Trying to Loose Weight? Stop making these 4 mistakes

By Tris Alexandra

If you are experiencing symptoms such as PMS (tender breasts, fluid retention, bloating, cramps, headaches, mood changes, irritability), heavy or painful periods, irregular menstrual cycles, hormonal skin breakouts, fatigue, low libido, struggling to lose weight, or have been diagnosed with PCOS or endometriosis, then you might be thinking it’s so common that it’s “normal” to experience these things as a woman.

But here’s the thing – just because something is common, doesn’t make it normal. These symptoms are your body’s way of telling you something isn’t right. They are signs of hormonal imbalances. 

Something that isn’t as well known is that nutrition and lifestyle can significantly improve, and in many cases, reverse the symptoms of hormonal imbalances. If you missed our last blog post, read it here – “Stop Suffering Alone: Recognising hormone imbalances and what the experts tell us works”

When you’re trying to balance your hormones to be free from symptoms, manage PCOS or endometriosis, or lose weight (which for some is a sign of a hormonal imbalance), there are a few key mistakes I often see people making stopping them from achieving results:

1. Not addressing your underlying causes

It can be tempting to go on a crash diet, start cutting all carbs because it worked for a friend, take a pill or another quick fix solution to quickly mask symptoms or see quick weight loss changes.  For example, birth control pills are often prescribed to reduce heavy or painful periods, or for acne, endometriosis and PCOS. 

Whilst band-aid solutions can work in the short term (and in some cases like Endometriosis can help alongside nutrition), they ultimately don’t address the underlying causes of the hormonal imbalances. Our bodies are holistic, and everything works inter-connectedly. By identifying what hormones are out of balance and exploring the triggers for your symptoms you can address what is actually causing the symptoms.

Some common underlying causes include inflammation, gut dysbiosis (imbalance or overgrowth of gut bacteria), mineral and nutrient deficiencies, stress, liver overload, and environmental toxin exposure. This is where Clinical Nutrition can help to identify and address underlying causes.

2. Not addressing stress

When your body is exposed to stressors it activates the sympathetic nervous system, or “fight or flight” mode, and releases hormones including cortisol (aka our major stress hormone). When cortisol is chronically high, or high at the wrong times, it completely throws off the balance of other hormones, causes fatigue and sleep disturbances, and triggers the storage of fat, particularly around the middle. 

High cortisol impacts the HPA axis – the pathway between our brain, adrenals and ovaries which signals the production and release of certain hormones, particularly hormones of the menstrual cycle. It can block ovulation and stop the production of progesterone, causing an imbalance between oestrogen and progesterone, and an oestrogen dominant state. Progesterone has a number of health benefits including having anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety and fat-burning benefits.

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3. Under-eating & overtraining

If you’re finding yourself eating less and training more but not seeing results, or even putting weight on and seeing worsening of symptoms, you’re not alone. Women’s bodies need to be properly fuelled and nourished to function optimally and for hormones to work in harmony with our body. 

When we under-eat and overtrain for an extended period of time we are essentially sending a message to our brain that food availability is scarce and we are in a high stress environment. To compensate, our body will slow down thyroid hormones and metabolism in an effort to conserve energy. Further adaptations include decreased hormone production, low energy, low libido, low drive/motivation, a decreased ability to lose weight and unexplained weight gain.

In order to avoid this, particularly when trying to lose weight, we need to focus on increasing our basal metabolic rate (BMR) through weight training, ensuring adequate protein intake, not reducing carbs too low, avoiding prolonged fasting, taking breaks from being in a calorie deficit, and using “reverse dieting” strategies.

4. Not eating enough protein

Protein provides the building blocks of all cells including for the production of hormones such as menstrual cycle hormones, thyroid hormones and hormones that signal satiety and appetite control for weight management. Low protein intake is associated with low oestrogen (which causes lack of ovulation and low progesterone), autoimmunity, impacts thyroid function, and can impact breastmilk supply by causing low prolactin if breastfeeding.

Protein plays a huge role in blood sugar balance, satiety and stopping cravings. That’s because protein lowers the glucose load of a meal and decreases our hunger hormone ghrelin to help us feel full after a meal. Unbalanced blood glucose is a major underlying cause of many hormonal imbalances. Women should aim for a minimum of 100g protein daily for hormonal balance, potentially more depending on their weight, physical activity levels, pregnancy or breastfeeding. Its particularly important to get in at least 20-30g protein at breakfast, and space protein out evenly throughout the day to balance blood sugar levels.

Ready to learn more?

If you’re ready to learn more about how to balance your hormones naturally, join us at our upcoming workshopBalance Your Hormones & Improve Your Health. Clinical Nutritionist, women’s health and hormones expert, and 23W member Tris, will deep dive into how to reverse your hormone imbalance symptoms using nutrition and lifestyle, and how to achieve sustainable weight loss. For details on the workshop and to book, click below!

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Our founder

Ange Drake is an personal trainer, women’s empowerment coach and fitness blogger in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. She is the director of one of the few womens’ only strength training gyms in Melbourne, 23W. Ange helps women to learn how to use strength based training, nutritional strategies and a positive mindset to transform their bodies, relationship with food and mind.

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