It is that time of year. To put it simply, Weight Loss and better health New Year intentions are on the mind.
Start the new year right- in the right state of mind and in the right alignment of what works and does not work- for your most beautiful health.
Women are inundated daily with conflicting information about what, how much, and when to eat. The real key to feeling great and having true weight loss is through maintaining a healthy metabolism supported by a balanced hormonal state.
How does a woman’s body get out of balance?
The reasons are as varied and unique as each woman. Each one of us gains, loses, and maintains weight at certain points in our lives for a variety of reasons- physiological, cultural or emotional.
A functional medicine methodology to women's health and weight loss.
What if you’ve tried everything and still can’t lose weight?
The following underlying conditions make losing weight on a popular diet plan particularly difficult. Here is a summary of these problems.
We touch on the intricate link between weight and the adrenal glands in our article “Natural Weight Loss,” but because adrenal depletion is so widespread, and because adrenal health is so critical to losing stubborn pounds, I want to include it at the top of this list. The adrenals release an important hormone called cortisol, which is often described as the stress hormone and is related to adrenaline, the more familiar adrenal hormone, and to your serotonin levels. Too-high or too-low levels of cortisol in the blood can be a major cause of weight gain and the inability to lose that unwanted weight.
While carbohydrates are an absolutely necessary component of a balanced diet, many of us become increasingly sensitive to them as we grow older. Over consumption of simple carbohydrates (like those found in white bread, candy, soda, white rice, and many breakfast cereals) creates a rollercoaster effect on your appetite: you feel energized for a little while as your insulin spikes, only to crash a few hours later when your blood sugar drops precipitously. This low blood sugar triggers the brain to send out hunger signals again, which can cause you to overeat and gain weight. For some of us, this rollercoaster feels like a gentle ride. Others who are more sensitive experience steeper crests and valleys. If this sensitivity is not treated with a diet lower in carbohydrates and sugar, it can evolve into excessive weight gain and a larger metabolic concern called insulin resistance, a pre-diabetic condition in which cells becomes inured to insulin and the pancreas is triggered to produce ever-increasing levels.
Serotonin is just one of a host of neurotransmitters secreted by the brain that regulate mood, attention, and energy levels. Ongoing stress can deplete our serotonin reserves, leading to intense food cravings — particularly for the refined carbohydrates that when eaten mimic the sense of well-being created by serotonin. In some women, this state of serotonin depletion becomes chronic. Persistent low serotonin levels lead to plummeting energy levels — particularly in the late afternoon — bouts of depression, and compulsive eating. Low serotonin levels can be detected through testing.
Yeast or intestinal parasites:
Colonies of excessive Candida (yeast), bacteria, orintestinal parasites in the digestive tract can make it very difficult to lose weight. Many doctors do not test for these organisms. There are several tests you can order to determine whether you have parasites. For women who have yeast overgrowth, eliminating yeast and sugars for a period of time can restore balance to the digestive tract, allowing weight loss to occur naturally. Women often need to use supplements or probiotics to eradicate the yeast or parasites, but once this is accomplished they begin to lose the unwanted weight.
Similarly, allergies and sensitivities to certain foods can create a dysfunctional metabolism. Frequently these sensitivities crop up in adulthood and manifest themselves in easily overlooked ways, for example, stomach and intestinal upset, headaches, insomnia, lethargy, joint aches, and rashes. If we suspect a patient has a food sensitivity, we recommend an elimination diet. We eliminate potential allergens for two weeks, then reintroduce them for a day and test for reactions. If reactions do occur we recommend staying away from the offending food for at least four months and then cautiously reintroducing it.
Common diets like Paleo, Raw, even Macrobiotic can make hormonal health issues like PCOS, PMS, infertility, endometriosis, cramps and heavy bleeding become much, much worse.
