Read an Excerpt
OUR BIG FAT HORMONAL IMBALANCES
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Imagine exercising daily, counting calories and excluding food groups only to have your belly fat or love handles grow bigger and bigger. The more you strive to meet your goal, the further you are from achieving it. It's the always shocking, incredibly frustrating, unsuccessful dieting phenomenon. And it happened to me.
At the time, I was a student and I assumed that the diet and exercise program I was following wasn't strict enough, long enough, or strenuous enough. Naturally I decided that I simply needed to do them both--harder. So, in desperation I added more cardio sessions and further reduced my food intake. The result? I gained another 5 £ds on top of the 20 I had already piled on. How could this be?
Let's recall my equation for fat loss from The Hormone Diet:
Lasting fat loss = hormonal balance + (calories in - calories burned)
My intense efforts failed because they only served to make my hormonal imbalance, the true underlying cause of my weight gain, worse. Unbeknownst to me, I had a deficiency of thyroid hormone going on in the background. The imbalance only grew worse because the physical stress associated with excessive caloric restriction and overexercising actually increased the negative impact on my thyroid hormone deficiency and further slowed my metabolism. After this, three things quickly became very clear to me. First, weight loss is by no means only about calories in versus calories out--hormonal balance needed to be added to the equation. Second, hormones are very powerful substances that influence many aspects of our health and well-being. And third, the level of one hormone impacts another, which established the need to think "big picture" when it comes to weight loss.
So, if we now know this as the new formula for fat loss, then surely we need to start thinking about all the factors that upset our hormonal balance and, therefore, ultimately make us fat. But I'll tell you a secret before we get into a discussion of the eight most common fat-packing hormonal imbalances and the reasons why we are fat. This program fixes them all.
Tackling the Taboo Topic of Hormonal Health
After the release of my first book, The Hormone Diet, I received hundreds of emails from people around the globe expressing exuberant relief that they finally found some answers. Many felt as if the book had been written directly for them, and they had at last discovered a solution to their nagging symptoms and hormonal hurdles. People were no longer sweeping their issues under the carpet, making excuses or hitting a wall with no discernible answers. It was exactly why I wrote the book in the first place- -to create a practical guidebook that explains the cause, the effect and the solution, so people can make informed decisions about their own health-- one step at a time. But a lot of readers also requested my three-step wellness plan to be more simply laid out. They wanted a more direct pathway to successful solutions--without the science. And so herein lies The Supercharged Hormone Diet 30-Day plan. I want better health to be accessible to everyone, and this plan is so clear anyone can do it.
The pace of life just seems to get more and more hectic. Between work, family and other obligations, we're all finding ourselves stretched--and stressed. Unfortunately, this busy lifestyle often leads us to place our health at the bottom of the priority list. Without realizing it, we find ourselves beholden to a host of poor habits--eating on the run, skipping workouts, grabbing too few hours of sleep and dismissing everyday symptoms that are often red flags for something more serious. These habits leave us carrying excess £ds, looking drained and feeling just plain bad. Often we respond by seeking a quick fix to lose weight. But when our bodies are so out of balance, long-term weight loss is next to impossible. This book is about all the aspects of your lifestyle that come together to make--or break--your weight-loss success. It's about taking the time and some simple steps to make yourself, your health and your overall well-being a top priority again.
Think about what drew you to this book in the first place. Do you have trouble dragging yourself out of bed in the morning? Do you experience uncontrollable sugar cravings at 3 p.m.? Nagging PMS every month? Interrupted sleep patterns? Do you get stressed out just sitting in your office? Do you have difficulty coping with every task? Bloating after meals? Skin that has lost its luster or tone? Belly fat that just won't go away? The list can go on and on, and I am willing to bet that many of you experience some of these frustrations every day. Believe it or not, these aren't just factors that make you feel bad. They are impacting your ability to lose weight!
