If you’ve been doing everything right, but still haven’t lost weight, it could be your hormones.
Losing weight isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do.
When all you want to do is sit on the couch after a long day and binge a few episodes of your favorite show eating a bag of chips, the above-mentioned steps are tough.
When you resist all that temptation and stick to the healthy food and exercise, seeing no progress just plain sucks.
Sometimes it’s not as simple as making sure fewer calories coming in than going out. You may need to reset your hormones.
We don’t mean necessarily going onto the pill or any other medication although for some people it may be necessary.
We’ll be looking at estrogen, the thyroid hormones, insulin, cortisone, leptin, and ghrelin. These hormones control your monthly cycle, mood, metabolism, hunger, satiety, and so much more.
For your body to work at its best, which includes getting to a healthy weight, they need to be in balance.
Let’s check out how to reset your hormones and melt fat naturally.
How Hormones Control Your Weight
Most people think of estrogen as the hormone that governs your menstrual cycle. And when the body produces too little after a certain age, menopause results.
But it’s so much more than this. With regard to fat distribution, too much estrogen causes weight gain in the thighs and hips. Too little estrogen causes you to gain weight around your middle.
Too much estrogen will also cause an imbalance with your progesterone and androgens (testosterone, and yes, women also need testosterone just like our male counterparts need estrogen).
This can lead to bloating which is annoying whether you are trying to lose weight or not. Your lean muscle mass will also suffer.
Many women struggle with a condition called estrogen dominance which is where they have excessively high estrogen levels or very low progesterone.
Many menopausal women also naturally struggle with excessively low levels of estrogen although women of all ages can experience this issue.
These imbalances can be caused by a variety of factors:
- Birth control pills
- An unhealthy diet
- Nasty endocrine disrupting (in other words, they mess your hormones up) chemicals in personal care products
- Endocrine-disrupting chemicals in plastic
Insulin is the hormone that is released to get glucose (the final product of carbohydrates such as bread, potatoes, sugar, etc) into your cells.
Through this action, it also balances your blood sugar levels. This is important because your body is using the glucose as energy.
Insulin resistance results in weight gain because the cells can no longer accept glucose despite the insulin. Excess glucose in your body turns into fat.
Similarly, if you overburden your body with glucose constantly, the insulin may not be able to effectively balance your blood sugar levels.
Again, we sit with excess glucose that will turn into fat.
You don’t need to be a diabetic in order for your insulin and blood sugar levels to be a problem. Doing this too much can result in insulin resistance and perhaps even diabetes.
You can count your calories perfectly, but not all calories are created equal. Sad, but true.
Processed high sugar foods and simple carbs such as white bread and white pasta will spike your blood sugar levels far more than fruit or whole grains for example.
There are many reasons the thyroid may be underactive:
- Hashimoto’s disease (an autoimmune condition affecting the thyroid gland)
- Certain medications such as antidepressants and epilepsy medication
- Iodine deficiency
Cortisol is known as the stress hormone. It’s one of the primary hormones released during stress along with adrenalin. Cortisol isn’t all bad though. We do need some for everyday bodily functions.
But constantly excessive levels of cortisol, usually caused by chronic stress, causes the accumulation of belly fat. It’s so common, that it gets called “stress belly”.
Excess cortisol can also lead to imbalances in the sex hormones. It requires the same precursors (kind of like ingredients) to make progesterone.
Having too little progesterone also leads to estrogen dominance. Excess cortisol also limits the thyroid hormons and increases insulin since it raises blood sugar levels to prepare for “fight or flight”.
Hunger and Satiety Hormones
Believe it or not, your hunger and satiety is controlled by hormones. Ghrelin is to let you know that you’re hungry. Leptin lets you know you are full.
These hormones are often imbalanced after yo-yo dieting, stress, sleep deprivation, and after being overweight or obese for a long time.
