5 Ways to Lose Weight, Balance Hormones, and Get Healthier in the New Year
As we enter into a new year and a natural starting point for “change,” it’s natural to start thinking about weight loss. And it makes sense - the holidays are often filled with travel, extra treats, and eating outside the home. As you start to adopt a healthy lifestyle this year, you’ll also learn how to make more supportive choices year round so that the holidays don’t become a free-for-all that leaves you feeling guilty, bloated, and rundown come January 1st. While it might be fun to indulge in your favorite pumpkin pies, peppermint mochas, bacon-wrapped ham, and festive cocktails all season long - and don’t get us wrong, a little indulgence here and there isn’t a death sentence - but when these choices sneak in consistently from Halloween to New Years Eve, that’s when a one-time thing becomes more of a “norm” (and the pounds begin to creep up, too). So if you’re reading this and have gotten the holiday hustle out of your system and are ready to lose weight sustainably, we’ve got five hormone balancing steps that you can start implementing right away to level up your energy, release weight and feel more energized and confident in your own skin!
Tip #1 - Consider a sugar detox!
The World Health Organization recommends no more than 24 grams of sugar for women and 36 grams for men per day. The reality is that Americans consume an average of 77 grams a day (this is more than three times the recommended amount). To put this in perspective, when you drink a single can of coke, you’re gulping down 39 grams of sugar in a matter of minutes. The popular 16oz Starbucks mocha is loaded with 35 grams of sugar. So, before you’ve even had a bite of food, you’ve surpassed your goal for the day! When your body becomes biologically addicted to sugar, your taste buds are hijacked and cravings become almost impossible to control. Upon eating sugar, the reward center of the brain is activated and your body releases the feel good hormone, dopamine. Consuming a diet high in sugar and carbs raises both inflammation and cortisol “stress hormone” production. Meaning even if you’re not stressed, too much sugar can jack up cortisol - and that additional stress can make you crave more sugar…thus a vicious cycle begins and continues.
Did you know? There are over 600,000 food products in the American food industry and 80% of them contain added sugar; so, despite your best efforts to control sugar intake, you are likely still consuming plenty of it via all of the sneaky ways it’s added to products. Even items that are marketed as “healthy” can contain added sugars such as sauces, salad dressings, crackers, and even gluten-free bread. We’re not saying to be healthy and lose weight you have to completely cut out ALL products with added sugars, but being mindful of how many hidden sugars are in processed foods is a good place to start.
If you’re ready to take the plunge and make long-lasting healthy changes, then one of the most effective ways to lose weight is by intentionally cutting back on refined sugars and carbs. Doing so will help reduce cortisol “stress hormone” levels and allow your body to more effectively use food energy for fuel (rather than storing as fat). When this happens, you’ll be able to lose weight and reduce inflammation that could be contributing to other symptoms like acne, headaches and extreme fatigue. When your body is accustomed to the taste of processed sugar, natural sugar forms like strawberries and blueberries can taste bland to start. But with a successful sugar detox, your taste buds can be rewired so that nature’s candy will be much more likely to satisfy your sweet tooth in the future.
Metabolic Research Center offers several different and unique approaches to weight loss - all of which are low in sugar and carbs; making any MRC plan a great place to start in reducing your intake. Coupled with the support of a team of professional weight loss coaches, you’ll have all the knowledge, accountability, and support that you’ll need to be successful.
Tip #2 - Exercise Intentionally!
YES, exercise is indeed a helpful way to speed up weight loss and complement your eating plan. It’s important, though, to know and do what will work best for your unique body. Most of us have been taught that in order to lose weight we must workout like a madwoman, but in regards to hormone balance, working out excessively can actually cause our cortisol “master stress hormone” levels to spike too high. This, in turn, can actually signal our bodies to hang on to the very fat we are trying to lose! This is why it’s crucial to incorporate rest days between high intensity training days and to focus on workouts that are toning and strengthening. Examples include pilates, swimming and moderate weight lifting. It’s important that you allow your body to recover from the breaking down that happens during workouts; so, be sure to create space to unwind every day with calming activities like stretching, deep breathing, yoga, swimming and walks in nature to stabilize cortisol and balance our master hormones.
