A common refrain from many of my patients is a desire to lose weight. But for some it doesn't seem to matter how much they exercise or eat a clean, organic diet consisting of small portions. The weight still persists, and this can be very discouraging.
Did you know that your hormones have a direct effect on your weight?
Of all the times in our lives when hormones can run amuck, menopause tends to top the list. Around the hormonal changes of menopause our bodies can accumulate and hang onto extra weight. This can be attributed mainly to increased cortisol levels (the "stress hormone") and an estrogen dominance that occurs. That said, there are plenty of other health concerns related to autoimmune disease, toxicity exposure and just plain old stress that can have a tremendous effect on hormonal balance.
There is an intimate connection between blood sugar and hormone levels. The key to stabilizing your blood sugar is to eat according to a low glycemic index.
So why eat with a low glycemic index? All foods have a glycemic index, which is a measurement carried out on carbohydrate-containing foods and their impact on blood sugar. (Harvard has a glycemic index for 100+ common American foods here.) High glycemic foods have a destabilizing effect on our blood sugar levels by spiking these levels and then dropping them dramatically. In other words, they have a large impact on our short term blood glucose levels.
By eating low glycemic foods and a sufficient amount of protein, fats and carbohydrates your body is able to moderate glucose metabolism. As blood sugar levels stabilize over the long term your hormone levels come into balance, cortisol levels go down, and your body no longer needs to store extra fat.
It is a common misperception that it is necessary to avoid fat and carbohydrates. In fact, it can be detrimental to restrict them. I emphasize a high fiber, low glycemic and nutrient dense way of eating and to lose weight and feel well.
By stabilizing your blood sugar and eating nutrient dense meals you also decrease sugar cravings as well as spikes and crashes in energy. Eating regularly and not letting yourself get overly hungry helps your body adjust to a higher metabolic rate.
Equally important as what we eat is how we eat. Try to think of it like yoga for eating. A higher frequency of meals stokes the metabolism, increases appetite and strengthens digestion. Try for three medium sized main meals and two to three snacks per day equaling to the size of your fist. This means you can plan on eating every two to three hours or so. Chew your food thoroughly. Chewing relieves the stress handling glands from the job of maintaining normal blood sugar levels between meals (via epinephrine and cortisol) and stimulates good digestion.
Here are some basic guidelines to start feeling better and shedding pounds:
1. Do not eat carbohydrates alone; always add protein and fat to your meals and snacks. It is especially important not to eat a carbohydrate only breakfast, as it sets the precedent for the day’s glycemic index.
2. Spend time preparing your own food and eliminate all processed, packaged, and fast foods. This way you really know what's in your food and can make there are no unneccesary dyes, fillers or sugar.
3. Avoid cane sugar, corn syrup, and beet sugar. Small amounts of sweeteners such as fruit or honey are okay.
4. I know we live in wine country, but essentially wine = sugar. Nothing takes your blood sugar on a roller coaster ride quite like wine. Skip the glass of wine with dinner and go for a substitute like water, tea, or almond milk. Going to a party? Substitute wine with a little bit of sparkling water with a squeeze fresh lemon or lime.
5. Limit your intake of fruit to one serving per day. Dr. Sara Gottfried recently called fruit, "the healthy food that thin people avoid." Many fruits with a high glycemic index like bananas and dates eaten throughout the day can put you right back into a sugar addiction cycle of spike, crash and burn. You can read more about Dr. Sara's recommendations here.
What if I want to treat myself? Tips to avoid self sabotage.
I have always loved the phrase, “everything in moderation, even moderation.” When you eat, accept the food into your body knowing it tastes good and it is going to nourish and become a part of you. If you want to eat something you know isn’t healthy for you once in awhile then please do it. Just do it in moderation (5 potato chips instead of a whole bag of chips) and really enjoy it when you do!
In essence, this is not a diet; these are nutritional and lifestyle guidelines to loose weight, feel absolutely great, and increase longevity. Exercise, sleep and even emotions have a large impact on our metabolism and hormonal balance. Let your conversation with yourself and others be empowering around your self image and you will be amazed at how your mind and body will start to shift.
Peace, Love and Light to you,
Monica Walters, L.Ac.