Hormonal Weight Gain | Why Emotions Sabotage Weight Loss

Hormonal Weight Gain

Self-Love, Slimness and Hormonal Weight Gain...

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Are self-loving people slimmer?

Does self-loathing drive weight gain or weight gain drive self-loathing?

These questions were prompted by a magazine article that caught my attention in, of all places, the supermarket checkout line.

The article’s title:

Love + Kindness = Thinner Thighs

It was the April issue of O, the Oprah Magazine in 2013.


Am I not  kind enough?

Love myself to slimness?

Is that what I’m doing wrong? Not loving myself enough??

Hormonal Weight Gain – How LOVE Conquers Weight Gain - Episode 14

“Love yourself”, Deepak Chopra and other alternative healers counsel.

It’s all so confusing and, dare I day, a bit demeaning?

Does Oprah not love herself enough?

She exudes love and kindness. Why have her thighs been a source of struggle for her over so many years? If love + kindness = thinner thighs is true, her thighs should be the slimmest thighs in the country!

Are skinny people kinder than I am?


And how are our daughters impacted by these messages?

What the what?!

I can clearly recall being confounded (and outraged!) by all the mixed messages. Nutritional. Emotional. Spiritual. Even ethical! The subtle insinuation that your ‘weight problem”  was brought on by your not being ‘enough”. 

  • Not eating nutrient dense enough. 
  • Not eating mindfully enough. 
  • Not eating gratefully enough. 
  • Not eating organic, sustainably and cruelty-free enough. 

Do you use a knife more than a fork? That might be your problem.

Here’s the cray.

Magazines, doctors, dietitians, sports experts, yoga instructors, holistic healers, fitness trainers, celebrity health leaders…… inundate our minds with opinions, bias, and beliefs.

“If we believe it’s good for us, it is!”

“I just want to believe that if I cut out processed foods I’ll lose weight.”

“I believe if my eating doesn’t hurt any living thing, my body will be the right weight for me.”


I was that person. The uninformed believer.

It’s not what we don’t know that’s gets us in trouble, it’s what we know that ain’t so.”

Food, and ideas on food, has thoroughly infiltrated society. 

  • Food is entertainment. 
  • Food is culture. 
  • Food is identity. (I am a Foodie. I am a vegetarian. I am a raw vegan.) 
  • Food is tribe. (Paleo Tribe. Mediterranean Tribe.  Keto Tribe. Lean Protein Tribe. Real, Local, Whole Tribe.) 
  • Food is fanfare. 
  • Food is worship. 
  • Food is super. 
  • Food is medicine.

So much power is heaped onto food that phobias have developed as we’re chided to strive for the perfect diet. (And at the same time reminded not to over think it.)  

Our food choices even reflecting our value as a human being. We aim to hit that zenith of nutrient-dense food combinations as we push and carry our health and worthiness into our supermarket cart or our CSA box. Surely, eating locally, seasonally, sustainably, lovingly, and sticking to the perimeter of the supermarket will lead us out of health chaos? 

When I was there….and boy was I there…..that was the time when I was drowning in chaos. All the effort, attention, money and time devoted to food had me throwing my hands in the air and turning to the self-love article in the magazine.  

But my mind was questioning, “Wasn’t my near-heroic food choosing a form of love and kindness? After all, I was loving myself and my family by choosing the highest quality food AND I was being kind to the earth while supporting local farms.” How much more love and kindness need be exerted to yield the promised thinner thighs?!

Full disclosure: I am a 57 year old mom of three children who are grown and flown now. I have, by today’s standards, slim thighs. I encounter many other women my age daily whose thighs are not a slim as they’d like them to be. I am not any more loving or kind than they are. I am not any more mindful or grateful than they are. I am not any nicer either. 

But I am, more informed. 

No, not intellectually more informed. Metabolically.  I know a piece of science that they most likely don’t. THAT is the only difference. That piece of science?


Insulin is our body’s fat storage hormone.

It stands to reason that a person who knows all about the body’s fat storage and fat lockdown hormone has much better odds of slimmer thighs than someone who doesn’t. Do you agree?

I also know how to manipulate or influence my body’s insulin production insulin so that I can release my body fat. 

Release body fat? 

Yes. Release. 

When insulin is stimulated, like cortisol is stimulated by stress, the fat stores on my body are locked. My body fat is unaccessible. In order to lose body fat a body must USE its body fat.

THAT’s how weight loss happens. 

Anyone struggling to lose weight, more than likely, has insulin sabotaging their efforts.

