As we head into the new year, many of us resolve to make a new start on weight loss and fitness. For some, this means attempting the most recent and celebrated diet. For others, it means continuing the same calorie-restrictions and exercise plans, often without results.
According to a physician with the Loyola University Health System, recent findings suggest that only 20% of dieters successfully achieve and maintain weight loss. Healthy diet and exercise are key in slimming down, but there are additional factors to consider when the pounds won’t budge.
~Blood Sugar Balance~
There is a direct relationship between elevated blood sugar and weight gain. In fact, the body relies upon blood sugar and insulin levels to tell it when to begin storing fat, rather than burn it.
When blood sugar spikes, such as it does after eating a cookie, bread, or some other simple carbohydrate, the pancreas must produce an especially large amount of insulin. This insulin allows our cells to use the sugars, but it also signals them to convert the sugar into fat. Even on a low-calorie diet, the wrong food can cause a spike in your blood sugar, leading your body to think it is time to store, when it is actually time to burn.
Blood sugar balance can often be controlled by changing the types of foods we eat, and when we eat them. However, other factors can disrupt blood sugar balance, including cortisol fluctuations due to chronic stress and other hormonal imbalances.
It is no secret that low thyroid function plays a significant role in weight gain and resistance to weight loss. Sadly, many people are not screened for thyroid dysfunction, and those that are tested do not always receive a thorough screening.
Each of our cells require thyroid hormone in order to burn calories and produce energy. Without healthy thyroid function, the body will not respond properly to diet changes and exercise. To effectively screen for thyroid imbalances when weight loss is a struggle, it is important to measure more than just the TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone), as TSH is not always a reliable indicator of thyroid health and metabolism. Additional tests include, but are not limited to, inactive and active thyroid hormone levels. A normal TSH level does not always rule out low thyroid function. Pursue more thorough testing if you struggle with weight loss.
Thyroid is not the only hormone that can cause weight fluctuations in your body–cortisol, estrogen and testosterone all play a role in metabolism and fat storage. Imbalances in these and other hormones can disrupt your body’s ability to burn fat. The calorie-burning, energy-producing components of your cells, called mitochondria, need adequate levels of these hormones in order to do their job.
Physical traumas, mental and emotional stress, and even aging can cause imbalances in these hormones which then disrupt metabolism. Botanical supplements, focused nutritional therapies and physiological doses of bio-identical hormones can help to restore balance and make your body more responsive to diet changes and exercise.
Our bodies are designed to survive, and they do so brilliantly. In times of starvation, we produce a cascade of hormones that tell our cells to slow metabolism and store fat in preparation for hard days to come. Though we no longer live in times of famine, our bodies still carry this self-protection mechanism. Calorie restriction and other forms of stress, both physical and emotional, can activate this hormone cascade, leading to increased body fat.
A common mistake made by dieters is over-restriction of calories. Fewer calories does not always equal fewer pounds. When the body detects starvation, it creates changes in thyroid hormone production and mitochondrial function in order to slow metabolism. While over-eating can lead to fat deposition, so can under-eating. A balance must be found between moderate calorie restriction and therapies that support metabolism. Exercise is a great way to stimulate mitochondria, but as mentioned above, blood sugar and hormone balance are just as important. For the best results, fuel your body with healthy foods, exercise daily, and work with your physician to address blood sugar and hormonal imbalances.
Dr. Kaley Bourgeois
Loyola University Health System (2013, January 3). Top four reasons why diets fail. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 4, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2013/01/130103192352.htm