3 Hormonal Reasons You May Be Struggling to Lose Weight & What to Do About It!
Struggling to lose but not certain that hormones are the problem? Have you tried every diet and exercise program under the sun, but your weight just won’t budget? Or, maybe you have lost weight but any detour from your menu plan leads to immediate weight gain? Do you watch your friends and co-workers indiscriminately eat whatever they want without putting on a pound while you meticulously weigh and measure your food but still can’t get the scale to move? Do you dread your workouts because they leave you feeling depleted without changing your body composition? If you find yourself nodding along “yes” to any of these questions, it’s important to know that you are not alone. Maybe you’ve noticed your weight creeping up month after month, year after year despite your best efforts to lose weight, then there is likely a hormone connection and a hidden hormone imbalance that diet and exercise alone won’t be able to fix.
MRC’s Hormone Imbalance Quiz can help you determine if hormones are a likely culprit for your weight loss struggles.
3 causes of stubborn weight loss and tips to help restore balance:
1. You’re Estrogen Dominant
One of the most common hormone imbalances is estrogen dominance. This imbalance is often the culprit behind weight gain that shows up quickly and comes off super slowly. Estrogen dominance can be detected when the ratio between your female sex hormones (note: men make them too, just in lesser amounts), estrogen and progesterone get thrown out of balance. But how does this happen? Three of the most common ways are through dietary choices such as refined sugar and carbohydrates, conventionally raised meat and dairy, and processed foods, lifestyle habits such as chronic stress, poor sleep, and/or sedentary work/home life, and toxins found in certain foods, prescription meds like hormonal birth control, makeup, skincare products, and household cleaning products. The stubborn weight gain associated with estrogen dominance tends to hang around the butt, hips, and thighs and usually goes hand-in-hand with other symptoms of estrogen dominance including heavy or painful periods and PMS (in women), mood swings, depression/anxiety, headaches/migraines and bloating! In a perfect world, our hormones work in synchrony with one another, but when they get thrown out of whack, that’s when weight that was once easier to lose starts to feel immovable!
So how do you find out if you’re estrogen dominant? By uncovering “hidden hormonal imbalances” through testing your hormone levels. That's why Metabolic Research Center offers a “Body in Balance” program that includes at-home saliva hormone testing, which is a highly accurate way of collecting “bioavailable” or “active” hormones found in the target tissues of the body where hormones do their work. Once you receive your results and they are interpreted for you, you’ll be able to match your imbalances to the symptoms you are actively experiencing - like frustrating weight gain. If estrogen dominance is identified in the saliva results, you’ll be provided with a food plan and targeted supplement recommendations to help reverse and correct the imbalance, naturally.
Steps to take to support your diet
We know it can feel heartbreaking to say good-bye to your favorite sweets and comforting carbs but rather than eliminate them entirely, it’s about learning to “crowd out” what’s not serving you by filling your plate with more of what will. Here are some tips we suggest:
Eat largely unprocessed “real” foods that are filled with micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals and are lower on the glycemic scale. This will help prevent spikes in your blood sugar levels that can not only contribute to weight gain but are also a catalyst behind hormone imbalances. So, what does this look like in practice? For starters, shop the outer edges of the grocery store where fresh produce, fruits, and veggies are kept rather than the inside aisles where you’ll find more processed foods. Begin to prioritize and incorporate into your diet foods that are non-GMO, hormone-free, and organic whenever possible. If you’re concerned about the cost of these items, you can download the “Clean 15 & Dirty Dozen” list put out by the Environmental Working Group each year. This list can help you prioritize what foods are most important to shop organic and which ones are safe and you can afford to go without.
Reduce sugar... ! Did you know that up to 80% of grocery store products can contain added sugar? That means we must go in ready to turn around nutrition labels and take note of how much of it is hidden in everything from salad dressings to soups to crackers to nut butters and even frozen veggies. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 24 grams of sugar per day for women and 36 grams for men. This may seem like a lot, but you’ll see that this can add up very quickly if you’re not paying attention. Find swaps for the foods you crave by comparing labels and looking for options with less sugar, and more whole ingredients (you know, the ones you can pronounce). Pro tip: the fewer ingredients that are listed on the label, the less sugars, and preservatives those items contain. Now you can feel proud when you find products that you are excited to eat and that you know will support your body best!
Get rid of the toxins. Xeno-estrogens are fake estrogens that can wreak havoc on our body and lead to imbalances like estrogen dominance. They are commonly found in hormone injected meat and dairy, household products, and beauty products such as makeup, skincare, and floor cleaners. Even plastic items such as shower curtains, water bottles, and Tupperware can house these fake estrogens. When you’re looking at labels on your products, watch out for ingredients like parabens, phthalates, and fragrances (i.e., perfume, parfum). Finding new products and swapping them out may feel like a daunting task. So, rather than feel like you must unrealistically get rid of all your products overnight, simply take the things you are running out first and replace them with a great alternative when the time comes! Some superior brands include: Seventh Generation (cleaning products), Beauty Counter (makeup & skincare) and Thrive Market (household supplies, food, baby care etc.).
2. You Have an Adrenal Imbalance
The adrenal glands sit atop the kidneys and mobilize your response to every external or internal change within your environment. They produce our sex hormones, cortisol, and adrenaline to support you in effectively managing daily stressors and activate the “fight or flight” response to help you react to a threat (i.e., someone running you off the road or a natural disaster).
