Struggling to lose weight? One of these four hormones could be to blame, says Dr Sara Gottfried author of new book Younger: The Breakthrough Programme to Reset our Genes and Reverse Ageing
Do any of these thoughts feel familiar?
- ‘I’m eating less, exercising more, and still can’t lose the weight.’
- ‘I have a wedding to go to and look like a sausage in every dress.’
- ‘Nothing seems to work. Might as well order dessert.’
- ‘Weight loss resistance… I know I have that.’
- ‘Everyone in my family is fat – I must have fat genes.’
I hear these comments regularly from my patients and used to have these thoughts myself. Then I discovered the golden rule of weight loss: Calories matter, but hormones matter more.
Calories matter, but hormones matter more
Over twenty-five years of treating women, I’ve learned that even though hormone chemistry is complicated, fixing it doesn’t need to be. I can narrow it down to four hormones that will derail your weight loss if they are out of whack. This article will show you how to solve the problem by addressing the four main hormones that are causing your problems.
1. Too much cortisol
Stress overload has a high cost. Cortisol, the stress hormone, is the number one hormone imbalance I find in my patients. Excess cortisol is associated with strong sugar cravings, belly fat deposits, and moodiness. Cortisol breaks down muscles for energy, which slows metabolism even further. As if that wasn’t bad enough, belly fat has four times the cortisol receptors of fat elsewhere, so when you have high cortisol and then become more stressed, you store more fat. It’s a vicious cycle.
Don’t crank yourself up with coffee in the morning.
How to fix it
Don’t crank yourself up with coffee in the morning. More than half the population is genetically slow at metabolising caffeine and clearing stress—the gene responsible for that is called CYP1A2—and must keep caffeine less than 200 mg per day.
Phosphatidylserine is a plant-based supplement that reduces cortisol. I recommend 400 to 800 mg a day. It’s one of those supplements that you call three girlfriends about because it works so well and so fast.
2. Insulin block
When your cells become numb to insulin, blood sugar climbs, spikes too high, and crashes, making you crave sugar and experience brain fog. Then you wind up storing fat from the carbohydrates and even excess protein. As you age, you become more insulin resistant: By age fifty, blood sugar rises by 10 points (mg/dL).
How to fix it
Drink a glass of filtered water with two tablespoons of Apple Cider Vinegar before meals. It regulates blood sugar and can drop your post-meal blood sugar by 20 percent.
To reset insulin even more, try intermittent fasting for fourteen to eighteen hours. For example, eat dinner early (say, by 6 p.m.) and then eat your next meal around noon. (Yes, you can drink tea for breakfast). Fast twice per week for weight loss and once per week for modulating your longevity genes.
3. Low Irisin
Your muscle plays a key role in metabolism (how fast or slow you burn calories) by talking to other organs such as the fat tissue, brain, and liver, and most certainly, by releasing hormones like irisin.
Irisin is the “exercise hormone” because it burns fat and turns on genes that reduce fat storage. Irisin melts fat by a two-step chain reaction when you perform moderate aerobic endurance activity. First, irisin activates genes that induce white fat (the bad kind that stores toxins and keeps you out of your skinny jeans) into behaving like brown fat (the good kind that keeps you warm) and building muscle. Second, irisin regulates undifferentiated stem cells to become bone-building cells instead of fat-storing ones. Unfortunately, many women aren’t making enough irisin to manage their weight.
You’ll get an even greater boost of irisin if you perform HIIT at the end of an intermittant fast.
How to fix it
Do High-intensity interval training (HIIT). In a randomised trial of eleven obese women, a single afternoon session of moderate and HIIT exercise raised irisin 12 percent, and moderate exercise kept irisin elevated for a longer period compared with no exercise. Forty-five to sixty minutes of moderate exercise seems ideal for irisin production.
Other hormonal reasons to exercise? It helps reverse an insulin block; it relieves stress and induces changes in 18,000 sites on nearly 8,000 genes, so the profound effects go beyond weight loss. You’ll get an even greater boost of irisin if you perform HIIT at the end of an intermittent fast.
4. Low Thyroid
Thyroid hormones are the master control switch of metabolism. When your thyroid is low, you gain weight, feel tired and depressed, and even lose hair.
Your thyroid is a highly sensitive environmental sensor, so it slows down when the environment is toxic. Some of the causes of thyroid disease—such as environmental toxins, gluten, vitamin D deficiencies, Bis-phenol A (BPA), and stress—are too common.
To fix mild thyroid issues, avoid gluten, take sufficient vitamin D and reset stress with medication.
Conservative estimates are that 20 percent or more of women have thyroid problems. Even today many labs and conventional doctors still use outdated reference ranges, which can lead to missed diagnoses, so it’s a good idea to ask your doctor about their standards for diagnosis. If your Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) is greater than 2.0 mIU/L, I recommend getting your blood checked for free T3, reverse T3, and free T4.
How to fix it
To fix mild thyroid issues, avoid gluten, take sufficient Vitamin D and reset stress with meditation. For more serious thyroid dysfunction, discuss with your doctor the option of taking natural desiccated thyroid, available by prescription.
When you realise that hormones dictate what your body does with food, you are taking the first important step to getting your hormones back on track. Given the right protocol, proven lifestyle tweaks, and effective supplements, you can get to your ideal weight and turn back the clock.
Sara Gottfried, MD is the author of the new book,
Younger: A Breakthrough Program to Reset Your Genes, Reverse Ageing and Turn Back the Clock 10 Years. She’s the two-time New York Times bestselling author of The Hormone Reset Diet: Heal Your Metabolism to Lose Up to 15 Pounds in 21 Days and The Hormone Cure: Reclaim Balance, Sleep, Sex Drive and Vitality Naturally with the Gottfried Protocol. After graduating from Harvard Medical School and MIT, Dr Gottfried completed her residency at the University of California at San Francisco. She is a board-certified gynaecologist who teaches natural hormone balancing in her novel online programs so that women can lose weight, detoxify, and slow down ageing.
Dr Sara Gottfried’s latest book Younger: A Breakthrough Program to Reset Your Genes, Reverse Ageing (Vermilion) £14.99 is out now.
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