Unfortunately, many of us are too embarrassed or too used to the symptoms to even think about discussing or addressing them. Both women and men have spent too long believing that their hormonal symptoms are a liability or are psychosomatic to simply be ignored. Yet hormones are powerful chemical messengers in our body--they control everything from our reproductive functions to our mood, sleep, appearance and almost every other aspect of daily life. The very same hormones that are behind a whole host of health concerns (such as the ones listed above) are also influencing your ability to control your appetite, shed body fat and gain lean muscle. They dictate how successful we will be with a given weight-loss program; whether we will be able to drop unwanted £ds or continue on the diet merry-go-round to no avail. So many of us believe we can get healthy by losing weight. But it was my goal to teach you in The Hormone Diet that we must be healthy in order to lose weight.
The Eight Most Common Fat-Packing Hormonal Imbalances
If you have been unable to lose weight, even with diet and exercise, your hormones are very likely the reason you have not been successful. Our bodies are hard-wired to send us signals when something isn't right, but often we're too busy to hear them begging for attention. Many of us experience signs and symptoms of hormonal imbalance every day. Recognizing and treating the subtle signs of hormonal imbalance is essential, yet so many of us have been out of balance for so many years that we don't know how to recognize what "balance" is anymore.
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 and increased risk of obesity. Unfortunately, the most common imbalances cannot be solved by dieting alone. In fact, they can prevent successful fat loss, even when great diet and exercise plans are in place. If you have not been successful in the past, one or more of the following hormonal imbalances could be the culprit:
Inflammation: Digestive disorders, allergies, autoimmune disease, arthritis, asthma, eczema, acne, abdominal fat, headaches, depression and sinus disorders are all associated with chronic inflammation, which has recently become recognized as the root cause of obesity and unhealthy aging. At the 2007 Postgraduate Nutrition Symposium at Harvard University, researchers revealed findings suggesting that inflammation and excess insulin are the major contributors to rising rates of type 2 diabetes and the overall fattening of North America.
Insulin Excess: Insulin is an essential substance whose main function is to process sugar in the bloodstream and carry it into cells to be used as fuel or stored as fat. There are several reasons for excess insulin, but the main culprits are stress, consuming too much nutrient-poor carbohydrate (the type found in processed foods, sugary drinks and sodas, packaged low- fat foods and artificial sweeteners) insufficient protein intake, inadequate fat intake and deficient fiber consumption. Heart palpitations, sweating, poor concentration, weakness, anxiety, fogginess, fatigue, irritability or impaired thinking are common short-term side effects of high insulin. Unfortunately, our body typically responds to these unpleasant feelings by making us think we're hungry, which in turn causes us to reach for more high-sugar foods and drinks. We then end up in a vicious cycle of hormonal imbalance, a condition called insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome, which only furthers weight gain and our risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Depression or Anxiety: Serotonin exerts powerful influence over mood, emotions, memory, cravings (especially for carbohydrates), self-esteem, pain tolerance, sleep habits, appetite, digestion and body temperature regulation. When we're feeling down or depressed, we naturally crave more sugars and starches to stimulate the production of serotonin. The World Health Organization (WHO) projects that depression and anxiety will soon be the number-one disability experienced by adults. For adequate serotonin production, all of the following are crucial: plenty of sunlight; a healthy diet rich in protein, minerals and vitamins; regular exercise and good sleep. When we measure our current lifestyle against all the elements necessary for the body's natural production of serotonin, the wide-ranging epidemic of low serotonin is certainly not surprising. Add in chronic stress and out-of-control multitasking--two of the main causes of serotonin depletion--and it's no wonder many of us suffer from depleted serotonin.
Chronic Stress: Under situations of chronic stress--whether the stress is physical, emotional, mental, environmental, real or imagined--our body releases high amounts of the hormone cortisol. If you suffer from a mood disorder such as anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder or exhaustion, or if you have a digestive issue such as irritable bowel syndrome, you can bet your body is cranking up your cortisol. Through a complicated network of hormonal interactions, prolonged stress results in a raging appetite, metabolic decline, belly fat and a loss of hard-won, metabolically active muscle tissue. In other words, chronic stress makes us soft, flabby and much older than we truly are!
