It used to be so easy.
For most of us, in our teens and twenties, and even into our early thirties, maintaining our ideal weight wasn’t all that hard. Oh sure, we might have gained a few pounds here or there, especially during the holidays or on vacation, or times of high stress (freshman 15, anyone?).
But it always came right back off. A fad diet here, cutting back a little there or maybe just working out a little harder at the gym, and it was all good. And even if you weren’t one of those annoying “lucky girls” who could eat whatever they wanted, you still felt like you had some control over the whole thing.
Of course that was then. This is now.
And if you’ve felt like since you’ve reached a certain age it has gotten harder and harder to keep your weight in check, rest assured that you’re not imagining it. It’s no longer just a matter of “calories in and calories out,” or “eat less and exercise more.”
It’s all about your hormones, baby.
And the sad reality for women is that as we get older, our hormones start working against us and essentially begin telling our body to do the opposite of what we’d like it to do.
But that doesn’t mean all hope is lost.
It just means you’ll need to change your approach. Because once you realize that it isn’t you, it’s the hormones that are making it hard to lose weight, it’s like a lightbulb lights up the room, illuminating the dark corners and brightening a path ahead that’s easy to follow (finally!).
Understanding how the food you eat affects your hormones truly is the key to sustainable weight loss. In fact, for many people, it can make losing those once-stubborn pounds feel effortless. And all it takes is adjusting a few easy things; then, your body does all the work for you.
What. A. RELIEF!
All of a sudden, everything makes sense. You don’t have to feel miserable, work out till you drop in a heap of exhaustion or give up your favorite foods to lose weight.
When you get your hormones under control, ALL the other pieces naturally fall into place, like a happy little puzzle that puts itself together.
Since we love digging into the science here at Thinlicious™, let’s look closer at what hormones are and how exactly they affect your weight loss.
What Are Hormones and What Do They Do?
Hormones are special chemicals that control different things in the body. They work together to help the body grow and stay healthy (among other things).
Let’s get more specific.
Hormones are chemical messengers. Each type drives a different process. For example, estrogen regulates a woman’s menstrual cycle, and insulin regulates how your body uses energy.
There are also growth hormones (GH), cortisol and thyroid hormones. All of them affect your body’s shape and overall health in different ways. Here’s a quick glance at what they do:
- GH plays an important role in regulating tissue growth, cell regeneration and metabolism throughout the body.
- Cortisol helps regulate blood pressure and is released when the body needs to respond to stress or fear (it’s known as the “stress hormone”).
- Insulin helps keep blood sugar levels stable after eating carbohydrates—too little insulin can lead to diabetes, and too much can cause weight gain.
- Thyroid hormones control metabolic rate, affecting energy levels—low levels can cause fatigue, while high levels can cause anxiety or restlessness.
See? These hormones do more than make us moody (but that’s what they’re definitely known for). All of them affect your weight, too.
How Hormones Affect Weight
This is the fun part because everything will make more sense once you see how these hormones affect weight.
Three hormones are majorly responsible for weight gain and weight loss: ghrelin, leptin and insulin.
You know that feeling of “I’m so hungry”? Hormones are the messengers that signal the brain and tell it to make you feel that way. They also give your brain the “woah, stop, I’m full” signal, too. Ghrelin is the hungry hormone; leptin is the full one.
When either one is outta whack, you’ll either feel hungry all the time or never really know when you’re full and need to stop eating. Either one leads to eating too much.
Insulin is another big player in weight gain. Insulin is a hormone that basically tells your body what to do with the fuel you give it for energy. If you eat lots of sugar and carbs, it will act like a traffic director, telling your body to funnel some of it to cells to use as energy, and all the extra to be sent to storage in….you guessed it…fat cells.
Yes, insulin is what signals fat cells to grow. But if you eat more protein than sugar/carbs, then it will send the extra protein to your muscles to grow muscle mass and then use that fat storage for energy.
When your insulin levels are low, your brain is more sensitive to ghrelin and leptin, so you know exactly when you’re hungry and feel it immediately when you’re full.
The obvious answer to hormones and weight loss is to eat in such a way that the insulin stops telling your body to store fat, and instead uses your fat for energy…and that, my friend, is called ketosis.
Ketosis and Hormones
When you become Thin Adapted, your body will lower the amount of insulin it has, which helps all your other hormones become more balanced and at the safest levels.
It’s like reverse aging. You’ll feel like your younger self again.
Your body will go into ketosis when it becomes Thin Adapted. And when you’re Thin Adapted, your insulin levels drop, fat decreases and all the other hormones fall in line and become more balanced.
This is because hormones affect hormones. They are all directly related. When you have too much insulin, your other hormones will also be out of whack too.
It lowers cortisol hormones (the ones that tell your body, “I’m stressed out! Save some fat on the belly area just in case!”), uses thyroid hormones more efficiently and even balances estrogen and progesterone, too!
We all know about the struggle to lose weight when we get close to menopause. But do you know why it’s so hard? Let’s look closer.
Oh, estrogen and progesterone. Two tiny hormones that cause a bunch of health effects in women—especially women over 40. In fact, we have another article explaining why it’s harder for women over 40 to lose weight.
