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Optimizing hormones for weight loss?
July 7, 2014 6:33 PM   Subscribe

How can you, naturally or otherwise, optimize female hormones to help regain the metabolism and hormonal profile of someone in their teens or 20s? (And is this even possible or desirable?)

Many people would agree that it gets harder to lose weight after you have a baby, or even after you leave your 20s.

Nowadays, even exercising for more than an hour a day and eating well, I struggle to not gain 5 lbs., let alone to lose a single pound. This was not the case when I was younger.
posted by mintchip to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
Cut out sugar (and possibly grains) from your diet or stick to low glycemic-index foods, and regularly get enough sleep. If you aren't already, start strength training 1-2x a week to tone your muscles.

I doubt that would give you a 20 year-old metabolic/hormonal state, but doing this will nonetheless make a difference in your overall well being.
posted by gemutlichkeit at 6:47 PM on July 7 [5 favorites]


Keto diet (low carb, high fat, moderate protein intake). It's done amazing things for helping me get over my weight-loss stall, though I certainly wouldn't say it's given me the hormone profile of my teens or 20s, which is a GOOD thing as I had wonky periods and awful cramps and fierce mood swings back then.
posted by joan_holloway at 6:52 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


I'm in my late forties and maintain my weight as mentioned above with higher protein and lower carbs in my diet. I fill up on veggies, limit my starchy foods and track my eating to make sure I'm on track with my eating. I lift heavy things twice a week and run 5-7 hours per week.

I, too, am way more on top of any hormone fluctuations than I was in my twenties.
posted by TORunner at 7:04 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


Well, the first thing I would suggest is to get yourself tested so you can tell what your hormone levels are. If you want to try to recreate the progesterone & estrogen levels of a healthy young woman you need to know where and when your current hormone levels differ.

Most hormone pills are several molecule bends different from the natural estrogen and progesterone that you produce. One of the common birth control bills used to contain a slightly bent version of an artificially produced male hormone which was close enough to a female hormone to work. It may not be at all easy to get the actual hormones. I believe you can buy progestin creams over the counter in the states but you will probably need to get prescriptions. It's quite easy to mess yourself up taking hormones. An overdose, for example can cause vomiting like someone with a bad period.

I'd honestly be inclined to suggest that female hormones are not the source of the fountain of youth. Men age without their female hormone levels going down. As they get older their level of female hormones tends to go up. At one point the medical establishment thought that taking female hormones through and after menopause might provide protection for the health but now they believe that it simply increases your chance of getting cancer.

It's actually not at all hard to lose weight after you have a baby. If your nurse that baby, round the clock until it is two years old you will more likely have trouble maintaining your weight. It's having a baby and not nursing that results in the weight gain. Your body is primed to be burning through an extra thousand calories a day producing milk. If you do nurse heavily your hormones are usually heavy on the prolactin and quite different from a non-pregnant, not-nursing woman.

One thing to be aware of is that when you go through menopause the body transitions from keeping hormonal stasis from hormones produced by the ovaries to also relying on female hormones produced in your adipose tissue. This is why really skinny women are more likely to have severe monepause symptoms, while their hormones yo-yo up and down. You want at least ten pounds of body fat to keep your menopausal hormone levels stable. (You can easily be a healthy weight and have fifteen pounds of fat wells distributed over your body.) In other words fat actually produces female hormones. Post menopause the fatter you are the more female hormones you will have available. Also, in order to become fertile a girl has to have a certain percentage of body weight be fat. Until she manages to gain that fat she just isn't fertile and just doesn't produce the hormones. This is why in the past girls used to get their periods so much later than they do now. We have nine-year-olds getting their periods for the first time. They used to have twenty-year-olds. My point here is that there is that you may be looking for a link between female hormones and losing fat when the link may work in the exact opposite direction, more female hormones may result in more fat.

I would guess that a slowing metabolism has more to do with your current weight gain than your hormones do. They could be keeping pretty steady, depending on your age. Usually people say that a lower resting pulse means a healthier heart, but the younger you are the faster your pulse and the faster your metabolism. I don't know of any regime that would train your cardio so that your resting pulse got faster and yet that is what you want. You want to be burning calories at the rate you used to.

My take away on this is that there will be no easy solution. Increasing the amount of soy you eat will not increase your estrogen so that in now becomes easy to lose weight. Taking hormones could easily make you fatter. Suppressing hormones could easily make you fatter. If they knew, the answer would be standard medical or health advice.
posted by Jane the Brown at 7:32 PM on July 7 [5 favorites]


Most hormone pills are several molecule bends different from the natural estrogen and progesterone that you produce... It may not be at all easy to get the actual hormones.

Apparently back in the Bad Old Days it wasn't possible to get bioidentical hormones. ("Bioidentical" just means "the same as the natural hormone that your own body produces.") But that's changed: you can now get synthetic bioidentical estrogens and synthetic bioidentical progesterone. Both are prescription-only but pretty cheap.