Exercise not really your thing or you find it hard to stick to anything for more than a week? Focus your exercise around movements that you genuinely look forward to (rather than trying to copy what the latest bodybuilder is touting as the “miracle exercise routine”). Pro Tip: write a list of all the ways you enjoy moving your body, and stick it on your fridge or somewhere you’ll be able to see it daily. Commit to incorporating these forms of exercise into your routine at least 2-3 days per week and schedule it into your calendar! It’s totally okay to take something that you do on a daily basis and beef it up with a little extra movement - that counts! For example, if you walk to the end of the street or neighborhood to pick your child up from the bus, leave a little earlier and walk a little bit longer!
Lastly, results also come from challenging yourself. If you’ve been lifting the same 10 pound dumbbells for 2 months, consider increasing your weight a little bit and see how you feel. If it doesn’t feel right, then go back to where you were. But if it does feel good, then keep moving forward! Motivation to continue any exercise regime comes from seeing progress, not only on the scale, but also in the strength and flexibility of your body. Remember. progress, not perfection!
Tip #3 - Stress Reduction
If you’ve been experiencing stubborn belly fat, difficulty losing weight, intense sugar cravings, hair loss, body aches, lethargy and it’s been a struggle to wake up in the morning or fall asleep at night, these could all be signs that stress is taking a toll - adrenal imbalances could be at work here. These imbalances can occur when the adrenal glands have been on overdrive by working nonstop under periods of heightened stress to meet increased energy needs. Eventually, the adrenals have trouble keeping up with the bodily demand and stress levels remain chronically high. This means that the adrenals remain in survival mode, often leading to increased appetite, sleepiness and weight gain - particularly around the waist and in the "abdominal depot.” This is where the body tends to store fat under stress conditions.
Some of our favorite stress reducing practices include:
Deep breathing: Simply taking 5 deep breaths in and out whenever you feel tension start to build can be a major helper in bringing down cortisol levels and centering your mind and body. There are many meditation and breathing apps that help you find what you need to tune out the world for a few minutes of peace.
Anti-inflammatory diet: Focus on filling your plate with unprocessed foods (i.e. shopping on the outer aisles of the grocery store), lean protein, healthy fats (avocados, nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil etc) and a rainbow of low glycemic fruits and vegetables for the antioxidants, phytonutrients and fiber. All of these are necessary for a healthy gut and the elimination of excess hormones, pesticides, and toxins that act as endocrine disruptors (negatively affecting hormone balance). Therefore, reducing refined sugar, carbs, and processed foods is a must for any long-term healthy lifestyle.
Spend time in the great outdoors. Make it a priority to get outside every day and whenever possible, spend 15-20 minutes in the sunshine for your natural Vitamin D intake (remember to wear sunscreen). Engaging in gentle, restorative exercises like a short bike ride, casual hike and/or walks in nature to boost your mood and regulate your sleep are low-impact ways to reduce stress and get moving. Studies have shown that simply spending 20 minutes in nature each day will lower stress hormone levels. So get outdoors!
Journal to release trapped emotions. While it may sound a little juvenile and like “keeping a diary”, spending time writing your worries, anxieties and emotions in a safe and unfiltered space has been proven time and time again to be extremely healing. We don’t often give ourselves the permission to release the stuck emotions we are feeling - both internally and externally. By putting them on paper, we allow ourselves a mental release in a safe space. This helps us rid stress from the body that is toxic to our efforts to lose weight and improve mood.
Tip #4 - Good Sleep Hygiene
The importance of sleep is often understated. Truly, though, ample amounts of sleep are critical not only for our mood and energy, but for our bodies to function at optimal levels. Aim for 7-8 hours of undisturbed sleep per night. This goes a long way in detoxing the glymphatic system (the brain's unique process of removing waste), essential for a healthy body and mind. Poor sleep not only impacts detoxification pathways but it can also increase cortisol “stress hormone” levels and the hunger hormone ghrelin (which is why you may feel ravenous and be more likely to binge eat after a night of mediocre sleep or insomnia). Reducing cravings may actually be as simple as getting in some more nightly ZZZs.
Ways to get better sleep:
Dim all lights at least two hours before bed and replace them with low lamps, candles and/or himalayan salt lamps. Turn off devices that emit blue light - this can block melatonin (the master sleep hormone). If you are using a laptop before bed, be sure to dim the screen or use an app like f.lux to change the lighting, according to the time of day. Investing in a quality pair of blue light blocking glasses can make a marked difference as well.
