Despite all the diet gurus out there telling women that weight loss is about a calorie deficit and exercise, it's just not that simple. I've talked about why diets don't work before but I think it's important to delve into more detail on why women struggle so hard - despite doing all the 'right' things - and just can't seem to lose their weight.
The first thing to realize is that despite the fact that the weight loss industry is by and large targeted at women, the traditional diets out there were researched and tested on predominantly men - not women. I'm including weight loss plans like Weight Watchers, Keto, Paleo etc. which are based upon a 'calories first' model and which for women, just don't work long term.
And I think it's important that women understand that it's not JUST that these diets don't work, it's that they produce a stress response in our bodies - from the restrictive calorie deficits to the largely over-exercising - that causes weight gain, not weight loss.
Now why would that be? Why would a diet that's based on science cause women's bodies to do the opposite?
Well, it's because they fail to take into account one key thing: our hormones.
Women's hormones are delicate and they are influenced by all aspects of our diet, behaviour and mental health. When our hormones are imbalanced, our metabolism slows down so our bodies burn less calories than we think they are and instead of releasing fat, our bodies store it instead. According to studies and the author of The Hormone Reset Diet, 99% of women's weight loss resistance is due to hormonal imbalances.
More importantly, the belief that weight loss is simply about calories in, calories out is simply not true for women. Most diets don't work for women because they fail to address the root causes for weight loss resistance (aka hormonal imbalances) which manifest as excess cortisol levels, insulin and/or leptin blockage, estrogen dominance, a slow thyroid and issues with the HPA (hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal) system.
The reality is, women's bodies need hormonal balance so we can look and feel our best. When hormones aren't balanced, women can experience symptoms like: sugar/carb cravings, fatigue, depression, weight loss resistance, bloating, belly fat, trouble sleeping, anxiety or irritability and constant stress.
So what can cause hormonal imbalances? Well there are a few key things:
Nutrient Deficiencies: Nutrients and vitamins not just vital for optimizing our health, they are important for helping our hormones work effectively so we feel happy, healthy and energized.
Too Many Toxins/Chemicals: An excess of toxins like Bisphenol A for instance, can really screw with our hormones. Bisphenol A can interfere with the estrogen, insulin, thyroid, and testosterone messages in your body.
High Stress Levels: Cortisol - or our stress hormone - is important for 'fight or flight' situations but chronic high levels of stress and stress hormones can wreak havoc on our bodies and directly impact our energy levels, how well we sleep and our ability to lose weight.
Getting Older: Women’s hormone levels change as they get older and as they through stages like perimenopause, menopause, and beyond. Common life events, such as menstruation and pregnancy, can throw your hormones off balance, as can medications like birth control pills.
Poor Sleep Habits: Sleep helps keep our stress hormones balanced so when you don't get between 7 - 9 hours of sleep each night, your cortisol levels are going to become imbalanced.
Restrictive Dieting: When women heavily restrict calories and adopt a low calorie deficit like say 1200 calories a day, this creates a corresponding stress response in our bodies in addition to slowing your metabolism and causing nutritional deficiencies.
Excessive Exercising: Exercise creates a strong stress response in our bodies and excessive exercising or engaging consistently in high stress response workouts can be damaging for your hormones and adrenals.
So how do you reset your hormones and kickstart your metabolism?
Well, the best way to correct hormonal imbalances is to change the way you approach weight loss. Instead of choosing heavily restrictive diet and exercise plans focus on:
Improving your Nutrition: Opting for a nutrition protocol that is whole foods based and packed with nutrient rich foods combined with reducing processed foods, added sugars and alcohol will improve hormonal balance dramatically. This nutrition protocol should be less about calorie restriction and MORE about eating healthy, nutrient dense foods everyday.
Specific Workouts/Exercise: Exercising and moving your body is very important but also important is the type of exercise you're doing. Avoid tons of cardio (which dramatically increases stress hormone levels) and instead opt for a combination of: strength training/walking/HIIT or Pilates type workouts to keep stress hormone levels more balanced and to build lean muscle which will help improve your metabolic rate.
Improving your Lifestyle: It's not just about what you eat or how you exercise - it's also what you do everyday that counts. From managing your stress levels to getting enough sleep to managing your mental health - all this matters.
That's why finding a program that includes all of these elements - like my 4-Week Metabolic Kickstart or the Better Body Composition Program - is important. These types of programs put women's hormones first, helping them heal imbalances and optimize their health so that they can prime their bodies to for healthy, sustainable weight loss.
And when you employ a 'hormones first' approach, you heal your body from the inside out so that you naturally have more energy, feel happier everyday and have a much more positive relationship with your body.