Many people struggle to lose weight and unfortunately have fallen prey to the myth of "burning calories" as the answer. Actually, exercise is a verysmall piece of the wellness and weight loss puzzle. Stress, sleep, hormones, and toxins are four areas of wellness that don't have calories but have a major effect on your wellness and weight loss goals/weight management.
Let's talk about hormones. Both men and women have them. To understand hormones we need a little anatomy lesson first. The thyroid (located near Adam’s apple) is a closely connected with adrenal glands (located just above your kidneys). All of these endocrine glands affect your hormones, metabolism, weight, and so much more. Think of the thyroid and adrenals as a gas pedal and battery in a car. The thyroid is the gas pedal and the adrenals glands are the battery. You need both to drive a car and you need both to have a healthy, balanced body!
When your cortisol levels are high (from stress, intense and overdoing exercise, what you eat, drink, consume) this plays a part in your hormones and weight loss goals. Everything works together (thyroid, adrenals, blood sugar, cortisol) to keep your body either well or sick.
Fight or flight- these two words are crucial to understanding how to workout smartly and effectively. Because the thyroid and adrenals work very closely together, when they are off, everything is off. Exercising is fantastic but when the body is overstressed at a biochemical level our fight or flight sympathetic nervous system kicks in.
And when we exercise on overstressed adrenals, unbalanced hormones, health problems will occur.
Many people think that they if just work out harder or faster (watching TV shows like The Biggest Loser doesn’t help matters) they will lose the weight. This couldn’t be farther from the truth! Read this real life story.
I had a client who was determined that spending more time on the Elliptical was the answer to her weight loss problems. As much as I tried to educate her on the adrenal/hormone/cortisol/sleep/stress element of weight loss, she didn’t understand it and never lost weight during that period. Why didn’t she lose weight? Because she wasn’t sleeping, her adrenals were shot, her cortisol levels were through the roof- her body was in the fight/flight mode! Her body thought it was being attacked by a lion constantly, it could never let go. It had to hold on [to the fat] because it never knew when it would have to flee for dear life.
Exercise is not always the answer! In fact for many people a protocol of gentle, physical activity is advised over intense, mindless exercise. Once the body and endocrine system is stable they can slowly re-introduce more intense functional workouts.
Of note: many runners wonder why they can’t lose weight even though they run x miles day/week. Why can’t they lose weight? Because their body (adrenals, hormones, endocrine system) is in a constant state of fight/flight. Remember the lion example above? That’s why. If a runner actually did gentle physical activity to repair the endocrine system they would see results (as well as proper nutrition). Running is not always the magic solution to losing weight.
If toxic meat, processed/GMO products, and too much fructose are consumed this will cause havoc on hormones and have negative effects on weight loss. Endocrine disruptors are everywhere. Know what they are. (Read this website, we've written about this topic.)
Want to lose weight? Struggling to maintain weight? Here are some tips for you:
- Be physically active throughout the day vs 1 hour pushing yourself at the gym (that will only raise your cortisol levels and actually hinder your goals).
- Eat only organic, grass-fed meat and limit consumption of it.
- Reduce stress.
- Get quality sleep. (We'll cover this in part two.)
- Stop eating processed/GMO products. (I can't tell you how many of my clients have lost weight simply by switching to an all-organic lifestyle!)
- Eat organic, whole, real foods
- Take organic herbal supplements to help the adrenals and endocrine system: Ashwagandha, Holy Basil, Maca, adrenal support.
- Work with me. I’d love nothing more than to help you live well in mind+body+spirit!
Cover photo credit: Michael Gil