As women age, they naturally begin to produce less progesterone. This leads to what people call “estrogen dominance.” Basically, it means the estrogen levels are allowed to increase too much, and it leads to common mid-life weight issues like less muscle mass, more fat storage (especially around the midsection) and a slower metabolism.
How do we get our healthy levels back if abnormal estrogen and progesterone levels cause that? It all goes back to insulin.
Look at it this way. We overproduce insulin when we eat too many carbs and sugary foods over a long period. Then, our body stops responding to insulin at all (this is called insulin resistance). It disrupts fat metabolism and contributes to estrogen dominance, which causes perimenopausal symptoms.
This is what estrogen dominance looks (and feels) like:
- Dysmenorrhea (no periods)
- Decreased Sex Drive
- Mood Swings
- Weight Gain
The Thin Adapted System reduces insulin levels which reduces belly fat. Then, this creates a synthesis of healthy hormones, including a balance of progesterone and estrogen.
Another wonderful side effect? Regular periods again! (As much as we might not like that time of the month, it’s unfortunately necessary).
Some women who started to experience perimenopause before eating low carb regained regular periods after eating fewer carbs.
As un-fun as periods are, it’s better to have them as long as possible because that indicates that your hormones are correctly balanced.
What about hormone supplements? If you’re already working with a doctor, reach out to them about your new eating habits and discuss the possibility of decreasing (or even eliminating) your medications if you can naturally adjust your hormone levels with what you eat.
So many menopausal symptoms—even night sweats and slow weight loss— will naturally work themselves out when your hormones are at the correct levels. So, start with insulin. Eat plenty of healthy fats, protein and fiber-rich vegetables. That’s the first place to start.
Since hormones affect hormones, insulin also affects thyroid hormones too.
Thyroid Issues/Relationship between Hormones and Fat
Before we get into how minimizing insulin can help your thyroid, let’s make sure we understand what the thyroid is and what it does.
Your thyroid is a gland that produces hormones that regulate metabolism and energy production. These hormones control how quickly your body processes food into energy and regulate essential bodily functions like heart rate, temperature and even mood.
Have you heard the term “hypothyroidism?” It refers to a condition when these thyroid hormones aren’t produced adequately. It’s also called an underactive thyroid.
People with hypothyroidism might experience a slower metabolism, feel tired more often, gain weight and even feel depressed.
On the other hand, when the thyroid gland produces too many of these hormones— a condition called hyperthyroidism—it can cause heart palpitations, weight loss, anxiety and insomnia.
Both of these conditions also affect where people carry their fat.
An underactive thyroid can lead to higher levels of abdominal fat due to decreased fat-burning capacity. But an overactive thyroid can increase fat that sits around or on top of vital organs.
You might think that tracking your thyroid hormones and making sure you have enough of them is what’s important, but that’s not the whole picture.
Here’s the truth. As you lose weight and your metabolism adjusts to the fat loss, you will see some decrease in thyroid hormone levels. That’s ok because your cells will become more sensitive to the present thyroid hormones. You don’t need as many of them as you once did.
It’s all about efficiency. When you decrease insulin, your body will naturally be able to use fewer thyroid hormones more easily and quickly. When your body uses thyroid hormones better, it leads to higher metabolism and even feeling less depressed and anxious. A low-carb lifestyle doesn’t impact thyroid function.
Depression & Anxiety
A lot of things contribute to depression and anxiety—job, family, brain chemicals—but we’re talking about hormones. So, let’s focus on the neurotransmitter serotonin.
Even though it’s not technically a hormone, it acts just like one. And when your body doesn’t produce enough of it, people feel more gloomy and worried.
The funny thing is that most people think of serotonin as being in the brain, but we actually produce it in our gut! That’s why having a healthy gut microbiome is so important (and how it affects depression and moods).
What does this have to do with being Thin Adapted? When you eat low carb, you improve insulin sensitivity and gut health at the same time. This acts like a domino effect that also releases more serotonin.
It makes sense! When your gut isn’t inflamed, it works better, makes more serotonin and it improves your mood.
Side note: If you’re being treated medically for depression and/or anxiety, do NOT try to go off your medications without the oversight of a doctor. Please speak to your doctor about what you’re learning and whether this can work for you. Getting off your medications can be a victoriously freeing experience, but do it the right way, so you minimize any side effects.
Since serotonin is made in the gut, you need to focus on eating whole, nutritious foods. Those quick, processed snacks are handy, but your body needs whole vegetables, meat and healthy fats. You also need to get plenty of sleep and drink lots of water. It all works together.
Hormones Work Together
Is it making a bit more sense? Hormones (specifically insulin) are probably one of the main reasons you struggled to lose weight before. When your body overproduces insulin, all the other hormones are thrown off balance. Start with regulating insulin and everything else will fall into place.
Want to learn more about hormones and weight loss? Here are some books that we recommend.
- Why We Get Sick By: Dr. Benjamin Bikman
- The Case For Keto By: Gary Taubes
- Why We Get Fat By: Gary Taubes
Feel Better Today!
You can regulate your insulin and feel better today! We recommend introducing your body to low-carb eating through the Thinlicious 28 Day Metabolism Reset. This 4-week program is designed to introduce you to the Thin Adapted System and help you retrain how your body burns fuel. Get it HERE.
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