Cortisol, the master stress hormone, regulates our stress response, glucose metabolism (i.e., blood sugar levels) and immune function. When levels are too high or out of balance, this can lead to low immunities and longer recovery times from illness, asthma, allergies, as well as many other symptoms like increased appetite, cravings for sweet and/or salty food, difficulty losing excess body fat and/or putting on muscle, weight gain in the mid-section, low energy, difficulty sleeping, lethargy, and brain fog.
Optimal levels of cortisol should be highest in the morning.
This helps us pop out of bed with energy and levels should decrease gradually throughout the day to their lowest point at night for deep, restorative sleep. If you find yourself relating to any of the above symptoms, here are some action steps you can take to help reduce and resolve them:
Test Your Hormones with a Saliva Kit. The Hormone Imbalance Kit that MRC offers measures cortisol levels four different times over the course of one day to track whether they are following the right diurnal pattern or not. With cortisol it’s important not only to know “how much” but “when” you’re at those levels. The detailed instructions that come with the kit will provide guidance on how and when to test, which will vary based on age, gender, and a woman’s menstrual cycle.
Carve out mandatory wind down time in your day. Schedule in your calendar a 30 minute to 1 hour block of time with activities that are calming and help to bring down stress levels and support your adrenals. Note: you can take your 30 minutes to an hour all at once or split it up throughout the day. This could include journaling, reading a funny book, listening to a podcast while going for a walk, laying in the grass, watching the stars, playing lo-fi hip hop or jazz music while cooking a hormone-healthy meal, stretching, self-massage, meditation, deep breathing, and lighting candles while applying a non-toxic face mask. Feeling like 30-60 minutes is too much? Start by writing down 3 activities that bring down your stress levels and make you feel recharged, and simply commit to doing at least one of them this week (bonus points for more!).
Learn to Set Boundaries and Say “No!” Look at your schedule every Sunday and ask yourself, “Is there anything that can be rescheduled or canceled to alleviate unnecessary stress/pressure?” Saying “yes” to every work happy hour, coffee date, and appointment leaves little time for relaxation which your body desperately needs to fight off inflammation, lower cortisol levels and release weight. Not to mention, too many social events with wine, sugary foods, and late nights also add fuel to the flame and can contribute to poor sleep and inflammation... all of which can result in brain fog and weight gain that doesn’t want to budge. So, what can you say “no” to this week? Remember, you’re in the driver's seat!
Prioritize sound sleep. If you’re not sleeping well (due to elevated evening or nighttime cortisol levels or other factors), this can also impact your adrenal health and lead to imbalances. When you don’t get enough quality sleep - at least 7-8 hours per night without interruption - you constantly release the hunger hormone ghrelin. This hormone sends a message to the body that it’s time to eat. The result? A larger appetite and the feeling of being “hangry” or ravenous all the time. And we’re usually not racing to the fridge to chow down on broccoli and chicken breast! Struggling with sleep? Here are some of our best tips: dim all lights at least two hours before bed; use blue light blocking glasses and filters; create a calming evening routine to prep and prime your body for sleep such as reading, a relaxing skincare regime, candles, or Himalayan salt lamps; aim to get into bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning; and refrain from sugar and carbs before bed that can spike blood sugar & cortisol levels that keep you wired at night.
3. You Have a Sluggish Thyroid
One in five women has a thyroid disorder, and yet this remains the most underdiagnosed hormone issue. It can be extremely frustrating to struggle with weight gain, hair loss, mood swings, and constant fatigue/lethargy, and then have your blood tests come back “normal.
Your thyroid gland is located at the front of your neck. An under-active thyroid gland (i.e., hypothyroidism) happens when the gland cannot make enough thyroid hormone. This can happen for a number of different reasons including autoimmune disease, surgical removal of the thyroid, medications, iodine deficiency, and even other hormones that are out of balance, too.
Your thyroid plays a major role in your metabolism, mood, sleep quality, and body temperature. If your thyroid is sluggish, it can manifest as unexplained weight gain (even with constant dieting & exercise), cold feet & hands, puffy eyes & chronic exhaustion.
How do other hormones play a contributing role in this?
Estrogen Dominance can act as a “roadblock” to the conversion of thyroid hormone T4 ( the most abundant thyroid hormone, but mostly inactive) to T3 active hormone levels. This causes overlapping symptoms of low thyroid like lethargy, weight gain, slower metabolism, and as a result - difficulty losing weight — even when thyroid tests come back “normal." Also, deficiencies of anabolic hormones (Testosterone and DHEA) that build bone and muscle can implode the metabolic rate to slow calorie burning and cause fat gain.
If you think you may have an under-active thyroid, you’ll want to find a health care provider who can test your TSH levels, T4, T3, and T3 uptake to give you the greatest understanding of where your thyroid function is breaking down. It’s very important to note that testing TSH alone will not give you the whole picture because it does not take the active thyroid levels into account. In fact, hormone imbalance may even be the reason your blood test results came back “normal” even if that’s the opposite of how you feel!
There is a HUGE link between hidden hormone imbalances and difficulties losing or maintaining our ideal weight. We often blame ourselves for our inability to be “strict enough” on our diets; when in reality our best efforts may be thwarted by something deeper going on beneath the surface.
Testing your hormones to get to the root of your imbalances sheds new light that can be so empowering and gives you a guide to rebalancing in a natural way that’s tailored to your body's unique hormone production and release Additionally, having the right support, encouragement, and accountability that your MRC Weight Loss Coaches provide along the way will make all the difference. Connect with a Weight Loss Coach today to learn more about how MRC can help you find relief and restore hormone imbalances!
*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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