Toxic Estrogen: Researchers have now identified excess estrogen to be as great a risk factor for obesity--in both sexes--as poor eating habits and lack of exercise. There are two ways to accumulate excess estrogen in the body: we either produce too much of it on our own or acquire it from our environment or diet. We are constantly exposed to estrogen-like com£ds in foods that contain toxic pesticides, herbicides and growth hormones. A premenopausal woman with estrogen dominance will likely have PMS, too much body fat around the hips and difficulty losing weight. Menopausal women and, yes, men too, may experience low libido, memory loss, poor motivation, depression, loss of muscle mass and increased belly fat.
Menopause: According to projections by consumer reports in the Unites States, 25 million women will hit menopause within the next decade. Contrary to popular belief, menopause, which can begin as early as 40 years of age, is not just about estrogen decline. Supplies of other hormones such as progesterone, testosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) also tend to dry up, right along with the skin, hair, eyes and libido. So many women come to my office intensely frustrated with the unwelcome changes in their body during this phase of life, especially an annoying thickening of the waistline. Other common symptoms of menopause include hot flashes, difficulty sleeping, headaches, heart palpitations, poor memory and concentration, urinary urgency or incontinence, vaginal dryness, changes in the appearance of skin and hair and emotional changes including depression, anxiety and irritability.
Low Testosterone: Testosterone enhances libido, bone density, muscle mass, strength, motivation, memory, fat burning and skin tone in both men and women. An increase of body fat and loss of muscle may happen, even with dieting and exercise, when testosterone is low. Testosterone levels tend to taper off with aging, obesity and stress, but today men are experiencing testosterone decline much earlier in life. This is quite an alarming finding, considering low testosterone has been linked to depression, obesity, osteoporosis, heart disease and even death. Dr. Mitchell Harman, an endocrinologist at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, blames the proliferation of endocrine-suppressing estrogen-like com£ds used in pesticides and other farming chemicals for the downward trend in male testosterone levels. Phthalates, commonly found in cosmetics, soaps and most plastics, are another known cause of testosterone suppression.
Hypothyroidism: Without enough thyroid hormone, every system in the body slows down. Those who suffer from hypothyroidism feel tired, tend to sleep a lot, experience constipation and typically experience weight gain. Extremely dry skin, hair loss, slower mental processes, brittle hair, splitting nails, diminished ability to sweat during exercise, infertility, poor memory, depression, decreased libido, feeling cold or an inability to lose weight are also symptoms to watch for. If you suspect you have a thyroid condition, make sure your doctor assesses you and your full range of symptoms, not just your blood work. Even levels of TSH (an indicator of thyroid function) within the normal range have been proven to accelerate weight gain and to interfere with a healthy metabolic rate in both men and women.
If you don't know whether your hormones are in balance or not, or if you may be experiencing one of the eight most common fat-packing hormonal imbalances, don't worry; you will be able to assess whether one or more imbalances are influencing your health by taking my Hormonal Health Profile in Chapter 11.
Since hormones control our appetite and stimulate metabolism, achieving and maintaining hormonal balance plays an essential role in achieving lasting fat loss. Yes, diet and exercise are important. But the lasting solution must also include sleeping well, conquering inflammation, detoxification, optimizing digestion, limiting stress and introducing supplements or natural (bio-identical) hormone replacement. All of these factors influence our hormonal activity--and, ultimately, our weight-loss success--in truly dramatic ways.
YOUR FAT-LOSS FOES
THE HORMONES AND CONDITIONS THAT INTERFERE WITH FAT BURNING, BOOST APPETITE AND CAUSE WEIGHT GAIN
FAT-LOSS FOE THE PERFECT BALANCE THE IMBALANCE THAT CAUSES FAT GAIN THE SUPERCHARGED HORMONE DIET RECOMMENDATION THAT HELPS RESTORE BALANCE
Insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar. It is the ONLY hormone that is always telling your body to store energy as fat. See page 7 for more information on insulin excess. Not too high, not too low. Excess insulin (Insulin Resistance or Metabolic Syndrome) usually arising as a result of poor diet, lack of exercise, excess alcohol consumption, stress or sleep deprivation. Great sleep and stress management; detoxification; hormonally balanced nutrition and supplements; exercise (particularly strength training); additional recommendations in Chapter 11, pages 190-93 if you need targeted help for excess insulin.