Stress and unbalanced hormones are huge contributors to weight gain

Stress and unbalanced hormones are huge contributors to weight gain

“Stress reduction is absolutely key if you’re trying to lose weight,” says Lorna Vanderhaeghe, one of Canada's leading women's health experts, who has been researching nutritional medicine for over 30 years.

Stress is a contributor to increased cortisol affecting weight gain. Founder of Essential Health Natural Wellness Clinic, Registered Herbal Therapist and Nutritionist, Dr. Cobi Slater says “abdominal fat cells have more receptors for cortisol than any other cells of the body.”

According to Vanderhaeghe, “chronically high levels of cortisol are literally changing the shape of abdominal fat cells creating the kind of body fat that is very hard to get rid of.”

In addition, elevated estrogen is a significant factor in weight management. Bringing estrogen levels to a normal range is paramount for weight reduction and good health.

Here are our top 5 ways to manage stress, hormones and weight gain with the help of experts Lorna Vanderhaeghe and Dr. Cobi Slater.

Identify roadblocks

Identify roadblocks

We all have a unique set of genetics and internal circumstances that will dictate our body’s ability or inability to achieve a healthy weight.

Dr. Cobi Slater explains that weight loss resistance occurs when the body’s internal balancing system is thrown off by a variety of hidden roadblocks that hinder the body from purging its protective layer. These roadblocks can include a poorly functioning liver, chronic stress, food allergies, estrogen dominance, adrenal fatigue, low thyroid function, insulin resistance, poor sleep and certain medications, all of which can prevent a person from achieving weight loss.

Discovering and conquering roadblocks that are the underlying cause of weight loss resistance is the key to living a completely balanced and healthy lifestyle.

Reduce stress

Reduce stress

In this day and age, stress levels have reached an all-time high. People are facing continual stress from the demands of our fast-paced lifestyle and our adrenal glands are relentlessly preparing for disaster.

Dr. Cobi Slater notes that the adrenal glands are responsible for governing our stress response by secreting hormones in order for us to respond to the stressors. When the adrenal glands are overworked, fat and calories are stored, energy is conserved and weight accumulates as our bodies prepare for adversity.

As the adrenals continue to battle the daily ongoing stressors, appetite greatly increases as the body craves extra fuel and stores this as fat around the abdomen, commonly referred to as belly fat. The brain sends a message to the adrenals to release cortisol as our blood sugar levels drop and we begin to feel hungry. Our body is fuelled with energy until we eat as cortisol activates glucose, fats and amino acids to maintain balance.

When stress becomes chronic, both insulin and cortisol remain elevated in the blood and the extra glucose is stored as fat, mostly in the abdomen.

 

physical symptoms of chronic and acute stress

  • Depression and/or anxiety
  • Increased abdominal fat
  • Tired for no reason throughout the day but especially around 3 p.m.
  • Trouble getting up in the morning even when you go to bed at a reasonable hour
  • Feeling rundown or overwhelmed
  • Memory issues
  • Difficulty concentrating or brain fog
  • Lowered immune system
  • Increased startle response
  • Food cravings (salt and/or sugar)
  • Blood sugar imbalances (hypoglycemia)
Balance hormones

Balance hormones

Vanderhaeghe explains that women are being bombarded by environmental estrogens in everything from cosmetics to pesticides in our food, to chronic stress which elevates our internal estrogen levels. This estrogen exposure leads to breast lumps, breast pain, endometriosis, heavy periods, infertility, ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids, uterine polyps, ultimately increasing our risk of estrogen related cancers. This doesn’t just mean women, but men too are being affected by too much estrogen with beer bellies, breasts and erectile dysfunction.

Female conditions are often treated with the birth control pill, which contains seven times the amount of estrogen we would give to post-menopausal women. My last visit to the doctor’s office left me feeling very frustrated and incredibly surprised at the fact that when I addressed irregular periods and a breast lump it was recommended that my only option was to go on the pill. Needless to say I sought out other avenues.

Vanderhaeghe also makes note that 14-year-olds are put on the birth control pill for acne and most don’t come off until they’re 32 and then experience difficulties when trying to become pregnant.

Vanderhaeghe recommends that you bring estrogen levels to a normal range which will also aid in the inability to lose weight and recommends one of her own products.

“Everyone should be on ESTROsmart from the time girls turn 12 for the rest of their lives. I am proud of this product as it changes lives: periods become effortless, acne disappears and it helps stop cancer cells from converting into cancer-causing estrogen and abnormal cell growth.”

Eat right at the right times

Eat right at the right times

Eating nutritious foods at the right times throughout the day will keep hormones in checkand help you manage stress and weight.

