We know estrogen is key to our sexual and reproductive development. It also helps build strong bones, maintain good cholesterol, regulate mood, and plays a role in having a healthy metabolism. When it comes to our weight, estrogen is involved in the distribution of body fat. That brings us to the million dollar question:
Is Estrogen the Reason I Gained Weight…and Belly Fat?
It could be a contributing factor, but it may not be the only reason.
When you have excess levels of estrogen or an imbalance of estrogen to progesterone from illnesses, like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), that can lead to weight gain.
On the other hand, estrogen levels lower as you go through perimenopause and menopause, and your body fat distribution begins to shift. During adulthood, women tend to carry body fat in their stomach, hips, and thighs. But after menopause, body fat can become centered in the stomach area, and it can become harder to lose excess weight as your metabolism slows.
What Does Body Fat Redistribution Mean for My Health?
This body fat redistribution can lead to an increase in visceral fat, body fat that’s deep in the abdomen and has been linked to chronic inflammation and insulin resistance, for example. It is possible to manage weight gain—and reduce body fat—through exercise and healthy eating. But because your body may be storing more fat and unable to burn calories as effectively, it might take a little longer to see results.
How Do I Know if My Weight Gain Is Caused By My Hormones?
The only way to be sure is by getting tested by your doctor. If your weight gain seems sudden, and you have other symptoms, like fatigue, lowered sex drive, breast swelling, headaches, and changes in your mood, you may want to ask your doctor to check the health of your thyroid.
How Can I Be Proactive About Estrogen-Related Weight Gain?
Although you can’t prevent the aging process or hormone shifts, here are a few lifestyle habits within your control:
- Exercise regularly: Nothing crazy here, but light, regular movements that get your heart rate up and body in motion are a good start.
- Eat nutritiously: Incorporate high-fiber foods, fruits, veggies, unsaturated fats, and limit junk foods.
- Sleep well: Making sure you get a restful eight hours of sleep regularly is key to your body being able to restore itself on a cellular level.
Every woman’s body reacts differently to hormonal changes, and we don’t all experience them on the same timeline. While changes in our body are inevitable, remember to be grateful for what it can do. And celebrate how it looks at any size.