Read an Excerpt
THE NEW FORMULA FOR FAT LOSS
Here's what you can expect to learn in this chapter:
. How to set the stage for successful fat loss . The facts about hormones . Why dieting can cause hormonal havoc . How hormones boost metabolic rate and fat burning . How inflammation causes obesity and hormonal imbalance . How to control appetite with the help of hormones . How hormones affect sexual appetite . The road to safe weight loss
For decades, an endless stream of well-marketed diets and newfangled exercise programs have been promising an easy path to a leaner, trimmer you. Every year, it seems, we are enticed to drop all "bad carbs" or to purchase the latest piece of home gym equipment and good health and happiness will surely be ours. But the rules of fat loss have changed from what we once thought them to be. No longer can we rely on diet alone to shed unwanted weight. Nor can we simply exercise the £ds away. Certainly, poor eating habits and lack of physical activity are two of the biggies when it comes to explaining escalating obesity rates. But they are by no means the only culprits.
Today's headlines read like a laundry list of previously overlooked factors that can impede successful weight loss--from lack of sleep and excess stress to the chemicals in our soaps. With so many lifestyle influences to consider, all the calorie-cutting and exercise in the world, in isolation, will not provide the golden key to achieving the lasting change we desire.
Until now, the prevailing approach to conquering obesity has been like putting a broken arm in a sling without first resetting the bone. Yes, weight loss happens when we burn more calories--via exercise and basic life functions such as breathing and digesting--than we take in. But there's another absolutely critical, routinely ignored variable that must be integrated into this equation: our hormones. These wondrous, unseen chemicals are produced by our bodies to manage everything from breathing to digestion to sexual responses and more. At the same time, our hormones are influenced by a myriad of factors, including exercise, diet, sleep, stress, and even the seemingly innocuous, everyday chemicals in cosmetics.
What Are Hormones?
What are you thinking right now? Do you feel happy or anxious? What did you eat for your last meal? Is it noisy where you are? How deeply or quickly are you breathing? Did you exercise today? How many cups of coffee have you had? Do you like the person beside you at the moment? Have you enjoyed sex lately?
The answer to every one of these questions has an impact on your hormones. As your five senses delicately interact with and respond to your environment, your nervous system is continuously communicating with your endocrine system--a series of glands and tissues constantly at work manufacturing, delivering, and processing a wide assortment of hormones to maintain body balance. Even the emotions you experience have the potential to influence your hormones--and vice versa.
Hormones are essentially tiny chemical messengers that spark communication processes throughout your body. They play an enormous role in influencing almost every aspect of your well-being, including your thoughts and feelings. Whether you feel the need to sleep, warm up, cool down, eat jelly beans, grab a coffee, or have a quickie, your desires and actions can be traced back to your hormonal activity.
Hormones also directly affect your appearance. Besides body composition, the look and feel of your skin and hair are influenced by hormones. If you want to look fresher, stimulate your metabolism, lose fat, feel calmer, sleep better, get stronger, feel sexier, and focus better, gaining control over your hormonal balance is truly the key.
Since hormones control our appetites and stimulate metabolism, achieving and maintaining hormonal balance plays an essential role in achieving lasting fat loss. Yes, diet and exercise are important, but so are sleeping well, reducing toxin exposure, maintaining healthy liver function, optimizing digestion, limiting stress, and conquering inflammation. All of these factors can influence our hormonal activity--and weight-loss success-- in truly dramatic ways.
Our hormones dictate where we store fat and how we will lose it. Research from the Journal of the American Medical Association (April 2007) suggests our hormones also determine our success with different diets. Dr. David Ludwig, director of the obesity program at Children's Hospital Boston, found that people who rapidly secreted large amounts of the hormone insulin in response to consumption of sugar or carbohydrates tended to achieve better weight-loss results on a low-glycemic diet that restricted starches and sugars than they did on a low-fat diet. He also discovered that they carried more weight around the waist (the so-called apple shape) compared with those who secreted less insulin and tended to store their excess fat around their hips (the pear shape).