 

When to Eat

  • It is crucial to eat before 10:00 a.m. to replenish glycogen (stored blood sugar) levels.
  • Eat lunch early, between 11:00 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., as the body quickly uses up the nutrients from the morning meal.
  • Have a nutritious snack between 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. in order to prevent the typical hypoglycemic tendencies that occur between 3:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.
  • Dinner should be eaten between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.
  • Just before bed, a small snack may be required to prevent panic attacks, sleep disturbances and anxiety reactions throughout the night.

 

 What to eat

  • Combine a fat, protein and carbohydrate at every meal and snack.
  • Eat 15 to 20 grams of protein at each meal and eat only protein for breakfast: an egg, a chicken breast, a protein shake, protein powder in yogurt, for example.
  • The majority of your diet should be dark-coloured vegetable. Eat vibrantly coloured vegetables throughout your dayyour blood sugar will be balanced and you will never feel hungry.
  • Get a large freezer bag and fill it every morning with vegetables: broccoli, celery sticks, carrots and more.
  • Limit fruit to 2 servings per day and avoid tropical fruits due to their high sugar content. Combine protein with fruit to slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream (nuts and coconut butter).
  • Celtic sea salt can be added to foods in moderation to improve adrenal function.
  • Add one to two tablespoons of essential oils into vegetables and proteins daily.

 

Foods to Avoid

  • Stop eating all white foods and refined sugars including white bread, white pasta, white sugar, white flour and other foods containing white flour, sugar and chocolate.
  • All dairy
  • Stimulating beverages such as coffee, colas, black tea, hot chocolate and energy drinks.
  • Avoid alcohol.
  • No fruit juice. It elevates blood sugar and makes us fat (the naturally occurring fructose in the fruit will cause a spike in blood sugar and an eventual drop which is exacerbated in the morning).
  • Processed foods that rob the cells of the body of the critical energy needed to heal. In addition, processed foods put extra stress on the liver which is often already sluggish in adrenal fatigue.
Improve Adrenal Function

Improve Adrenal Function

"Chronic stress negatively affects the adrenal glands. In women, the adrenals are the back-up hormone system because they make estrogen, progesterone, DHEAs and testosterone when the the ovaries take a much needed rest at menopause. Women who have good functioning adrenals have virtually no menopause symptoms. If your adrenals are tired, you just can’t deal with stress, you develop belly fat weight gain, you fall asleep fine but wake up several hours later and can’t fall back to sleep until 4 a.m. and you need coffee to keep going,” says Vanderhaeghe.

 

Main Action Steps for Optimal Adrenal Health

  • Take ADRENAsmart to boost adrenal function, which is a combination that works to help deal with the stress in your life, brings cortisol levels back into the normal range and supports the adrenals.
  • Get tested. Salivary Adrenal testing will help to determine your level of adrenal fatigue.
  • Find an outlet for your stress (exercise, dance, art, music etc.).
  • Recognize your stress. Learn to identify your stress before it consumes you.
  • List all of your stressors and eliminate the ones that you can change.
  • Balance your blood sugar by eating every 3 hours.
  • Eliminate the top dietary stressors: gluten, sugar, alcohol, caffeine and dairy.
  • Get adequate rest, sleep and gentle exercise: walking, stretching, swimming, etc.
  • Take adrenal restoring herbs like licorice root, ashwagandha, relora, rhodiola, Siberian ginseng and schisandra.
Take supplements

Take supplements

Conjugated linoleic acids (CLA) have been found to help with weight loss even if people don’t change their diet. Vanderhaeghe’s Women’s Whey is a very fast and effective weight-loss supplement.

Women’s Whey contains CLA which burns fat. The recommended daily protein intake is 30g, which most women have a hard time reaching. To put it in perspective, an egg only has 6g of protein. Without changing your diet and incorporating two scoops a day with 40g of protein, Women’s Whey is guaranteed to help you lose weight. CLA also stops fat from coming back once dieting stops.

She also recommends that women take vitamin D3, a multivitamin, magnesium and fatty acids.

“Everyone is on a fish oil kick, but fish oil does not contain gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which is the fatty acid for beautiful skin. As we get closer to 50, we stop being able to make GLA from our food, and our skin loses that youthful luminosity. These supplements provide a foundation, but if you have other problems, we need to add to that.”

For more of an in-depth look at this topic, I would recommend reading A to Z Women’s Guide to Vibrant Health by Lorna Vanderhaeghe and The Ultimate Metabolic Plan by Dr. Cobi Slater.

Always consult your family physician before seeking alternative medical treatment.