Have you been really good with your diet, exercising your guts out, and still struggling to lose weight?
Are you a woman?
Chances are your hormones are playing a part in sabotaging your weight loss goals.
Here’s the thing – a 20-something-year-old woman is going to find it easier to lose weight than a 40-something-year old for two good reasons:
- The younger person will typically have more energy, less stress in their lives, fewer injuries, and fewer muscle or joint problems caused by wear and tear. (And, as one of my PT clients recently pointed out, they’re probably having more sex.)
- Your hormones change as you get older, particularly for women as we approach or experience menopause, post-menopause, or pregnancy.
Cortisol is a bitch
Older women will typically have higher levels of cortisol – this is the hormone that’s released in response to stress. It helps to regulate blood pressure and provide a boost of energy.
The problem with too much cortisol – immediate or chronic (ie, constant release for a long time) – is it causes issues like suppressing your thyroid function, messing with your blood sugar levels, and decreasing the effectiveness of your immune system.
So basically, when you are experiencing stress, you’ll feel tired, be prone to illness, and your body won’t process sugar as well as it usually does.
The problem with the latter is over-active release of insulin, the hormone that helps your body process sugar. Your blood sugar levels will increase, which means you’ll crave sweet things more regularly, and you may well ‘stress eat’ because of your overstimulated appetite. And if you have excess sugar it’ll convert to fat, and that’s why you’ll find it difficult to lose weight.
In addition, cortisol, being the nasty little thing that it is, also prevents your body from burning fat for energy, and when you can’t do that it becomes even more difficult to lose weight.
Oh and one more thing – cortisol can also result in a reduction of muscle mass, which in turn prevents you from burning more fat. Fun, hey?
So what can you do?
- Seek medical advice: If you’ve been struggling to lose weight but you’re doing all the right things, and particularly if you’re a woman aged 35-plus, go and see your doctor and request a hormone balance check. That will give you some insight into whether or not your hormones are out of whack, and your doctor can work with you to get them under control.
- Reduce stress: If you suspect cortisol might be the culprit, then you need to treat the cause – how can you reduce the amount of stress in your life? For the sake of your long-term health, you need to make an effort here.
- Reduce sugar and fats: Under stress, your body is struggling to process sugar and burn fats more than ever before. That means you really need to focus on reducing these elements from your diet and focus on good sources of protein and fibre.
- Change up your exercise routine: If you’re normally into long-distance or endurance training, you’ll need to switch to something more like high-intensity interval training (HIIT). The long slow distance training actually places more stress on your body, which is the last thing you need. It’s also not as effective at burning fat as HIIT. Get a couple of HIIT sessions in a week, as well as strength training to avoid muscle mass depletion.
This is an excerpt from my new ebook, ‘Not another #fitspo ebook: The truth about getting fit and healthy, and how to avoid the bullshit’, which will be available in early June! Stay tuned…