Estrogen. Cortisol. Leptin. Insulin.
Do you know what each of these hormones are and how they can affect your weight loss journey?
We generally live in the moment. Day by day. We often don’t think about getting older and what is going to happen to our bodies as we age. Especially as women. There is no better time than NOW. Not tomorrow, not next week, not January 1. Now is the time we start looking after our bodies! After all, our bodies will be around lot longer than the latest Michael Kors Handbag! Invest in your health!
Our hormones impact so many things in our day to day lives — from our mood and energy levels to our weight.
Hormones fluctuate from month to month, but also throughout the course of your life as we ladies go from puberty to adulthood and then into menopause. Whilst exercising and eating healthy is all the rage on social media at the moment, unfortunately, our hormonal changes don’t get discussed much at all.
So I want to educate you to know YOUR body and know YOUR hormones. If you have some stubborn weight that just won’t come off, you’re probably so frustrated that you feel like it’s impossible and never going to happen. But let me tell you that you can lose weight, and you can do it naturally by bringing your key hormones into balance.
So let me explain what hormones need to be balanced in your body to lose weight — and how to balance them naturally. There are four key hormones that affect your weight — estrogen, cortisol, leptin and insulin — and here’s how to balance them naturally to lose weight and feel great.
Estrogen is the hormone responsible for the development of our breasts and hips. There’s an interesting connection between estrogen and weight gain in menopause. During menopause, levels of all your hormones tend to decrease, including estrogen and progesterone.
While estrogen levels decrease during menopause, if your progesterone levels are decreasing more than your estrogen, you can still have estrogen dominance. Estrogen dominance is really about the ratio of estrogen to progesterone. If you have too much estrogen compared to your progesterone (no matter how little it is) you can gain weight and store more fat around your middle. And, no surprise—it’s believed that most women tend to have an estrogen dominance.
So how do we balance our Estrogen?
Avoiding estrogen dominance is aiming to keep a fine balance between your progesterone and estrogen. Getting your daily dose of vegetables is key! Fibre helps remove any excess estrogen from the body. It really is as simple as that! Research shows that if you are looking to lower your estrogen levels naturally, to aim for 35-45 grams of fibre per day. Increasing this amount slowly though, so as not to cause an upset stomach. There are other ways you can also naturally balance estrogen;
- Wild Yam in capsule or dried herb form (This contains a compound called Diosgenin which has been used as the base for synthetic hormone drugs but taken in its natural form can still help)
- Reducing your red meat intake
- Eliminating excess sugar or processed foods
- Exercising daily to promote detoxification
Cortisol… Do you know what it is?
Cortisol is responsible for regulating our body’s response to stressful situations. We are so inundated with a constant stream of modern stressors and the need to be multi-tasking (hello #mumlife) that many of us have a surplus amount of cortisol in our bodies. Studies show that having excess cortisol can put you at increased risk of heart disease, and it can also cause you to store visceral fat around your internal organs, which often appears as excess belly fat. Yes, stress can cause extra belly fat!
So, how do we balance our cortisol?
Basically, you need to reset your body’s response to stress. Slowly weaning yourself off excessive amounts of caffeine or switching from coffee to tea is a great place to start. If tea isn’t … er, your cup of tea, you can also do other things to lower your cortisol levels, such as practicing mindfulness. I like to use the Calm App – check it out in the App store! Mindfulness may seem vague, but it is really straightforward: slow down, breathe, and pay attention to what you’re doing. So often we get distracted and rush from thing to thing, and this multi-tasking can significantly raise stress levels. Instead, try paying attention to one task at a time. Other ways you can naturally lower your cortisol levels include:
- Meditating (again, I use the Calm App)
- Taking a magnesium supplement or B vitamin
- Consistently get better, longer sleep (aiming for 7-8 hours a night is key)
Next up is Leptin… Not Lipton, like the tea 😂
Leptin is produced by the body’s fat cells and it’s primary function is to tell a part of our brain that we’re satiated, or full. Our modern diet is saturated with a type of sugar called fructose, found in many processed foods (everything from pasta sauce to salad dressings). When too much fructose floods your body, your body stores it as fat. This leads to an excess of leptin; when you have too much leptin it’s possible to become leptin resistant, meaning your body no longer can tell if you’re full or not — and you keep eating and gaining weight. Sounds terrible right?
So lets balance it out….
Here is that 5 letter word again…. SLEEP! A huge component to balancing your leptin levels is getting enough sleep. When you don’t get enough sleep, your leptin levels are lower and you don’t feel as satisfied after you eat. There are studies that show sleep deprivation reduces leptin levels and actually increases your body’s desire for fatty or carb-rich foods. So if you suspect a leptin imbalance is to blame for your weight gain, make sleep a priority each and every night — we should all be prioritising sleep anyway for its plethora of health benefits, but if weight loss is the kick in the ass you need to start catching more zzz’s, then do it! Other ways to balance your leptin levels include:
- Taking an Omega 3 supplement or eat more Omega 3 rich foods such as fish, grass-fed meats, and chia seeds
- Decreasing your fructose intake by eating little to no added sugar
- Exercising regularly (Mic Drop 🎤)
Last but not least, let’s talk Insulin…
Insulin is a hormone (yes, a hormone) created by your pancreas and it helps regulate the glucose (blood sugar) in your body. If you’re overweight or even “skinny fat” (storing too much visceral fat around your organs) your body’s glucose regulator (insulin!) gets thrown off balance and you can have a difficult time trying to lose weight. Also, if you tend to eat sugary foods throughout the day, you keep your insulin working overtime trying to get rid of the sugar from your blood. And what does insulin do with this extra sugar? It stores it as fat.
Less balance that insulin!
There are so many recommendations out there to starting your day by drinking a glass of water with two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. This helps to regulate your blood sugar first thing in the morning. If the apple cider vinegar sounds a little to vomit-in-the-mouth for you to try, ease into it or at least drink a glass of water every morning before you eat or drink anything else. This acts as a natural body flush. Some people like to start their day by adding lemon to their water…. Dentists will tell you to drink this with a straw so as not to deteriorate the enamel on your teeth) Other ways you can naturally balance your insulin levels include:
- Getting enough protein with every meal
- Eating smaller (healthy) meals more often
- Eating low-glycemic carbs (fruits, beans, non-starchy veggies – refer to my “Carbs are not the enemy” blog post)
- Eliminating added sugars from your diet
At the end of the day, if you’ve been struggling to lose weight but can’t figure out what you’re doing wrong, your hormones may be to blame. You can ask your doctor to test your hormones, as well as use the above information to try different techniques to bring suspected problem hormones back into balance. It’s YOUR body, and you should know everything you can to not only lose weight but feel Healthy, Happy & Strong!
Ref: From the book The Hormone Reset Diet: Balance your Hormones and Lose up to 15 pounds in just 3 weeks! by Sara Gottfried.
Ref: Women’s Health Australia & Prevention