These Three Hormones Make You (And Your Husband) Gain Weight
Despite the popularity of the Body Positive movement, women everywhere continue to obsess about their weight. It’s a vanity issue, sure, but being heavier can affect so may things in our lives. When we’ve got a few extra pounds on our tigress frames, we worry about the following:
our clothes don’t fit the same
our energy levels are low
our self-control and self-discipline seem like things of the past
we don’t feel as confident
we start to lose hope and joy
These are bigger issues than just garden variety vanity. We worry about the financial implications of having to buy new clothes, and the relationship issues of having less energy and less confidence. We worry about the spiritual issues of losing some of our hope and joy. We worry about the mental and emotional issues that result in bingeing or purging or restricting or overexercising or giving up altogether on exercise.
We worry about friendships and start to get a little jealous and bitter- Why can she eat gluten and sugar and still stay so skinny?
It starts to consume us. When really, we should be focusing our efforts and our thoughts on our relationship with the Lord, and joyfully serving our family, and kicking ass at work.
For our ancestors, the stress of thinking about losing weight just wasn’t no thang. How nice would that have been?!
For us contemporary humans, though, weight is a central issue. If not you, then everywhere you look. Women used to have waists and hips and natural breasts and luscious hair. These were basically birthrights of being a woman.
This is just your standard friend photo from the 1930’s- something you’d put on your Instagram page these days. It wasn’t unusual for Everywoman to have a smaller waist than hips, and a larger chest than waist.
But today, our proportions are all out of whack. Wacky hormones can lead to a protruding gut and narrow hips.
Men are shrinking and women are growing. One reason is that mens’ testosterone levels have declined by an average of 1% a year since the 1980’s. As Neal Howe declares in his article for Forbes magazine, You’re not the man your father was.
So men are becoming less manly (from a hormonal standpoint), and women are becoming more manly (from a hormonal standpoint).
Think about this as it relates to the difference in body type in women. In 2021, most of us have bigger bellies and have lost our waist. Men don’t have waists the same way women do. But women are starting to look like men, at least in the waist.
Do you see it?
There are three main hormones at play when it comes to women and weight. Let’s dive in.
Insulin is a hormone that is released from the pancreas every time we eat. It’s job is to take the sugar (glucose) that is running through your bloodstream after a meal (or a snack, or a coffee drink, or a piece of gum with sugar in it) and shuttle it into the cells of the liver and the muscles to be banked for future energy use.
When the body needs energy, it pulls that stored sugar (glycogen) out of the liver and muscles and turns it back into glucose. It sends that glucose into the bloodstream to circulate around your body and act as a fuel to create energy.
I’m sure you’ve heard of insulin, and how a problem called insulin resistance is leading to an obesity epidemic in western nations.
When there is too much sugar in the bloodstream, insulin can’t work fast enough to get sugar into the liver and muscle. It’s like a sugar traffic jam. But that sugar has to go somewhere, so the body start storing it in fat tissue. And luckily for us (nope), our fat cells have infinite capacity to store sugar as opposed to liver and muscle cells, which can store only about 300 g at a time.
Every time you eat sugar, insulin is released. If you are eating sugar 4,5,6+ times a day, your body just can’t keep up with the flow of glucose. As fat cells get fed, muscle and liver cells get starved, so you become chubbier and also more fatigued at the same time.
You have an energy problem that is showing up as a muffin top.
What to do?
Eat like your ancestors. Choose whole, unprocessed, animal-protein-rich foods that don’t cause a spike in glucose or insulin. Don’t snack. Eat smaller meals- you’ll need to use some portion control. Stretching out your stomach, even if it’s full of vegetables or fruit, causes a spike in insulin, as per the diabetes educator and physician Dr. Richard Bernstein.
Yup, testosterone is the quintessential male hormone. But it’s on the rise in women.
High testosterone in women is a hallmark of the endocrine problem Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is among the most common endocrine disorders and a major cause of anovulatory infertility in women of reproductive age (15–49 years) (Szilágyi and Szabó, 2003; Balen et al., 2016). Globally, the estimated prevalence of PCOS ranges between 5% and 15% (Azziz, 2016). Compelling evidence suggests that women with PCOS have significantly higher risks of obesity, dyslipidemia, impaired glucose tolerance, and long-term complications such as diabetes, endometrial cancer, and cardiovascular disease (Lim et al., 2012; Wild 2012; Peigné and Dewailly, 2014).
That means that almost 1 out of every 5 women may suffer from PCOS- and that’s just the women who are actually diagnosed with PCOS. There are millions of women out there who are infertile and who are suffering from obesity that have not yet been diagnosed with PCOS. As PCOS is a blood sugar dysregulation issue at its core, the main issue is not infertility or obesity or cancer.
The main issue is sugar. Too much sugar, too much insulin, and not enough energy.
But here’s what is going to blow your mind: while insulin raises testosterone in women, it lowers testosterone levels in men.
Sooooo…. it is sugar that is making women more manly and men less manly. That’s kind of a big deal.
What to do?
Well. Stop eating sugar. If you can’t do it yourself, send me a quick email and let me know how I can help you. We’ve got a few Resets coming up in the next couple of months, or you can work with me 1:1. We can run the DUTCH test, look at your testosterone levels (among other things), and get your hormones rebalanced ASAP.
Estrogen is a powerful growth hormone in both men and women. Yup, men have estrogen too. Their bodies (should) make it at about 1/10th the levels of your body. In women, estrogen is responsible for the onset of menses, the development of hips, breasts, and a waist, and the preparation for pregnancy.
In men, estrogen is used to create healthy sperm.
But elevated levels of estrogen in men can interfere with fertility, sex drive, and energy.
Elevated estrogen can also lead to weight gain in both men and women. Remember, it is a powerful growth hormone. This includes growth of fat tissue.
We are exposed to estrogen via birth control, alcohol, hormone-fed meat, and more.
Check out a few of the other ways we are exposed to estrogen:
It’s crazy. These chemicals were not something that our predecessors had to deal with. Our bodies are constantly having to filter out chemicals and poisons. If our livers and circulatory system are not working appropriately because thyroid function is compromised, we are not going to be able to filter out these chemicals easily. A sluggish liver also means sluggish estrogen clearance, and sluggish estrogen clearance means weight gain and susceptibility to estrogen-dominant cancers, like we see here in this DUTCH test from one of my clients. We want that pie chart to be mostly green. If it’s mostly green, we know that the liver is working well and that estrogen is being cleared normally from the body. Hers was not.
The good news is, sluggish estrogen clearance and all of those risk factors can be reversed by eating less sugar and taking the right supplements. Check out this same client’s estrogen metabolism a few months later.
While estrogen in normal amounts actually makes you more insulin sensitive (keeping weight normal), high estrogen will lead to insulin resistance (making your weight go up).
If that’s you, it would be a good idea to run the DUTCH and have the 45 minute consult that comes along with the test. You can find out more here on the video.
So there you have it. It’s likely your endocrine system is messing with your weight. But you have the power in your hands to reverse that trend! Stay away from processed foods, sugar, sweet alcohol, coffee drinks, and junk food. Really. Eat lots of good quality whole foods like meat and vegetables and fruit and nuts. Feel how a satisfied body starts to shake off sugar cravings. And start to enjoy not having to think about your weight anymore. I’m not saying the process of losing weight is easy. It’s not. You will have to exercise self-discipline and make hard choices amidst the 24/7 smorgasbord offerings of Fast Food Culture. You’ll have to make your food at home, and re-evaluate your portions. You’ll have to choose fruit over fudge, and carrots over cinnamon rolls. But the more you do it, the easier it becomes and the better you feel. I promise.