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Is hormonal weight gain getting you down?

Are you suffering from hormonal weight gain? If weight gain is all about eating too much and not doing enough exercise, then how come you can often get away with it when you’re young, but once you’re over 40 you just need to look at a doughnut and you put on half a stone, and to lose it you have to do some extreme diet and run a marathon every day?! Keeping it off and living a normal life seem impossible.

Experts now believe that it’s not only diet and exercise that affect your weight. Genetics play a part, but so do environmental factors and importantly your hormones.

Hormones regulate our appetite, cravings, blood sugar balance, energy levels, fat stores and metabolism. No wonder we struggle when they are out of balance!

As we get older, our hormones can start working against us. That’s when we can struggle with hormonal weight gain.

Here are the main culprits;

Cortisol

Got a muffin top? Cortisol is our main stress hormone. Not only do we have 4 times more cortisol receptors in our abdominal fat than any other fat (this is why we tend to put weight on around the middle when stressed), but cortisol stimulates appetite – sugar and carbs are vital when you need energy to run from that lion. But when food is readily available and there is no lion to run from, the sugar you have eaten doesn’t get used as energy and is stored away as fat.

If you don’t do anything to reduce your stress levels, your body thinks its in constant danger and won’t be letting go of your fat stores any time soon. This is a great design feature when there was a famine around the corner!  Not so much these days when food is around every corner instead. Not only does it want to store fat away, but cortisol also breaks down muscle and slows down metabolism, making it even harder to burn fat.

Insulin

Insulin is the FAT STORING hormone and loves to feed your muffin top. The more carbs and sugar you eat, the more insulin you produce to remove the sugar from the blood and move it to our cells for energy. So much insulin leads to a blood sugar crash, and another uncontrollable craving for a biscuit, pastry or bar of chocolate. And here we go again……Any excess sugar is stored as FAT. Putting it really simply, the more insulin we produce, the more fat we store. The more fat we store, the more we crave carbs and sugar. The more carbs and sugar we eat, the more insulin we produce. This roller coaster ride is exhausting and puts us under even more stress, and the whole cycle starts again!

Thyroid

If you’re overweight and can’t lose it no matter what you eat, your thyroid may be the culprit. Low thyroid hormones means slower metabolism – less fat burning and more fat storage. Other symptoms include fatigue, cold hands/feet, hair loss, headaches, dry skin, constipation, low mood, memory loss, PMS and low sex drive.

It will be nearly impossible to lose weight when you have an underactive thyroid, and your energy levels make it difficult to exercise.

Oestrogen

During the peri-menopause years you might notice your weight creeping (or surging!) upwards. If your fluctuating oestrogen levels are disturbing your brain biochemistry, you could be low in serotonin which can result in craving carbohydrates. And when you are tired, moody and irritable all the time, you turn to sugar and processed carbs as your comfort food. And if you’re not sleeping well (those night sweats waking you up?), lack of sleep has been linked to increased appetite.

How to take back control

To stop your hormonal weight gain, you don’t need to go on some extreme diet and exercise plan. You just need to control insulin and cortisol, so that you are burning fat and increasing your metabolism and not storing fat and slowing it down.

If you suspect your thyroid may be low, ask your doctor for a test. As these 3 hormones are so dominant, having them in check should help support all of your hormones.

Balance insulin – this means controlling your blood sugar. To do this you need to;

  • Stay away from refined carbs (bread, cereal, pasta, baked goods, sugary snacks) – they make your insulin go crazy
  • Up your veggies (except potatoes) – aim for half your plate
  • Have some good quality protein at each meal (organic meat, fish, dairy, eggs, nuts, seeds, chick peas, beans, lentils) – this slows the release of sugar and therefore insulin
  • Have some good fats at each meal (coconut oil, olive oil, salmon, sardines, avocado, nuts, seeds, organic meat and dairy) – slows digestion and keeps you full
  • Ditch the diet and low fat products – these are not your weight loss friends.
  • Limit sugar, alcohol, caffeine – all stimulants that increase cortisol and insulin (try green tea instead – has been shown to help with weight loss)

Balance cortisol – this means reducing your stress levels. To do this you need to;

  • Do some deep breathing – 10 deep belly breaths in the morning and at night help to reset your stress hormones
  • Do some smart exercise (eg walking, weights, yoga, pilates, burst or high intensity training) – too much long cardio can shoot up your cortisol
  • Get out in to nature – being outside has been shown to improve mood and lower cortisol
  • Put some Epsom salts in your bath – the calming magnesium will be absorbed into your skin
  • Eat some dark chocolate – more calming magnesium and lots of antioxidants
  • Go to bed earlier – sleep is so important for balancing all our hormones. Get to bed by 10.30, keep your room really dark, remove gadgets, relax before bedtime, write down your to-do list for tomorrow.
  • Try mindfulness meditation – find a local class or look online for videos

So if you’ve been struggling to lose weight, especially round the middle, then move away from crazy diets and try looking after your hormones so that you stop the hormonal weight gain and switch to fat burning instead of storing.

Download your FREE Hormone Balancing Guide here.

Sources;

Epel, E., et al, (2000). Stress and body shape: stress-induced cortisol secretion is consistently greater among women with central fat. Psychosomatic Medicine 62, 623-632

Dallman MF, Pecorarao N, Akana SF, et al. Chronic stress and obesity: a new view of “comfort food.” PNAS 2003; 100(20): 11696-11701.

Lokuge S, Frey BN, Foster JA, Soares CN, Steiner M Depression in women: windows of vulnerability and new insights into the link between estrogen and serotonin. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry [2011, 72(11):e1563-9]

Wolfram S, 2007, Effects of green tea and EGCG on cardiovascular and metabolic health. J Am Coll Nutr. 2007 Aug;26(4):373S-388S

Kaushik RM et al. (2006) Effects of mental relaxation and slow breathing in essential hypertension. ComplementaryTherapies in Medicine, 14(2):120-6.

Weuve J et al, (2004) Physical activity, including walking, and cognitive function in older women. JAMA, 22;292(12):1454-61.

Martin et al. (2009) Metabolic Effects of Dark Chocolate Consumption on Energy, Gut Microbiota, and Stress-Related Metabolism in Free-Living Subjects. Journal of Proteome Research.

Brainard GC, (2008) Sensitivity of the human circadian system to short-wavelength (420-nm) light. J Biol Rhythms. 23(5):379-86.

Hamer M, Endrighi R, Poole L (2012) Physical activity, stress reduction, and mood: insight into immunological mechanisms. Methods in Molecular Biology, 934:89-1002.

Katterman SN1 et al (2014) Mindfulness meditation as an intervention for binge eating, emotional eating, and weight loss: A systematic review.Eat Behav;15(2):197-204.

Trapp EG, Chisholm DJ, Freund J, Boutcher SH. The effects of high-intensity intermittent exercise training on fat loss and fasting insulin levels of young women. International Journal of Obesity. 2008;32(4):684–691

Schmid SM (2008) A single night of sleep deprivation increases ghrelin levels and feelings of hunger in normal-weight healthy men. J Sleep Res;17(3):331-4.

 

Nicki WilliamsIs hormonal weight gain getting you down?

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