How to Reset Female Hormones For Weight Loss

Mike Bohl, MD, MPH, ALM

Reviewed by Mike Bohl, MD

Written by Lauren Panoff

Published 04/06/2024

Hormones can be helpful heroes, supporting the immune system and a healthy sleep-wake schedule. But they can also be culprits of frustrating body issues, like excess weight that won’t come off despite your best efforts. Like many women, you might be wondering if it’s possible to reset female hormones for weight loss.

Hormones are involved in regulating body weight and the ability to achieve weight loss. Especially for women, they fluctuate throughout your menstrual cycle and during various life stages, like pregnancy, postpartum, perimenopause and menopause.

Caring for them is vital, which means living in a way that helps keep your hormones in balance.

Read on for insight into how to reset female hormones for weight loss, including a breakdown of the hormones that affect body weight and tips for optimizing them so they work for you rather than against you.

Jump-starting your hormones to help your body shed pounds sounds appealing. And while we wish it was as simple as pressing a reset button or shocking your system with booster cables, it’s a bit more complex.

What you eat, how you move your body, whether you’re getting enough sleep and how you manage stress all play a role in hormonal balance. So by making positive lifestyle changes, you might be able to get things back on track.

If you’re wondering how to reset female hormones to lose weight and support overall wellness, this one’s for you. Let’s dig into the relationship between women’s hormones and weight loss, the main hormones involved in weight management and how to balance hormones for weight loss.

The link between hormones and weight loss is intricate and multifaceted.

Several hormones — such as insulin, leptin, ghrelin, cortisol and thyroid hormones — have significant influence over metabolism, appetite and fat storage within the body. And imbalanced hormones can mess with these mechanisms.

Understanding how they’re all interrelated can help you make changes to address a possible hormonal imbalance and work toward your weight loss goals.

Hormone Imbalance and Weight Loss

Hormone-related health conditions, like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and hypothyroidism, as well as life seasons like menopause, can lead to hormonal changes that make losing weight more challenging. 

For instance, with PCOS, high levels of insulin and testosterone can increase appetite and promote fat storage, particularly around the midsection. 

Hypothyroidism (having an underactive thyroid gland) slows metabolism, potentially resulting in weight gain despite efforts to eat fewer calories. And during menopause, fluctuations in estrogen levels can make your body hang onto more belly fat. 

If weight loss is your goal, addressing hormonal imbalances is key. This often requires a combination of lifestyle modifications, medication and possibly hormone therapy under medical supervision.

What to Know About Metabolic Age

Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m 65 today, but I don’t feel a day over 30?” Your metabolic age is sort of like that.

Whereas chronological age is simply the number of years you’ve been alive, metabolic age provides insight into how efficiently your body is burning energy relative to other people of the same chronological age.

In other words, it compares your basal metabolic rate (BMR) to the average BMR of individuals in your age group. BMR is the number of calories you’d burn each day just from being alive — or what you’d burn if you laid in bed all day without moving.

Having a metabolic age lower than your chronological age means your body is burning calories more efficiently than average — a general signal of good overall health and fitness.

On the other hand, a metabolic age higher than your chronological age could mean that your metabolism is slower than average. In that case, dietary changes or healthy lifestyle adjustments might be necessary for weight loss.

Research suggests that metabolic age can predict a person’s risk for developing metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that includes abdominal obesity, high triglycerides, low “good” cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugar.

Metabolic age is just one way to assess health. Still, it can be useful for understanding how your body burns calories and why it might be resisting weight loss.

We tend to focus on food intake and exercise when talking about weight — which are undoubtedly crucial — but they’re not the only factors.

Hormones have much to do with metabolism, food cravings, hunger-fullness cues and even how weight is distributed around the body. 

Several female hormone types matter for weight loss. We’ve outlined the purpose and functions of 10 hormones, along with how they’re involved in weight management for women.

Insulin

Insulin is involved in regulating blood sugar levels. It helps move glucose from blood into cells, where it can be used for energy. This hormone is also partly responsible for storing excess glucose in the liver, muscles and fat tissues. 

High insulin levels can prevent the breakdown of fat. This makes weight loss more challenging, as it tells your body to store excess calories rather than burn them for energy.

Leptin

Leptin is produced by fat cells. It helps regulate your appetite and how much energy you burn. This hormone signals to the brain when there’s enough fat stored in the body, which tells your appetite to reign it in and your metabolism to kick it up a notch. 

Leptin resistance is associated with obesity. This is when your body may not respond properly to the hormone’s signals, leading to overeating and trouble losing weight despite having enough body fat stored.

Ghrelin

Ghrelin is a hunger hormone made by the stomach that stimulates appetite. It acts on the hypothalamus (the part of your brain that makes hormones relating to mood, hunger and body temperature) to tell you to eat.

When ghrelin levels are high — often during periods of calorie restriction or weight loss attempts — it can lead to increased hunger and potentially hinder weight loss efforts.