The Materials You’ll Need to Balance Your Hormones
You don’t need a whole lot to get your hormones back on track. Here is the main list of what you will need:
- Water and herbal teas
- Green tea
- Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables
- Plant-milk alternatives
- Alternatives to personal care products, cleaning products, and food packaging with nasty chemicals
- Adaptogenic/ Chinese medicinal herbs
Your Step by Step Guide to Reset Your Hormones and Melt Fat
There are many ways to balance your hormones, and while you may need to try all of them, you need to find what works for you.
We are all different and what works for me might not work for you.
The steps below are backed by science. If implementing them all at once is overwhelming, implement a new one every week or two.
Step 1: Ditch the Processed Sugar-Laden, Simple Carb Foods and Beverages
Sugary foods and drinks generally offer very few if any real nutrients and have a lot of calories. The exception here is fruit juice which contains vitamins. But don’t get too excited.
When fruit is processed, it loses all or most of the fiber. Also, if we look at how many pieces of fruit it takes to make a glass of juice, you can just imagine the sugar content.
It spikes your blood sugar levels just as a soft drink would. Whole fruit, on the other hand, doesn’t spike your blood sugar as juice does.
Any time you take a natural form of something and strip it down, you lose so much of the beneficial nutrition.
Processed foods such as simple carbohydrate foods (e.g. white bread, white rice, etc) and sugary foods have had most or all of the fiber removed.
Without the fiber, the sugars are quickly absorbed into the blood causing a sugar spike and high amounts of insulin.
Instead, stick to whole grains and keep the sugary treats for a cheat day once a week. If you crave sugar when it’s not your cheat day, try fruit. I personally enjoy grapes, bananas, and soft citrus fruit.
Step 2: Eat More Protein
Protein has a positive effect on the hormones that control hunger and satiety, including PYY and GLP-1, which also play a role in satiety signaling.
Protein is very filling so it lessens the release of ghrelin and increases the satiety hormones.
Digesting protein is hard work. Your body burns more calories digesting protein than simple carbs for example.
In addition to this, protein also gets your metabolism going by increasing growth hormone. In adults, this hormone aids fat burn and maintenance and growth of muscle.
Muscle supports your joints and gives you a gently toned look. It also burns more calories than fat.
Step 3: Increase Your Fiber Intake
Fiber has the same effect on the hormones for hunger and satiety as protein. Women need at least 25g of protein per day. On the standard American diet, we get far less than this.
Fiber also helps your body to excrete excess estrogen effectively.
Often women with estrogen dominance have trouble with their liver or digestive system or both processing and excreting excess estrogen.
Fiber takes care of insulin and blood sugar levels too. It slows down the rate at which glucose enters the bloodstream.
This in turn keeps the blood sugar levels more stable which requires less insulin to be released.
Step 4: Green Tea
Green tea has been shown to lower fasting insulin and blood sugar levels. Fasting glucose and insulin levels are taken when testing for diabetes.
Green tea also has fat-burning properties due to the EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) levels.
These powerful antioxidants along with the caffeine content are what’s responsible for the fat melting effects.
Step 5: Eat Healthy Fats
MCT (medium-chain triglycerides) oil helps to keep insulin levels in check. It’s a type of saturated fat. But unlike saturated fat found in animal products, MCTs don’t raise your cholesterol levels.
Rather, they’re a source of energy and help you feel fuller for longer. It’s found in small amounts in coconut oil and palm oil. You can also find pure MCT oil in most health stores and online.
Omega 3 has been shown to lower inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation is caused by an unhealthy diet, pollution, stress, and taking in too much omega 6.
Constant low-grade inflammation can lead to weight gain, insulin resistance, and hypothyroidism.
Omega 3 fatty acids have even been shown to lower cortisol and adrenalin levels.
Be sure to include omega 3 fatty acids in your diet while consuming less omega 6. The ideal ratio is 1:4 omega 3 to omega 6 or less.
Omega 3’s are found in fatty fish, certain types of marine algae and seaweed, walnuts, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, and chia seeds.
Omega 6 is found in seeds, nuts, vegetable oil (one of the biggest sources), baked goods, and fast food.
Olive oil and avocado are also good sources of fat to include in your diet.
Step 6: Move More
You might be exercising. But are you spending the rest of the day seated behind a desk or in front of the TV?
