Did you know that stress can significantly affect your ability to lose weight? I wish weight loss was as simple as “eat less and exercise more.” However, many of you have probably experienced weight loss resistance despite doing all of the things that you should be doing from a nutritional, stress management, and movement standpoint. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are always ways to continue to improve your health. But why do some of us struggle to lose those extra stubborn pounds?
There are multiple reasons why this could happen, some of which include changes in the microbiome, leaky gut, which can affect your ability to absorb nutrients, inflammation which can result from food, toxins, bugs, trauma, and hormone dysregulation. That is what we’re going to focus on today. Here are four hormones that can be interfering with your weight loss.
As it relates to hormones, the number one offender is going to be insulin, no doubt about it. Insulin is a hormone produced by your pancreas. It signals to your body to absorb glucose (sugar) from your bloodstream and turn it into fat. It is referred to as the “fat storing hormone, because it can shut down the metabolic burning. This is why high blood sugar and high insulin levels make it harder to lose weight. Therefore, it can contribute to chronic disease, excess weight gain, and excess fat storage. Increased caloric intake, stress, weight, Body Mass Index (BMI), genetics, hypertension, Polycysytic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) among others can contribute to insulin resistance.
One in five women and one in 10 men have been diagnosed with thyroid disease. However, about 50 percent of the cases go undiagnosed primarily because the testing is insufficient for really looking at a complete picture of the thyroid. Most often, Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) is checked. However, there is also a free T3, free T4, Thyrogobulin Aibodies (TgAb), Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies(TPOAb), and sometimes reverse T3 to really get an entire picture. Some of the things that can contribute to thyroid disease are gluten intolerance, stress, and environmental toxins, which are huge contributors including any type of nutrient deficiency.
This is one of our biggest stress hormones. When we are under stress or we have a perceived threat or stressor, we activate the Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal Axis (HPA axis). This is our stress pathway in our body. Our amygdala in our limbic system detects this perceived threat. A physiological response is mediated through the hypothalamus triggering the pituitary gland by secreting corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH). The pituitary gland in our brain secretes adrenal corticotropic hormone (ACTH) into the bloodstream to signal the adrenal glands, which sit right on top of the kidneys. The adrenal glands then in turn release glucocorticoids, such as cortisol. When this happens in the case of running from a tiger that is a normal response, it’s a survival mechanism. The problem starts when we have this stress response all the time. This is when it can lead to things like weight gain, insulin resistance, loss of lean body mass, increased fat storage, and the higher propensity for any kind of inflammatory condition, autoimmune disease, or chronic conditions. Therefore, it’s really important to understand how this stress pathway, when under chronic stress, affects your ability to lose weight or not. Keep this in mind that it could be a ding on a phone or it could be running from a tiger, if you’re having the same response all the time, then that pathway is constantly activated, which means cortisol is constantly being released.
4. Sex Hormones
Many women can experience things like breast tenderness, heavy menstrual bleeding, fibroids, weight gain, fluid gain, and bloating. This can all be largely in part due to a high sugar diet and a highly refined carbohydrate diet, as well as environmental toxins and stress of course, contributing to increased estrogen dominance in the body. Now men on the other hand can also experience this and they might notice things like increased breast tissue and abdominal weight gain. This also can factor into if men have low testosterone. In this case they might have sexual dysfunction, poor libido, brain fog, inability to concentrate, bone loss, and weight gain.
There are many ways to naturally balance hormones that apply to all of the above. First and most importantly is decreasing stress! As you can see, this is one of the consistent hormone disruptors in weight loss. Finding ways to manage your stress through meditation, journaling, nature, walking, talking with friends, or simply whatever helps you the most. Other very important things to consider include:
- Balance your blood sugars
- Include a protein, healthy fat, and fiber source in each meal and snack.
- Eat a high-quality protein source at EVERY meal
- Eat every 4-6 hours (unless hungry)
- Consume healthy fats
- AVOID sugar and refined carbohydrates! This can’t be stressed enough.
- Limit or eliminate alcohol
- Avoid undereating or overeating
- Eat fatty fish (Salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel) as often as possible
- Get enough high-quality sleep
The take home message is this. I want you to understand that stress plays a huge role in your ability to lose weight, if that is your goal. It is really important to understand how mindset, mindfulness, stress reduction, and relaxation are all so vital to an overall health program. It is way more than just losing weight, it is about feeling healthy inside and outside. To do that you really need to focus on managing your stress. The ways that you can do that are through basic informal mindfulness practices, formal meditation, breath work, grounding with your feet, walking out in nature, etc. There are so many ways to just take time for you and take time to really manage your stress levels because, as you can see it directly impacts all of these aspects of your health and your immunity.
If you need help on your journey, please reach out!
For more content, make sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel here.