If you’re finding it difficult to lose weight it might have less to do with what you’re putting into your mouth and more to do with how your body is reacting to the fat stores in it.
If your hormones are imbalanced there is a good chance no matter how many HIIT sessions you do or Acai bowls you eat your frame won’t shrink.
Hayden Keys from Happy & Healthy Wellbeing Centre in Sydney explained that it’s a common problem for women but can be remedied with attention to sleep, stress levels and diet.
If your hormones are imbalanced there is a good chance no matter how many HIIT sessions you do or Acai bowls you eat your frame won’t shrink (stock image)
‘Unfortunately the mechanisms that helped your ancestors survive during times of food scarcity now work against you getting slim,’ Mr Keys told FEMAIL.
‘When food was scarce your body was under stress and so your stress glands (adrenal glands) would release a hormone called cortisol to help you adapt to the stress.
‘In a famine cortisol did this by slowing your metabolic rate so that you wouldn’t burn through your body fat stores too quickly and so you could survive for as long as possible.
‘That’s a great response when there’s not much food but it’s not such a great response if there is. The problem with erratic and irregular eating patterns is that you’re telling your body that food is scarce and so it triggers the famine survival response.
Could high levels of cortisol be contributing to your weight gain? The ‘stress’ hormone may be holding onto your fat stores (stock image)
‘Cortisol is released which signals your brain to slow metabolism and it does this by suppressing your thyroid function. But food isn’t scarce. You’re still eating albeit irregularly. So the energy from the food you eat isn’t burnt it’s stored. So without eating extra calories or maybe even eating less your weight starts to go up.’
In order to re-balance your cortisol levels you should try to get seven to eight hours of sleep each night, meditate or take some time away from high-stress environments and limit ‘artificially made’ foods.
OESTROGEN AND PROGESTERONE
As you age, your sex hormone levels decline. That’s why most people don’t appear as youthful now as they did when they were in their 20s and 30s. But it’s also why your metabolism doesn’t run as well now as it did when you were younger.
‘Oestrogen and progesterone are your main sex hormones and when you produce them in the right amounts and the right balance your metabolism powers along. The most common reason they may become imbalanced is through stress,’ Mr Keys said.
As you age your sex hormone levels decline. That’s why most people don’t appear as youthful now as they did when they were in their 20s and 30s (stock image)
‘Back in hunter-gatherer times when there was a famine it wasn’t a good idea to have a baby. So under stress from lack of food to survive the body would shut down reproduction. It does this by turning progesterone (the hormone that prevents miscarriages) into cortisol. As the need for cortisol goes up progesterone levels go down. The drop in progesterone would cause any pregnancy to miscarry.
‘Now in developed countries there aren’t any famines but there is still a lot of stress. Low progesterone causes what is called oestrogen dominance. That is oestrogen dominates over progesterone. So while oestrogen is critical for female health too of it is undesirable.
‘Oestrogen is a growth hormone. It grows your breasts, your uterine lining (the endometrium), stimulates collagen synthesis and keeps your bones strong. But oestrogen also stimulates body fat production and storage. So if your progesterone levels drop and oestrogen becomes dominant your body starts making and storing more fat than you need.’
Sticking to wholegrains, exercising regularly and avoiding alcohol can help you re-balance these hormones.
Sticking to wholegrains, exercising regularly and avoiding alcohol can help you re-balance these hormones (stock image)
‘Whenever any woman is having trouble losing weight, thyroid hormone levels are one of the first things checked. And to most women’s frustration they nearly always come back “normal”,’ Mr Keys explained.
‘However this is where you need to understand the concept of ‘normal’ versus ‘ideal’.
‘When your tests come back normal all this means is that you don’t have a thyroid disease,’ he said.
‘It doesn’t mean that your thyroid is working optimally. Because thyroid hormones have such a profound effect on your metabolic rate your levels only have to be marginally low and your metabolism is going to slow.
‘I find it’s very common for women with weight problems to have low normal thyroid hormone levels. That is the level is not out of range but it’s at the bottom end of normal. The reasons for low normal levels are multiple.
Thyroid function can be re-balanced by way of thyroid medication, eating iodised salt and avoiding raw vegetables (stock image)
‘The first can be you’re not getting enough of the nutrients to make thyroid hormones. Secondly it could be you’re not getting enough of the minerals that convert inactive thyroid hormone T4 into the active thyroid hormone T3. Thirdly it could be cortisol is suppressing thyroid hormone output and inhibiting thyroid hormone activation. Or lastly it could be oestrogen dominance is suppressing your thyroid hormone output.
‘But whichever it is the effect on your weight and ability to lose weight is enormous.’
Thyroid function can be re-balanced by way of thyroid medication, eating iodised salt and avoiding raw vegetables.