We can treadmill and run and cross train butt-kick the heck out it but still not resolve our weight woe. That’s because, thanks to insulin, we are trapped in what I call the sugar-burner-cycle-of-insanity. We burn through sugar and oftentimes proceed to burn through protein stolen from our muscles when the glucose and glycogen run out.

But what about burning through body fat??

We will succumb to an energy crash before our body can access its fat stores sufficiently enough to meet fueling needs. And it’s all due to insulin. Exercising for weight loss in an elevated state of insulin is FUTILE.

Insulin up?  Body fat stuck.

Insulin low? Body fat GO!

Back to the supermarket.

Food is the single greatest insulin stimulator. 

Some foods stimulate insulin a lot. While others, very, very little. We eat the foods that stimulate insulin the least and body fat burning happens. Halleluhia. 

Interesting thing is, many of the foods we’re told we have to eat every day, foods like whole grains and fruit, these are some of the greatest insulin stimulators. How many of us are in our current ‘slimmer thighs’ struggles simply because we’ve been following the rules?

The connect-the-dots is quite straight forward.

Insulin responds to elevated blood sugar which elevates according to the kinds of foods we eat. 

Fat doesn’t elevate blood sugar. 

That’s a big “Does Not”.  Fat does not elevate blood sugar. 

Protein elevates blood sugar a bit. The more protein the more blood sugar. But not all of the protein we eat becomes blood sugar. Just about 50% of it. 

Now for the big reveal. The big secret. The big truth. 

Carbohydrate elevates blood sugar the most. (Visit our Good Carbs For Weight Loss and Blood Sugar Control.)  In fact, every gram of every carbohydrate actually becomes or IS blood sugar. So, when you see someone passing on the bread basket or opting out on the rice, they know what they’re doing. They are managing not just their blood sugar, whether they realize it or not, they are managing insulin. Skipping on the big carbohydrates significantly lessens insulin. And less insulin means more body fat burning.

So, back to the ‘Love + Kindness = Thinner Thighs’.

What’s love got to do with it?

Now that insulin’s role in body weight is clarified, here is how the ‘love and kindness formula’ actually applies. Love and kindness influence insulin.

That’s right.

How we feel, emotionally, can indirectly elevate insulin. So, emotions can wreak havoc on our ability to lose wight, to shed some pounds, to lighten our load.

Another name for this is, hormonal weight gain.

Whenever we experience an emotional response to stress we trigger our built-in ‘fight or flight’ mechanism. That natural, biological response involves the hormone, cortisol. Cortisol is released to set in motion internal assistance for handling the stress. 

Hormones are catalysts. They put plays and pathways in motion. And in this case, the hormone cortisol signals another hormone, glucagon, which signals the liver to release some of its stored glucose (sugar) into the bloodstream. 

Anyone paying attention to their blood sugar, (anyone grappling with diabetes, cancer, depression, dementia etc….) knows food isn’t the only blood sugar generator. It’s feelings, too!

Yes, hormonal weight gain happens. And food has nothing to do with it.

 Why would the body add sugar into our bloodstream when we’re feeling scared, sad, angry, or overwhelmed?  That flood of glucose delivers quick-acting fuel to be used for energy to meet the demands of the stress. Regardless of the emotion, if our response falls in the category of feeling threatened, in any way, blood sugar and insulin will rise. Every time.

If we are operating in an emotional current of love and kindness we aren’t in a state of upheaval. We are not in a state of ‘fight or flight”. We are not fighting anyone or anything. And we are not fleeing from anyone or anything. Not feeling threatened, cortisol is not released. There is no urgency for the liver to deposit glucose fuel into the bloodstream. Insulin is not called into action. When insulin is low, body fat burning is a Go.

Therefore, love + kindness = thinner thighs actually rings true.

Back in 2013, as I stood deep in food overwhelm, I had no idea how love could influence health. I could accept it on a spiritual level but my skeptic wanted science facts. The article never really explained it. It talked about Self-acceptance, Love, Value, and Esteem. It did include one sentence mentioning stress eating and fat-storing stress hormones. 

Like most eating directives today the message was vague with wide-sweeping generalizations. The “SALVE helps you lose weight” wasn’t enough for me. It’s one thing to guess, hope, and believe. It’s a whole other thing to actually know.

Once you know insulin……you know.

And if you want to know more about how stress, cortisol and hormonal weight gain happens, join me for a free training: “How To Keep STRESS From Flattening Your Weight Loss Efforts”
Register here.

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