Glucagon-Like Peptide-1

You’ve probably heard of glucagon-like peptide 1 (aka GLP-1), given the rising popularity of weight loss injections and obesity-management medications. This hormone is released by the intestines in response to food, especially after enjoying meals high in carbohydrates and fats.

GLP-1 is heavily involved in blood sugar management. It triggers the release of insulin from the pancreas and prevents the release of glucagon. The hormone also slows down the rate at which your stomach empties its contents, helping you feel full longer after a meal — and potentially preventing overeating.

Estrogen

Estrogen is best known as a primary female sex hormone, but it’s also involved in metabolism.

Estrogen helps regulate fat distribution and storage throughout the body, which, for women, is usually more concentrated around the thighs and hips. 

When estrogen levels are imbalanced — or when they fluctuate during life stages like menopause — it can disrupt metabolism. This could lead to unintentional weight gain.

Cortisol

You may know cortisol as “the stress hormone.” When your body is under stress, cortisol increases blood sugar levels to provide energy.

While this response is helpful for short-term problems, like, say, running away from a bear, chronically elevated cortisol levels can disrupt metabolism and promote excess fat storage.

Cholecystokinin

Cholecystokinin (CCK) is released by the small intestine when fats and proteins are present in the digestive system. This slows down gastric emptying to create feelings of fullness, which may help prevent overeating.

But when your body doesn’t have enough CCK, it could increase your appetite, making it hard to create the necessary calorie deficit to lose weight.

Peptide YY

The hormone peptide YY is released by your GI (gastrointestinal) tract when you eat protein and fat.

It acts on the appetite centers in your brain, helping your food intake stay in check by promoting fullness. Balancing this hormone may help support your weight loss goals. 

Neuropeptide Y

Neuropeptide Y is a neurotransmitter (brain chemical) that stimulates appetite. It aids in the storage of calories as fat and reduces the rate at which energy is burned. 

When neuropeptide Y levels are higher than normal, you may notice increased food cravings and resulting weight gain.

Testosterone

You might be thinking, Isn’t testosterone a male hormone? Predominantly, yes. But it’s also produced in women’s ovaries — albeit a smaller amount. 

In women, testosterone is involved in the development and maintenance of lean muscle mass. It also influences how fat is distributed in the body. Low testosterone levels may lead to more fat sitting around the abdomen.

Prescribed online

Weight loss treatment that puts you first

The best ways to optimize female hormone levels for weight loss involve lifestyle changes, including eating a nutritious diet, exercising, finding ways to manage stress and getting enough sleep.

These strategies will not only support sustainable weight loss but also improve overall well-being. Here’s what you can try.

Get Active

Exercise helps support weight loss goals by burning calories, yes, but it’s also a key component of hormone management. How so? Regular physical activity triggers the release of endorphins and other hormones that reduce cortisol and overall stress.

Exercise also helps combat insulin resistance, which leads to better blood sugar regulation. What’s more, testosterone production increases when you’re active. This helps support the development and preservation of lean muscle mass while boosting fat metabolism and overall weight loss.

Your best bet for weight loss is combining a mix of cardiovascular exercises, like swimming, biking, running or group fitness classes, with resistance training and strength exercises. Resistance training has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar regulation.

In a study on elderly Korean women, 60 minutes of exercise multiple times a week resulted in benefits on hormonal status and physical function.

Make Healthy Food Choices

It’s no surprise that what you put in your body plays a significant role in your weight. Eating more nutrient-dense foods can help support normal hormone production, which could make it easier to lose weight.

Hormone-reset diets often follow a Mediterranean, vegetarian, dairy-free or otherwise plant-based diet pattern.

Choose minimally processed foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and lean proteins. These foods are naturally lower in calories than ultra-processed foods (think baked goods, packaged snacks and sodas). They also provide an array of nutrients like fiber, vitamins and minerals and regulate insulin levels.

Find Healthy Ways to Manage Stress

Modern living comes with an endless supply of reasons to be stressed out. This means it’s super important to figure out ways to combat stress so it doesn’t take a toll on your health — physically or mentally.

Chronic stress can contribute to hormonal imbalance and unintentional weight gain (as well as trouble losing weight).

Think about your stress triggers and what might help you overcome them. A few ideas include meditation, deep breathing, taking nature walks, listening to calming music, journaling and yoga.

Incorporating practices like these can help you avoid overeating or reaching for junk food when you’re stressed.

Catch Better Zs

Experts recommend adults get seven to nine hours of quality sleep every night. Not only does being fully rested help prevent crabbiness and trouble focusing, but it also supports hormonal balance.

Getting better sleep helps regulate the production of ghrelin and leptin, which are involved in appetite and satiety. When these hormones are out of whack, you’re more likely to overeat because your body’s hunger-fullness cues are askew. 

Talk to a Healthcare Provider

Weight management is a multifaceted and personal process. 

If you’re having trouble losing weight, your best bet might be talking to a healthcare provider. They can determine whether you’re experiencing hormone imbalances and, if necessary, help you figure out how to reset hormones for weight loss.

