Out of Balance Hormones
If you feel like you are eating right, exercising regularly and still struggling to lose weight, it is a good idea to get your hormone levels checked. Many people who struggle with weight loss actually have inadequate levels of thyroid hormone - the hormone that regulates metabolism and energy. When assessing thyroid function it is important to run a full thyroid panel as I have worked with many patients who were told their thyroid was "normal", but not all aspects of thyroid function were assessed (read more about common thyroid disorders here). Testosterone is also another hormone that impacts the ability to lose weight. This is a necessary hormone in both men and women. Women should also consider their estrogen to progesterone ratio which can affect weight loss, and determine where fat is stored. Virtually every hormone in your body can affect your ability to lose weight, so be sure to discuss your individual case with a qualified doctor.
Hormones can be treated three ways depending on the severity of imbalance, and patient preference. First, adjusting lifestyle and diet is key to bring levels into balance, next includes incorporating natural supplements and herbs to promote specific hormone pathways, and if necessary, using bioidentical hormone replacement to optimize levels.
Inadequate digestion and inflammation are often paired together. Signs of compromised digestion include bloating, constipation, gas, reflux or other digestive discomfort. Eating inflammatory foods can cause digestive tract inflammation, leading to malabsorption where you may not be be breaking down and absorbing nutrients from the foods you are consuming. This inflammation can keep you from losing weight and feeling your best. Signs of compromised digestion include bloating, constipation, gas, reflux or other digestive discomfort. Nutrition changes, meal timing, quality probiotics, proper supplementation, and avoidance of your trigger foods can help improve gastrointestinal function to support your weight loss efforts.
Hidden Sugars - Including Natural Sugars and Gluten-Free Grains
Sugar from any source, even natural forms like honey and even fruit can cause weight gain if you’re eating them frequently. Also, consider artificial sweeteners, especially aspartame. Although these may be calorie free they can still affect your weight loss abilities by activating certain hormones that can lead to insulin resistance and weight gain.
There has been a big gluten-free movement recently, and while it is beneficial for those with a sensitivity, gluten-free products are not always healthy options. These products are replacing one grain (gluten) with other grains (corn, rice, etc.) and your body converts these carbohydrates into sugars in your body almost immediately. Try to limit your processed foods and choose foods that are in their natural state.
Something I see in almost all of my patients today is inadequate sleep. We are in a society where not sleeping is glorified as ambition. Half the battle is deciding that sleep is important and prioritizing your own self-care. Skipping out on sleep stimulates ghrelin, which increases your appetite and decreases leptin, which notifies your brain that you are full. Chronic sleep deprivation can also lead to cortisol release, which can further stimulate your appetite. This triple combination leads to overeating with intense cravings for quick sources of energy such as simple sugars and carbs, making it very difficult to lose weight.
Shoot for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night. To promote quality sleep, stop eating 2 hours before bedtime, limit screen time before bed, turn off all lights, and aim for a similar sleep and wake time throughout the week.
You may have gone through this list and felt that all these areas are in check... How stressed are you? While stress pathways are meant to protect us in times of life or death, stress has become a constant component of life for many of us. The stress hormone cortisol can make you hungrier, and negatively affect your thyroid (as discussed above). On top of that, cortisol levels are linked to abdominal obesity. As a yoga instructor, I always recommend yoga and meditation to patients. If you have been stressed for years you may require additional support due to chronic depletion. Try your best not to stress over weight loss, as that can make the cycle worse -- Start by making small changes that work for your lifestyle.