Hormones are intricately connected to weight, especially for women. Hormones are responsible for more than just an occasional binge, in fact their ebb and flow in a woman’s body control almost all aspects of weight, from hunger to where fat will be stored in the body. Even fat cells themselves secrete multiple hormones.
It is important to realize that we can make these mighty chemicals work for us, so let’s look at some of the most significant hormones to see what you can do to help combat their negative effects.
Melatonin: The Zzz Hormone
Melatonin is the hormone that regulates sleep; it is also linked to diabetes and obesity. When the sun goes down your body starts to release this hormone, however unless your bedroom is as dark as a cave you’re probably not getting the benefits of this hormone.
The Fix: First, the electronics have to go. Anything that emits lights needs to be turned off. Next, try blackout curtains for your windows to help block out any outside light. The next thing you can try is a sleeping mask, which will help block out any remaining light and help you get a good night of sleep which is crucial to meeting your weight loss goals.
Cortisol is the hormone your body releases during the fight-or-flight reaction, and is deeply connected to stress. Having significant or high levels of cortisol can not only increase your stress levels, but can raise your blood pressure and results in fat storage in the belly, the worst possible place. If you have an apple shape this may be the source of your problem.
Cortisol naturally kicks up the appetite, and can make women want to eat large quantities of food and especially sweets and simple carbs that can cause spikes and sudden drops in insulin levels that lead to even more out of control cravings.
The Fix: The best thing that you can do is get your stress under control. The more stressed you are the more likely your cortisol levels will be high. Set aside time to relax, meditate, do yoga, laugh, spend time with friends and family or do whatever it is that helps you to lower your stress levels. Reducing stress cannot be overemphasized enough!
High carb and sugary foods cause blood sugar spikes and that results in the Pancreas having to produce and release insulin whose job is to pull extra sugar from the bloodstream. Eating too many foods high on the glycemic index, like, pasta, bread, and sweets can cause the insulin to store the excess calories as fat. This can also lead to insulin resistance, and eventually diabetes.
The Fix: Control insulin production in the body by limiting foods high on the glycemic index. Eliminate soda from your diet, limit sweets, and swap whole grains for all processed carbs, including bread, rice, and pasta. Whole grains contain fiber to slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, and to balance insulin response.
Eating several small meals instead of three large ones throughout the day is another smart way to maintain consistent blood sugar and insulin levels and it prevents out of control cravings for sugary foods.
Some women experience a lower metabolism that results in a weight gain of about 15 pounds because of a thyroid hormone deficiency, a condition known as hypothyroidism.
- Dry skin
- Cold intolerance
- Weight gain
The Fix: Ask your doctor for a blood test to measure the concentration of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).
Estrogen and Progesterone
Excessive Estrogen Converts More Calories into Fat
Did you know that the dairy industry gives estrogen to cows to fatten them up? Excessive estrogen causes weight gain, and fat cells actually make more estrogen that causes more fatty tissue to grow. This type of fats accumulates around the belly, known as visceral fat. Visceral fat is one of the most dangerous types of fat and is linked to premature death in women.
The Fix: This vicious cycle can be mitigated by balancing estrogen with proper levels of natural progesterone, ask your doctor. Flaxseed has phytoestrogens, which might help level out your hormones a little.
Progesterone Lowers Insulin Levels In The Blood
Insulin is another hormone that is affected by hormone imbalance where estrogen dominance leads to excess release of insulin. This excess leads to out of control cravings for sugar, and is also the reason you crave sweets and chocolate during PMS.
Progesterone is a natural anti-inflammatory, and reducing inflammation allows the brain to receive a hormone called Leptin that helps regulate appetite, making it easier to lose weight.
Leptin, which is produced by fat cells, plays a significant role in appetite control. Studies show that excess body fat can result in leptin resistance, which means the brain isn’t affected by leptin even when there are higher levels of it in the body.
The theory as to why this occurs is that fat cells release inflammatory chemicals that block the action of leptin and so the body believes it is starving and to compensate for the threat of starvation it slows metabolism and the brain sends excess hunger signals to the body, resulting in cravings for high calorie food.
The Fix: Leptin resistance can be alleviated with diet and exercise. One effective fix is to eat one cup of vegetables before 10 a.m. each day as it can help alleviate hunger throughout the rest of the day. This is mostly due to the fiber content in vegetables, along with the essential antioxidants and vitamins that reduce inflammation that interferes with leptin, which in turn helps with fat burning and a reduction in cravings.