You may have already noticed that as you age it becomes harder to maintain (or lose) your weight.
But did you know that the culprit could be hormone changes?
Researchers have been looking at hormones’ role in weight gain after 60, and they’ve uncovered some interesting findings.
In today’s post, we’ll explore hormonal changes that can cause weight gain after 60 and give you some tips on managing them.
What Is Hormonal Weight Gain?
Hormonal weight gain is caused by the changing levels of a range of hormones in your body, and it can be tough to lose.
It’s a brutal truth that leading a healthy, active, and engaged lifestyle as an older adult may not always be enough to control biologically driven body changes.
Fortunately, research shows that lifestyle modifications can positively impact hormonal and metabolic changes.
Let’s look at the seven hormones that can cause weight gain and how to prevent it from happening.
The 7 Hormones That Cause Weight Gain After 60
#1 Leptin — The Satiety Hormone
The fat-storing hormone leptin is produced by your body’s or fat cells.
It guides your metabolism and tells it when you have stored enough energy. But it also helps regulate fertility, immunity, and brain function.
Essentially, it informs your brain when you’re overeating or starving. This system worked in our favor when food was scarce. But we’ve evolved from a time when this was useful — and our biological system just didn’t catch up.
Leptin resistance is a rare condition where your brain doesn’t register the hormone even if there is an abundance of it.
Research suggests that it could be one of the main biological and hormonal contributors to weight gain. And an increased leptin resistance is associated with normal aging.
How to combat this? Try to avoid overeating and eating between meals to increase your leptin sensitivity.
#2 Cortisol — The Stress (Eating) Hormone
Cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, helps the body deal with stressful situations by increasing your blood sugar and energy levels, and suppressing the immune system.
While cortisol is important for helping us cope with stress, too much of it can be harmful. Chronic stress can lead to high levels of cortisol which can have negative effects on your health, including weight gain, high blood pressure, and even memory problems.
Because cortisol is released in response to stress, it’s important to focus on ways to reduce your stress, so your levels don’t get too high- when that happens, it can lead to cravings for unhealthy foods (like these you should avoid), to reduced energy expenditure, and susceptibility to obesity.
It’s also worth noting that low-calorie diets actually increase cortisol levels. Researchers believe it creates a spiral where stress leads to weight gain, which then leads to more stress.
All in all, steer clear of low-calorie diets, focus on healthier ways to lose weight, and put your energy into rooting out the stress in your life.
#3 Estrogen — The Stubborn Belly Fat Hormone
Even though estrogen is known as the “female hormone”, it’s found both in men and women.
And it has many effects on our body. To name just a few, it influences your reproductive tract, urinary system, and heart function.
When estrogen levels are out of balance, fat cells start converting any extra energy sources into stubborn abdominal fats.
Naturally, more women than men struggle with balancing estrogen levels, especially so in menopause, but it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on for both men and women.
If you’re wondering how to keep your estrogen levels balanced, don’t skip your annual checkups and consult your doctors for any hormone supplements if needed.
#4 Progesterone – The Forgotten Hormone
Progesterone is another hormone that is known as “female” and it seems to be forgotten in men.
But its functions are vital for regulating sperm and testosterone production in men and regulating menstruation and supporting pregnancy in women, so worth unforgetting about it.
When progesterone levels rise, you may find yourself feeling hungry all the time and eating more often. On the other hand, low progesterone can also lead to weight gain since research indicates it’s one of the emerging causes of obesity.
Here’s what to do about it: sleep more and stress less. When stress spikes, it blocks progesterone receptors and limits their activity.
#5 Testosterone – The Vicious Cycle Hormone
While testosterone is commonly regarded as the male hormone, women produce it as well. Among it’s many functions it helps burn fat, strengthens muscles and bones, and increases libido.
The only studies conducted so far on weight gain and testosterone included exclusively men. But those who weighed more had 30% lower testosterone levels than normal, so for men, it’s worth keeping tabs on your testosterone levels if you’re experiencing unexplainable weight gain.
After all, it’s a vicious cycle that’s hard to break: Low testosterone leads to weight gain. And weight gain leads to low testosterone.
For people who are struggling with testosterone levels, staying active is vital. Try to include weight training into your exercise regime. Not only will it help you stave weight off, but also maintain more lean body mass.
#6 Ghrelin – The Gremlin Hormone
Ghrelin is the hormone responsible for letting you know when you’re hungry. It’s high before you eat and low after a meal. Hence the name — the “hunger hormone”.
But it’s so much more than just the hunger hormone. Which is why research still isn’t clear on whether you should aim for lower or higher levels for weight loss.
One of the easiest ways to tame your hunger is to stay hydrated. Your brain often mistakes dehydration for hunger. And drinking a glass of water anytime you crave food will help you curb your appetite.
#7 Melatonin – The Sleep Hormone
Melation is a hormone that helps you regulate your sleeping cycle.
The hormone itself is not associated with weight gain. But lower melatonin levels and poor sleep have been associated with leptin resistance.
And we’ve already learned that you’ll never feel quite full if your body doesn’t recognize leptin.
So, ensure that you’re getting enough high-quality sleep (these sleep tips will help).
What to Do About Hormones and Weight Gain After 60?
By now you’re probably wondering what you can actually do to tame hormones and weight gain after 60.
Here are some actionable tips to ensure you maintain a healthy and normal hormonal balance (naturally):
- Get your nutrition in check — follow nutritional guidelines for your age to ensure that you’re getting enough nutrients (because your needs change as you age)
- Engage in regular physical activity — one benefit of exercise is that it strongly influences a wide range of your hormones and their health and keeps you fit
- Manage your stress levels — keep your hormones and your hunger under control by
- Get enough sleep — lack of sleep can cause a hormonal imbalance and lead to increased appetite and cravings for unhealthy foods
- Avoid over- or undereating — maintaining a balanced level of satiety also balances your hormone levels
- Rethink alcohol and cigarettes — apart from other adverse health effects, both alcohol and cigarettes sway your hormone levels unfavorably
Feel Stronger and Healthier
You may not be able to turn back the clock on aging but you can take charge of how it affects your body.
Not only will hormone balance help you with weight loss, but it also has a myriad of other benefits, such as improved sleep quality, reduced inflammation, and improved overall well-being.
While hormone imbalance is common among older adults, by giving some needed attention to balancing your hormones for optimal health, you can proactively make changes to your lifestyle now to tame these hormones.
For more insights on nutrition for older adults, check out our comprehensive guide.