In my last post I talked about the hormonal links to unwanted weight gain and immovable belly fat. If you simply cannot figure out why you can no longer shed pounds easily like you used to even though you try to eat right, exercise, and take your vitamins every morning, you might be walking around with an undetected hormone imbalance that is sabotaging your best efforts. How does hormone imbalance contribute to weight gain? Let me count the ways! Better still I’ll let naturopathic Dr. Amy Shah, boil it down for you here (with a few italicized notes from me in there)….read on:
These are the top areas women neglect, even when they think they’re being healthy.
1. You have an estrogen to progesterone imbalance.
Many women — especially those of child-bearing age — have an estrogen dominance problem. If you exercise daily, it’s likely that you’re using up your progesterone and estrogen is dominating. Other causes of estrogen dominance include environmental factors such as pesticides, plastics, industrial waste products, car exhaust, meat, soaps, furniture and carpet.
Diet, most importantly making sure you eat “hormone-free” (the label should clearly read “these animals were raised without hormones or antibiotics) environmental avoidance of xenoestrogens, and taking supplements can bolster your progesterone and decrease estrogen dominance. Check out the Environmental Working Group on line (www.ewg.org) for the full revelations and actions you can take!
2. You’re not getting enough vitamin D.
Possibly due to our awareness of skin cancer and the use of sunscreen, our levels of vitamin D are lower than they were decades ago. Not to mention that we are spending more time working indoors in front of computers, or exercising inside vs. in the great outdoors. Vitamin D in that is it synthesized by the action of sunlight upon the skin acts like a hormone in our bodies, and deficiency has been linked to allergies, asthma, weight gain, fatigue, food allergies and even cancer. Vitamin D levels can be tested by your healthcare provider, and supplemental vitamin D can be found in various forms.
3. You have high cortisol.
High levels of cortisol (our “stress hormone”) is another big reason we tend to store fat and keep weight on our abdominal area until the stressor is minimized or resolved.. I used to wake up very early to do a spin class or intense run, then race home to get ready for work, then deal with my young kids and chores. That increased my cortisol levels and working against my goals of having a lean body.
If you feel like you need to be on a caffeine drip at all times, it means you’re having too many highs and lows with cortisol as a big culprit. Cortisol is associated with increased appetite, cravings for sugar, and weight gain, belly fat in particular. You need to unwind everyday with whatever it is that shuts off your hypervigilence — even if it’s for 10 minutes per day.
4. You’re eating processed “healthy.”
Excess sodium, GMOs and sugar are all hidden ingredients that are both inflammatory and causes of excess weight gain. Just because it’s at a health food store and it’s “gluten free” or “low fat” or “natural,” DOES NOT mean it’s good for you. It took me a long time to get over this, because packaging with the words “natural” and “healthy” are very enticing.
5. You’re eating too much fat.
Paleo and other higher-fat diets work for some people, but many women, such as myself, don’t do well with them. Our bodies may do well with fat — especially when added to greens — but be careful not to go overboard.
6. You’re skimping on quality sleep.
This still remains tried and true. Your hormones need it. Your muscles need it for repair, and your brain needs it. The two hormones that are key in the relationship between sleep and weight loss are ghrelin and leptin. These hormones operate on the sleep-wake cycle so when you get less than 7 hours a night appetite hormones are disrupted. Put very simply, leptin tells us when to stop eating and when you’re sleep deprived it plummets so you have less. Ghrelin is the hormone that tells you when to eat, and when you’re sleep-deprived, you have more ghrelin and more appetite but may never feel full.
Often when I am having sleep disturbances or jet lag, I use melatonin and magnesium (an all too common deficiency associated with sleep disturbances AND chocolate cravings) as supplements to get me on the right track.
7. You’re not eating your cruciferous vegetables.
Cruciferous vegetables from the vegetable family Brassicaceae include cabbage, kale, cauliflower, bok choy, broccoli and other similar green vegetables. Not only are they good for you because of the feeling of fullness you get from the fiber, but they’re also good for estrogen metabolism through a compound called indole-3-carbinol (I3C). It is a natural source of DIM (3,3-Diindolylmethane) that helps promote estrogen balance AND helps clear the body of the toxic xenoestrogens we pick up from the environment. This is the cheapest, easiest way to get your hormones — and your weight — in balance.