Obesity

How Hormones Hinder Weight Loss Efforts

Hormones are important messengers that can tell your body to get fat
BY Michele Sherwood TIMEApril 22, 2022 PRINT

The human body is a miracle of form and function that can constantly adjust itself to different foods, temperatures, ailments, and imbalances.

And yet, it is also vulnerable, especially in this era of denatured foods, chronic stress, and environmental toxins. Add to that an increasingly lonely and sedentary lifestyle, and you have the potential for problems.

One of the most common health problems of our day is obesity, which contributes to virtually every disease because of the general toll it takes on immune function and overall health. Fortunately, for those who have struggled to lose weight, there is hope in the form of a better understanding of our biochemistry, specifically hormones.

Hormones are signaling molecules our body uses to turn physiological processes and behaviors on and off. There are hormones to make us hungry, and others to tell us we’re full, for example.

Unfortunately, our hormones can get out of whack with dangerous results. One in two Americans have some degree of “diabesity” (diabetes plus obesity), and two hormones—insulin and cortisol—are implicated.

How Does Insulin Affect Weight Loss?

Insulin helps your body regulate blood sugar and use it for energy or store it as fat.

When you’re overweight or skinny-fat (normal weight but with too little muscle and too much fat mass, also known as sarcopenic obesity), insulin becomes imbalanced and your cells become numb to the hormone, leading to insulin resistance.

As a result, you experience blood sugar highs and lows, and you store fat because your glucose regulator is broken and insulin isn’t working like it is designed to. When this happens, your hormone balance and weight go off track because one of the key regulators of your metabolism isn’t working properly.

Take Action to Reset Your Insulin

There are many ways to reset your insulin, but a personal favorite of mine is to go for a brisk 30-minute walk. Exercise is more powerful than insulin injections in improving insulin resistance.

You already know of the hazards of sugar and artificial sweeteners. Keep in mind that if your metabolism is broken, your hormones are misfiring and insulin is likely to be a problem. In this case, you must be especially mindful and avoid what will hurt you: sugar.

How Does Cortisol Affect Weight Loss?

Cortisol is best known as the stress hormone, but it has many different roles throughout the body, including controlling blood sugar levels. When a threat triggers a stress response, cortisol is released, which pushes sugar into the bloodstream.

Our bodies make cortisol in response to stress—but most of us run around stressed all week. All those stress hormones wreak havoc over time, and make you store fat, especially in your belly. High cortisol levels are also linked to depression, food addiction, and sugar cravings; these preventable conditions can lead you to overeat the wrong foods, like cookies and processed foods. What’s the net result? You gain weight.

Take Action to Reset Your Cortisol

To reset your cortisol, you need to hit the pause button on your caffeine intake. Yes, really. Slowly wean off of caffeine over three days, and notice how your sleep and stress levels improve.

Make sure you get adequate sleep. Sleep deprivation wreaks havoc on cortisol, and fat deposits follow like a protective armor during excessive cortisol production.

Exercise can also work miracles to lower stress and cortisol levels. Meditation, healthy socializing, and proper nutrition can also lower cortisol.

Conclusion

One of the primary missions at our functional medicine practice is to help people who struggle with weight issues from hormone imbalance. This is done with the understanding that permanent weight loss occurs as a result of hormone balance achieved through good lifestyle practices.

When you follow the right program, it’s possible to lose the weight that’s burdened you for so long, and keep it off forever.

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