How (Female) Hormones Affect Your Weight

hormones and weight

Ladies, this article is for you! Men, share this article with important women in your life…they will thank you.

As you may know, I’m now working as a Personal Trainer (in Ottawa and online) and have many female clients who are in their 40s. I’ve been hearing a lot of similar comments, such as “I can’t seem to lose the weight around my waist/belly”, “I’m doing a lot of cardio, but my clothes are getting tighter”, or “I’m eating the same as before, but have put on some pounds”.

They are frustrated to say the least! These women are making an effort to stay in shape, but feel what they are doing isn’t effective anymore.

Today I’m going to share with you what’s going on in your body and how you can make this better.

Estrogen and Progesterone

Obviously you’ve heard of these hormones, but you probably aren’t aware of how they affect the female body.

Estrogen is largely responsible for more fat storage around the hips and thighs while both estrogen and progesterone impact larger breasts.

The balance between estrogen and progesterone levels impacts fat loss in women.

Jade Teda explains it well:

“Progesterone and estrogen both play a role in keeping the waist of women smaller. This is because estrogen works against the action of insulin while both estrogen and progesterone oppose the action of cortisol.  Insulin and cortisol together are implicated in belly fat deposition. Estrogen is the biggest factor in increasing fat storage at the hips and thighs providing the hour-glass shape. Progesterone with estrogen halts the storage of fat around the waist, but stress can have more of a negative impact on progesterone’s action. High stress has been shown to negatively impact progesterone, so a women who sees fat accumulating around the waist may want to work to reduce stress and raise progesterone.

“Estrogen works to increase fat storage by up-regulating what is known as alpha-adrenergic receptors in female fat depots around the hips and thighs. Beta-adrenergic receptors increase fat burning while alpha adrenergic receptors block it.”

Hormonal Changes with Age

As women age, the ovaries decrease production of estrogen and progesterone. This alters the estrogen and progesterone balance, moving the body towards greater estrogen dominance. To make matters more complicated (aka worse), slimming and muscle building hormones, like human growth hormone (HGH) and DHEA, decline.

(Here’s where we see the mid-section weight gain happen).


Of course, eating properly should always be something you are striving for. This includes eating higher amounts of vegetables and “estrogen free protein” (choose soy free and organic meat when possible).

What about smarter exercise? You should be choosing weight training over cardio.

Really?! Yes, really.

There are only three ways to reliably restore HGH in the body: sleep, adequate protein, and intense exercise using weights.

lifting weights for fat loss

Photo Credit: Christine Albee

Now, before you discount weight lifting, I PROMISE you that you won’t bulk up or start looking like a bodybuilder. It is actually very difficult for women to build serious muscle like that, so you have nothing to worry about.

You should train with weights at least 3 times a week. If you aren’t sure what to do, talk to a personal trainer (ahem…). They will be able to either create a program for you or train with you one-on-one. Training with weights can be really fun, but you want to know proper form so that you don’t injure yourself.

For a more in-depth look at this issue, check out this awesome article: Females Hormones and Weight Loss. (Thanks to Heather for sharing it with me).

So ladies… who is already lifting weights? Who needs to start? If you have any questions or need help, let me know!!

lydia di francesco personal training

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Lydia Di Francesco is the Founder of Fit & Healthy 365 and Creator of the 15 Minute Workout Club, an online workout membership site. As a Certified Personal Trainer, Lydia educates clients and the public that healthy living doesn’t need to be complicated. She promotes simple, fun, exercise, self-care, and creating a healthy mindset with a long-term approach to wellness.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.