Can’t Lose or Gain Weight? It May Be Related to Hormones

The common link between nutrition, exercise, and body composition

By Michael Ormsbee, PhDFlorida State University
Edited by Kate Findley and proofread by Angela Shoemaker, The Great Courses Daily

Do you feel like no matter what you try, you can’t seem to shake off those pounds (or gain weight)? Or that you’re constantly tired? Professor Ormsbee explains what the issue may be.

Woman measuring her waist
While the hormones of the endocrine system keep your body’s internal environment stable, any hormones that are out of balance can affect many processes, including weight gain. Photo By Prostock-studio / Shutterstock

What Do Hormones Do?

When hormones are working properly, life seems to move along as it should. However, if there are any kinks in the hormonal system, chaos could closely follow—anything from overeating or under eating, to storing fat to poor sleep patterns, or even the inability to feel alert. 

Hormones control your body and its actions. It all starts in your brain with the hypothalamus and pituitary glands. These glands are constantly sending out and receiving signals that will adjust the type and number of hormones that organs like your pancreas, kidneys, adrenal glands, and thyroid will produce.

Hormones are what keep your body’s internal environment stable—what we call homeostasis. For example, if your blood pressure rises, certain hormones send a signal to your brain that will cause a relaxation of your blood vessels and help bring your blood pressure back to normal.

Many times the same thing happens if you have dramatic changes in your body weight—your body resists these changes in order to keep your internal system steady and to maintain the body’s homeostasis.

Your Internal Thermostat

You can think about the endocrine system as the thermostat of your body. If your house gets too hot or too cold, the thermostat kicks on and controls the temperature. 

It’s the same way with your body, the endocrine system, and your regulatory hormones. The role of your endocrine system is huge. 

Have you ever heard people make statements such as, “My thyroid levels are low that’s why I’ve gained so much weight.” Is it true?

Are hormones really to blame for all of your perceived body composition issues? In order to answer those questions, let’s rewind.

Think about all of the other things your body does for you on a daily basis. Without you even thinking about it, blood continues to pump through your veins and oxygen flows through your lungs, immune cells help to fight off infection, and the kidneys filter out harmful substances from circulation. 

What is the common link between your nutrition, exercise, normal physiological processes, and body composition? The answer is that these processes could not occur without the help of hormones or chemical messengers that act on specific target organs and tissues to help cause cellular responses. These responses are essential for activating the processes which help you gain muscle and lose fat.

The hormones that initiate these cellular processes are complex. They play a critical role in the regulation of metabolism and the maintenance of body composition.

While physique and overall health are strongly influenced by controllable factors, like your diet and physical activity level, you might not have control over weight gain or weight loss due to the related activity of the influencing hormones. Tomorrow’s article will focus on insulin.

Dr. Ormsbee is an Associate Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food, and Exercise Sciences and Interim Director of the Institute of Sports Sciences and Medicine in the College of Human Sciences at Florida State University.

Michael Ormsbee is an Associate Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food, and Exercise Sciences and Interim Director of the Institute of Sports Sciences and Medicine in the College of Human Sciences at Florida State University. He received his MS in Exercise Physiology from South Dakota State University and his PhD in Bioenergetics from East Carolina University.

This article was edited by Kate Findley, Writer for The Great Courses Daily, and proofread by Angela Shoemaker, Proofreader and Copy Editor for The Great Courses Daily.
About Kate Findley 401 Articles
Kate is a writer, novelist, and blogger living in Los Angeles. She has been writing for The Great Courses since 2017. It incorporates her two favorite things: writing and learning.