Hormone imbalances can have a great impact on weight – both in gaining weight and efforts to lose it. My goal through this week’s tip is to try and simplify your understanding of how hormone imbalances come about and what you can do to correct or prevent it from happening.
Why understanding hormone imbalances is important
Typically and in an optimal state, hormones work in perfect harmony together to help keep your body running smoothly and healthy. When just one hormone is out of balance, it can cause all sorts of problems. Many times these imbalances can and often do lead to weight gain.
As a person that has dealt with weight gain, I know the challenges of trying to shed unwanted pounds and keep them off. When losing weight would finally become a priority for me, I would work really hard to try and lose weight using previously tried successful methods. However, as I got older, previous diets would not work for me and just seemed to be harder and harder to lose the pounds.
When I retired in April of 2007, focusing on my overall health and wellness became a priority for me. I was determined to get in shape and lose weight once and for all! In addition, as a woman rapidly approaching my 50’s, I know I am going to face even more challenges as the menopause years loom ahead of me.
About this same time, I also started listening more closely to the troubles other women faced as they aged and struggled with weight gain. “It must be hormone related” was the common response I heard to “Why can’t I lose weight?” Hearing these comments combined with my own issues, got me interested in learning more about the role women’s hormones play in weight gain and more importantly, what we can do to lose the weight.
Hormones: Simplified (I hope!)
Our bodies produce many hormones, but there are three hormones in particular that play a key role in aging and weight gain: Insulin, stress (adrenaline and cortisol are the primary stress hormones), and estrogen hormones.
Insulin plays a huge role within our bodies as it relates to metabolism and body fat. Its main job is to regulate the absorption of sugar (or glucose) into our body’s cells. Glucose is our body’s primary source of energy or “fuel” and is needed to perform any physical task. What we put into our bodies makes a big difference on how well insulin can perform its function.
Sugar gets in our bodies through carbohydrates (carbs). Foods in their natural state, (such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains) are the “good carbs”. “Bad carbs” are those foods that are refined and processed. Typically, most of the nutritional value has been stripped from these foods. When are diets regularly consist of bad carbs, over time this type of eating behavior can lead to a condition known as insulin resistance. “When you are insulin resistant your body converts every calorie it can into fat — even if you’re dieting. And it won’t let you burn fat when you exercise.”¹
The type of food we eat isn’t the only thing that can disrupt the balance of our hormones. Stress hormones kick into high gear when our bodies perceive some type of external threat. A threat can be anything from stubbing your toe to a blow to the head. As soon as your body perceives a threat, stress hormones block off or suppress many processes within our bodies, including our digestive process. When we experience a prolonged state of stress, our system goes into what is sometimes referred to as the “famine effect”: “despite adequate food, the body interprets prolonged stress as a famine, and once again, the body thinks it should store every spare calorie as fat.”¹
Everyone has stress in their life. How we deal with it determines whether or not our stress hormones become imbalanced.
Natural changes women go through in our lives do not always cause a hormone imbalance. However, as we age, the estrogen hormone that is produced in a woman’s ovaries, begin to produce less and less. During this slowed production time, our body naturally looks for someplace else to produce estrogen, such as within other organs, our skin or guess what? Body fat! Yes, our fat cells can produce estrogen.
If a woman carries extra body fat, in particular in their belly, the situation often becomes exacerbated because these now estrogen producing fat cells have even more reason to stay put! Even more worrisome is that excessive estrogen production is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer. The same risks that is found in people that carry too much weight around their bellies! See the connection?
How to fight back and return your hormones to perfect harmony
Hopefully you see the connection these hormones have and their importance to our ability to fight the spread of our middle as we age. Given our lifestyles today, it is no wonder our hormones are out of balance. The access to fast foods and easy quick meals is too convenient. Couple a bad diet with the daily stress we all face in trying to juggle families, careers, spouses and a social life. Even if we do have a good handle on these two areas of our life, no woman can stop the aging clock. It’s no wonder so many adult women feel they are in a no win situation in their struggle with weight gain.
- First, focus on a healthy diet. One that consists of lean meat, low-fat dairy, whole grains, lots of veggies and fruits as well as healthy oils and minimized alcohol intake.
By simply changing what you put in your body, you will immediately begin to see changes in how you feel. You will have more energy, (which will allow you to deal with your stress better), you will most likely sleep better, (adding further to your energy level) and you may even start to lose weight! By putting good calories in your body, your insulin will quit converting the calories to fat and allow your body to begin burning calories.
- Second and very simply put – just move! Start walking. Dance around the house. Stretch. Join a gym. Buy some inexpensive workout DVD’s. Hire a personal trainer of find a local fitness boot camp. Just do something. Start with 10 minutes a day and gradually add 5 minutes to your day. You don’t have to exercise all at once either. Break it up throughout the day. Whenever you can get 10 minutes in. However, eventually try to get in at least 30 minutes per day.
By adding exercise to your daily routine combined with a healthy diet you will begin to see a change in how you feel and your overall appearance. Give it time though. Those extra pounds didn’t appear in just 2 weeks or a month, so don’t expect to lose it all in that amount of time. Expect to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week and in no time, you will have the results you have been wanting.
Written by: Julie McCan, CPT Julie is on the www.GetYouInShape.com team of personal trainers. Julie has been a Coppell resident since 1984. Get You In Shape has is a Fitness Company in Coppell, TX. Coppell boot camps, Dallas boot camps, private training, 40 Day Challenge, weight loss, sports performance and nutrition are the main services of Get You In Shape
¹ Source: Womentowomen.com
Note: If you do suspect you have some type of hormone imbalance, be sure to consult your Doctor. You should always talk to your Doctor before you start any new exercise program or diet.
Get You In Shape’s programs include the Get You In Shape Boot Camp (Dallas and Coppell), 40 Day Challenge, sports specific training, weight loss programs, Corporate wellness plans, nutrition plans, core fitness training, strength training, toning and more. Clients include athletes (golf, basketball, tennis, football, track, baseball, baseball, volleyball, and softball) corporate executives, professionals, weekend warriors, cheerleaders, dancers, models, stay at home moms, and anyone looking for results.
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