Most of us that have ever dieted or tried to lose weight have heard it time and time again, it’s all about calories in verses calories out. If we just eat less and move more then we are sure to lose weight. What about the person who keeps eating less and exercising more, but still struggles to lose weight? How far can you keep cutting those calories before it actually starts to make a difference? I am here to tell you that there is a lot more to it, and I’m talking about hormones.
Calories in and calories out has been the advice from just about every weight loss coach and fitness trainer every overweight person has talked to and, for the most part, they are correct. There is a delicate balance between how much energy you consume verses how much energy you expend. If you take in more energy and have some left over at the end of the day, then it gets stored as fat. If you take in less energy than you used in a day then your body will use some of those stores to make up the difference and you lose fat. It sounds easy enough, but for some people it just doesn’t seem to work. You keep eating less and exercising more but your weight stays the same or comes off at such a slow pace that it just doesn’t seem worth it to keep working that hard and depriving yourself of the foods that you love. For you, there may be much more to consider than energy in/out…you may need to see what your HORMONES are up to.
A decade ago, I was class II obese and needed to lose 30 pounds just to be obese. I though about my weight often and wanted to lose a lot of it but I didn’t know how. I tried a few things here and exercised a bit there and saw some results, but not enough to keep me motivated. Eventually, I stumbled onto a great fad-diet that finally had me losing a lot of weight and I lost it quickly. I had lost a total of 75 pounds. I felt pretty great about my current weight and was ready to maintain it. So I stopped eating the way I had been in this “miracle” diet and started eating more regularly. When I say regularly, I do not mean the way that led to my weight gain in the first place, I mean I was making sensible choices but no longer restricting my calories to the extreme level that helped me lose my weight.
What baffled me was how quickly I started gaining weight. It was startling to say the least. I gained 30 pounds back in 2 months and I was devastated. I thought that I could eat like a normal person again and just maintain like so many of my friends do. I cut my calories back down but still continued to gain slowly. I was frustrated and confused because the app that tells me how many calories to eat to maintain my weight was wrong. I had to constantly diet to maintain my weight and had to resort to very extreme dieting to lose any amount of fat. I knew something was wrong.
It wasn’t until years later when I was studying exercise science and nutrition that I discovered what I had done to my body from years of chronic dieting. My hormones were a mess, my adrenals were fatigued, and I had turned my body into the perfect fat storage machine. The good news is that I also found out how to fix it. Here is what I learned about hormones and weight loss.
What do hormones have to do with weight loss? A lot actually. Several hormones our bodies produce can affect how much fat we store and how much fat we burn. Adrenal fatigue, high cortisol levels, high insulin stimulation, and the hormones produced by your thyroid can all lead to slow weight loss and rapid weight gain. They can also influence the rate and speed of your metabolism. But what causes our hormones to become out of balance in the first place? Several things…
High Stress – when we have a lot of stress in our lives, our sympathetic nervous system can activate and release higher levels of adrenaline and cortisol into our system. These hormones are essential when we are in a situation where we need to be alert and have more energy but can be overstimulated by daily stressors from work, school, and life in general. When your body releases cortisol into your system, the cortisol tells your hypothalamus to have the pituitary glands produce less TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). Less THS means less fat burning T3 hormones that are produced by your thyroid and more fat storing RT3 hormones. As if that isn’t enough, if our bodies overstimulate these hormones for long periods we can suffer from adrenal fatigue.
Adrenal Fatigue – When your adrenal glands are stressed from over-stimulation, they can get fatigued. Adrenal fatigue robs you of energy and makes you tired. It also can cause you to crave salty foods. Since adrenal fatigue suppresses the production of fat burning T3 and favors production of Fat storing RT3, those salty foods you are craving are quickly broken down and stored as fat. Now we find ourselves overweight, suffering from chronic fatigue, and craving salty foods. Could there be a better recipe for weight gain?
Malnutrition – When we think of malnutrition, we typically think of starving kids living in third world countries. In reality, anybody who is not getting 100% of their recommended daily vitamins and minerals is suffering from some level of malnutrition. If your nutrition is lacking in certain essential vitamins and minerals or is made up from poor quality foods, your adrenals will stimulate aldosterone to break down the muscle mass in your body to produce glucose. Your body is now working like a well-tuned fat storing machine, as the aldosterone breaks down your muscle to turn it into glucose and the RT3 from your thyroid turns that glucose into fat for storage. Hello rapid and easy weight gain.
Starvation – Are you thinking about those third world kids again? Starvation comes in many forms, like skipping breakfast and not eating until afternoon or the latest fad diet. Chronic dieting can have a huge impact on your metabolism and cause your body to store fat at every opportunity it gets. Every one of us has a certain number of calories we need to survive over a 24-hour period if you did not move a muscle. That is your Basal Metabolic Rate. Your BMR is based on your age, gender, and the size of your body. Let’s look at my BMR as an example.
I am a 46-year-old male, I’m 5’6” and weigh 183 pounds. Based on that information, my BMR is 1651 calories. Remember, that is how many calories I need in a day if I do not move a muscle. Since I am planning to get up, eat, walk around, and use the restroom, I will need more calories than that. If I exercise, I will probably need closer to 2500 calories in a day to maintain my weight. Here comes the calories in/out part. If I eat less than 2500 calories, I should lose weight. If I eat less than 1651, then the weight should come off faster right? Maybe for a while but eating less than our BMR puts our bodies into starvation mode. It doesn’t take long before we start to produce more of that nasty RT3 again and store fat every chance we get, even from healthy food choices. Plus, starvation is also a huge stressor for our bodies. Chronic dieting becomes chronic stress that leads to adrenal over-stimulation and fatigue.
Let’s wrap that all up and see the results. We are now breaking down muscle to turn it into glucose (less lean muscle mass means we need less calories each day), our RT3 converts that excess glucose into fat, we are chronically fatigued and burning less calories, and the addictive craving for salty foods from adrenal fatigue causes us to overindulge on snacks foods. We have become very efficient fat storing machines as we are now taking in more calories, requiring less calories, and storing more of those calories as fat.
There are plenty of apps out there that will tell you how many calories you should consume to maintain your weight and how much you should cut to lose weight and I highly recommend using one if you are trying to lose weight. The unfortunate truth is that they only work accurately if your hormones are behaving nicely and not telling your body to store as much fat as possible. Fortunately, there is hope. You can re-balance your hormones, reset your metabolism, ignite your fat-burning furnace and crank it up to high. And it’s easier than you think. My Weight Loss Jump Start Program includes a 28-day nutrition plan designed to reset your hormones and speed up a slow metabolism so you can lose weight. It also comes with weeks of fat burning exercises that will have you burning extra calories and fat for hours after your workout ends. Sign up today and get results.