Q: I feel like my body is working against me and I can’t lose weight no matter how little I eat and how much I exercise.
Am I doing something wrong?
A: I wrote about the influence of genetics on body type, but this is a more practical application of what happens when hormones influence your ability to maintain a healthy metabolism. The stress of everyday life can increase inflammation which in turn can cause weight gain. Fat cells secrete estrogen and other hormones that influence metabolism, and it all creates the perfect storm of excess insulin, leptin, and ghrelin with too little adiponectin. It is possible to measure the levels of some of these hormones to discover the root cause of weight loss resistance.
The hormones that affect unusual weight gain are insulin, cortisol, leptin, ghrelin, thyroid and sex hormones. With age and environmental influences, genetic predispositions may slow the metabolic process and weight loss may become extremely difficult but not impossible. Too much estrogen relative to progesterone can make it difficult to lose those stubborn last 20 pounds, as can autoimmune thyroid conditions.
When you follow the trail of the signaling hormones, the “why” you have stubborn weight loss resistance will become clear. Ghrelin is a peptide hormone produced by cells in the stomach and is known as the hunger hormone. It stimulates receptors in the brain to cause hunger and works in harmony with other hormones to create metabolic balance. When unhealthy foods are consumed, a misfire occurs and hunger continues.
Leptin is a hormone produced by fat cells and it travels to the brain to control appetite. Increased leptin should decrease appetite, increase metabolic activity and stimulate fat burning. Insulin is produced by the pancreas in response to rising blood sugar and it is supposed to shuttle the glucose into the cells for energy storage. Insulin resistance can occur when too much sugar but not enough fiber and nutritious foods are consumed.
The theory is that increased fat cells (and the size of the fat cell) increases leptin which send a message to the brain that you don’t need to eat more, metabolism increases and weight decreases. Leptin resistance appears to be caused by the consumption of excess fructose and refined sugar. This resistance means your brain is not hearing the message to turn off the hunt for fuel. On the flip side, if you try extreme caloric restriction, it causes low leptin production, which will cause increased appetite and less metabolic activity and weight loss may be stalled. Your body has innate mechanisms to avoid starvation.
The abundance of processed food, environmental toxins, increased stress, lack of sleep, gut dysbiosis all lead to the failure of the so called perfect calories in calories out process and you may pack on the extra pounds. Changing your food choices to healthy fats, grass-fed or wild caught protein sources, tons of vegetables and some fruit, nuts and seeds will feed nutrient depletion and rev up your metabolism.
Reducing inflammation can kick start the weight loss process. Some of the methods to reduce the inflammation are: restore a healthy gut microbiome with probiotics or fermented foods, try eliminating gluten and dairy for 30 days, stop taking certain unnecessary medications, avoid soda and juices, relieve stress and improve sleep.
Boosting your satiety hormones can increase metabolism and stimulate your thyroid while lowering cortisol. Try intermittent fasting and high intensity interval training as programs to counteract your hunger hormones. Begin by eating only fat for breakfast, protein and fat for lunch and protein and starchy carbohydrate for dinner. Eat lunch and dinner in a 6-8 hour window and fast for the other 16 hours of the day. Be sure to drink plenty of water or choose to add apple cider vinegar or lemon and cayenne to your morning water.
HIIT (high intensity interval training) can provide results in 20 minutes of daily activity. Warm up for 3 minutes and exercise as hard and fast as possible for 30 seconds. You will experience sweating and lactic acid “burn” in your large muscles. Walk to recover for 90 seconds and repeat. Build up to 7 repetitions.
As always, consult your physician if you have medical conditions that will need to be monitored during intermittent fasting or HIIT. Try to move your exercise program outside in the daylight, choose early morning for best results and grab a friend to keep you accountable. Successfully reaching your fat burning goals is all about how you sleep, think, eat and move.
Deidre (Dee) Kohley, Rph, works at Watkins Pharmacy, is a graduate of Ferris University and has lived all her life in Muskegon. She continues to find ways to reach women who genuinely want to get well or live an optimal life. Dee loves digging into research to find new ways to help people. She is married and has seven children and nine grandchildren who keep her busy. She loves the beach and spending time outside enjoying the seasons. You can contact her by going to her website www.touchtheearthnutrition.com or firstname.lastname@example.org