There are many different reasons why people have stubborn fat in their midsection, but one common culprit is hormone imbalance. The reason for this is that when your hormones are out of balance, they can cause weight gain or difficulty in losing weight in certain parts of your body. This means that you might be able to fight off belly fat by correcting hormonal imbalances first. But how do you know if you have a hormone imbalance? And what should you do about it? Here’s some information on how to tell if you’re experiencing hormonal problems and what steps to take after determining that this may be the case.
What Causes A Hormonal Belly In Women?
Several different things can cause hormonal imbalances that might lead to having a “hormonal belly.”
Thyroid hormones are important for overall health, but they also play an important role in your metabolism. If you have low levels of these hormones, it can cause your metabolism to slow down. This means that you’ll have a more difficult time losing weight, despite doing everything right (16).
If you go to the doctor with symptoms of low thyroid function, they’ll probably check your levels of three different thyroid hormones: free T4, free T3, and Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH). If they find that your thyroid hormone levels are too high or too low, they may prescribe medication to correct the imbalance (15).
Weight gain can also be due to an altered level of reverse T3, which is another thyroid hormone that may play a role in regulating weight and metabolism. This means that if you’re having trouble losing weight despite eating healthy and working out, looking into Reverse T3 might help you understand why you aren’t seeing the results you expected.
Another common hormone imbalance in women is cortisol levels. Cortisol is the stress hormone, and it’s important for keeping your body running so that you can stay alert during the day. However, too much cortisol can cause you to gain weight. Cortisol is released in response to stress, and the more stressed you are, the higher cortisol levels will be. Chronically elevated cortisol levels can lead to increased fat storage. This type of fat storage typically happens around your waist, making it extremely difficult for women with this problem to lose weight around their midsections (3).
Another hormone that plays an important role in regulating appetite is called leptin. Leptin is the hormone that tells your body when you’re full, so if it’s out of balance, then you may keep eating even when you’re already full (10). This leads to overeating and weight gain including around your midsection, which can also be very difficult to get rid of.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
For women who suffer from PCOS, hormonal imbalance is typical because this condition affects their levels of estrogen and insulin which naturally control their menstrual cycle. This often results in weight gain or difficulty losing weight, specifically in the face or midsection (12).
As women go through menopause, they experience a changing balance of female sex hormones. Hormonal imbalance can lead to an increase in weight gain or difficulty losing weight no matter what they try (17).
What Are The Signs Of Hormonal Belly Fat?
Some tell-tale signs that you may have a hormonal imbalance of some sort include:
Gaining Belly Fat (Despite Eating Healthy And Working Out)
When you’re eating healthy and working out but still experience an increase in belly fat, it might be a sign of hormonal imbalance.
Intense Sugar Cravings
Feeling intense cravings for sugar can simply be a consequence of cutting out sugar or an overly restrictive diet. If that isn’t the case, sugar cravings can indicate that your hormones aren’t balanced, which causes blood sugar fluctuations. Dramatic fluctuations in blood sugar and insulin can lead to you feeling hungry even when your body doesn’t really need more food (7).
Extreme Mood Swings
When your hormones are imbalanced, it can make you feel moody and stressed out. This means that no matter what kind of day you’re having, you might experience intense swings from one emotional state to another or sudden bouts of anger or sadness that come out of nowhere.
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Feeling Exhausted All The Time
When you feel exhausted all the time, despite getting enough sleep, it might be due to hormonal imbalance. This may be because of hormonal imbalance, making it difficult for you to recharge, even when you shut your eyes at night (1).
Trouble Falling Asleep
Sleeping well is crucial for everything from hormone function to weight loss. When you can’t fall asleep or stay asleep, this could indicate that something is off with your hormones, which leads to difficulty sleeping and weight gain in your midsection.
Lower Sex Drive
If you notice a decrease in your sex drive, this is another indication that something might be off with your hormones. Low estrogen or testosterone can lead to low libido (11).
How To Naturally Reset Your Hormones?
There are several changes that can be made to naturally rebalance your hormones, which will allow you to lose weight even in the most stubborn midsection fat.
Switching From Junk Food To Whole Foods
One of the first steps you should take towards balancing out your hormones is switching from junk food to whole foods. This is because highly processed foods can cause more dramatic swings in blood sugar and insulin. Limiting refined sugars and artificial sweeteners may be especially helpful in preventing hormonal imbalance.