Balance blood sugar levels by eating a nourishing meal for dinner that’s rich in protein, healthy fats & fiber to turn off hunger hormones. Note: this doesn’t necessarily need to be your largest meal of the day, but it should be one of your most nutritionally sound. Try adding in tryptophan (essential amino acid) rich foods like organic turkey, chicken, shellfish and nuts & seeds which can support healthy sleep. Whenever possible, avoid sugary/ carb heavy meals before bed which can increase cortisol levels and result in blood sugar spikes. These nighttime spikes can actually wake you up in the middle of the night; making it harder to fall back to sleep and stay asleep.
Cultivate calming evening rituals. Turn on relaxing music, dim the lights and create a mood that takes you out of “fight or flight” mode and preps and primes the body for sleep. Keep stressful work and money conversations out of the bedroom. Turn your attention to uplifting shows, movies and books vs. “doom and gloom” news, true crime shows and brain heavy textbooks - all of these things can impact your ability to fall asleep and the quality of sleep you get once you finally do. Certain herbs and supplements like valerian root, melatonin, and magnesium can support a more restful sleep. Always consult with your primary care physician before incorporating new supplements into your diet. If your hormones are out of whack and disrupting your sleep, then talk to an MRC Coach about testing your hormone levels. Low progesterone in particular is known for making it harder to fall asleep at night and stay asleep. Rebalancing can involves simple steps such as tailored dietary choices and gentle supplementation to help provide you with many more hours of restful sleep.
Tip #5 - Get Rid of Toxic Products
Environmental toxins, such as BPA (found in plastic products) and other chemicals known as persistent organic pollutants (or POPs), have been shown to increase the risk of weight gain and even type 2 diabetes. Chemicals, fragrances, dyes, artificial flavors, plastics, genetically modified ingredients, and parabens are called xeno "fake" estrogens and are a class of endocrine disruptors that “bind” or attach themselves to the receptor sites of target tissues in the body. They then mimic and overstimulate hormone activity. It’s important to note that the household products most families use daily emit chemicals that can increase your risk for developing hormone imbalances and obesity. To date, there are about 1,000 chemicals found in man-made products that are suspected to disrupt hormone levels! So, it’s important to be aware of them and switch to non-toxic alternatives where possible. Easy ways to start shopping less toxic include shopping organic when possible. If you want to go 100%, then by all means go for it. Otherwise, shoot for a number like 80% organic when you can. Use the Use the Clean 15 & Dirty Dozen to help you prioritize where to start and avoid products with pesticides that can disrupt healthy hormones. The beauty and skincare industries have come a long way in recent years, but there are still many cosmetics and skincare products that can contain hormone-harming ingredients. Look for high-performing brands free of known toxins and chemicals or you can even experiment with your own homemade DIY recipes! Lastly, don’t feel like “everything must go right now”. Instead, start by replacing the products you use most often, and then begin replacing others as they run out! Did you just finish up your last bottle of windex? Slathered on the last bit of drug store lotion? Now would be a great time to replace those products with a clean alternative. This staggered replacement approach will prove to be less stressful than an “all or nothing - all at once” approach.
Making changes to your diet and lifestyle can feel daunting if you try to do it all at once on your own. Creating goals with a clear “why” and achievable action steps can be so helpful in making progress and reducing burnout! Oftentimes, though, it can be difficult to split our end goals into smaller micro-goals. This is where the help of an MRC Coach can make the difference in a failed attempt at weight loss and a successful one. Just like your doctor is a source of medical advice and support, your weight loss coach is a source of weight loss and wellness advice and support.
Testing your hormones (in saliva) to get to the root of your imbalances can also help you to understand where your weight gain may be stemming from and what hormonal imbalances may be contributing. MRC’s “Body in Balance” program includes this testing as well as a guide to rebalance - all tailored to your unique body and hormones. Coupled with professional support and accountability from your coach, you’re sure to be able to make positive, livable changes with more ease than doing nothing at all. Connect with a Weight Loss Coach today to learn more about how MRC can help you find relief and support healthy hormone balance!
*The information provided within this article is not to replace a relationship with your Medical Professional. The laboratory services offered are for informational purposes only. It is not the intention of Metabolic Research Center to provide medical advice but rather to provide you with information to better understand your health. Seek the advice of a trained health professional for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
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