Weight is never an easy thing to talk about. For people who’ve struggled with failed diets it can be stressful, or even demoralizing to step on the scale. Our patients often express their frustrations with us – how they are struggling to lose weight or stubborn belly fat in spite of their best efforts to learn about natural medicine, eat the right foods and exercise more.
One basic, but often-overlooked reason for weight-loss resistance, especially for people over age 35, involves hormonal imbalances. The tricky part about fighting against a hormonal issue is that the imbalance may be cyclical, making it even harder for both men and women to slim down a hormonal belly.
If that’s the case for you, it’s not fair to continually work at your weight loss efforts when your hormone cycles are making it harder, or even impossible for you to achieve an optimal body composition.
In this week’s post, I’ll share what the most common imbalances are, and how they can affect your weight and metabolism. I also have a few simple tips that you can use to break a bad cycle to bring each of your hormones back into a healthy range.
Hormone balance is one of the most important ways to shed excess pounds and maintain a healthy weight, without having to follow a severely restrictive diet.
Bad Cycle 1: Sex hormones (estrogen and testosterone)
Estrogen is the hormone produced by the ovaries and adrenal glands that gives women breasts and hips. It also keeps joints lubricated. Men produce estrogen too, although at far lower levels than women. Along with other hormones, estrogen can affect how your body responds to food and supplements.
Both men and women are at risk of estrogen overload, which means having too much estrogen in the body. This can even occur during menopause.
How does this happen?
For both genders, consuming too much sugar, refined carbs and alcohol can cause spikes in estrogen levels. Insufficient fiber or recurrent use of antibiotics damages the gut, leading to excess estrogen because the body isn’t able to properly detoxify or excrete waste.
Environmental toxins thrive on pesticides called xenoestrogens, because even at lose doses, they act like estrogen in your body. Exposure to xenoestrogens is one of the most common ways that people end up with an imbalance of sex hormones.
Symptoms of excess estrogen in women include:
- breast tenderness
- fluid retention
- bad premenstrual syndrome
- heavy menstrual bleeding
In men, excess estrogen can cause:
- loss of body hair (including chest, legs and arms)
- a beer belly
- “man boobs”
How To Heal: Keeping your gut healthy encourages a healthy sex-hormone metabolism. Eating unlimited portions of fresh vegetables and greens to your meals will help lower your estrogen levels (and in turn, help you start to lose weight).
Boosting your fiber intake helps to excrete estrogen so it doesn’t keep circulating in your body. And of course, for gut health and overall health, get moving. Exercise helps balance hormones by reducing estrogen and increasing testosterone, which helps you lose fat and build muscle.
Another important tip to break this cycle is to limit your consumption of conventional meat, which will help you to avoid xenoestrogens. Beyond this step, if you’re ready to make any major dietary change, such as following the paleo or keto diet, it’s important to get in touch with us for nutritional counseling to make sure you’re consuming adequate nutrients and minerals.
Bad Cycle #2: Excess insulin
You can think of insulin as a fat cell fertilizer. When we regulate a person’s insulin levels, their body immediately shifts from fat storage mode to fat-burning mode!
When a person is overweight, their insulin is out of balance, causing them to experience blood sugar highs and lows because their cells have become resistant to the hormone. As a result, they store fat easily and weight loss becomes nearly impossible.
How To Heal: Of course, there are a number of ways to reset insulin— and the most obvious one is to cut out processed foods, sugar and artificial sweeteners altogether. If you have a sweet tooth, reach for organic fruits. A bowl of frozen berries can be a quick and refreshing treat that fills the craving for something tart and sweet.
Bad Cycle #3: Excess cortisol
Cortisol is an adrenal hormone that helps your body react under pressure. It heightens your body’s senses and functions, so you can run faster, see further, hear better and send energy into your blood stream when you really need it. Cortisol is part of our fight or flight mechanism that is designed to help you survive in the face of danger.
When it comes to weight loss resistance, cortisol is a big one, because when activated, it also shuts down digestion and slows your metabolism. Excess cortisol overload is bad for your mood, your cognitive ability and your sanity in general! When stress becomes chronic, these hormones wreak havoc in a person’s body over time, and makes them store fat—especially in the abdomen as visceral fat surrounding the organs, which is the most deadly type of fat.
High levels of cortisol can lead to high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol and muscle loss.
How To Heal: One of the best ways to cope with stress is to carve out time in each day for deep relaxation. Spending even a few minutes on one of these activities can help to activate pathways that promote weight loss and better health.
A few simple ways to reset the cortisol stress response include:
- Adjust your mindset. Carefully monitor your internal dialogue for negative thoughts, beliefs and ideas that are adding to your stress.
- Make time for mental and physical relaxation. Each person’s concept of relaxation can be unique: a few minutes of deep breathing as soon as you wake, trying a sauna or steam bath, which helps reduce stress hormones and eliminate toxins. Or try a gentle exercise and stretching routine, such as Pilates.
- Reduce screen time and increase human time. Allow yourself sufficient time to connect with the people you love, face to face. Joyful time spent with family and friends is powerful healing medicine.
The word diet has become a lightning rod it seems, especially for women. Finding a healthy weight and lifestyle is about so much more than weight loss. It’s about gaining mastery over your life and being able to feel your best. While many culprits contribute to weight-loss resistance, including genetic and environmental factors, I love to share the truth about hormonal imbalances because it’s something we can regulate using natural medicine like BHRT to help people lose stubborn weight. Our Certified Functional Medical practitioners, Dr. Teri Jaklin ND, and Dr. Andrew Kiellerman MD can work with you to get to the bottom of nutritional and hormonal imbalances, which is the spark that ignites permanent weight loss. Once your hormones are in balance, there is no need to try every fad diet that comes along!
If you’re someone who’s struggled to balance your hormones, have you found a strategy that works that you would add to this list? Please share in the comments below or on our Facebook page. Feel free to keep submitting your great questions too! To book an appointment to get your hormones back on track, please click on our services menu.
Wishing you wellness during this (long-awaited!) spring season,