I’ve mentioned that cortisol raises blood sugar levels. Exercise, as long as you don’t overdo it, will lower your stress levels.
So if you aren’t exercising, chat to your doctor, and get going with his or her go ahead.
But having said that, sitting down while stressed out will still leave your blood sugar levels and consequently insulin levels, high.
Get up and walk around a little bit if you can so that your muscles can use that sugar.
If you can’t do it right away, fit some extra movement in by taking the stairs or parking further from the entrance to the shop.
You can also try knitting, a stress ball, stretching, or dance breaks. Sometimes if I feel stressed but can’t work out right there and then, I’ll just dance to a song. It’s fun and it helps a lot.
Step 7: Stress Less
I know, asking you to stress less is like telling you to do a handstand… on one hand… while perfectly juggling balls with your feet.
While you can’t always stop stressful things from happening, you can lower your stress levels.
Of course, if you are able to change your situation somehow (move jobs, hire help, lower your expenses, learn to say no, etc), that’s first prize.
Here are some things you can do to lower your stress levels:
- Breathe, four counts in, four to six counts out. Do this 10 times
- Take a bubble bath
- Go for a walk
- Go out with your friends
- Hug your loved ones
- Play with your pets
- Listen, and dance if the mood takes you, to good music
- Get a massage
- Take on an art project or other hobby you enjoy
- Have alone time to relax
As women, we often fall into the trap of always putting others ahead of ourselves. But a little “me” time is important. It’s not selfish, it’s for a healthier you.
Step 8: Sleep More
Sleep deprivation impacts your cortisol, ghrelin, satiety hormones, growth hormone, thyroid hormones, and insulin levels negatively.
Sleeping less than 7 hours a night isn’t the only thing that’s considered sleep deprivation.
If you sleep for 7-9 hours a night, but have disrupted sleep or are unable to reach deep sleep for four days in a row, you are sleep deprived.
Try to get to bed at a decent time. It should be a priority. Follow these tips to get good quality sleep:
- Get up and go to bed at the same time every day
- Dim the lights an hour before bed
- Make sure your bedroom is cool but not cold
- Do something relaxing before bed
- Put down the electronics an hour before bed or use a blue light filter app
- Make sure your bed and pillows are comfy
- Stop drinking alcohol three hours before bed since it prevents deep sleep
- Stop caffeine after midday
- Don’t drink too many liquids before bed
- Keep your bedroom clear of clutter
- Don’t work in bed
Step 9: Adaptogens and Medicinal Herbs
Adaptogens are herbs that help the body adapt to stress, whether external or internal. There are also herbs that help to balance other hormones in the body too.
I mention symptoms because these are indications that there is something wrong. For example, PMS symptoms indicate estrogen dominance or a deficiency of progesterone.
Menopause symptoms indicate low estrogen. Fatigue may be a symptom of thyroid issues and/or sex hormone imbalance.
Here are a few of the main issues
- American Ginseng
- Holy Basil (Tulsi)
- Lemon Balm
- Licorice Root
For Estrogen Dominance and PMS:
For Menopause Symptoms:
- American Ginseng
For Mild Hypothyroidism:
For Weight Loss in General:
- Cayenne Pepper
- Caralluma Fimbriata
It’s best if you go the herbal route to check with your doctor first. They can interfere with other medications and are not suitable for those with certain conditions.
Some conditions, such as hypothyroidism may require medical treatment and constant monitoring, particularly if it’s severe. Hashimoto’s disease especially as it’s an autoimmune condition.
If you are concerned about a severe hormonal imbalance and natural treatments don’t help, go see a doctor. He or she will do blood, urine, or saliva tests as needed to confirm.
As to the dosage, it varies based on factories like your weight and gender and how your body responds to them. It may be best to see a herbalist or naturopath, especially if a blend is to be used.
That said, reputable brands do have recommended dosages written in the inserts on the packaging. Never exceed the recommended dose.
Also, most herbs take a month to six months to make a difference. They gently work with the body to bring hormonal balance. So be patient.
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