Did you know that your hormones could be to blame for your weight gain and/or stubborn fat that you just can’t seem to get rid of? Let’s look at how hormones affect your weight.
The First 3
In this part of this series I’m going to talk about 3 hormones that you’re probably quite familiar with. These are insulin, cortisol and estrogen.
Insulin is the hormone that shuttles blood sugar into cells to either be used as energy or to be stored for later. It also tells fat cells to store fat and prevents stored fat from being broken down.
When you eat, your blood sugar rises and insulin is released to take that sugar to where it needs to go. Problems occur when your blood sugar is chronically high from eating a diet high in refined carbs and fast food causing your body to produce large amounts of insulin, leading to your cells becoming insulin resistant. When cells become insulin resistant health problems such as obesity and type 2 diabetes can occur.
What to do:
Cut out or minimize sugar.
First thing you need to do is look at how much sugar you are consuming. Sugar can be in things you wouldn’t expect such as bread, canned soups, condiments and salad dressings. Read labels carefully.
Cut down on carbs and stick to minimally processed ones.
Eating a low carb diet can help. When eating carbs stick to vegetables and a moderate amount of fruit and when eating grains look for minimally processed ones such as brown rice, quinoa and steel cut oats.
Increase protein and make sure you’re eating healthy natural fats.
Protein and healthy fats will help fill you up more and help to reduce cravings. Omega 3 fats such as those found in fatty fish actually help lower fasting insulin levels.
Exercise 3-6 days per week.
When you do cardio your body uses glucose (blood sugar) for energy. Muscles also use glucose so having more muscle means your body is using more of the glucose in your blood. A healthy balance of cardio and strength training is ideal for keeping insulin levels normal.
You probably know cortisol as the stress hormone. When you’re stressed your cortisol levels go up and this can lead to overeating a weight gain.
A stressful lifestyle will lead to elevated cortisol levels as will super strict diets.
What to do:
Eat a balanced diet.
Make sure you’re eating a balance of healthy carbs, protein and healthy fats. Avoid processed foods and fast foods and avoid super low calorie diets. Super low calorie diets may seem to work but it signals the body to release more cortisol so in the long run it’ll backfire on you.
Learn to relax.
Everyday have at least a few minutes to yourself to relax. You could use this time to meditate, read a good book or visit with your pets. Take the time to break away from the usual stresses of life to give yourself a chance to reset.
Listen to music.
Music has an amazing ability to calm you down and make you happy. Put together a playlist of all your favourite songs and listen to it on the commute to and from work, or while you’re working out, or while you’re cleaning – anytime you can listen to music do it.
Get enough sleep.
Sleep deprivation is very stressful on your body and will definitely lead to elevated cortisol levels. Try to get 7-9 hours a night. Plan a bed time ritual that gets your mind and body ready for sleep and do your best to go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday.
Estrogen is the female sex hormone but men have some estrogen as well. In proper balance, it’s fine but when estrogen levels are too high, which is known as estrogen dominance, it causes toxic fat gain in the form of visceral fat (belly fat).
What to do:
Add some good stuff to your diet.
Eat plenty of fibre to help reduce estrogen levels. Also include lots of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower.
Exercise helps to reduce estrogen levels in both pre and postmenopausal women.
In part 2 of this series I’ll be talking about leptin, ghrelin and neuropeptide Y (NPY).