Almost anyone who struggles with weight loss also battles a hormone imbalance. It never fails to amaze me how easy weight loss becomes once hormones are back in their sweet spot. I’m going to share the top three hormonal reasons you may struggle to lose weight as well as some of the strategies that have been real needle movers for my patients.

Are you doing everything right, but still struggling to lose weight?

A lot of people seem to think weight loss is just a case of simple math. That all it takes is “eating less and exercising more.”

That the only reason someone is overweight is because of their self-control.

Ladies and gentlemen, that is a lie.

When it comes to burning more calories than you consume, this so-called weight loss equation only applies to perfect hormonal specimens; people who have their cortisol, thyroid, insulin, estrogen and testosterone in perfect balance. Ironically, these are rarely the people who need to drop a few pounds.

I’ve found, both in my personal experience and with the thousands of women and men who come through my practice each year, that it’s nearly impossible to lose that spare tire, kimono arms, or bat wings when your cortisol is too high or your thyroid has ground to a halt.

Almost anyone who struggles with weight loss also battles a hormone imbalance. It never fails to amaze me how easy weight loss becomes once hormones are back in their sweet spot. I’m going to share the top three hormonal reasons you may struggle to lose weight as well as some of the strategies that have been real needle movers for my patients.

1. High Cortisol
If you’re struggling with hard-to-lose belly fat, you may have high cortisol. This is the most common hormonal imbalance I see in my practice, and also the one that wreaks the most havoc on your health. Because cortisol is the alpha hormone it holds a lot of sway in how well your other main hormones – thyroid and estrogen in women, thyroid and testosterone in men – function. High cortisol is the result of chronic stress, an absolute epidemic in our culture.

High cortisol is associated with hard-to-lose belly fat, sugar cravings, and lousy sleep. Those may sound a little familiar, as may the feeling of wanting to throttle the next person who tells you about the great diet they just discovered. Don’t worry – I’ve got some cortisol-lowering tweaks that have nothing to do with cayenne pepper or juice cleanses (although I’m not against a good detox myself).

Balance that Hormone:
The first step in managing cortisol is to also manage how you respond to stress. In other words: Hit the pause button. A tall order, yes, but there are some stunningly easy strategies that are proven to help. My favorite ways to reduce stress and lower cortisol include yoga, meditation, deep breathing, Heart Math, and nearly any contemplative practice. You can also add fish oil and phosphatidyl serine to your list of daily vitamins, as both have been proven to help lower cortisol. When you’re overweight or obese, Relora, an herbal combination of magnolia and phellodendron, has been shown to reduce night-time cortisol and stress-related eating.

2. Low Thyroid
A sluggish metabolism is another common culprit when it comes to weight loss struggles. Stress and high cortisol can slow down your thyroid, but other causes of low thyroid and slow metabolism include endocrine disruptors found in the environment, Vitamin D deficiency and gluten sensitivity. Symptoms of low thyroid include weight gain, fatigue, brain fog, and depression. In fact, 15-20% of people with depression are low in thyroid hormone (1). I suggest that you work with a clinician if your thyroid numbers are off. Over the years, scientists have narrowed the optimal range for TSH to 0.3-2.5 mIU/L, and some experts believe that people who have a normal thyroid are more likely 0.1-1.5 (2).

Balance that Hormone
You can take steps on your own to correct a thyroid imbalance by reducing the often-underlying cause of stress. You can also eradicate endocrine disruptors from your home and foods; they are commonly found in the lining of many canned foods and some plastic water bottles, flame retardants, mattresses, children’s pajamas. There is limited animal data showing that you can limit absorption of bis-phenol A by taking oral probiotics. Add vitamin D to the supplements you take, or get some naturally and commit to spending more time in the sun (always with sunscreen on face, back and shoulders, of course). Vitamin D is ideally kept in the Goldilocks position of 52-90. Lastly, see if you have a gluten sensitivity by removing foods with gluten from your diet for a few weeks. If you lose weight and have more energy, bingo!

3. Insulin Resistance
Insulin is a hormone that stores fat. When your cells become numb to insulin, you lay down fat, especially where you can readily use it for fuel, such as your belly.

Balance that Hormone
Dr. Barry Sears, founder of the Zone Diet, is an authority on the hormonal effects of food. He famously said that you can reverse insulin resistance with the Zone Diet. Of course, there’s many ways to insulin nirvana–you can follow a Paleo Diet or the Virgin Diet.

4. Low Estrogen
Low estrogen stimulates appetite. Researchers from Yale found that estradiol uses the same biochemical pathways in the body as leptin, a hormone released by fat that, when activated, pushes your “hunger button” and tells you that you need food (3).

Balance that Hormone
Some of my favorite ways to balance estrogen naturally include acupuncture, regular exercise and a good ol’ orgasm. You can also add flax seeds to your diet (I throw them in breakfast porridge and smoothies), and supplement magnesium.

5. Low Testosterone
Low testosterone makes you doughy, less able to remodel your musculature with resistance training, and slow down your metabolism.

Balance that Hormone
Dump the sugar, including alcohol. Even moderate daily alcohol decreases testosterone levels, according to a recent Dutch study. Prevention Magazine reported that alcohol in women reduces metabolism by more than 70%, albeit temporarily. Be honest: do you have a sticky relationship with alcohol? I often find that women who want to lose weight make radical vows to give up everything… except their glass or two of wine each night. Do you want to lose weight or do you want to numb out with alcohol?

Weight Loss and Hormone Balance: Reclaim Your Victorious Cycle
One of the wonderful things about weight loss and hormone balance is that they go hand-in-hand. Just as hormone balance can lead to weight loss, losing a few pounds can help bring your hormones back into their optimal levels. For example: belly fat has a much higher concentration of estrogen; drop 5 pounds and you’ll see your estrogen levels swing into that sweet spot of not too high and not too low. Give up alcohol, and it lowers cortisol, raises testosterone, and balances estrogen.

To learn more about your hormones and how to balance them naturally, check out my new book, The Hormone Cure: Reclaim Balance, Sleep, Sex Drive, and Vitality Naturally with The Gottfried Protocol. When you buy the book and submit your receipt, you will get delightful, hormone-balancing bonuses at

1. Gold MS, Pottash AL, Extein I. “Hypothyroidism and depression. Evidence from complete thyroid function evaluation.” Journal of the American Medical Association 245 (19) (1981): 1919-22; Hickie I, Bennett B, Mitchell P, Wilhelm K, Orlay W. “Clinical and subclinical hypothyroidism in patients with chronic and treatment-resistant depression.” Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 30 (2) (1996): 246-52.
2. Wartofsky L, Dickey RA. “The evidence for a narrower thyrotropin reference range is compelling.” Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 90 (9) (2005): 5483-8.
3. Gao Q, Mezei G, Nie Y, Rao Y, Choi CS, Bechmann I, Leranth C, Toran-Allerand D, Priest CA, Roberts JL, Gao XB, Mobbs C, Shulman GI, Diano S, Horvath TL. “Anorectic estrogen mimics leptin’s effect on the rewiring of melanocortin cells and Stat3 signaling in obese animals.” Nature Medicine (1) (2007):89-94; Hirschberg AL. “Sex hormones, appetite and eating behaviour in women.” Maturita 71 (3) (2012):248-56.


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