Are willpower and self-control the real solutions to sub-par energy levels and extra body weight? Maybe not. The more accurate answer might lie with your very powerful hormones.
And we’re not just talking about sex hormones here; we’re talking about the hormones that directly affect your blood sugar, metabolism (the result of all the processes in your body working together to create the energy that keeps you going), and appetite. Those are the factors that actually control your energy and weight.
Let’s go over a few of the critical links between your hormones and how they affect your energy and weight. Those links may be stronger than you think!
What are hormones?
Having healthy, happy hormones is a common buzz-phrase nowadays, and for good reason. Your hormones are part of the master control system of your entire body.
Hormones are compounds made by one part of the body that are used to communicate with another part. For example, insulin is made in the pancreas. When your blood sugar gets too high, insulin is released into the bloodstream. Then, it goes to your muscles and other cells to tell them to absorb that sugar out of the blood, and if there is still too much blood sugar, it signals the body to store it as fat.
So, how do your hormones get out of whack and end up zapping your energy and helping you pile on the pounds?
Common hormonal imbalances
When you’re in optimal health, your hormones work wonderfully, you have ample energy, and you maintain a healthy weight. But often, problems besiege this ideal setup. One common issue is that too much or too little hormone may be released into the body, and that blocks optimal health. This imbalance sometimes shows up as a hypo- or hyper-hormonal condition, such as hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland), hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland), or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
Another common issue is that, even if the right amount of hormone is released, the cells with which the hormone communicates may start ignoring the messages they receive from the hormones, a condition known as hormone resistance. Cells become literally numb to the signals being sent to them by the hormones. A well known example is insulin resistance, in which insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, stops being effectively used by the cells in the body. Insulin resistance can lead to pre-diabetes and, if left unchecked, Type 2 diabetes.
Hormones and energy
Your metabolism is the key to controlling your energy. Metabolism refers to how much energy or calories you burn, and one of the main players in your metabolism is–you guessed it–your thyroid hormones.
Your thyroid releases hormones that affect the metabolism of all the cells in your body. If your metabolism slows down (hypothyroid), you may feel cold, hungry, and tired, and you might put on weight. If your metabolism is too fast (hyperthyroid), you may feel hot, jittery, and anxious, and you could lose weight. I lived through hyperthyroidism, and it is no joke. Mercifully, I’ve been in remission for more than 10 years!
What you need is an ideal metabolism, ideal energy use, ideal body temperature, and ideal weight. Your thyroid hormones are the master controller here.
Hormones and weight
Your weight might be controlled by hormones more than you realize! Insulin controls your blood sugar and determines whether that sugar is going to be stored as fat or not. And when your blood sugar is too low, you may start craving sugar and carbs. As Dr. Mark Hyman notes in his book, “Eat Fat, Get Thin, “Carbs turn on the metabolic switch, causing a spike in the hormone insulin, and this leads to fat storage (especially dangerous belly fat).”
Craving food, especially sugary stuff, and not feeling full enough are two major reasons why we feel the need to eat more, so we need to be more aware of the hormones that control appetite: ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is a peptide hormone that is secreted primarily by stomach cells, with lesser amounts secreted by other cells, such as the pancreas, and it stimulates appetite and the secretion of growth hormone. Leptin is thought to suppress appetite and speed up metabolism. When leptin and ghrelin get out of whack, you may find yourself wanting to eat because your body thinks you’re hungry and not satisfied–even if that’s not true.
And let’s not forget that stress hormone cortisol. When it’s elevated for too long, it tells your body to store fat, especially the dreaded belly fat!
Simple tips to help stabilize your hormones
Here are a few hormone-stabilizing tips to help you bring your energy and weight to the healthy levels you desire:
- Get regular exercise to use up excess blood sugar before insulin causes your body to store it as fat
- Try stress-relieving activities like deep breathing, meditation, or even coloring to reduce your belly-fat inducing cortisol level
- Support your thyroid with iodine-containing sea vegetables (as long as you’re not hyperthyroid!), fish, legumes, or even eggs
- Balance your blood sugar with extra fiber from raspberries, avocados, or flax seeds
- Reduce blood sugar spikes by replacing your juice or soda with fruit-infused water
- If you need some support with your energy levels and/or weight, contact me (your health coach!) for a strategy session to see how I can help you.
In which of the two (energy or weight) do you think your hormones cause more disruption in your body? What steps do you plan to take to bring your hormones and, by extension, your weight and energy, back into balance?