Whether it’s your primary care physician, a hormone specialist or a registered dietitian knowledgeable in female weight loss, a medical professional can tailor a plan to your specific needs.

This might involve conversations about hormone replacement therapy, intermittent fasting, supplements, weight loss medications or innovative ways to help balance hormones to lose weight.

Whether they’re being blamed for bloating and chocolate cravings during PMS or for the adult acne we thought we left behind at 17, hormones are constantly involved in many aspects of our daily lives.

Weight loss is often more than just calories in versus calories out. Balancing hormones for weight loss can be an easily overlooked factor of women’s health — but not for you!

Here’s the bottom line on female hormones and weight loss:

  • Many hormones are involved. Your hormones are always working, for better or worse, when it comes to your appetite, food cravings, metabolism and fat storage. Rather than trying to target one specific thing, a broader approach with multiple lifestyle changes might be best.

  • Strategies for hormonal balance are also strategies for weight loss. A healthy diet, better sleep, stress management and regular exercise target both weight loss and hormonal balance. This should provide some relief in the sense that you don’t have to do double the work to meet two separate goals.

  • Ask for professional help. Hormones are complex, and weight loss requires a personalized approach. A healthcare provider can help you figure out if you’re actually experiencing a hormone imbalance or if something else is going on. Additionally, a dietitian can help you create a plan forward.

Looking for more guidance on working toward a healthy weight? Start by taking our free weight loss assessment.

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Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Mike Bohl, MD

Dr. Mike Bohl is a licensed physician, a Medical Advisor at Hims & Hers, and the Director of Scientific & Medical Content at a stealth biotech startup, where he is involved in pharmaceutical drug development. Prior to joining Hims & Hers, Dr. Bohl spent several years working in digital health, focusing on patient education. He has also worked in medical journalism for The Dr. Oz Show (receiving recognition for contributions from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences when the show won Outstanding Informative Talk Show at the 2016–2017 Daytime Emmy® Awards) and at Sharecare. He is a Medical Expert Board Member at Eat This, Not That! and a Board Member at International Veterinary Outreach.

Dr. Bohl obtained his Bachelor of Arts and Doctor of Medicine from Brown University, his Master of Public Health from Columbia University, and his Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies—Journalism from Harvard University. He is currently pursuing a Master of Business Administration and Master of Science in Healthcare Leadership at Cornell University. Dr. Bohl trained in internal medicine with a focus on community health at NYU Langone Health.

Dr. Bohl is Certified in Public Health by the National Board of Public Health Examiners, Medical Writer Certified by the American Medical Writers Association, a certified Editor in the Life Sciences by the Board of Editors in the Life Sciences, a Certified Personal Trainer and Certified Nutrition Coach by the National Academy of Sports Medicine, and a Board Certified Medical Affairs Specialist by the Accreditation Council for Medical Affairs. He has graduate certificates in Digital Storytelling and Marketing Management & Digital Strategy from Harvard Extension School and certificates in Business Law and Corporate Governance from Cornell Law School.

In addition to his written work, Dr. Bohl has experience creating medical segments for radio and producing patient education videos. He has also spent time conducting orthopedic and biomaterial research at Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals of Cleveland and practicing clinically as a general practitioner on international medical aid projects with Medical Ministry International.

Dr. Bohl lives in Manhattan and enjoys biking, resistance training, sailing, scuba diving, skiing, tennis, and traveling. You can find Dr. Bohl on LinkedIn for more information.

Publications

  • Younesi, M., Knapik, D. M., Cumsky, J., Donmez, B. O., He, P., Islam, A., Learn, G., McClellan, P., Bohl, M., Gillespie, R. J., & Akkus, O. (2017). Effects of PDGF-BB delivery from heparinized collagen sutures on the healing of lacerated chicken flexor tendon in vivo. Acta biomaterialia, 63, 200–209. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1742706117305652?via%3Dihub

  • Gebhart, J. J., Weinberg, D. S., Bohl, M. S., & Liu, R. W. (2016). Relationship between pelvic incidence and osteoarthritis of the hip. Bone & joint research, 5(2), 66–72. https://boneandjoint.org.uk/Article/10.1302/2046-3758.52.2000552

  • Gebhart, J. J., Bohl, M. S., Weinberg, D. S., Cooperman, D. R., & Liu, R. W. (2015). Pelvic Incidence and Acetabular Version in Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis. Journal of pediatric orthopedics, 35(6), 565–570. https://journals.lww.com/pedorthopaedics/abstract/2015/09000/pelvic_incidence_and_acetabular_version_in_slipped.5.aspx

  • Islam, A., Bohl, M. S., Tsai, A. G., Younesi, M., Gillespie, R., & Akkus, O. (2015). Biomechanical evaluation of a novel suturing scheme for grafting load-bearing collagen scaffolds for rotator cuff repair. Clinical biomechanics (Bristol, Avon), 30(7), 669–675. https://www.clinbiomech.com/article/S0268-0033(15)00143-6/fulltext

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