“Chances are your weight problem is not a matter of will or discipline, but a hormonal imbalance. While many still think that losing weight is simply about willpower, eating less, and exercising more, the latest research on obesity indicates the problem is far more complex, involving many factors.” – Leo Galland, M.D.
Let’s first acknowledge something we all know to be true: burning fat and losing weight is often a (very) challenging endeavor.
A myriad of reasons exist why this is the case: genetics, food addiction, processed foods, sugar-laden foods, and drinks, etc., etc. Recently, scientists have discovered hormonal factors – their activity, balance, etc. – play a larger role in fat storage and burning and maintaining a healthy weight than previously thought.
It is this last factor that we’re going to discuss in this article. More specifically, we’ll talk about how you can “ignite” hormonal mechanisms that will expedite the fat-burning process.
Here are 4 ways of kicking your fat-burning hormones into gear:
Most people have a demanding job, family obligations, and other responsibilities that limit their free time. When we’re in a constant state of hurry, our brain will kick into “fight or flight” mode, producing feelings of anxiety, depression, exhaustion and irritability.
What does all this stress do? It releases the nasty hormone, cortisol.
Among other things, cortisol drives up our appetite, particularly for foods that are sweet (read: sugar), and saturated with “bad carbs.” When we oblige these impulses, our insulin levels briefly spike – and then plummet. The cycle repeats itself until the body and mind are in a relaxed state.
“Stress fat” is a term commonly used in the medical community. This fat also tends to settle in our bellies.
You know your limits – and you’d be wise to be mindful of them. You also know the things that bring you joy – and you should surround yourself with them in whatever way possible. Others have turned to meditation with much success. Others love to get a deep massage. Do what makes you feel good, as often as possible.
2. Get into a sleep routine
Aside from changing us into the cantankerous version of oneself, inadequate sleep and/or lack of a sleep routine (both are usually present) can negatively alter the balance of hormones responsible for metabolism and eating habits.
In a University of Chicago School of Medicine study, lead author of the study, Dr. Matthew Brady, states “We found that fat cells need sleep to function properly.” Brady and his team came to this conclusion by monitoring the hormone levels of 11 participants, who were first allowed 8.5 hours of sleep for several nights, followed by 4.5 hours of sleep over the same period.
The participants, following the short-term sleeping period, “(had) total-body insulin response decreased by an average of 16 percent. The insulin sensitivity of fat cells decreased by 30 percent.”
Insulin, more than any other hormonal or physiological factor, affects the body’s ability to absorb or convert fat. When this hormone is not properly functioning, we’re more prone to storing fat than converting it.
3. Switch nutritional habits
It’s not surprising that diet can influence hormones. A diet high in fresh fruits and veggies, low-fat dairy, and whole grains can help.
Cortisol and blood sugar are the main reasons here. A high-fiber diet can stabilize blood sugar – peas, beans, lentils, broccoli and brussels sprouts are all excellent sources of fiber. Stay away from complex carbs such as white bread and pasta.
When our blood sugar is stable, the brain is able to function properly; this helps to mitigate the side effects that often result from low blood sugar, such as dizziness, headache, brain fog, anxiety, and nervousness. Thus, the all-important cortisol hormone doesn’t invade our bodies.
4. Move it!
Again, nothing really groundbreaking here. Exercise is seemingly an anecdote to just about every physical and mental ailment, and optimizing your fat-burning hormones is no exception.
“Your muscles are loaded with insulin receptors. The more muscle mass you have and the more heat you generate from your muscles on a regular basis, the more efficiently you’ll use insulin and burn carbohydrates and body fat,” explains Dr. Christiane Northrup in her book Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom and The Wisdom of Menopause.
Again, contrary to popular belief – and mounting scientific evidence – it is not necessary to train like a tri-athlete. 45 minutes of light-to-moderate exercise, 3 days per week (minimum), is enough activity to stimulate and maintain balances of insulin.
Easton, J. (2012, October 17). Even your fat cells need sleep, according to new research. Retrieved from https://news.uchicago.edu/article/2012/10/17/even-your-fat-cells-need-sleep-according-new-research
Galland, L., M.D. (2011, January 13). Leptin: How to Make This Fat-Burning Hormone Work for You. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/leo-galland-md/leptin-how-to-make-this-fat-burning_b_806529.html
Institute of Medicine; Food and Nutrition Board; Subcommittee on Military Weight Management; Committee on Military Nutrition Research. (2003). Weight management: state of the science and opportunities for military programs. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. doi: https://doi.org/10.17226/10783
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