One premenstrual day, after snapping at my kids and my husband for the umpteenth time, I paused and thought about how much my hormones affected the way I felt and acted. If you are a woman you know this to be true. But did you know that your hormones affect how you store and burn fat? No? Get ready to be surprised.
Your body swims in a hormonal soup all the time. These hormones affect what’s going on inside your body all day long. Usually when we think about hormones, we think about sex hormones (Estrogen, testosterone and progesterone) but those are only part of the equation.
Two major hormone players in your body are insulin and cortisol. These two have a lot of say over how your body stores, releases and burns fat.
Insulin– If insulin levels are raised too much, fat is more likely to be stored when you are eating more calories than you should, and less likely to be burned when you cut back on your calories.
Cortisol– High cortisol levels combined with high insulin levels will block fat from being released for burning and will cause the body to hold onto stored fat. If you become insulin resistant through poor eating habits, you now enter a catch 22. If it affects your brain it makes you feel hungrier. If it affects your muscles it leads to muscle loss and keeps fuel from getting to your muscles. Now you are fatigued and perform poorly. So you eat too much because you’re hungry all the time, burn fewer calories because you have less muscle mass (which burns more calories than fat) and are programmed to store more fat and burn less of it.
Hey! How is that fair?
Now a word about Estrogen, progesterone and testosterone; these hormones affect how you burn and store fat as well. If women are low on estrogen and, it causes them to burn less fat and store more, especially belly fat. If men are low on testosterone it has the same effect. When women hit menopause this is why they tend to gain weight.
Thankfully, there is a way to combat this hormone/fat assault on your well being and pant size. With the right combinations of food, you can reverse the hormone fat accumulation trap.
- First, stay away from meals that are a combination of starch, sugar and fat. These meals raise insulin levels. Raised insulin levels can lean to insulin resistance and start the more hungry, less muscular downward spiral. Combine this with stress which raises cortisol levels and it multiplies the weight gain.
- Do eat meals that are a combination of protein sources and vegetables. This will produce a minimum of insulin. You will feel fuller for longer periods of time. Plus you will crave less junk food and feel more energetic.
- Manage your stress with plenty of sleep, exercise, meditation and other forms of stress management. This will keep your cortisol levels at bay.
If you want to read about two specific eating plans to battle the hormones check out this article on belly fat. Then get to the farmer’s market!