We have all been there - we are eating right and exercising how we should and actually seeing some pretty impressive results when, BAM! You hit your plateau and can't seem to lose one ounce more. Why does this happen? You're following all of the usual diet rules - less caloric input and more energy output. Does this mean that you need to cut your calories even more while expending more energy than before?
At this point in your diet regimen, you have to change your thinking from fewer calories and more exercise, to controlling and maintaining the right balance of hormones.
Hormones?! When has dieting ever been about hormones?
Actually, weight loss and hormones are so interconnected that each depends on each other to maintain the proper balance of health in the body. If you are one of the millions of Americans who struggle with "problem" areas, then the following information about hormones will really intrigue you.
Estrogen - Baby Got Too Much Back
The urge for a nice, round derriere is very strong for millions of women and there are celebrities out there that are actually famous for their back-ends. Unfortunately, women who have high levels of estrogen also tend to have a difficult time losing weight from their buttocks and thighs. Studies show that women who are overweight actually have much higher levels of estrogen than those women who are of average weight.
On the flip side, women who become anorexic, are entering menopause, or who are extremely active with low body fat percentages tend to have very low estrogen levels. Thus, their bodies try to take the estrogen from their fat cells.
Whichever category you fall in to, it is important to make sure your estrogen levels are acceptable or you may just be doing all of your exercising and dieting for naught.
Cortisol - The Stressful Hormone
Ever see those individuals who have a huge potbelly? If so, then you have seen someone who is probably overproducing the hormone cortisol. Known as the stress hormone, cortisol is instrumental at regulating blood sugar levels, maintaining energy levels, and helping the body heal. However, when this hormone is being overproduced because the body is physically or emotionally stressed, a potbelly generally ensues.
While this hormone is generally referred to as the "stress" hormone, it should be more aptly named the "sneaky" hormone. As I said, when our bodies are stressed, either physically or emotionally, cortisol production gets kicked in to overdrive. This means that if we exercise too much and overstress ourselves in that manner, we will overproduce cortisol. Sneaky, huh?!
Don't fret. You can still exercise and lose weight, you just have to exercise smart and not too hard. Those 60 minute sessions on the treadmill or elliptical should be eliminated in favor of interval training peppered with resistance training. This will work the body efficiently and effectively without stressing it out.
Insulin Hormone - Don't Crash
The problem area termed the "muffin top" is directly related to the hormone insulin. Insulin is vital for our bodies as it converts glucose to glycogen, which is then stored in the muscles and liver. When we produce too much glucose, the extra glycogen is converted into new fat stores - right in your love handles.
The main culprit behind elevated insulin levels is the high carbohydrate diets that most Americans eat. Prepackaged and processed foods are lousy with carbohydrates and our bodies just can't convert it all into useable energy. Instead, these excess carbs lead to:
- Fat from the blood being stored in our fat cells
- Our bodies burning carbohydrates for energy instead of fat
- Inhibited use of fat for energy
The best way to combat issues with insulin is to keep your levels in check. Never let your levels spike too high or too low, as this is when the problems start to occur and our love handles revel themselves. Start by cutting out all (or as much) processed foods as possible. Stick with natural foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and sprouted grain breads as well as appropriate exercises and you can kiss those love handles goodbye!