Learn how eating the right foods at the right times and in the right combinations can optimize your fat-burning hormones.
It’s common for so many of us to start eating less when we recognize our weight is failing to come off. For me personally, I know this all too well. I gained more than 25 pounds even though I was exercising an hour a day and counting every calorie. The more I strived, the harder I failed. And here's why: When we cut calories so drastically, we cause a significant amount of stress on our bodies. This increases our stress hormone cortisol, which only sabotages our effort as it causes our appetite for comfort foods to surge and is also associated with increased belly fat, even for people who are otherwise thin. When one focuses on losing weight this way, it only inhibits our thyroid hormone’s ability to function properly, slowing down our metabolism.
No matter how an imbalance manifests on the outside, the internal reality remains the same: Any and all hormonal imbalances lead to difficulty losing weight and increased risk of obesity. To determine if your hormones are balanced, try asking yourself a few questions: Do you have trouble dragging yourself out of bed in the morning? Do you experience uncontrollable sugar cravings at 3 p.m.? Nagging PMS every month? Interrupted sleep patterns? Do you get stressed out just sitting in your office? Do you have difficulty coping with every task? Bloating after meals? Skin that has lost its luster or tone? Belly fat that just won’t go away? The list can go on and on, and I am willing to bet that many of you experience some of these frustrations every day. Believe it or not, these factors aren’t just making you feel bad, they may be impacting your ability to lose weight because they are all sure signs your hormones are out of whack!
You can restore hormonal balance and lose weight by eating the right foods at the right times and in the right combinations to optimize your fat-burning hormones. When you combine these steps with moderate exercise, it is the secret to success! Here is my simple "5-Step Hormone Reset Plan" to get you started:
Power Plan Step #1: Add a fourth meal to reset the hormone responsible for storing fat.
We've always heard the importance of eating three square meals a day, but that's outdated and is interfering with our hormones and causing us to become overweight. When we eat this way, our body takes more dips and spikes than it should, throwing our hormones such as insulin and cortisol out of whack. Waiting too long to eat between meals causes a blood-sugar drop, triggering a stress response in our body, which will only release cortisol. This usually guarantees that we will overeat at our next meal, leading to a blood sugar and insulin spike. Insulin is the only hormone that stores energy as fat. So the more spikes in insulin a person has, the more fat will be locked inside their fat cells. Big surges in insulin almost always lead to more belly fat, hunger and cravings.
Four meals a day that contain four essential components–protein, carbs, fat and fiber–will slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream and ultimately limit insulin release while keeping your cortisol controlled. Most of us are familiar with the concept of eating every three to four hours, but the real importance of eating at the same time each day is often overlooked. It’s proven that simple habits lower insulin levels. For instance, I eat at 8 a.m., noon, 4 p.m. and 7 or 8 p.m. daily, and I stop eating three hours before bedtime. Eating raises body temperature, and doing so right before bed only interferes with hormones that burn fat while you sleep.
Power Plan Step #2: Eat one startchy carb after 4 p.m. to reset the hormone that burn fat while you sleep.
The concept of eating your carbs early in the day, with the intention that you will have a better chance of burning them off, could actually be setting you up for cravings all day long. Eating a starchy carb, like potatoes or beans early in the day will cause more cravings later in the day, so I suggest you only eat one carb in your last meal. Eating carbs later in the day is proven to raise our serotonin levels, a "feel-good chemical" in our brain, which helps us sleep, and sleep is one of the most important fat-burning activities.
Power Plan Step #3: Chase your last meal with tomato juice.
Although it may seem like strange advice, chase your evening meal containing your starchy carb with a small amount of tomato juice. It’s the natural acidic quality of this tasty drink that offers us weight-loss benefits. Drinking something acidic after your meal is also known to reduce the glycemic load (or blood sugar impact), which then blunts the increase of insulin and leads to less sugar being stored as fat.
Power Plan Step #4: When you eat fruit, go blue. Blueberries boost the same fat-burning hormone that is naturally released during exercise.
Adiponectin is naturally released when we exercise. It is produced by our fat cells and is proven to increase metabolism, improve insulin sensitivity, reduce inflammation and reduce the risk of heart disease. It appears blueberries are the only fruit to stimulate the release of this hormone due to phytonutrients in the blueberries’ skin. The chlorogenic acid in blueberries also assist in controlling blood-glucose levels, therefore helping fat loss by improving insulin balance. A recent study showed obese people who drank one blueberry smoothie a day, for six weeks, had a 22% improvement in insulin sensitivity, which ultimately equates to better fat metabolism. Just a half a cup a day will do the trick.
Power Plan Step #5: Do a hump-day cleanse to boost hormone responsible for building muscle.
This is a new revolution in weight loss called "intermittent fasting." Studies have clearly shown that our body responds to the fasting by boosting growth hormone, the hormone that helps build muscle. It involves the avoidance of food intake for one day per week. Now this might seem to counter my viewpoint on cutting calories, but if done properly it will not cause muscle deterioration and can actually help greatly in the treatment of chronic pain and metabolic syndromes. During your cleanse day you should drink at least 4 liters of warm or cold herbal teas to support the cleansing process. I recommend a combination of herbs with anti-inflammatory and diuretic benefits such as ginger, lemon, blueberry, hibiscus, dandelion, green tea and parsley. You can consume one or two hard-boiled eggs in the morning or a serving of nuts in the afternoon if you feel overly hungry.
More from Dr. Natasha Turner: