Women’s health conditions that affect weight loss

Hello Alpha Team
Hello Alpha
Published in
5 min readJan 25


Why weight loss journeys aren’t a one-size-fits-all

We’ve all heard the conventional “one size fits all” approach to weight loss: simply eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly. While this is generally correct, weight loss is fraught with judgment and the pitfalls of diet culture. Many of us — especially women and people assigned female at birth — deal with shame and stigma that make weight loss challenging. When our complex, unique bodies don’t respond to “just diet and exercise,” well-meaning friends and family may ask if we’re “really trying.” In reality, these broad platitudes don’t come close to addressing the way unique biology and health conditions affect weight loss.

Emerging research is investigating the links between hormones, metabolism, and weight, especially in women. For women and people assigned female at birth, hormonal fluctuations and specific health conditions affect weight loss, metabolism, and even where excess fat distributes on the body. In this post, we’ll cover a few of the most common women’s health conditions that affect weight loss. We hope this serves as a reminder that your health always comes first. If you’re struggling to lose weight, support is available. Please remember: this blog post isn’t medical advice. It’s intended for informational purposes only.

PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome)

PCOS is a complex health condition that primarily affects hormonal and metabolic health. Women often present with entirely different symptoms. Adding to the complexity is that PCOS symptoms are likely to fluctuate throughout a woman’s life. One study found that one-third of women diagnosed with PCOS saw at least three health professionals over the course of two years before receiving a diagnosis. The delay in diagnosis (and therefore proper care) for PCOS is due to the wide range of symptoms and lack of evidence-based research into this condition. Many women also report receiving inadequate information about PCOS. What’s especially shocking is how common PCOS is — one study estimates that PCOS affects one in ten women of reproductive age.

PCOS may make some women gain weight more easily, although the exact relationship between PCOS and weight gain has yet to be understood. Many women (approximately 30–40%) with PCOS also have insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is when the body cannot use the sugar from food as energy. The sugar remains in the bloodstream, which causes the body to produce more insulin. This hormonal imbalance can create a challenging cycle of increased hunger and cravings that lead to weight gain. People with PCOS deserve an appropriate nutrition plan and treatment under the care of a medical provider to help them manage symptoms and maintain a healthy weight.

Mental Health

Women after menarche (the first period of their lives) are twice as likely to have depression compared to men. We don’t know why, but it’s likely the result of both physiological and sociocultural factors. We included mental health in this post because it deserves as much attention as physical conditions do. There’s an undeniable link between mental health and physical health when it comes to our overall well being.

Living with clinical depression can affect physical health in both visible and invisible ways. Having a hard time sleeping, increased sensitivity to pain, fatigue, and unexplained headaches are the more obvious physical symptoms. The unseen physical symptoms can still be felt, too. Depression’s effect on stress hormones may cause insulin resistance, changes in appetite, and intense cravings for sweets. These physical tolls can become challenges for a successful, healthy weight loss journey.

The psychological symptoms of depression include persistent sadness and feelings of apathy. People with depression may experience low self worth and more negative self-talk. Starting a weight loss journey with untreated depression can lead to worse symptoms, especially if the program ties self esteem to progress in losing weight. If you have or think you have depression or any mental health condition, connect with a medical provider for the right resources for your whole wellbeing.

Perimenopause and Menopause

Research is still underway to understand the link between weight gain and estrogen levels. One study found that women gain an average of 5 pounds after menopause, and new research suggests that weight distribution can also change. In the years leading up to and after menopause, women’s bodies start to store more fat in the abdominal area due to hormonal changes. Low estrogen levels can also affect other hormones that influence appetite, sleep, and stress, which can also affect weight loss.

So far, there isn’t evidence that a specific diet or exercise routine can target abdominal fat associated with menopause. However, staying physically active and eating nutrient-rich vegetables and protein still have powerful benefits for your overall health. When it comes to weight loss at this life stage, it’s crucial to maintain balance and work with a medical provider who understands menopause.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are serious, yet treatable, mental and physical conditions. There’s a higher prevalence of eating disorders in women. Approximately ⅓ of women with a BMI > 30 (with obesity) have binge eating disorder.

The exact cause for eating disorders is unknown. Many healthcare providers, experts, and researchers believe eating disorders result from complex biological, psychological, and social factors.

Anyone recovering from an eating disorder should seek appropriate, professional care before starting any diet or exercise programs. It’s essential to maintain recovery. Alpha providers can diagnose and treat patients with binge eating disorder. Reach out to the National Eating Disorders Helpline to access resources for support for anorexia and bulimia.

These health conditions are just a few of the unique ways our bodies respond to stress, hormonal imbalances, and change. Even if you don’t have a particular health condition listed above, we hope this post highlights all the complex factors involved in weight loss, especially for women. Moreover, it’s a reminder that women’s health is understudied, which makes advocating for your health important.

If you’re interested in being screened for any health conditions that may affect your weight loss goals or want to learn about prescription weight loss medication, you can start a visit with Hello Alpha at any time. Our dedicated providers are all specially trained in women’s health so that you can get holistic, personalized care throughout your healthcare journey with us.



Hello Alpha Team
Hello Alpha

Your doctor’s office is now online. From primary care to mental health, get treated from home: helloalpha.com