belly fat

Weight Loss and Hormones

3 Hormones to Pay Attention to When Trying to Lose Weight

Can you relate to the lines below?

  • My nutrition coach put me through the ringer and I still can’t lose weight.
  • These last 10 pounds just won’t go away—Am I wasting my efforts?
  • I’m getting old and my metabolism is slowing down.
  • It’s my genes. There’s nothing I can do about it.
  • What supplements can I take for weight loss?
  • Since I gained all this weight, I am always tired, and I have no energy to exercise.

Here is the thing: It’s not that you didn’t exercise hard enough or diet long enough. There are many other reasons that you are struggling with weight. One of them may be your hormones.

You probably suspected that hormones have something to do with weight gain. Afterall, weight was never an issue when you were younger.  And you are absolutely right!

When the word hormone comes up, your are probably thinking of estrogen. Our hormone system is super complex with hundreds of hormones doing the balancing dance everyday.  Here are three common culprits for weight loss.

1. Insulin

Type 2 diabetes is characterized by decreased insulin sensitivity, where the cells in your body don’t respond to insulin and stop taking in sugar.  Your body’s way of dealing with the sugar is to store it as fat. Many people with insulin resistance go undetected because they are skinny fat (normal weight but you have too much fat mass especially around the organs, showing as abdominal fat).  With excess fat mass, your hormones and weight loss are off track.

What can you do? 

You probably already know to give up sugar and artificial sweeteners.  Yes, you read that right. Studies have shown that aspartame use is associated with weight gain and can increase sugar cravings. 

A quick way to reset insulin is through intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting can be achieved with relative ease, start by not eating for 12 hours (including sleep time), then work your way up to 14 hours.  As well, Intermittent fasting increases another hormone called adiponectin, which instructs the body to burn fat. Interestingly, one study showed that eating pistachios daily (20 percent of total energy, which is a fair bit) improved adiponectin.

In addition, a 2004 study found that consuming two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before a high-carb meal significantly reduces blood glucose levels in people with insulin resistance. Sounds simple enough to be worth a try?

2. Female Hormone Imbalance

Yes, you were right. Estrogen decline or being out of balance with progesterone may cause havoc in your body.  Estrogen along with other hormones, influences how your body responds to food intake, and how you eat (hangry?).

Many women experience estrogen dominance, which means having too much estrogen in the body relative to progesterone.  Even in menopause, the adrenal glands and ovaries continue to produce some estrogen, although in much lower amounts.  But if your progesterone is really low compared to estrogen level, you have estrogen dominance. One of the symptoms of this imbalance is abdominal weight gain.

What can you do?

If you have estrogen dominance, consider using food to increase metabolism and excretion of estrogen. To lower your estrogen levels, eat lots of green leafy cruciferous vegetables. These vegetables contain phytochemicals that will increase phase one and phase two detoxification in the liver. 

Once estrogen is metabolized, it has to leave the body. Fiber from the vegetables helps to excrete metabolized estrogen so it doesn’t keep recycling in your body adding to the load.

Eating meat is perfectly acceptable but be mindful of the source. Some farms use antibiotics and hormones to stimulate animal growth. Those hormone will find their way into your body causing more problems with your hormones. If you can, go with grass fed organic meat. And remember, there are other sources of meat protein such as fish.

3. Cortisol

Cortisol is a stress hormone. But many of us run around stressed most of the time. For many busy professional women, this is easily the root cause of weight gain. This is especially true if you are in a profession where you feel you have lack of control (for example, a busy community pharmacist?).

Most of us know that too much cortisol is not good for you, but knowledge is useless information unless you put into practice. Bathing your poor body in all those stress hormones makes you store fat—especially in your abdomen as visceral fat…this is the deadliest type of fat. Remember I said I had a fat abdomen? You may want to check out what happened to me in my story.  Acccording to Dr. Mark Hyman, high cortisol is also linked to food addiction and sugar cravings . It causes you to overeat the wrong foods like cookies and processed foods. All this result in weight gain.

What can you do?

Learn destressing techniques and prioritize your life. Practicing yoga, breathing, and meditation is not woo woo.  Many studies have shown these activities slows down your nervous system to counter stress.  If you are already super stressed, hard core exercises may not be the best idea right now. Don’t try to run a marathon because that will add to the stress. Your body doesn’t know the difference between mental and physical stress. It’s all just stress! Wait until you have soothed your cortisol first, then training for a marathon will be more enjoyable.

If you are a fan of coffee and drink a gallon a day, try cutting it back to two cups in the morning only. Caffein can increase your cortisol level!

Find Someone to Help You!

Losing weight during perimenopausal time can be frustrating.  The list above shows many factors are involved in weight loss. Be patient with yourself.  It’s about self care and finding ways to take care of you.  

Work with someone who understands the various factors of weight gain, and who can help you address them as they arise.

When you feel energetic and full of vitality, you function better in every aspect of your life. You will no longer feel cranky, bloated, and high strung. Rather, you now have energy and clarity of mind to focus on your purpose, and live life successfully.

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