When we think of the word hormone, we tend to think of issues such as menopause, puberty, thyroid disease or…being grumpy and craving sugar at “that time of the month”. But…did you know the food you eat and the exercise you do has a huge impact on your hormonal health and weight? For weight loss, calories are not the entire picture. Hormonal balance is key to helping you burn belly fat and look and feel your very best at any age.
What are hormones?
Hormones are the most powerful chemical messengers in the body, and when it comes to weight loss and feeling well, can make it or break it. In addition to blood sugar control and insulin balance, hormones control metabolism and therefore are intricately connected to the amount of fat you gain or lose. In other words, burning fat and achieving successful weight loss is in fact partly a hormonal event.
The three little hormones I want you to know about are:
1) Insulin – Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas whose main role is to regulate glucose (sugar) levels and promote fat storage especially around the belly. Foods that promote the secretion of insulin include white refined flours and sugars.
2) Glucagon – Glucagon and insulin are “enemies” and have opposing effects. In other words, when one is up, the other one is down. Glucagon is a fat burning hormone and is secreted by the consumption of protein.
3) Cortisol – Cortisol is your stress hormone. Unfortunately, cortisol and insulin are best buddies. If cortisol is elevated due to mild to moderate periods of stress (typically chronic stress), insulin is typically raised which can make weight loss difficult.
Top 10 ways to achieve hormonal balance and promote weight loss include:
- Minimize all insulin stimulating foods. These include white sugar, excess alcohol and all processed flours.
- Pick glucagon stimulating foods at every meal. Glucagon stimulating foods are proteins such as chicken, fish, turkey, cottage cheese, yogurt, lean red beef, eggs, hemp, protein powder (pea, rice or whey).
- Support your hormonal health with essential fatty acids. In addition to cold water fish, nuts and seeds – it is advisable to supplement with a distilled fish oil supplement daily (you will love what it does for your hair as well!)
- Stay hydrated. Drinking 2 litres of water per day is critical for energy, vitality and overall health. No excuses on this one –just make it a habit.
- Drink green tea. In addition to boosting metabolism, green tea secretes an amino acid called L-theanine which tends to have a calming effect.
- Exercise, there is no way around it. Exercise is by far one of the most effective ways to lower cortisol response.
- Sleep well. A good night’s sleep can do wonders for proper cortisol secretion and weight loss. In fact, research has shown poor sleep quality to be associated with an increase in cravings and hunger, thereby leading to weight gain.
- Hug someone you love. Whether it is your child, hubby, friend or parent – hugging naturally lowers cortisol response.
- Meditate, pray or journal. While this may sound “out there” for some of you, I assure you, it works.
- Take time for you. Whatever it is that you love to do – walk, spend time with friends, – try to take time 15-30 minutes per day for yourself.
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