight gain at any age due to low levels of Iodine and hypothyroidism but may worsen at menopause. Without ovulation and progesterone to balance estrogen, estrogen dominance can trigger weight gain, especially in the hips and thighs. (3)
Iodine Deficiency, Thyroid Function, and Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance is a condition where the cells in your muscles, fat, and liver don't respond appropriately to insulin. As a result, your body produces more insulin, which leads to increased blood pressure and weight gain.
The effects of thyroid hormones T4 and T3 have a significant impact on glucose homeostasis and insulin resistance. (4) Remember, the thyroid and pancreas are both parts of the endocrine system. Hypothyroidism is associated with higher insulin resistance. (5, 6)
What I Learned About Hormone-Related Weight Loss Resistance
Discussing our weight loss frustrations can be an embarrassing topic, especially in our food-focused, fat-shaming culture. I've been there, so I understand how awful it feels to work hard to manage my weight and not get anywhere.
I remember trying a popular weight loss program. Each week I counted my points like a pro and faithfully weighed-in with dedication. As women around me shed pounds and cheered -- shamefully-- the scale barely budged for me.
When I visited a doctor and explained all my symptoms, she said: "You're just here for a quick-fix weight loss pill, and I won't treat you." It was embarrassing and hurtful. Women should lift each other up and offer hope.
If there's one thing I've learned in my thyroid health journey, it's that hormones, estrogen, cortisol, insulin, and mineral deficiencies play a substantial role.
What Does Hormone-Related Weight Loss Resistance Look Like?
If you're wondering what hormone-related weight loss resistance looks like, here are some common examples:
- Hypothyroid may look like an overall weight gain, not specifically obesity. There might be subtle or noticeable swelling or edema in the face, chin, neck, arms, wrists and hands, hips, thighs, or legs.
- High cortisol may cause weight gain in the lower abdominal area, and the stomach may become distended while the arms and legs appear more normal in size.
- Insulin Resistance can cause weight gain in the hip and back areas.
- Estrogen Dominance can cause weight gain in the low belly, hips, and thighs.
Weight Loss Resistance with More than One Hormone Misfirings
While it might feel overwhelming to consider multiple hormone issues causing weight gain, the good news is that they all seem interconnected. Working to solve one hormone imbalance may have a direct benefit on another. Just as the thyroid function affects estrogen balance, and estrogen affects the thyroid.
Tips for Managing Weight Loss Resistance
If healthy eating and regular exercise only get you so far in your weight management goals, hormones misfiring may be the problem.
Depending on your metabolic and health issues, there a few ways to take control of your health and support weight loss resistance.
The research shows the certain minerals directly support thyroid function and estrogen balance and an indirect role in adrenal function, cortisol production, and insulin resistance.
- Reduce stress and be kind to yourself
- Get plenty of sleep and don't feel bad about it.
- Eat a diet that's high in healthy proteins, fats, and vegetables.
- Take note of cravings for salt, sugar, and caffeine (those are hormones talking!)
- Exercise very lightly and only if you feel the desire
- Mineral deficiencies may contribute to hormone misfiring
Learn more about our supplements and how they may help support hormone balance and weight loss resistance.†