Hormones and weight loss
We have been told for years and years that what we put in our mouth is the deciding factor making us gain weight or lose weight not hormones, the whole calories in versus calories out argument. We are told time and time again, if you want to lose weight you have to lower your calories! well this is a myth! and here I will explain why.
Studies have shown that lowering your intake of calories slows down your metabolism, making the amount of calories we expel go down, what this means is, if you lower the calories you take in you will also lower the calories you burn off, because your metabolism slows down with it.
As time goes on more and more studies are being carried out and information is now available that shows that hormonal changes are the driving force behind weight loss and weight gain.
Three hormones called Ghrelin, Leptin and Insulin are the main hormones that tell the body i’m full stop eating or i’m hungry so eat. Insulin is what controls blood sugars, so all those times you fell off the diet wagon and binged on junk food, it had absolutely nothing to do with you being greedy or having no will power, it was because your hormones were telling your body to eat more, you could even say your own body has sabotaging you in your weight loss efforts.
On top of the top of these three hormones we also have cortisol and dopamine, these are the stress and reward hormones and can play a huge part in making you feel hungry or not hungry. When all these hormones are active you will probably find it impossible to lose weight no matter what you put in your mouth.
Leptin – Satiety hormone
Leptin is the hormone your body produces telling your body you are not hungry so you now do not need to eat anything else, in many people this Leptin hormone turns itself off so you no longer receive the signal telling you to stop eating, leading to over eating and obesity.
Ghrelin – Appetite hormone
Ghrelin is the hormone that tells your body i’m hungry so you need to eat more. Obviously if this hormone is active there is going to be a tendency to over eat even when you are full because the hormone was confusing the body by sending the wrong signal, making you eat more.
Insulin – Storage hormone
Insulin is secreted by the pancreas which allow the cells to take in glucose, either for energy or storage for later use, it also stops the fat cells from breaking down. People who constantly eat a high sugar diet can eventually become resistant to insulin, you see when we eat foods that contain sugar our bodies produce insulin to process it and bring our blood sugars back to normal, if you eat too much sugar then eventually insulin stops having an effect, which leads to insulin resistance and then type 2 diabetes.
Cortisol – Stress hormone
Cortisol is a very clever hormone especially in a state of stress. If we came across a bear in the woods for example cortisol would kick in an give us the strength to either stay and fight off the bear or run away as fast as possible, which is why it is also often referred to as the fight or flight hormone, fight being stay and fight or flight run away as fast as you can.
In some people who have experienced high levels of stress either from childhood trauma, accident or even toxins the cortisol hormone is high and this can have a huge impact on the person on a day to day basis, it may even affect sleep and cause weight loss or weight gain.
Dopamine – Reward hormone
Dopamine is the reward hormone when we eat or ingest certain things the body gets rewarded with a huge dose of dopamine which makes us feel good. People dealing with addiction like smoking, drugs, alcohol and even food, have some form of issue with dopamine, it makes them feel good so they keep doing it.
Unfortunately when we keep doing the same thing over and over whether it be drinking alcohol, smoking or doing drugs the dopamine hit get less and less effective so we have to have more and more to get the same results, which is where addictions come from, regulating hormones can not only help with weight loss it can also help with addictions.
How to control hormones
Diet and lifestyle
The first step to controlling your hormones is by changing your diet and lifestyle, the Ketogenic diet is perfect for balancing hormones and controlling blood sugars because you cut back on eating huge amounts of carbohydrates, sugar and processed food, these things cause dopamine releases switch off the hunger hormones and cause insulin spikes. Eat more green leafy vegetables, fat from healthy sources like fatty fish, butter, olive and coconut oils and protein from meat and fish.
Control blood sugars
Once you have made the choice to change your diet and lifestyle your blood sugars will most likely take care of themselves, lowering carbohydrates and sugar also lowers the need for insulin. It is important that you stick to eating 3 meals per day and no snacking in between, snacking causes insulin to be released and insulin as we already know is the fat storage hormone, so we want to avoid snacking in between meals all together.
Sometimes this is easier said than done, we all have an amount of stress in our lives whether that’s work, home, children or even past experiences and sometimes we cannot avoid stressful situations, but we do have a choice about how we deal with it,
Take time out for yourself – even if it’s only half an hour a day to do something that makes you feel relaxed like a soak in the bath with some essential oils or magnesium salts.
Meditation – find a peaceful spot somewhere that you will not be interrupted, light a candle and empty your thoughts of all those negative thoughts and feelings.
Gentle exercise – something like yoga or short walks, if you are stressed you should avoid high intensity exercise as this can have the opposite effect on what you are trying to achieve.
Talk to someone – we all know that having a good natter can help you feel better, whether that is with a friend or family member or even a professional, learning to talk about how you feel can be hugely beneficial for our mental health and well being.
Get more sleep – this is the difficult one especially as getting more sleep or even any sleep can seem like an impossible task. Try to create a healthy sleeping environment, only use your bedroom for sleeping (although being a little frisky from time to time is fine for that dopamine release :P) go to bed the same time every night, if you have a TV in the bedroom try to avoid watching it up to 15 mins before bed, set an alarm if you have to but have a book by the side of your bed and read it for those 15 mins before you go to sleep this will help you to switch off. Keep a diary and write in it every night, this will help with over thinking once you do get to bed.
To find out more about a ketogenic diet see here