One of the most common complaints I hear from clients (and most women in midlife for that matter) is that they can’t lose weight no matter how much they diet and exercise. This is incredibly frustrating!
The thing is, it may not have anything to do with what you’re doing or not doing.
It may be your hormones.
Any and all hormonal imbalances lead to difficulty losing weight and an increased risk of obesity. Unfortunately, the most common imbalances can’t be solved by dieting alone. In fact, they can prevent successful fat loss even when great diet and exercise plans are in place. If you haven’t been successful in the past, chances are, one or more the following hormonal imbalances could be the problem:
Digestive disorders, allergies, autoimmune disease, arthritis, asthma, eczema, acne, abdominal fat, headaches, depression or sinus disorders are ALL associated with chronic inflammation, which has become recognized as the root cause of obesity and most diseases associated with aging.
Inflammation causes the production of cortisol which is associated with that muffin top you just can’t lose.
2. Insulin excess
Insulin’s main function is to process carbohydrates in the bloodstream and carry it into cells to be used as fuel or stored as fat. There are several reasons for excess insulin, but the main culprits are: stress, consuming too many nutrient-poor carbohydrates (the type found in processed foods, sugary drinks and sodas, packaged low-fat foods and artificial sweeteners), insufficient protein intake, inadequate fat intake, and low fiber consumption.
Heart palpitations, sweating, poor concentration, weakness, anxiety, fogginess, fatigue, irritability or impaired thinking are common short-term side effects of high insulin. And our body typically responds to these unpleasant feelings by making us think we’re hungry, which causes us to reach for high-sugar foods and drinks. It’s a vicious cycle which only furthers weight gain and our risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Click here to learn more about insulin and weight gain.
3. Depression or anxiety
Serotonin exerts a powerful influence over our mood, emotions, memory, cravings (especially for carbohydrates), self-esteem, pain tolerance, sleep habits, appetite, digestion and body temperature regulation. When we’re depressed or down, we naturally crave more sugars and starches to stimulate the production of serotonin. And then we become more depressed because we’re gaining weight. The stress of this creates more cortisol which creates more cravings!
4. Chronic stress
Under situations of chronic stress – whether the stress is physical, emotional, mental or environmental, real or imagined – our bodies release high amounts of the hormone cortisol. If you have a mood disorder like anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or exhaustion, or if you have a digestive issue such as irritable bowel syndrome, you can bet your body is cranking up your cortisol…even if you don’t FEEL stressed.
Through a complicated network of hormonal interactions, prolonged stress results in a raging appetite, metabolic decline, belly fat and a loss of hard-won, metabolically active muscle tissue. In other words, stress makes us soft, flabby and much older than we truly are! And it wears out our poor little adrenal glands, resulting in adrenal fatigue.
Click here to find out if your adrenals are fine or frazzled.
5. High levels of estrogen
Researchers have identified excess estrogen (in both sexes) to be as great a risk factor for obesity as poor eating habits and lack of exercise.
There are two ways to accumulate excess estrogen in the body: we either produce too much of it on our own or acquire it from our environment or diet. We’re constantly exposed to estrogen-like compounds in foods that contain toxic pesticides, herbicides and growth hormones. A premenopausal woman with estrogen dominance will likely have PMS, too much body fat around the hips and difficulty losing weight.
Menopausal women and men with too much estrogen may experience low libido, memory loss, poor motivation, depression, loss of muscle mass and increased belly fat.
To compound all of this, fat cells MAKE estrogen…so the more fat you have, the higher your estrogen is likely to be.
6. Low testosterone
Testosterone enhances libido, bone density, muscle mass, strength, motivation, memory, fat burning and skin tone in both men and women. When testosterone is low, an increase of body fat and loss of muscle may still happen – even with dieting and exercise.
Testosterone levels tend to taper off with age, increased obesity and stress, but today men are experiencing testosterone decline much earlier in life – an alarming finding, considering low testosterone has been linked to depression, obesity, osteoporosis, heart disease and even death.
Endocrine-suppressing, estrogen-like compounds used in pesticides and other farming chemicals may be to blame for the downward trend in male testosterone levels. Phthalates, commonly found in cosmetics, soaps and most plastics are another known cause of testosterone suppression.
Without enough thyroid hormone, every system in the body slows down. People who suffer from hypothyroidism feel tired, tend to sleep a lot, and experience constipation and weight gain. Other common symptoms include extremely dry skin, hair loss, feeling cold, brittle hair, splitting nails, and decreased libido.
If you think you may have a thyroid condition, make sure your doctor assesses you and your full range of symptoms, not just your blood work. Even levels of TSH (an indicator of thyroid function) within the normal range have been proven to accelerate weight gain and to interfere with a healthy metabolic rate in both men and women.
Click here to find out more about the thyroid’s effects on weight.
If you’d like to know more about the complexities of weight gain in midlife, I offer one-on-one consultations, GI-Map testing, and KMBO Food Sensitivity Testing. All these tests can be done from the comforts of your home.
Dr. Anna Garrett is a menopause expert and Doctor of Pharmacy. She helps women who are struggling with symptoms of perimenopause and menopause find natural hormone balancing solutions so they can rock their mojo through midlife and beyond. Dr. Anna is the author of Perimenopause: The Savvy Sister’s Guide to Hormone Harmony. Order your copy at www.perimenopausebook.com.
Dr. Anna is available for 1-1 consultation. Find out more at www.drannagarrett.com/lets-