As far as I know, research is still ongoing on whether bioidentical hormones are better for you, but my understanding is that there's at least a bit of evidence that they are, and that doctors are starting to prefer them to non-bioidentical ones.

For whatever that's worth.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:47 PM on July 7


eating well

Can you define this? Are you tracking your calories? Eating fruits and veggies and whole grains is great and healthy but not conducive to weight loss unless you're eating the right amount.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 8:10 PM on July 7


Eat fewer carbs (start by cutting the more useless ones) and get more sleep.
posted by michaelh at 8:27 PM on July 7


You'll get a lot of information about this sort of thing over at the Keto Subreddit.
posted by the jam at 9:13 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


Maybe I'm starting too obvious here, but have you talked to your doctor? There are a lot of things that can contribute to weight gain in women--PCOS and malfunctioning thyroids are two that have shown up several times in my group of friends.

It's having a baby and not nursing that results in the weight gain.

Please don't go in assuming that this is true. For many people it is, and for some people, it's just...not. I nursed my daughter until she was three, and while I didn't gain weight, I didn't lose any, either.

Finally, I can't help but notice that a lot of your questions for the past three years have been about being fit or losing weight, despite mentioning in several of those questions that you're healthy and normal weight. It seems like you might be in a not great (or not super realistic?) headspace regarding your body and the normal ways that bodies change as we age--talking to your doctor (or therapist, or whomever) about that might be something to consider.
posted by MeghanC at 10:12 PM on July 7 [6 favorites]


Nthing low carb. I'm losing weight by eating a low-carb, moderate-fat, high-protein diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits, chicken and seafood. In talking to other post-menopausal women, it seems that low-carb is the key to weight loss. Many of us develop insulin resistance after menopause, and cutting out refined carbs and cutting back on even "good" carbs will help keep this under control.

It's also very important for post-menopausal women to strength train. Lift weights! Both men and women lose muscle as they age, and keeping up your strength means maintaining your independence when you get older. Strength training also helps boost your metabolism.

One thing I've noticed: losing weight has made my hot flashes return. They're not severe, but I've noticed them. Body fat, especially belly fat, produces estrogen, so when that goes the hot flashes come back. (They are temporary, though!)

You may not weigh the same as you did when you were in your 20's, but that's OK; the idea is to be at a healthy weight for you, and, most importantly, to have a healthy, strong body. You can be overweight and healthy, or skinny and unhealthy.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 9:54 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]


I'm in my mid-forties, and I lost weight by logging everything I eat & drink accurately & honestly in MyFitnessPal. Forget about your metabolism and/or hormonal profile. Learn appropriate serving sizes and be mindful of calories in vs. calories out.
posted by editorgrrl at 2:48 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


If you are already eating healthy and excercising, try sleeping and reducing stress.

I know telling a stressed person to reduce stress is like... not useful sounding, but it really is important to advocate for yourself and your health and arrange a less stress full life in all possible ways (getting more sleep helps). I'm 29 and after a stressful week look like baked shit campared to my baseline ok-but-a-little-tired-in-the-am look
posted by WeekendJen at 3:13 PM on July 8


Thank you for your thoughts, everyone!

"Finally, I can't help but notice that a lot of your questions for the past three years have been about being fit or losing weight, despite mentioning in several of those questions that you're healthy and normal weight."

MeghanC:
I see what you mean and thank you for your concern...but my situation is that I have put on about 25 pounds even considering that I eat healthier than 95% of the population and work out like crazy (and I do mean crazy), it seems abnormal to have my weight creep up pound after pound for NO reason (that I can identify) when I'm doing everything "right." I eat a reduced carb diet, all natural, no red meat, tons of veggies, etc . So hence my concern.

Others in the same boat might develop a bit of an obsession with weight loss/gain too!

Unfortunately, for some extremely petite/short women such as myself, this is just the name of the game unless I want to wave the white flag and move straight into the "overweight" category--and I do mean medically defined overweight.

Sadly, it seems for many of us it takes near heroic efforts to be "not fat" let alone to return to our youthful svelte figures! But I keep hoping that I can find the solution for why we gain weight as we get older (hormones? metabolism? birth control?) and finally turn that key, because it's simply BORING to remain obsessed with my weight.

But in the meantime, until I can figure out how to control my weight and keep it in the healthy zone, it's rather hard not to be, you know?...
posted by mintchip at 10:27 PM on July 8


I have put on about 25 pounds even considering that I eat healthier than 95% of the population and work out like crazy (and I do mean crazy), it seems abnormal to have my weight creep up pound after pound for NO reason (that I can identify) when I'm doing everything "right."

Unfortunately, for some extremely petite/short women such as myself, this is just the name of the game unless I want to wave the white flag and move straight into the "overweight" category--and I do mean medically defined overweight.
If you're gaining weight, then you're underestimating your food &/or overestimating your burns.

I'm 5'2", 46, and have Hashimoto's (autoimmune thyroid disease). I thought I was gaining "for no good reason," but logging everything I eat & drink accurately & honestly quickly showed me I was eating too much. Logging works.
posted by editorgrrl at 2:22 PM on July 9


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