If you’re struggling to lose weight, you’re doing your best to change your nutritional habits, actively moving more and changing your lifestyle, but that weight still isn’t shifting, it may be worth looking at your hormonal health as well as your calories.
Many people think that weight loss is simple, calories in vs. calories out, but there is often so much more to it than that. Plenty of people attempt diets and exercise programs with the intention of taking off any excess weight and sometimes it can be frustrating when results are not forthcoming, which can end in you giving up all together.
What many people don’t realise is that there can be many underlying health issues which can inhibit weight loss attempts. Not only that, but these same issues can actually be the cause of the weight gain in the first place, in addition to poor diet and lack of exercise.
Here is a list of common hormonal imbalances that can affect weight loss:
There are other factors that can inhibit weight loss such as Candida (an overgrowth of yeast in the gut) and sleep deprivation.
Insulin is a hormone that is made by the pancreas and it’s activated whenever we eat. Its main job is to act as a key to unlock the cells so that glucose (blood sugar) can enter and give us energy from our food. Insulin also regulates blood sugar levels. After a while, our body can become resistant to insulin. This causes blood sugar levels to stay high (up to 7 times higher than normal) in the bloodstream, affecting your metabolism because it inhibits the body’s ability to metabolise fats.
Higher insulin levels signal the body to store more fat, especially around the abdominal area. This particular fat (also called visceral fat) is hazardous to health and can cause fatty liver disease and increased Inflammation levels. This can lead to many serious diseases including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes.
The two biggest causes of Insulin Resistance are eating a diet high in processed foods and sugars along with not getting enough exercise. A poor diet not only leads to obesity, but it also creates an imbalance in the health of the gut microbiome.
The best thing you can do to improve insulin resistance is to cut out or drastically reduce processed foods and foods high in sugar and increase your physical activity.
Many people have an underactive thyroid gland, referred to as Hypothyroidism. Symptoms include weight gain, fatigue, hair loss, depression, anxiety, high blood pressure and more. What’s particularly concerning is that over half of the hypothyroid population is undiagnosed.
It causes the entire metabolism to be slow which makes weight gain likely, often in short periods of time. Hypothyroidism also makes it much harder to lose weight even with proper diet and exercise.
You can get a full thyroid test to determine exactly where the problem is originating so that it can be treated correctly. Once the root cause of the problem is identified and treatment protocol begins, you can begin to feel better within just a few weeks and your metabolism can starts to function like it should again.
Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands and is also referred to as the stress or “fight or flight” hormone. The adrenal glands don’t have any way of differentiating between being chased by a bear or having a stressful job. This keeps the body in an almost constant state of “fight or flight.” Whilst normal in the moment, if it goes on for long periods of time, prolonged stress and high levels of cortisol can cause high blood pressure, elevated glucose levels, increased visceral belly fat, and even muscle loss. If we don’t know how to manage our stress levels the adrenal glands produce less and less cortisol, this can lead to another condition called adrenal fatigue which causes a chronically sluggish metabolism.
Men & women both need testosterone (women just in smaller quantities). Common causes of low testosterone is obesity and alcoholism, but the most common cause is age. Levels begin to wane in your late twenties to early thirties and by the time we are fifty, levels are about half of what they once were at their peak.
Testosterone is important for building muscle and skin tone. When levels are low, visible changes can be seen as fat starts to dominate over muscle mass and skin begins to sag.
It also helps activate insulin, and thus, if levels are low, can contribute to insulin resistance issues and as we’ve already discussed, insulin resistance causes increased belly fat.
The best thing you can do to increase testosterone is have a health and balanced diet low in alcohol, and strength train to preserve precious muscle mass.
Estrogen imbalances can occur at any age. It’s more common as women enter their forties and begin their transition into menopause (also referred to as peri-menopause).
One of the symptoms of Estrogen dominance is weight gain, especially around the abdominal area. Remember too, that belly fat causes insulin levels to rise, and can be a cause of Insulin Resistance.
As we reach the menopausal years and ovarian production of estrogen declines, the body looks for other sources for estrogen. One storage source for estrogen is in the fat cells. Our bodies react to this by converting more of the calories that we do eat into fat so as to have more estrogen to draw upon. Declining estrogen levels, just like testosterone, also cause muscle mass to decline, resulting in more fat on the body.
The best thing to combat this is to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle, such as a diet rich in whole foods and an active lifestyle, which includes some strength training (a minimum of 2x per week).
Good quality sleep is an important lifestyle factor for weight loss and general long term health. Chronic lack of sleep doesn’t just affect obesity levels; it adversely affects every biological system in the body and can lead to disease and early death.
If you’re sleep is poor, you’ll be less likely to make healthier food choices the following day, as you’ll just be looking for quick fixes in energy such as sugars and energy drinks. You’ll also be less likely to be active (thus NEAT and EAT reduces) NEAT stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis and EAT stands for exercise activity thermogenesis. Both of which are vital for increasing your bodies TDEE (Total daily energy expenditure) and maintaining a healthy weight.
The lifestyle factors you choose to lead will play a huge role in whether your hormones and metabolism are functioning optimally. Lifestyle choices such as:
- A balanced, healthy diet
- A diet low in processed food
- A diet low in alcohol
- Increasing total activity throughout the day
- Strength training to preserve muscle
- Quality sleep
Will all play a part in ensuring you are able to lose weight and maintain it. These lifestyle factors have also been proven to help reduce visceral fat stored around the abdomen. This doesn’t mean a calorie deficit doesn’t apply, it just means the fat is likely redistributed to somewhere where it’s doing less harm. Some hormonal imbalances (such as an under-active thyroid) may need to be properly diagnosed and the correct treatment provided by a medical proffesional. But regardless of weight loss, we still want to be engaging in these healthier behaviours for our health, wellness and longevity.
Until next time,