Lack of Exercise
I can’t tell you how many people just let exercise slide as they get older — then turn around and blame their lagging metabolism on their hormones. Yes, as we age, our hormones naturally shift in ways that encourage weight gain. But it’s just too easy to blame your protruding belly on your advancing years. The truth is, you probably haven’t been taking care of yourself! The more you eat clean, live clean, and work out, the better your hormone balance will be, and the healthier your metabolism will remain.
The first thing you should do is step on the treadmill. Exercise reduces weight-gain hormones like cortisol by releasing endorphins to combat stress, and it increases fat-burning hormones like testosterone, DHEA and growth hormone. Not to mention, every pound of muscle burns three times more calories than every pound of fat does. You need exercise. Period.
Some people go to crazy extremes to lose weight. They may cut out entire macronutrients, like carbs or fats. This type of dieting directly disrupts your hormone balance, sending survival messages to your body to store fat and slow your metabolism in case the state of famine persists.
Most “weight cyclers” — also known as yo-yo dieters — have been on diets all their lives. This up-and-down pattern makes each weight-loss attempt more frustrating than the one before — especially if you lost weight by starving your body. Starvation diets prompt your body to cannibalize your muscles for fuel. Without that muscle, your metabolism is slowed further, and your powerful metabolic thyroid hormones are lowered.
If you’re desperate to lose weight, you may figure that there’s no harm in consuming a measly 800 calories a day for a couple of weeks. But then what happens? After you return to what would be considered normal eating — roughly 1,600 to 2,000 calories a day — you’re toast! Your sensitivity to leptin (which plays a key role in regulating energy intake and expenditure, including appetite and hunger, metabolism, and behaviour) and your insulin has taken a hit. Your gherlin (a hormone produced mainly by P/D1 cells lining the fungus of the human stomach and epsilon cells of the pancreas that stimulates hunger. Ghrelin levels increase before meals and decrease after meals.) shot through the roof. And you wonder why the weight returns…
Our 21st-century diet is composed primarily of corn, soy, and wheat — whether or not we ever recognize them on our plates. Just pick up a typical packaged food and check the ingredients list — you’re likely to find refined wheat flour, hydrolyzed soy protein, partially hydrogenated corn oil, and/or high-fructose corn syrup.
Food manufacturers add a whole shit load of chemicals to these incredibly cheap, incredibly bland ingredients to make them taste good. Some evidence even suggests that the food-science industry is tinkering around with your neurochemistry by throwing in addictive junk that makes you want to eat more — and more and more. Until the government decides to step in and keep the food industry from stocking the shelves with toxic processed foods, it’s up to you to protect yourself
Too Much Stress, Not Enough Sleep
Stress is like kryptonite for your hormones — just a bit can throw them entirely out of whack. Among other things, stress may lead to:
- Leptin resistance
- Insulin resistance
- Lower estrogen in women
- Lower testosterone in men
- Lower levels of growth hormone
- Higher cholesterol levels
- Impaired thyroid hormone
Any one of these changes could slow your metabolism and cause you to gain weight. Add them together, and throw in all the behavioral responses that accompany stress — mindless snacking, not exercising, consuming too much caffeine or alcohol — and you can see that stress is a majorendocrine disruptor.
One of the biggest causes, as well as a symptom, of stress-induced hormonal upheaval occurs when people cut their hours of quality sleep. Studies have shown that when sleep is restricted for even a couple of nights in a row, your body’s levels of the satiety hormone leptin drop, and levels of the hunger hormone gherkin shoot up, along with your appetite for sweets, breads and pastas, and salty foods.
In a study of healthy people who were deprived for three days of the ability to reach deep sleep — the period in which most of the body’s growth hormone is released — the subjects’ ability to process sugar dropped by about 20 percent. In other words, they became insulin resistant in only 72 hours. The point is, you need your rest!
Drug companies have become very creative about selling people on new “lifestyle” diseases. Whether you’re sad, anxious, angry, or hyper — or have any other human feeling — they have a drug to “medicate” it away. In addition to the obvious hormone jostling caused by birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy, disruptions are produced by chemicals contained in many other pharmaceuticals. For example, a common class of antidepressants — selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) — has been linked to higher rates of metabolic syndrome. And weight gain can be caused by diabetes medications, antihistamines, mood stabilizers, and steroid hormones. All these pharmaceuticals can seriously affect your hormonal health. Of course, some people are taking their medications for very good reasons, and sometimes the benefits outweigh the risks. Never stop taking the medicines you’ve been prescribed without first talking the matter over with your doctor — suddenly stopping some medications, such as steroids, is actually very dangerous. Your doctor can help you decide what’s truly necessary for you to take.
This is something I’ve been thinking of lately. I have been thinking of talking to my doctor to wean myself off my antidepressants. I feel that it’s not helping really. Plus, since Ive changed medications… my appetite has been out of control. And I know I’ve gained weight. So who knows what’s going on with my body.
Certain herbs, vitamins, and other supplements can also have very powerful hormonal effects — especially when combined with any meds prescribed by your doctor. So if you don’t tell your doctor you’re taking them, you risk doing some real damage to your endocrine system.
Okay, here’s a no-brainer: Smoking is bad for you. But you probably never suspected some of the ways in which it’s bad. This destructive little habit affects a slew of endocrine glands — pituitary, thyroid, adrenals, testicles, and ovaries — in addition to the lungs, heart, brain, and, oh yeah, every other cell in your body.
To give you a breakdown of the metabolic risks, smoking helps cause insulin resistance and drives up your cortisol levels. It can make you infertile and throw your body into menopause years before your time. Smoking is also a huge risk factor for problems with your thyroid.
Think quitting will make you fat? I have news for you: Smoking fills your body with a number of pollutants that not only won’t help you lose weight but will make you fat. Seriously, people, just don’t do it.
A Super-sized Culture
The final factor on our list of hormone disruptors, and a reason that’s often cited for our society’s excess pounds, is the idea that more is good and bigger is better when it comes to food.
There’s no denying that we’re struggling with an environment that conspires to make and keep us fat. Restaurant portion sizes have increased 500 percent since the 1970s. On average, the typical American eats about 23 pounds of candy and drinks 35 gallons of regular pop a year. Add to these statistics remote controls, a few million TV channels, Internet addictions, longer commutes, extended workweeks, no sidewalks, drive-throughs, supersizing… and you can see why we’re a nation filled with overweight children and adults.
And this epidemic of “too much” isn’t just a harmless symptom of our supposedly greedy appetites. I want you to see this caloric excess as a highly profitable, corporately sanctioned endocrine disruptor every bit as disturbing as the pesticides and pharmaceuticals you’re putting into your body.
Look at overblown fast foods and huge portions as poisonous in and of themselves, and realize that by cutting back, you’re not depriving yourself — you’re sidestepping an enormous black hole of toxins in our environment. Toss the pop, keep reading about nutrition, and follow a diet that gets you to a place where your metabolism and hormones start working for you.
Come on guys! We can do this! Let’s make 2014 the healthiest year yet!