THE ENDOCRINE SYSTEM
While the nervous system coordinates rapid responses to outside stimuli, the endocrine system controls slower, longer-lasting responses to your environment. The link between these two systems is the hypothalamus, a small, almond-sized gland located in the brain.
Functioning as an endocrine gland, the hypothalamus secretes hormones that stimulate the pituitary gland to release other hormones into the bloodstream. The pituitary is often referred to as the "master gland," since its hormones act on the thyroid, ovaries, testes, and adrenal glands to regulate growth, reproduction, nutrient absorption, and metabolism.
Each of these glands responds to instructions from the pituitary and secretes hormones specific to its unique function in the body. The ovaries and testes, for instance, secrete the sex hormones estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. The adrenal glands release the stress hormone cortisol and antistress hormone DHEA. The thyroid releases thyroid hormones to manage your metabolic rate.
Many more hormones are produced without the direction of the pituitary gland by other tissues and glands of the endocrine system, including the pancreas, thymus gland, digestive tract, fat cells, adrenal glands, pineal gland, and the brain. Moreover, hormonal messages from other sources are relayed back to the hypothalamus to alter our behavior or actions. The hormone leptin is a good example of this type of hormonal control. This substance travels from fat cells through the bloodstream to the hypothalamus to regulate appetite.
Most bodily tissues are targets for one or more hormones released from the pituitary gland. According to Mary Dallman, a professor of physiology at the University of California who studies the effects of stress on appetite and obesity, two predominant endocrine hormones, cortisol and insulin, heavily influence caloric intake by acting on the brain. The stress hormone cortisol, in particular, activates a strong response in the brain to match our perceived stress with a desire to eat comfort foods--the tasty treats we associate with pleasant experiences, often from childhood. Unfortunately, consuming comfort foods, which are typically high in carbohydrates and fat, can cause a resulting spike in our insulin level, leading to the accumulation of belly fat.
Working together, the endocrine, nervous, and digestive systems can either help or hamper your weight-loss and wellness goals. Once you understand these complex systems and get them communicating optimally with one another, you will be well on your way to hormonal bliss and lifelong health.
The pear-shaped subjects fared equally well on both types of eating programs, but they tended to gain back over half the weight they lost on the low-fat diet after the study was completed. The apple-shaped people who followed the low-fat regimen also regained their weight, but kept it off after the low-glycemic diet.
Knowing your current hormonal state can help you select the eating plan that will work best for you. In Part Two, I'll tell you about a simple blood test that can provide you with not only a sense of your hormonal profile but also a strong indication of your potential for fat loss and aging well.
Hormonal Imbalance As a Cause of Obesity
The human body is a truly phenomenal machine that naturally strives to remain in a balanced state. When we're cold, we shiver. When we're thirsty or hungry, the brain gives us the appropriate signals to drink or grab a bite to eat. When our hormones and bodily responses are thrown out of balance, stress is the result. The body then miraculously offers a wide range of alerts, which can be as subtle as an increase in thirst or as severe as diabetes.
Consider these alarming statistics:
. An estimated 65 million Americans have metabolic syndrome, a set of underlying risk factors for type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
. By the age of 30, 1 in 4 people has an associated risk factor, such as abdominal fat or insulin resistance. . By the age of 60, 3 out of 4 people have one or more of the associated factors.
. One in 13 people suffers from hypothyroidism. Some sources say up to 30 percent of the population has a thyroid disorder and an estimated 13 million cases may remain undiagnosed each year. . Forty-three percent of women ages 18 to 59 report experiencing sexual dysfunctions at some point in their life. . About 75 percent of women experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS). . Seventy-five percent of menopausal women in North America experience life-disrupting symptoms. . Andropause, also known as male menopause, affects 30 to 40 percent of aging men. . An estimated 30 percent of men and 40 percent of women suffer from insomnia, a statistic that increases with age. . Seventy-four percent of adults are chronically sleep deprived. . The World Health Organization reports that by 2020 depression will become the number two cause of disability and premature death for men and women of all ages. . An estimated 80 to 90 percent of all disease is caused by stress.
