Struggling with weight loss is about as fun as oral surgery and as tricky as walking a tightrope. Let’s face it, it’s not as easy as “eating less and working out more”. That is basically saying, “you need to have more self-control”. Besides being humiliating, that is simply not true. If that were the case, you would be thin and it would not matter what kind of food is consumed. We all know that not all calories are created equal. The grams of fat in a bag of chips are starkly different that the fat in walnuts or an avocado. The notion of “calorie-in/calorie-out is one of the greatest misconceptions and has been widely disproven. Calories do matter; however, hormones matter even more.
Ninety-nine percent of weight loss resistance has been tied back to hormonal disruption and imbalance. Some of the hormones at play in weight loss challenges are excess cortisol, the thyroid hormones, insulin and/or leptin blockage as well as estrogen dominance and low testosterone. Problems with the HPA (hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal) system, the “boss of all the hormones”, also contribute to inability to lose weight. When the system or hormone is out of whack, they all get out of balance because these hormones influence one another. And because most diets do not address the root of hormone dysregulation, weight loss either does not occur or is difficult and temporary at best.
Cortisol is produced in response to stress and is responsible for the “muffin top” or excess fat around the midsection. Since most of us walk around stressed most of the time, it is very likely we have high cortisol levels which keeps us fat. Chronic high cortisol levels deplete serotonin, the “happy brain” chemical, which contributes to depression. People who are stressed do not sleep well and lack of restorative sleep which contributes to fat storage, irritability and cravings for sugar. Excess estrogen and xenoestrogens (chemicals in our environments that our bodies mistake as estrogen) are not properly eliminated in the bowel or the gut. When we hold on to too much estrogen it affects insulin and insulin resistance and promotes weight gain. For example, the chemical BPA (Bisphenol A) is a xenoestrogen which disrupts the production, transportation and metabolism of most hormones in the body.
The thyroid controls metabolism. So, yo-yo dieting as well as diets extremely low in carbohydrates cause the thyroid gland to slow down which in turn slows down metabolism causing weight gain, fluid retention, hair loss, depression, constipation as well as other problems. Leptin is nature’s appetite suppressant. It tells us we are full so that we stop eating. Fat cells produce excess leptin and when the brain gets overloaded with leptin signals from too many fat cells, it shuts down and the body doesn’t get the leptin signal. You keep eating (likely all the wrong foods) and not feel full, contributing to weight gain. How do we address the hormones for successful weight loss?
There needs to be a change in the way you eat, move and supplement. Remove processed foods, refined carbohydrates, sugar and sugar substitutes and replace with nutrient-dense foods. Remove alcohol from your diet. “Alcohol” you say? Yes. Even a single serving can reduce a woman’s metabolism by 70%; while temporary it can add up over time. Keep movement a part of your regular routine. Do things you loved to do as a kid, like ride a bike, jump rope, skate or dance. Adapt your movement if you have high cortisol or thyroid problems to do Pilates, yoga walk, hike or barre. Remember resistance training. Lift weights to strengthen bones and build fat-burning muscle.
Aim for 7 to 8.5 hours of sleep at night which helps keep cortisol levels in check. Get on the right supplements to fill any nutrient deficiencies and adding bioidentical hormones to get hormone levels back to the “sweet spot” where weight loss becomes easier. A shift in thoughts and beliefs is necessary too. Recognizing that your worth is not tied to the bathroom scale and you cannot hate your body into being healthy. In fact, those thoughts contribute even further to weight loss resistance. Realize that in many cases, weight loss takes time.
Be patient and kind to your body. Continue taking small steps daily to improve your overall health and mental wellbeing and the weight will follow.