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When it comes to losing weight, you’d think that eating a healthy diet and exercising would have it covered, right? So why is it that, despite all your best efforts to eat well and stay fit, those stubborn pounds just aren’t shifting?

The truth is that while what you eat and how often you exercise are crucial, this is not the whole story. You also need to keep your hormone levels balanced. Or, as I put it in my latest book The Metabolic Miracle, ‘Obesity is primarily a hormonal problem and hormones are alterable, unlike behaviour. The only way to lose weight is to reverse the hormonal dysfunction.’

But why – and how?

Acting as chemical messengers, your hormones are responsible for controlling the functions of the body. So when hormone levels act up, it can have far-reaching effects on your wellbeing and your weight. To discover what is going on with your hormones we need to get the full picture. I always recommend carrying out a complete hormone map of the body, using blood tests to find out whether there is an imbalance and which specific hormones are out of line.

Acting as chemical messengers, your hormones are responsible for controlling the functions of the body.

So let’s look at all the key hormones that can lead to obesity and increased fat mass.

 Insulin

 The standard prescription for weight loss is ‘eat less, move more.’ However virtually every person who has used this calorie reduction for weight loss has failed. We must start with the single most important question regarding obesity: ‘What causes it’. The traditional thinking of ‘calorie in vs calorie out’ is just plain wrong! The common root cause of obesity and diabetes (diabesity) is insulin resistance.

Obesity is not a disorder of energy balance. Obesity is a ‘hormone dysregulation’ of fat mass. The body’s ‘set point’ (located in the brain) is too high because of a hormonal imbalance primarily from excess insulin and cortisol.

Insulin is a key hormone responsible for controlling the regulation of blood sugar in the body. The trouble with today’s Western diet is that it is so overloaded with sugar, grains, and plant oils it is sending our insulin levels soaring to try and cope. Eventually the excess glucose gets stored as fat and causes other symptoms including lethargy, difficulty concentrating, high blood pressure and high insulin.

Restoring the balance

The best way to treat insulin resistance is with a high fat, moderate protein, low carb (HFLC) diet – a Ketodiet, together with intermittent fasting which will break the cycle of ‘insulin resistance’. We are able to reverse diabetes in one week with this approach as described in The Metabolic Miracle.

Cortisol

It’s no coincidence that when you’re stressed out, you can find it hard to lose weight. Anxiety severely affects your levels of the cortisol hormone, produced when you find yourself in a ‘fight or flight’ situation. Cortisol releases extra energy to help you to cope with the stressful state and if this energy isn’t burnt off through exercise, it can leave you hungry and prompt overeating. If you are in a perpetual state of stress, the cortisol ‘switch’ stays on, thus contributing to your weight gain.

Restoring the balance

Work on those stress levels and I promise you your body will thank you for it. It’s important to make time for exercise and relaxation. Some of the most overweight clients have trouble sleeping. Lack of sleep not only increases cortisol but also increases your insulin. I believe that sleep is probably more important than exercise.

Thyroid

When you’re struggling to lose weight, the first thing to get checked out is your thyroid function. The thyroid produces two important hormones, thyroxine (T3) and triiodothyronine (T4), to regulate the metabolic process, or the speed at which you burn food to make energy. If your thyroid is underactive (hypothyroidism), it will make your metabolism sluggish and cause weight gain.

When you’re struggling to lose weight, the first thing to get checked out is your thyroid function.

Other symptoms to watch out for include dry, brittle hair, constipation, general fatigue, low energy, depression and cold hands and feet. Sound familiar? To find out if hypothyroidism is the cause of your weight gain, we like to use a thyroid diagnostic machine, which is more accurate than blood tests which can often misdiagnose you.

Restoring the balance

One of the best ways to overcome an underactive thyroid is through what you eat – cut out all sugar, carbs and processed foods and instead stick to a diet full of natural foods, such as fresh meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and eggs. This ‘paleo’ diet, based on our Paleolithic ancestors, gives the best combination of moderate carbohydrates, fat and protein to trigger an ideal hormonal response in our bodies. Also, we must restore both T3 and T4 to restore optimum thyroid function.

Testosterone

Testosterone controls many of the traits associated with masculinity and also influences your weight. As testosterone decreases, the body becomes less efficient in fat metabolism and more likely to store excess energy as fat. Other symptoms of low testosterone levels include reduced muscle mass, poor memory, low libido, low energy, depression, erectile dysfunction and infertility.

Restoring the balance

BHRT can not only help reverse this problem but can also help redress the balance between testosterone and oestrogen levels.

Oestrogen

Oestrogen (estrogen) is a woman’s best friend, helping with reproduction, memory, bone health and more. Insulin is the principal regulator of fat metabolism primarily through lipoprotein lipase (LPL). This enzyme sticks out from the membrance of different cells and pulls fat out of the bloodstream into the cells. If LPL is on a muscle cell – the fat is pulled in to be used for fuel. If LPL is on a fat cell, then it makes a cell fatter.

Why do men and women fatten differently?

The difference is due to the distribution of LPL and the role of sex hormones on LPL. In men, LPL activity is higher in the fat tissue above the waist than below the waist – hence the pot belly (apple-shaped). As men age, this worsens due to falling testosterone levels – testosterone suppresses LPL activity – thus less testosterone, more LPL activity on fat cells of the gut.

In women, LPL activity is higher below the waist which is why women fatten around the hips and bottom (pear shaped). After menopause, the LPL activity in women’s abdominal fat catches up to that of men and so they put on excess fat above the waist.

Restoring the balance

It is important to replace sex hormones, including oestrogen, in menopause. By balancing the oestrogen/progesterone rates you can control the fat.

Leptin

Leptin is another hormone that can affect weight gain. It is produced by fat cells to signal to your brain that you are full after a meal. Eating a diet high in processed, fatty foods floods your body with leptin, which can eventually become resistant and stops sending those ‘fullness’ signals to the brain. This may be one of the culprits behind the constant need to eat experienced by so many of my patients, although I believe the main culprit is a high carb low fat diet (HCLF).

                        Leptin is another hormone that can affect weight gain.

Restoring the balance

The good news is that you have the power to reverse the effects of too much insulin and leptin with a high fat low carb (HFLC) diet. Cutting out sugar and processed food from your diet and avoiding grains and refined carbohydrates can help correct the problem.

What have we learned?

There’s no doubt that hormones play a key role in all aspects of your wellbeing. When one becomes dominant or deficient it can have a huge knock-on effect, especially when it comes to putting on weight and increasing fat mass.

The main take-away? If you want to stay in good shape, you need to keep those hormones in harmony through diet or a carefully administered, natural hormone replacement regime.

Euromed provides medical, dental, psychological and cosmetic services in top-of-the-range surroundings and by world-leading experts. Our truly holistic approach means your body and mind are in the very best hands, and all under one roof. To book an appointment, call +971 4 394 5422 or email info@euromedclinicdubai.com.

About the authors:
Dr Graham Simpson graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand Medical School in Johannesburg, South Africa, and is board certified in Internal Medicine and Emergency Medicine. Dr. Simpson is a founding member of the American Holistic Medical Association (AHMA) and is also a licensed homeopath. He has taught as an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Nevada. He is certified in Age Management Medicine by the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine and by the Cenegenics Education Research Foundation, and he remains a consultant for the Cenegenics Medical Institute. Dr. Simpson writes extensively in his mission to educate the public so that we can all live better and healthier. 

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