What's the unifying factor among all these conditions? Every one of them is spurred by an underlying hormonal imbalance. Sadly, the signs and symptoms of hormonal imbalances are so widespread that they barely register as blips on our radar screens. Many of us have hormone-related health conditions that interfere with our quality of life, and we're not even aware of them. In fact, we're so imbalanced, I fear most of us don't even know what "normal" feels like anymore!
At the same time, we are in the midst of an obesity epidemic. More than 61 percent of Americans are overweight (BMI greater than 25), a number that continues to escalate each year. According to National Center for Health 2005/2006 statistics, more than 34 percent of Americans are obese (BMI greater than 30) compared to 32.7 percent who are overweight. Just under 6 percent are extremely obese. Data from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) show obesity and related conditions alone account for more than $100 billion in health-care expenses annually in the United States.
Setting the Stage for Fat-Loss Success
What does hormonal havoc mean to you? Some women might immediately think of hot flashes or the emotional meltdown they experienced before their last period. Men might think back to what it was like being 17, when they could think of nothing but sex, sex, and more sex. Both these situations involve hormones that are out of whack, as do hypothyroidism, infertility, diabetes, stress, insomnia, depression, anxiety, obesity, irregular periods, low libido, memory loss, and a lengthy list of other conditions brought on by hormonal mix-ups.
But maybe you just feel tired all the time. Or you notice fat hanging around that seems impossible to lose. Perhaps your cravings for sweets, carbs, or salt will not let up, your skin is not as bright as it once was, or the texture of your hair has changed. These much subtler signs can also signal a state of hormonal upheaval.
When you complete your Hormonal Health Profile in the next chapter, you will see there are many symptoms of hormonal imbalance. No matter how an imbalance manifests on the outside, the internal reality remains the same-- any and all hormonal imbalance leads to difficulty losing weight, increased risk of obesity and unhealthy aging. Long-term weight loss and wellness are next to impossible until you bring your hormones back into balance.
The New Equation for Fat Loss:
Hormonal Balance + (Calories Taken in Calories Burned) - Lasting Fat Loss
Boost Metabolism with Help from Your Hormones
One of the primary factors determining body weight is metabolism, the internal furnace that regulates fat burning. Everyone's metabolism is different, which is why some people appear to be able to eat just about anything and remain lean while others seem to pack on £ds easily. But being overweight doesn't necessarily mean you have a slow metabolism, and there are five major factors that affect our metabolic rate.
1. THE THYROID: YOUR INTERNAL THERMOSTAT
The thyroid controls the metabolic rate of every single cell in the body and also maintains body temperature. Without enough thyroid hormone, all our bodily functions slow down. We feel tired and lethargic, gain weight, experience constipation, feel cold, and are prone to depression.
2. THE RUSH OF ADRENALINE
A quick release of adrenaline is the body's first response to stress. This hormone provides a short-term metabolic boost because it draws on the body's fat stores to provide that burst of energy we feel in a "fight-or- flight" situation.
3. MARVELOUS MUSCLE
Muscle tissue is metabolically active at rest, as well as during use. So the more muscle you have, the more calories you'll burn, even while sleeping or watching TV. This metabolic factor is the easiest to control with the right wellness plan. Unfortunately, loss of muscle is a normal part of aging. My three-step plan in Part Two of this book shows you how to slow this process and maximize muscle growth, even as you age.
4. THE THERMIC EFFECT OF EATING
Thermic pertains to heat. Thermic or "thermogenic" foods literally heat you up and raise your metabolism. The thermic effect happens as your body burns calories, simply by digesting and absorbing the food. Yes, even the very act of eating stimulates your metabolism, especially when you consume protein, which has the highest thermic effect of any food group. There's another metabolic benefit of protein: Eating it also helps to support metabolically active muscle growth, especially if you are practicing strength training. And strength training helps to increase the thermic effect! A study published in the Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise Journal found the thermic effect of the same meal was 50 percent greater in men who engaged in regular weight training versus those who were sedentary. This certainly helps to illustrate why strength training is so important for optimal calorie burning.
5. YOUR LOVELY LIVER