What your body wants and needs desperately is homeostasis, not deprivation. Your body craves balance and hates extremes. This means any diet that involves cutting down and cutting out or wildly fluctuating eating patterns is only going to cause your body stress – the kind sourced in your blood sugar stability and your adrenals – that will actually make your body hold on to fat for dear life, and then start signaling health breakdown with all kinds of symptoms.
The diets that don’t work for women
Here’s a look at the kind of diets I know you’re hearing a whole lot about this month. None of these diets address female biology (most of them are even designed only with male biology in mind). All of them concentrate on a simple equation of calories in versus calories out, which, as research shows, is not sustainable for most people longterm (ie. the pounds will inevitably come piling back on).
Paleo Diet –
a high animal fat diet is the worst possible choice of estrogen-dominance based hormonal health issues like endometriosis. Bacon is just not good for your ovaries. Sorry! Yes, we need fat and protein, but too much and the wrong kind is hard for the body to breakdown in all of the places where estrogen is peaking. Women do need to eat fat to lose fat, but animal fats are not the way to go to achieve this. A study from Harvard researchers showed that women were 39% more likely to experience cycles without ovulation (a cause of estrogen dominance, as the body is not producing enough balancing progesterone) if they ate a lot of animal protein. However, the women who had the highest intake of plant protein were muchless likely to experience a lack of ovulation (and therefore estrogen dominance issues), than those women who hardly ate any plant proteins.
Ketogenic Diet –
a high in protein, lower fat, no carbs diet again. While there is a lot of great research on the benefits of fasting on long term health, when you’re in the midst of a hormonal condition, this is a really tough road to go down. Having tried this out myself as an experiment I can say that although this might feel great at first, partly because you feel like you’re doing the perfect ‘proper’ diet plan, when your hormones shift mid cycle it is near-impossible to fight your impending carb cravings. You will fall off the wagon and carb-loading ensues. Any diet that is very low in omega 3 fats can also increase period cramps and heavy bleeding at the end of your cycle. While we certainly want to avoid carbs like sugar and wheat, we can choose to eat small amounts of soaked and properly prepared whole grains like quinoa, buckwheat and brown rice, which are important to our hormonal balance if we struggle with blood sugar stability (most women do) or adrenal fatigue (also very common).
Vegan/Macrobiotic Diet –
this diet is high in grains, higher in soy protein, with moderate fats. If you choose to be vegan for ethical reasons, I totally get that. However, you will want to do an excellent job of cooking your food and having enough soaked grains and legumes to get adequate absorbable protein, as well as supplementing for amino acids. This is a great diet for cleaning up house internally – decreasing inflammation all around. But the glycemic impact and lack of amino acids can be problematic for hormonal conditions. We need the amino acids from protein to make our hormones. Too many grains can create a lot of gut dysbiosis and can decrease absorption of all the key nutrients that are required for hormonal balance. And of course, if you’re insulin resistant, have PCOS, this diet can make your symptoms worse.
Master cleanse/Juice cleanse based Diets – a diet that requires an extreme calorie restriction is going to cause major issues for your blood sugar stability. If your blood sugar is peaking and troughing like crazy your body is not converting sugars properly (and remember many juice cleanses are fruit sugar-heavy). Juice that you buy or make at home with a regular juicer often separate out and remove the fiber of the fruit and vegetables (which is needed for your body to better process the fruit sugars) and as such what you’re drinking, if it’s a fruit heavy juice, is just pure sugar and looks no different to your body than a glass of Coca Cola. When fasting like this, your body has none of the nourishment it really needs – protein, good fats – to make hormones or breakdown hormones. You might lose weight, but then it will come back and that fluctuation will cause your body stress and create an inflammatory response. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy a good green juice, I do! I just sync how and when I juice to my body’s needs and I never only drink juice.
I HOPE YOU FOUND THIS INCREDIBLY INSIGHTFUL!
WHAT ARE YOUR "AH-HA'S" ???
Below, please you'll find two great resources on fad diets and the critical importance of women's hormones and how it directly effects a healthy weight - long term.