Balance These 4 Hormones If You Want To Lose Weight
One of the most common questions we receive here at Team Get Healthy U is something along the lines of: “I’m eating right and exercising, but I still can’t seem to lose this weight.” Most often, these questions are also bookended by a mention of menopause or an admission that you used to be able to keep the weight off, but now the same diet and fitness plan that had been working for years is suddenly not working now. You might not realize that fluctuating hormones could be the culprit of your weight gain—and that balancing your hormones can help you lose weight in menopause or at any age.
If this is a new idea for you, you’re not alone! Unfortunately, women’s hormones don’t get discussed much in mainstream media. (Try and see the next time you hear the word “menopause” even uttered in a commercial or on television, and you’ll be waiting for a long time.) The truth is, our hormones impact many things—our mood, our appearance, and yes, our weight—all the time. They fluctuate monthly, but also throughout the course of our lives. And the more we can understand them, the more we can work to balance them to live happier, healthier lives. So let’s learn how hormonal imbalances can hold you back from weight loss and how to balance hormones naturally to maintain a healthier weight.
I’ve gotten a lot of great information on hormonal imbalance from Dr. Sara Gottfried. She is a Harvard-trained doctor and hormone expert, and she offers up ways to bring your hormones back into balance to lose weight. She has a fantastic program called The Hormone Reset Detox and lots of great tips about how hormonal imbalance can contribute to weight gain or make losing those last few pounds extra difficult. Here are some suggestions for how to bring your hormones back into balance:
Estrogen is the female sex hormone, but both men and women technically have it. Estrogen is the hormone responsible for the development of female sexual characteristics (breasts and hips, for starters) but an estrogen imbalance (namely estrogen dominance) in your body can cause less-than-pleasant side affects—like a slower metabolism, and your body storing more fat. Because women have more estrogen than men, this is why it’s often harder for them to lose weight than their male counterparts.
For those in menopause – it may be confusing to think you have estrogen dominance when you are told your estrogen levels are plummeting. However, there are two things at play. First, while estrogen levels are lower after menopause, if your progesterone levels are super low, you can still have estrogen dominance. And second, according to the National Institute of Health Sciences, exposure to environmental estrogens (estrogen-like chemicals in our environment called xenoestrogens) can cause excess estrogen. Some of these xenoestrogens are things we ingest like pesticides, hormones in animal products, and plastics – all known as “endocrine disruptors.”
How To Naturally Balance Estrogen For Weight Loss
To lower estrogen levels naturally, Dr. Gottfried recommends eating a pound of veggies per day, as she states the fiber will help remove the estrogen from your body. Of all the out-there medical recommendations or far-fetched advice, I have to say: this one is pretty simple! Gottfried recommends that women seeking to lower their estrogen levels naturally aim for 35 to 45 gram of fiber per day, increasing their amount slowly so as not to cause stomach upset. You can also naturally balance estrogen by:
- Reducing red meat intake
- Cutting back on alcohol intake
- Eliminating processed foods
Insulin is a hormone created by your pancreas and it helps regulate glucose (blood sugar) in your body. If you’re overweight or even “skinny fat” (storing too much visceral fat around your organs) your body’s glucose regulator (insulin!) gets thrown off balance and you have a harder time losing weight. In addition, if you tend to eat sugary foods throughout the day, you keep your insulin working overtime trying to clear the sugar from your blood. What does insulin do with the extra sugar you ask? It stores it as fat.
How To Naturally Balance Insulin For Weight Loss
Dr. Gottfried recommends starting the day by drinking filtered water with two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to regulate your blood sugar first thing in the morning. If the apple cider vinegar sounds too nasty to try, east into it or at least drink 16 oz of water every morning before you eat or drink anything else. This acts as a natural body flush. (I like to add lemon to my water.) Other ways to naturally balance your insulin levels include:
- Getting enough protein with every meal
- Eating smaller (healthy) meals more often
- Eating low-glycemic carbs (fruits, beans, non-starchy veggies)
- Eliminating added sugars from your diet
Cortisol is your body’s stress hormone, as it regulates your body’s response to stressful situations. Unfortunately, we are so inundated with a constant stream of modern stressors and the need to be task-switching and communicating across a variety of channels that many of us have a surplus amount of cortisol in our bodies. According to lead cardiovascular researchers at the University Medical Center in the Netherlands, having excess cortisol puts you at increased risk of heart disease, and it also cause you to store visceral fat around your internal organs, which often appears as excess belly fat.
Related: Can Stress Cause Belly Fat?
How To Naturally Balance Cortisol For Weight Loss
Simply put, you need to reset your body’s response to stress. Gottfried recommends slowly weaning yourself off excessive caffeine or switching from coffee to tea. If tea isn’t er, your cup of tea, you can also do other things to lower your cortisol levels, such as practicing mindfulness. This idea may seem vague, but it’s really straightforward: slow down, breathe, and pay attention to what you’re doing. So often, we get distracted and rush from thing to thing, and this task-switching can significantly raise stress levels. Instead, try paying attention to one task at a time, and enjoying your experience. When you eat, for example, pay attention to the pleasurable experience of eating—how it tastes, the colors of the food, how grateful you are to be eating this meal—instead of shoveling it into your mouth while trying to do three other things. Studies show that mindful eating can help with weight loss—you’re paying attention to how much you’re eating, and you’re doing so while feeling calmer, thus lowering your cortisol levels. Other ways you can naturally lower your cortisol levels include:
Leptin is produced by the body’s fat cells and it’s primary function is to tell a part of our brain (the hypothalamus) that we’re satiated, or full. Our modern diet is saturated with a type of sugar called fructose, found in many processed foods (everything from pasta sauce to salad dressings). When too much fructose floods your body, your body stores it as fat. This leads to an excess of leptin; when one has too much leptin it’s possible to become leptin resistant, meaning your body no longer can tell if you’re full or not—and you keep eating and gaining weight.
How to Naturally Balance Leptin For Weight Loss
A huge component to balancing your leptin levels is getting enough sleep. When you don’t get enough sleep, your leptin levels are lower and you don’t feel as satisfied after you eat. (Harvard studies show that sleep deprivation reduces leptin levels and actually increases your body’s desire for fatty or carbohydrate-rich foods.) So if you suspect a leptin imbalance is to blame for your weight gain, make sleep a priority each and every night—we should all be prioritizing sleep anyway for its myriad of health benefits, but if weight loss is the kick in the pants you need to start catching more zzz’s, then do it! Other ways to balance your leptin levels include:
- Taking an Omega 3 supplement or eat more Omega 3 rich foods such as fish, grass-fed meats, and chia seeds
- Decreasing your fructose intake by eating little to no added sugar
- Exercising regularly
The bottom line is this: if you’ve been struggling to lose weight but can’t figure out what you’re doing wrong, your hormones may be to blame. You can ask your doctor to test your hormones, as well as use the above information to try different techniques to bring suspected problem hormones back into balance. It’s your body, and you should know everything you can to not only lose weight but feel happy, healthy and whole.
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