Have you ever wondered why your body would produce hormones that promote the synthesis and storage of body fat? Especially because we now know an accumulation of fat can lead to many health consequences.
Well, the truth is, this was once a good thing when food was scarce a long, long time ago.
However, these life-saving mechanisms that were put in place to prevent starvation, are one of the reasons why so many struggle with their weight today. Especially with an abundance of food at our fingertips and a steady stream of stress.
So…if you want to lose weight and keep it off, it’s helpful to understand which hormones are working against you. And the best way to put the break on these fat storing hormones.
I’m sure you’ve heard about insulin. It’s a hormone associated with several serious conditions, such as metabolic syndrome and diabetes. And these conditions are also linked to obesity.
Your pancreas naturally secretes insulin as your blood sugar (a.k.a. glucose) level begins to rise after you’ve eaten a meal or snack.
One of its main functions is to usher glucose into your cells. This is important to maintain optimal blood glucose levels as well as supply your cells with fuel to make energy. However, if there is an energy excess, then insulin plays a role in storing the glucose for future use.
First, the excess glucose is converted into glycogen and stored in the liver and muscle cells. Once glycogen levels are maxed out, the rest is stored as fat.
In addition, insulin shuts down your body’s ability to burn stored fat. Essentially, your fat stays tucked away until your cells need energy in the absence of insulin and food.
Thus, it’s important to maintain optimal levels of insulin in your bloodstream. And this is one of the many reasons why you should avoid processed foods when it comes to weight loss.
Foods high in sugar and refined carbohydrates (i.e., bread, pasta, crackers, etc.) raise your blood sugar quickly. This, in turn, releases a surge of insulin.
Repeated cycles of this can lead to insulin resistance. Essentially, your cells stop responding to insulin. But since glucose can’t transport itself into your cells, your pancreas continues to secrete more insulin. And when insulin levels in your bloodstream remain high, your body becomes a fat storing machine.
It’s also worth noting that if insulin resistance is not addressed, it can lead to metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
Exercise is an effective way to balance your blood glucose and insulin levels. However, exercise alone won’t cut it. Dietary changes are always necessary.
Cortisol is commonly referred to as the “stress hormone.” And rightfully so. Because your adrenal glands release cortisol when you’re under stress.
Now, this isn’t inherently a bad thing. It’s a mechanism put in place to supply the body with fuel as well as other resources when we’re presented with a threat (real or perceived).
But the problem arises when your body is under constant stress. And cortisol levels remain high. Which is common in today’s world.
Here are three ways in which high cortisol can hijack your weight loss efforts:
- Cortisol triggers the release of glucose from our cells. A rush of glucose raises insulin levels. And as previously mentioned, a chronic cycle of this sets the stage for insulin resistance.
- Cortisol prompts the body to store fat (primarily in the abdomen) as a backup source of fuel. In fact, a chronic elevation of cortisol has been linked to abdominal fat and obesity in numerous studies.
- The combination of stress and elevated cortisol has been shown to influence food choices and intake. Specifically, there is a preference for foods higher in sugar and fat.
So when it comes to losing weight, especially the extra pounds around your waist, it’s essential to keep your cortisol levels under control. And most of all, this requires finding effective ways to reduce your stress as well as coping strategies.
Meditation and mindfulness are wonderful options for this purpose. However, if these aren’t for you, consider spending more time in nature or with friends and family that lift you up. Read for pleasure. Journal your experiences, thoughts, and feelings. Practice yoga. Hit the gym.
The goal is to find a method you enjoy and look forward to. If the thought of your stress-relieving activity causes stress, keep trying new strategies until you find the perfect fit.
Estrogen is predominantly a female sex hormone. It’s responsible for the development of a woman’s reproductive system.
Estrogen also plays a role in the distribution, storage, and utilization of fat. In fact, estrogen deficiencies in women have been associated with an increase in fat mass. However, the exact mechanisms aren’t yet fully understood.
As women pass their childbearing years, estrogen levels naturally decline. And this study found that postmenopausal women store more fat (and burn less fat) than premenopausal women.
So whether you’re premenopausal, postmenopausal, or a man, it’s important to take steps to balance your sex hormones. These include:
- Eating a nutrient rich diet, including healthy fats (i.e., wild salmon, grass-fed butter, and unrefined coconut oil). Keep in mind fat and cholesterol are needed to synthesize your sex hormones. Two other specific foods I recommend include flaxseeds and cruciferous vegetables (i.e., broccoli, kale, and cabbage).
- Avoiding endocrine disrupting chemicals (i.e., parabens, phthalates, and BPA) found in plastics, household cleaners, personal care products, and cosmetics. These toxins mimic your body’s hormones, which can significantly impact their function. The EWG Skin Deep Cosmetic Database is a great resource for checking the safety of the products you currently use and finding safer options.
- Exercising, but not overdoing it. Excessive exercise can lead to hormonal imbalances.
- Reducing stress.
- Prioritizing sleep.
- Moderating your alcohol consumption.
To shed excess pounds, hormonal balance is key. And three specific fat storing hormones you must consider include insulin, cortisol, and estrogen.
Eating healthy, exercising, reducing stress, and sleeping well are all essential.
However, it’s also important to understand that eating more calories than your body needs will also work against you. Even if you’re eating healthy foods.
And you will need a calorie deficit to burn fat even in the absence of insulin, cortisol, and estrogen.
Thus, a simple way to reduce your calorie intake is mini-fasting. Essentially, for 1 or 2 days a week, you take a break from eating. The rest of the week you eat a whole-foods diet that emphasizes vegetables, healthy fats, lean proteins, and some fruits.
It’s also worth noting that by not eating for 1 or 2 days, the amount of insulin your body releases will also be significantly reduced during your fast. Thus, mini-fasting is a great way to push the reset button on your metabolism.
This is the basis of my Bone Broth Diet. It’s a practical way to decrease the calories you consume. But, it also will naturally help balance your fat storing hormones.
Keep thinking Big and living BOLD!