Diet and exercise are extremely important components of maintaining a healthy weight, but there are other factors at work that are more difficult to spot, namely: the role of your hormones.
Hormones play an integral role in determining your mood, causing you to seek comfort or distraction in the form of food. But that’s not the only influence your hormones have over your weight Their presence–or lack thereof– affects the fundamental mechanics of your system, influencing how your body manages the food you take in and redistributes it into energy or fat.
Researchers continue to study the complex interplay between hormones and weight, but they have discovered a few important connections that affect your ability to lose weight.
Part of your endocrine system your thyroid gland controls hormones that affect a number of your body’s critical functions, including heart rate, breathing, cholesterol levels, body temperature and weight. An unexpected change in weight is one of the most prevalent signs of an imbalanced thyroid gland. Hypothyroidism–an underactive thyroid–can result in significant weight gain, especially around your mid-section, which might explain why no matter what you do, you still can’t seem to eradicate that excess belly fat. If you think thyroid imbalance might be affecting your efforts to lose weight, speak with your doctor about conducting a screening for proper thyroid function.
Insulin is a vital hormone produced by your pancreas that helps process glucose from carbohydrates into energy or store it as glucose for future use. During retreats at our weight loss resort, we dive deep into the important role insulin plays in managing your weight, since it’s often misunderstood or overlooked. Insulin resistance results in your cells losing their ability to absorb glucose, which causes a buildup of sugar in your blood. The symptoms of insulin resistance are few, but it can increase your risk of being overweight. This hormonal imbalance can also signal a precursor to diabetes. Discovering insulin resistance can be done through various tests, including an A1C test that measures your average blood sugar over the previous few months or a glucose tolerance test.
To combat the weight-gain effects of insulin resistance, its necessary to change your diet. Eat small healthy meals throughout the day, in place of fewer large meals. Consume a greater number of low-glycemic carbs, including beans, fruit and non-starchy vegetables. Finally, go easy on your pancreas by eliminating all added sugar.
Too much leptin
Leptin is the helpful hormone that lets your body know that you’re full. When you eat an excess of fructose (the natural sugar found in fruits) or processed sugar, your liver shifts away from converting fructose into fuel, and begins converting it into fat. Since fat produces leptin, as you consume more fructose, you generate more leptin. The more leptin you produce, the more your body begins to resist its signal, muting the sense that you’re full. So you eat more, and gain more weight. To lower your leptin production, reduce your fructose intake by eliminating added sugar from your diet and avoiding processed food. Eat Omega-3 abundant foods like fish, chia seeds and grass-fed meat. Finally, continue to exercise regularly.
Too much cortisol
Cortisol is the hormone your body releases when experiencing stress. As your cortisol levels rise, your blood sugar is converted into fat for long-term storage. This is definitely a problem if you’re trying to lose weight. Reduce your daily stress levels through meditation, mindfulness, spending quality time alone, and getting enough sleep. Finally, lay off the morning coffee, since it causes your cortisol levels to skyrocket. Enjoy a steaming cup of black tea instead.
An imbalance of estrogen, the group of so-called “female hormones,” can have a negative impact on weight loss, in both sexes. In men and pre-menopausal women, too much estrogen can cause excessive water retention, bloating and fat increase. For women in particular, as multiple hormone levels drop during menopause, your body’s progesterone levels might drop faster than your estrogen production, causing you to gain weight and store fat around your waist. To lower the levels of estrogen your system produces, reduce your red meat intake since meat causes estrogen levels to rise. Eliminate processed foods and added sugar. Finally, consume a full pound of vegetables per day. This fiber boost will help your body release extra estrogen.
Bringing your hormones into balance
The only way to truly understand the role hormones are playing on your weight loss journey is to have your hormone levels tested. Speak with your doctor about how your hormones may be affecting your weight or consult with the medical team during your stay at a weight loss resort. Equipped with this knowledge, your doctor and nutritionist can design a long-term healthy living action plan specifically for you.