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.
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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
Even fat cells themselves secrete multiple hormones.
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 these hormones, however, unless you’re the bedroom is as dark as a cave you’re probably not getting the benefits of this hormone.
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.
Related post: How to sleep soundly and wake rested.
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 best thing that you can do is to ease your stress and get your cortisol 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 insulin to store the excess calories as fat. This can also lead to insulin resistance, and eventually diabetes.
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
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.
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 a 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.
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.
How Stress Is Keeping You From Losing Your Belly Fat
Close your eyes and think about the last time you were stressed out. Chances are you didn’t think about the traffic jam that made you really angry and late for work, or the rush to get the kids fed and to soccer.
Generally, people only focus on big stressful events when they consider the stress in their lives. This common misconception could be the reason you are unsuccessful at getting your belly fat to start to melt off of your body.
What Is Stress?
Stress is a chronic problem in our current society. Healthy.net notes that most people experience chronic stress daily and it puts their body in a chronic stress response. The problem is that many of the things in our modern life cannot be controlled. Our commutes, the traffic, the plane delays for your business trip; they are all out of our control.
The University of New Mexico notes that psychological stressors can be a contributing factor in the release of cortisol. When you spill coffee on your shirt and have to change before you go to work which causes you to hit traffic and be late. This chain of events triggers a cortisol release into the bloodstream. But psychological stress is not the only type of stress that can cause
Strict diets are stressful and can make cortisol levels rise by as much as 18% according to Prevention Magazine. This can cause a whole host of side effects on your mood and your will power.
So, what is this lack of control and constant state of stress doing for our bodies?
Cortisol and weight gain
Stress is known to cause exaggerated responses to cortisol. Prolonged exposure to high levels of cortisol causes people to accumulate greater abdominal fat. And, according to Science Daily, Cortisol affects fat by causing the distribution of fat to change. Cortisol created fat likes to be stored centrally, so belly fat is likely to increase when you are stressed.
Cortisol Stops You From Losing Fat
Another reason you aren’t losing your belly fat when you are under stress is that cortisol prevents the release of fat to be used as fuel by altering the metabolic processes. This means that your stressful diet and lifestyle, even your stressful exercise routine can be the reason that you are not losing any belly fat. The hormones released when you are stressed out are stopping you from losing that stubborn fat.
What Can Be Done?
There are several things you can do to help you manage your stress. Making sure you find the right method that works for you may take some time.
Reducing the stress of extreme diets should be an easy fix by trying to achieve a more moderate diet.
A moderate diet will reduce the stress felt from the lack of calories on the body. Next, you should look for ways to reduce your psychological stressors.
If there are elements in your life that cause you unwanted stress, and they can be eliminated, eliminate them.
This will help ensure that you are not dealing with any unwarranted stressors.
What about those things you cannot eliminate?
For these types of chronic stressors, meditation, prayer, and being mindful of your physical and emotional responses to the situation will allow you to regain control of your body’s response to stress.
When you have reduced and eliminated as much stress as you can, you will start to notice the measurements on your waist go down. When your waist measurements begin to shrink you can be sure you have reduced your stress significantly.
A giant belly full of visceral fat is a key indicator of stress. If you have this classic symptom of chronic stress, try and find the stresses in your life so that you can move on and get the healthy flat belly you’ve always wanted. Then you will be on your way to balance your hormone levels.
Managing Your Cortisol Level
Cortisol is the stress hormone secreted by your adrenal glands, those little organs sitting on top of your kidneys. Cortisol is secreted in response to some type of physical or emotional danger that your body perceives. The important thing to note is that we get into trouble with cortisol when your body is constantly sensing danger and your cortisol on switch is stuck in that on position.
One of the main functions of cortisol is to regulate your blood sugar levels. Maintaining normal levels of cortisol will help keep your blood sugar levels even, your energy levels sufficient for doing what you want and help keep your other hormones in balance. When cortisol is out of whack, you accumulate belly fat, feel wired but tired and crave sugar and sweets.
In 2011, the American Psychological Association found 75% of Americans claimed they have an unhealthy amount of stress to bear on a daily basis. Dr. Mark Hyman, family physician, and New York Times best-selling author says, Ninety-five percent of disease is either caused by or worsened by stress.
We have not been successful at managing our stress (or our reaction to imagined stress) and as a consequence, there is a rampant epidemic of elevated cortisol throughout the civilized world!
Dr. Anna Cabeca, the author of The Hormone Fix has created a protocol to address elevated or decreased cortisol levels and other hormonal imbalances. The same person can suffer from high cortisol and low cortisol, sometimes on the same day. Begin now to manage your own cortisol levels and prevent the shifts in either direction.
Here are 5 action steps to start the process to get your cortisol level under control by managing your stress load.
- Spend quiet time daily in meditation. This doesn’t happen unless you schedule the time in your calendar. Make an appointment with yourself and then keep that appointment.
- Likewise, mark out time on your calendar for exercise. Short spurts of exercise are just as effective as one long session. The important thing is to do it! And again, it doesn’t get done unless you make an appointment on your calendar to spend that time with yourself.
- Eat from the earth. Eat your fruits and veggies every day. Mother was right about eating your greens. There’s plenty of scientific evidence that stress levels diminish with a plant-based diet. Even if you don’t completely go vegan, add more fruits and vegetables to each meal every day to get the benefit.
- Have an attitude of gratitude. As a matter of fact, a gratitude journal is a phenomenal way to raise your energy vibration and lower your stress level. Get your Gratitude Journal Here.
- Limit your alcohol and caffeine consumption. Both raise cortisol levels and continue the fight or flight response merry-go-round spinning. So if you are experiencing symptoms of elevated cortisol, choose a different beverage.
So there you have it! We know stress is rampant in our society along with all of the symptoms of unregulated cortisol.
Before you begin to suffer from symptoms of excess cortisol take the following action step: Look over the list of the five suggestions above and pick one to implement today.
If you are not spending regular exercise time, begin today tomorrow at the latest. Or if you recognize yourself as one who is really relying on a lot of caffeine or alcohol, wean yourself from one and then the other.
Related post: Functional Fitness. Everything you need to know.
Once your new action becomes a habit and you’re doing it without even thinking about it, pick another strategy on this list and implement it. Track your progress on a calendar or in a journal as a great way to visually follow your success.