It’s not you, it’s me. That’s what you might be saying to your hormones about the extra weight you’ve gained. But…you are wrong. It is your hormones. They just may be at fault for making you fat (or at least, fatter). When you gain weight, does it head to your belly and around your midsection first? When you lose weight, is your belly and that mid-section the last place it leaves your body? Then you need a wake-up call. Carrying weight around your belly is bad for your health, but it’s not simply you choosing a doughnut over an apple that indicates a problem. Extra fat around your mid-section is also a key indicator of a hormonal imbalance.
Your hormones are involved if you’ve seen the scales go up and down as you struggle to keep the weight off. Your hormones get pretty bossy in your body. They control most aspects of weight loss: your metabolism, your fat storage, your appetite, your cravings. It’s all got to do with those hormones. So, regardless of your efforts to diet and improve your nutrition and exercise regularly, your hormones may have it out for you. Here’s how to reprogram them for a better, healthier tomorrow. Having high insulin is a direct result of a hormonal imbalance and will further weight gain. Yes, your diet will affect the production of too much insulin, as will a family history, among other causes, but your hormones can also play a part. One solution is to add more protein to your diet, which will stimulate fat-burning and appetite-controlling hormones. The key is eating the right amount. Stick to 20-25 grams per meal for females and add 10 grams if you are male.
If you are stressed, you are storing the stress hormone, cortisol, in your belly. Cortisol also spikes for those who are diagnosed with anxiety, depression, exhaustion, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Cortisol naturally increases your appetite and increases your desire for cravings. How can you help the situation? Sleep at least 7.5 hours a night. Sleep deprivation kicks up the cortisol production, which, in turn, fuels your desire for sugar and carbs, even when you’ve eaten enough. But sleep will help boost leptin, the appetite-controlling hormone you wish to befriend. And you need to eat at the right times. Avoid going longer than 3 to 4 hours between snacks or meals. Also, you should eat a protein-rich breakfast, not just a carb-filled cereal or bagel, within one hour of waking. You’ll reduce your cortisol by keeping your blood sugar levels on an even keel.
Testosterone levels decrease as belly fat changes into estrogen. It also decreases with stress. Therefore, your body could be making more cortisol than testosterone. Those low levels of testosterone are linked to the aging process, obesity, and stress. See that? If you have loss of muscle tissue, depression decreased strength or drive, you may have low testosterone. Raise those levels to help the weight situation by taking the herb Tribulus Terrestris, found at your health food store. Zinc supplements may also help raise low levels, similar to the effect weight training can have on testosterone. Try a combination of all three to see significant results.
You might have low DHEA. DHEA is produced by the adrenal glands and is a hormone related to estrogen and testosterone. It can help counteract cortisol’s bad effects and it’s been known to influence our ability to lose belly fat in general. Your levels of DHEA can only be tested through blood or saliva collection. True replacements of this hormone should only be taken when a true deficiency has been diagnosed. Check with your doctor and ask about having your DHEA levels tested. A low dosage can influence your body to gain muscle, boost your libido and make you more energetic. All of those side effects would help you to lose weight.
And finally, the big one, you might have a low growth hormone. The growth hormone affects our feelings, our actions, as well as our appearance. A 2007 Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism has linked belly fat in postmenopausal women with “low growth hormone secretion, elevated markers, and increased risk of cardiovascular disease.” It’s released during deep sleep and while you exercise. Don’t sleep with the lights on. Better yet: sleep in complete darkness. Melatonin will be released and trigger a lowering of your body temperature. This, in turn, will lead us into deep sleep, release the growth hormone and work to reduce belly fat. Also, don’t eat too close to bedtime because that will also inhibit the release of the growth hormone. Up some exercise into your work week, sleep with the thermostat down in total darkness and you’re likely to increase your growth hormone levels and help stave off those extra pounds, especially around the belly.
Next time you want to vent a little self-deprecation, remember it’s OK to not only blame your hormones but to get so upset at them that you do something about it. Get cracking on some of these tips and you may find the belly fat easier to shed.