Weight Loss and Hormones

  • 02/06/23

Hormones and weight gain or loss are directly linked. Hormones control weight gain or loss and the body’s ability to burn fat. If we want to maintain a lean body we need to be mindful of them and the role they play. Hormones respond to the macronutrient ratios of carbohydrates, fat and protein that we are consuming on a daily basis. Our stress levels also play a big role in how our body releases these hormones.

There are 3 major hormones involved in hunger, cravings and body weight regulation – insulin, cortisol and leptin. These hormones trigger either sugar burning/fat storage or fat burning/sugar storage pathways.


Insulin is produced by the pancreas and it’s main function is to lower blood sugar and to stimulate fat storage. High levels of insulin also trigger inflammatory pathways in the body and inhibit tumor destroying mechanisms.

When we eat insulin is increased, and diminishes within a couple of hours after a meal. However, when we consume foods with a high glycemic index, insulin spikes to quickly remove blood sugar and store it in muscle and liver cells. Any excess sugar or carbohydrates however get stored as fat.

The constant consumption of carbohydrate rich foods will cause insulin levels to be elevated on a consistent basis, so that any carbohydrates and fat get converted into body fat. The constant elevated level of insulin also leads to insulin resistance, which, although not suggested by its name, is in fact a state where insulin remains at constant high levels in the body, leading to weigh gain.

Effective weight loss strategies must improve insulin sensitivity or they will fail in the long-term.


Cortisol is a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands and its major function is to increase blood sugar and cravings.

Cortisol is released in time of stress and its purpose is to give us an instant burst of energy. It does this by releasing stored glucose within the liver and muscle cells. It peaks after we wake up and it tapers off as the day goes on. If we are under constant physical or emotional stress however, cortisol remains high. Symptoms of high cortisol are high blood pressure, poor memory, difficulty sleeping, fatigue and weakened immune response.

However, most topical to this article it promotes weight gain and obesity.


Leptin is a hormone produced by the fat cells and its main function is to send signals of satiety and to promote fat burning. It is our body’s natural weight control mechanism.

In essence it does the opposite to insulin and cortisol. It lets your brain know how much fat is in your body. As leptin levels rise, our appetite diminishes. As leptin levels fall, our appetite increases. It also regulates the rate of fat breakdown. As leptin levels rise, our metabolic rate increases and when they fall, our metabolism slows. Leptin resistance occurs when the body does not receive the leptin message. When this happens the hypothalamus cannot stimulate the metabolism or suppress our appetite. Leptin resistance can make losing weight very difficult if not impossible.

Any weight loss strategies that are going to be successful must improve leptin sensitivity.


Our diets are laden with carbohydrates which, even when considered ‘healthy’, drive our bodies to produce and maintain high levels of insulin. Increased stress levels keep cortisol high. The result of these two hormones is that we develop insulin resistance, have high inflammation levels and crave more and more food. This is a perpetual cycle of eating sugar, blood sugar rising, insulin secretion, immediate fat storage, fall of blood sugar, cravings and hunger and back for more.

The insulin+cortisol combination will continue to wreak daily havoc until we stop this destructive cycle. This can be achieved through proper nutrition and exercise, to burn fat more effectively.

The diet here specifically targets this cycle and tries to heal the body to reawaken the leptin receptors to begin doing their job again and insulin receptors to regain sensitivity and maintain healthy levels. The exercise and relaxation pages aim to reduce cortisol levels to begin healing and achieve balance.