Cutting Out Inflammatory Foods
Inflammation is a contributor to many health issues, including hormone imbalances (2). This means that if you have a hormonal imbalance, cutting down on foods that may increase inflammation like sugar, artificial sweeteners, alcohol, caffeine, ultra processed foods, certain refined oils, or dairy products can be helpful.
Cutting Out Unhealthy Fats
Another step you should take towards rebalancing your hormones is limiting or cutting out all types of unhealthy fats. This means that highly processed foods and other sources of trans fats should be avoided as much as possible. Sources of saturated fat like fatty meats and high fat dairy should be limited, and most of your fat should come from heart-healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, and oily fish.
Try Intermittent Fasting
Some believe that intermittent fasting might help you naturally balance your hormones by lowering your cortisol levels during the day. Eating within an eight hour window and fasting for 16 is theorized to possibly help improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar levels, but more research is needed to determine whether this is the case (8).
Getting More Sleep
Sufficient sleep is crucial when it comes to regulating hormones and losing weight (13). This means that if you want to reset your hormones, sleeping well is the first step towards this goal. Aim for seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night.
Stress is a major contributor to hormonal imbalance, which makes it crucial to de-stress as much as possible. This means that you should try meditating, taking up yoga or tai chi, spending time in nature, or just simply taking more breaks throughout the day.
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Hormonal Belly Workouts
Exercise is one of the best ways to balance your hormones and lose weight. That’s because it helps increase your metabolism and control cortisol levels that can lead to fat storage in the midsection area.
Here are some workouts that can help you lose stubborn fat in your midsection, with the most effective method being HIIT:
HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)
HIIT or high-intensity interval training is one of the best ways to burn off belly fat. This is because it boosts your metabolism so you can continue burning calories after you finish your workout (6).
Cardio workouts like running, biking, and swimming can help you lose weight and tone up lower abs. This is because they’re great for your heart and lungs and help improve blood flow throughout the body (5).
Core Strengthening Exercises
Crunches, V-ups, and plank exercises can all help tone your midsection area. This is because they work out your core muscles that support the spine and other parts of the body. By doing these workouts regularly, you might notice a decrease in belly fat, as well as an increase in energy levels throughout the day.
Yoga reduces stress, increases flexibility, and has even been linked to reduced cortisol levels (4). If you practice yoga consistently, this could potentially lead to fat loss in the midsection area.
Pilates workouts not only strengthen muscles but also improve posture and reduce back pain (9). All of these benefits can be helpful if you want to get rid of belly fat that’s caused by hormonal imbalance.
Dancing is a fun way to get rid of belly fat. It doesn’t matter if you practice ballroom dancing, salsa, or swing; all forms of dancing can help you burn calories and lose weight. This means that it can be beneficial for anyone who has a hormonal imbalance and wants to reset their hormones.
The Bottom Line
No matter what you are doing to lose weight, diet is the most important factor for getting rid of hormonal belly fat. So if you want to get rid of stubborn belly fat, take a look at your diet and make sure that you are incorporating exercise and getting enough sleep. The combination of the abovementioned lifestyle changes can help restore your body’s ability to function properly while helping you lose excess pounds naturally.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Chronic fatigue syndrome – Symptoms and causes (2020, mayoclinic.org)
- Chronic Inflammation – StatPearls (2021, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Cortisol, obesity, and the metabolic syndrome: A cross‐sectional study of obese subjects and review of the literature (2013, onlinelibrary.wiley.com)
- Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life (2011, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
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- High Intensity Interval- vs Moderate Intensity – Training for Improving Cardiometabolic Health in Overweight or Obese Males: A Randomized Controlled Trial (2015, journals.plos.org)
- Insulin levels, hunger, and food intake: an example of feedback loops in body weight regulation (1985, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Intermittent Fasting: The Choice for a Healthier Lifestyle (2018, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Is Pilates an effective rehabilitation tool? A systematic review (2018, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Leptin and Obesity: Role and Clinical Implication|Endocrinology (2021, frontiersin.org)
- Loss of libido (reduced sex drive) (2020, nhs.uk)
- Obesity and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (2007, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Sleep and obesity (2013, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Stress and hormones (2011, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Thyroid Function Tests – Clinical Methods (1990, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Thyroid Hormone Regulation of Metabolism|Physiological Reviews (2014, journals.physiology.org)
- Understanding weight gain at menopause (2012, tandfonline.com)