We all think we know what to do to lose a few pounds, right? We eat less, exercise more and voilà, the end result will be weight loss. Simple math.
Why isn’t this working anymore, then?
The not so simple reason is your own unique body chemistry and how that interplays with the foods you eat, the movement you make, and critically, the stress and inflammation you maintain.
For men, who seem to be able to quickly lose weight, it is easier due to a metabolism which is primarily based on testosterone.
We are much more complex, ladies.
With women, it is more of an imbalance between estrogen (of which there are 3 types) progesterone levels, and the androgen, testosterone. When there is estrogen dominance, that is when significant weight gain occurs. We see this happening in perimenopause, menopause and continuing in post-menopause.
Of course, there are hormone replacement therapy (HRT) protocols to get things back in balance. However, for this discussion, let's talk about the other culprits, and what simple steps we can take to get back on track.
There is insulin resistance, which occurs as we hit mid-life and beyond. Often adult-onset diabetes or its precursor, pre-diabetes, is a sign that your blood sugar needs to be managed more effectively through diet and exercise before it becomes more problematic.
Did you know that cortisol, a stress hormone, causes blood sugar to go up too when it is elevated? When this occurs, it makes us more likely to overeat, increase our insulin resistance, and gain weight. This “fight or flight” hormone is great when you are in danger and need to react quickly. However an onslaught of stress over time can wreak havoc with your body, including your gut health, and contributes to weight gain, high blood pressure, sleep deprivation and mental fatigue over time.
Get your stressors in check, and learn how to manage them better, with practices that relax you, such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and taking a walk. Any type of regular movement every day can help reduce stress.
Reduce overall inflammation in your body through better nutrition. Modify your diet to increase nutrient-rich whole foods, mostly plant-based, to help get inflammation under control. Leptin, the hormone that is responsible for satiety, and keeps you from overeating, can be negatively affected by inflammation and cease sending you messages to stop eating. Ghrelin, on the other hand, signals when you are hungry. Let's keep these two straight or we will end up always hungry, and we can't stop eating.
Meanwhile, inflammation in the gut bacteria can cause an imbalance which can cause us to crave processed simple carbs and sugar-laden food. So here we are, not being able to stop eating and wanting to eat more of the “bad stuff”.
The best way to interrupt this process is with a detox (some people may call it a cleanse) in which you remove toxins that interfere with regulatory hormones such as insulin, leptin and ghrelin. Most effective ways to do this are a whole foods approach, which limits or removes caffeine, sugar, gluten, dairy and processed foods for a short time to get you back on track.
I have found this most effective to help many of my coaching clients rediscover their appetite, recognize when they are full, and feel the profound effects of getting overly processed foods out of their system. Most shed a few pounds too.
I always include a five-day cleanse in my 21- day reset program, GRIT, which is coming up on April 11, and it always gets rave reviews from the participants. Find out more here.
Additionally, I can’t stress this enough. Find out what is going on in your gut microbiome. It is after all, your second brain, and it helps regulate other systems in your body. It is instrumental in our resistance to added body weight, and studies consistently show a lack of diversity in the microbiome correlates with overweight and obesity.
When the gut is in distress, we react with infections such as SIBO and candida, and experience irritable bowel distress (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). These inflammatory responses also affect our appetites and make us want to eat the sugary foods that feed the inflammation. It is a vicious cycle.
Breaking that cycle is done through balancing the gut by creating more diversity, healing the gut wall to keep it from “leaking”, and getting back to healthy digestion, which will lead to losing weight. Naturally, and through eating whole foods. And, supplementing your diet with appropriate pre- and pro-biotics, minerals, and vitamins, short-term to get back on track.
If you are interested in finding out more about gut microbiome testing, and healing the gut, please check out this link to find out more about Ixcela – the internal fitness company. Here is an informative TedX talk by the co-founder of Ixcela, Dr. Erika Ebbel Angle, on the gut microbiome.
To summarize, reduce your stress, eat well to reduce inflammation, move your body every day, and take care of your gut.