Hint: It’s not what you’re eating

With the start of the new year, a lot of the population will be focused on getting healthier and losing weight. In fact, you’re likely reading this because you’re one of the majority seeking more information. That’s great!

Each year, you resolve to be a healthier, slimmer version of yourself. You exercise and try to eat healthy. In fact you just may be on the latest health or diet trend. You drink 8 glasses of water a day and have tried to cut your caffeine and alcohol intake.

But every time you step on the scale, or put on your favorite pair of jeans, you realize that you just aren’t losing the weight you want to.

It almost makes you want to scream and grab the nearest tub of ice cream and say the hell with it!

Sound familiar? You’re not alone. Almost all of the clients who come to me for help with weight loss have this same thing in common.

But what is causing this?

Your endocrine glands. More specifically, the hormones these glands produce in your body.

Imagine the tight rope walker, or the Olympic gymnast on the balance beam. The key to their success is their balance. The slightest thing that doesn’t harmonize with everything else can cause imbalance and a less than desired result.

The same thing happens with your body. All of the hormones that your body produces have a specific effect on your body’s responses: how we respond to outside stimuli, like food, exercise, stress, sleep, and more. They also play a huge role in how your metabolism functions: how you use food for fuel, whether calories gets stored or burned, whether you feel hungry or full, whether you experience cravings or not, your mood, and even your motivation to exercise.

When any of these hormones are out of balance, it also creates a less than desired result. Symptoms such as fatigue, skin issues, weight gain, weight around the middle, trouble sleeping, always sleeping, peri-menopause and menopause symptoms, PMS, endometriosis, infertility and PCOS are all common indicators of a hormonal imbalance.

So, what causes these imbalances, and what can you do to correct them?

As we age, changes naturally occur in the way that body systems are controlled. Some organs in our body also become less sensitive to their controlling hormone, and the amount of hormones produced may also change. Blood levels of some hormones increase, some decrease and some are broken down (metabolized) more slowly.

And here’s where it gets even better. Many of the organs that produce hormones, are controlled by other hormones, and aging can also change this process.

The hard fact, is that any and all hormonal imbalances lead to difficulty losing weight and an increased risk of obesity.

But don’t despair because there are some things you can do to help to balance your hormones and increase your ability to shed those unwanted pounds.

Here are my 10 top tips for hormone balancing.

1. Avoid ‘white foods’

There’s a saying that goes — “the whiter the bread, the sooner you’re dead” There is very little nutrient value in white foods such as sugar, white rice, bread, alcohol, and foods made with white flour, such as muffins, bagels, pasta, pretzels and other snack foods and should be reduced and/or eliminated from your diet.

Another thing to avoid are commercial oils such as vegetable, peanut, canola, soybean, margarine and shortening. Many refined, processed foods are made with these oils which contain Omega 6 fats which contribute to hormonal imbalance. Instead, eat foods rich in omega 3 such as oily fish, chia seeds, flax and walnuts.

2. Let healthy fats be your friend

Coconut Oil and Avocadoes are healthy sources of saturated fat. Because cholesterol is needed for the formation of healthy cells and is a precursor to progesterone, estrogen and FSH, etc., eating healthy sources of saturated fats are the best way to boost testosterone or female hormones. We can’t have hormonal balance without adequate amounts of saturated fats.

3. Eat your veggies, all kinds and all colors

Veggies contain phytonutrients which I call ‘hormone helpers’. Natural foods have hormone- like substances in abundance which help your body adapt, restore and maintain its hormonal balance.

4. Eat more fibre

Get more fiber into your diet with raw fruit, and raw vegetables. Fiber binds itself to old estrogen, clearing it out of the system, and leading to better overall balance. Especially good for men and women who suffer from estrogen dominance.

5. Sleep

If you aren’t getting enough sleep, your hormones will not be balanced. Period. This is a non negotiable for hormone balancing and healthy weight loss.

8 hours of good quality sleep can singlehandedly improve hormones. I’m not kidding. Getting a good nights sleep is even linked to longer life and less chance of disease.

6. Reduce your intake of Caffeine

Yes, I said that. Sorry, but too much caffeine increases the levels of the cortisol hormone and slows down your thyroid. I know that many people tell me the only way they can get their day started is with a cup of coffee. I’m not trying to make you stop drinking coffee completely, however, cut down the coffee if you can, or replace with herbal teas. If you can’t do that, then try to add 1 tablespoon of coconut oil to your cup of coffee. Blend with a hand-blender to emulsify the fat — it tastes like a latte! Pairing a healthy beneficial fat with your caffeine, causes the stimulant of caffeine to be released in your body more slowly and helps to avoid the spike in cortisol and insulin.

7. Fix your Leptin Hormone

Leptin is a hormone that regulates hunger and metabolism. When we consume too much sugar and/or processed foods or don’t get enough sleep, we can create a deficiency in our leptin levels. The result of this is that we can experience more food cravings and a slower metabolism. It’s simple to fix your leptin. Eat whole foods, steer clear of sugar, and get some sleep.

8. Supplement wisely

Vitamin D, Magnesium and Maca Root all help with hormonal balance.

Vitamin D acts like a hormone in our bodies, and deficiency has been linked to weight gain. The best way to get Vitamin D is from the sun but often sunlight is not enough (especially difficult for those living in the Northern Hemisphere in winter) You can get your Vitamin D levels tested by a health professional and then take the type and dose recommended.

Magnesium deficiency is extremely common in North America. Almost 90% of the population is deficient in Magnesium. This is troubling because Magnesium supports hundreds of reactions in the body and often contributes to better sleep (which is great for hormones!)

Maca root is a tuber in the radish family that has a history of boosting hormone production and libido. Many women notice fewer PMS symptoms, increased fertility, and improved skin while men notice increased sperm production, libido, and better sleep. Maca is also high in minerals and essential fatty acids, making it great for hormones. It tastes good in a smoothie and is also available in capsule form.

9. Avoid toxins in your personal care and household cleaners

Things such as parabens, Phthalates and Bisphenol (BPA) are huge hormone endocrine disruptors! These mimic hormones in your body and keep the body from producing the real hormones that you need. Check your cabinets for these toxins and choose natural wherever possible.

10. Manage your stress

Chronic stress, whether it is physical, emotional, mental or environmental causes our bodies to release high amount of the cortisol hormone. This triggers a hormonal cascade (or shit storm to put it bluntly) which causes increased hunger, poor metabolism and increase in belly fat to name a few.

Ways to manage your stress can include meditation, breathing, yoga, tai chi, moderate exercise, sleep, disconnecting from electronics and massage to name a few.

I get it. Changing your nutrition and lifestyle can be tough. I know because I went through this 10 years ago. I won’t deny that there are times when I can make poor choices, but I’ve discovered that by incorporating these 10 tips into my daily routine, that I have more energy and more zest for life in my 50’s than I ever did in my 40’s.

Try one of these steps each week until you are consistently doing all 10. Your body will thank you.

Disclaimer: If you change your nutrition and your stress is low and your sleep is good, but you still cannot lose weight, please consult with your healthcare provider. It may mean that there are other hormonal issues at play that nutrition, exercise and lifestyle cannot fully address.

Originally published at medium.com