Many people know me for my story about my weight gain struggles up until the time of my surgery. People might think that the surgery was the end of my health concerns, but in reality it was only the first half. After my surgery I gained a drastic amount of weight – over 40 pounds in 2 months and I continued to gain more every month. In addition, my hair became extremely thin, my menstrual cycles become irregular, and my mood plummeted to the ground. It seemed as though overnight I was a completely different person. My weight loss became a constant struggle for me. It became something I thought about all the time. Social events completely left my life as I felt extremely conscious of my dramatic weight gain and depressed mood.
To try and lose weight working out became a large part of my life. I exercised all the time since I had no idea what else to do. Everyone, including doctors told me that I needed to “eat less and exercise more” so that what I did. At age 13 I started dieting and cutting out all of the foods my friends were eating. Preparing for and being on a new diet become a regular part of my life. I became so tired of the hours I had spent working out and all of the favorite meals I had said no to. I had done so much work but had no results to show from it. My weight never went down and I knew something was wrong. More than 1 person said to me, “Allison…any other person who ate as you did and exercised as you did would be a size 2.”
But I sure did not look like a size 2. Nor did I ever feel like that was something I could ever be. I knew something was wrong with me and figuring out what was stopping me from losing weight was my mission. I started talking to people who struggled with weight issues, I read lots of books, and I looked at my own health history. Through all of my research everything seemed to point back to one overall theme:
My hormones were completely out of line. My hormones were the reason why my hair was thin, my weight shot up, why my mood was so temperamental, and why I just was not the person I wanted to be. Learning all about hormones opened up a fascinating world for me. As I learned about these it started to explain all of the symptoms I was having. It explained why I had the constant weigh struggles. Think about it – how many weight related conditions today are related to hormone issues? The answer: a lot of them. A lot of women today have hormone related conditions that makes it impossible to lose weight.
- Hypothyroidism is found by low functioning thyroid hormone
- PCOS is manifested often by high estrogen and low progesterone
- Stress causes high cortisol which makes it impossible to lose weight
- And the list continues…
Hormones imbalances play a huge role in the reason why so many people eat a healthy diet, exercise faithfully, but the scale does not budge.
To this day one of my all-time favorite classes to teach is called “Balancing Hormones Naturally”. (You can email me HERE if you’d like recording of the class). I love teaching this class because every time I teach this class there are many ‘ah-ha’ moments from the audience. I am teaching my audience things they wish they had known years or thousands of dollars ago. To start off the class I put a $20 bill on the counter and I ask the audience if anyone can tell me what is your metabolism? I tell them that I am not looking for the answer that your metabolism is how fast you burn calories. I am looking for the answer of what. is. it. What controls it? In my years of teaching this class I have never lost my $20 bill. We talk about our metabolism and call it things like “slow” or “fast”. But what is it controlled by? And the answer: your hormones control your metabolism.
Do You Need Hormone Support?
Often people want to get their hormones level checked. They visit the doctor and get a lab panel. It is wonderful to get lab tests but there are a few problems with a lab panel:
- Our hormone levels fluctuate constantly. Especially for women.
- Hormone levels do not distinguish between ‘bad’ and ‘good’ hormones.
If you do want to get your hormones tested I would recommend looking into a serum test. In addition to the lab results, many people choose to look at the signs and symptoms they are experiencing. Here are some of the common signs & symptoms indicating a hormone imbalance:
- Sleeping difficulty
- Struggle to lose/gain weight. Despite your efforts to eat clean, portion control and exercise
- Hair thinning or loss
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Large irregular fat deposits – especially around the hips and chest
What To Do About It
If you know you have hormone imbalances there are many natural ways to work on it. In most instances I would highly suggest staying away from isolated single ingredient supplements or creams. The problem with these singled ingredient products is that when we start taking a product that leads to mega-dosing we create a large unnatural imbalance in the body. For example – may women have high estrogen and low progesterone. In order to “balance” often, a concentrated progesterone cream is prescribed. What happens is now you have 2x as many hormones in your body. Ever wonder why your mood has seemed so off after starting a hormone product? These single ingredient products that focus on one hormone do not lead to a natural level where we should be.
Where To Start?
When working with hormone issue in women the best place to start is with estrogen. Estrogen is a woman’s main hormone so we want this one in line first. After estrogen is where it should be other hormone levels often realign naturally or much easier. Estrogen is also a hormone that women have high amounts of because we have too many xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens are the ‘bad’ estrogens that are found in non-organic foods, plastic water bottles, chemical perfumes and cleaners, and even food that is heated in the microwave in Tupperware containers.
Phytoestrogens to the Rescue!
Phytoestrogens (phyto=plants) are plant-derived estrogens. Unlike xenoestrogens phytoestrogens are good estrogens. Phytoestrogens are an amazing support for balancing estrogens levels because they can raise or lower estrogens depending upon what the body needs. Then also, help eliminate the xenoestrogens in the body.
If you have high estrogens, phytoestrogens help lower estrogen levels
If you have low estrogen, phytoestrogens help raise estrogen levels
Where to Find
Phytoestrogens can be found in many foods and supplements. If consuming phytoestrogen-rich foods choose a high-quality food source and look for items that are non-GMO and organic. Only small amounts of these foods daily are needed. If consuming from a supplement look for one that contains items such as non-GMO organic soy that contain a high genistein complex, flax lignans, and pomegranates. The serving size of the supplements most often recommended is 1-2 per depending upon the dose. Recommended daily intake of phytoestrogens is as follows:
- Flax Seeds: 120-240 mg supplement
- Soy (from sources high in genistein): 150-300 mg supplement
- Pomegranate: 100-200 mg supplement, or ¼ cut fruit
- Tempeh – 41 grams or ¼ cup daily
- Wheatberries – 45 g or ¼ cup
If you are actively working on losing weight the first and most important thing is to make sure that you lifestyle is in line. Your need to be consuming a healthy diet, adequate portions, and regular exercise. If those are in line but your metabolism is slow and your weight is not coming off make sure your hormones are where they should be. Serum testing or other tests can show if there is a correction to make. Whole foods and natural plant-based supplements are a safe and easy route to help you on this journey.