“When did I become my before picture?” my friend messaged me as she struggled to get her weight and more importantly her health back on track. It happens to all of us, whether its from life stress, tragedy, boredom, loneliness, Netflix binging – whatever the cause, we can all get off track at one time or another with our health and fitness goals. I’m off track. Yep, there it is. It’s difficult to admit as a trainer and nutrition professional. But yes, I I got off track due to family tragedy and the ongoing stress that followed. I began consistently overeating (you can see my own before pic at the end of the lesson ). I’m making my way back to where I feel and function best. That may be different from where you feel and function best, but the how to’s will be similar. So in today’s lesson we are going to tackle how to:
- Balance your hormones. Why you should care and simple cues that will tell you if you’re in or out of balance.
- Stop counting calories. It’s not only inaccurate, but it’s time consuming and well, a pain in the —. Yes, there are times when you might need to track, but using this one technique will take care of most of your issues.
- Eliminate your biggest weight loss obstacle. Your biggest weight loss obstacle is different than mine, but left unaddressed you’re not going to reach your goals. Stop wasting time on things that won’t budge the scale and your health in the right direction.
Step 1. Balance Hormones
You’ll see diet trends that come and go – Diets that become uber popular like Southbeach, Atkins, Paleo, Vegan, Vegetarian or even Keto. Truth be told you can have success on any one of these plans. The trick comes into assessing whether your plan is sustainable for YOUR body over the long haul. And paying attention to hormonal balance is a pretty good indicator of whether your plan is a good fit for you. It’s part of the reason why your friend may have had great success on Keto, but you completely tanked or why one person can get ripped on a vegan diet and another can get ripped using a Paleo approach for a short time period but found it unsustainable past six months. For today’s lesson, we are going to focus on
- Why you should even care about hormones with weight loss,
- The signals your body sends to tell you your hormones are out of whack, and
- 3 strategies to get things back on track
Why You Should Care About Hormones
For so long, we’ve all been told that weight loss is about calories in, calories out – how much you’re under or overeating. And if you can just manage and get this one piece right body fat will magically fall off and life will be rainbows. That’s just one piece of the puzzle. To achieve weight loss, you need both a hormonal balance and a caloric deficit. Often overlooked, your hormones can have a huge impact on being overweight. Hormones are messengers that
- control your appetite,
- stress responses in the body (think belly fat),
- WHERE you store fat in the body (are you storing in your lower body with stubborn fat pockets or are you storing fat in your midsection),
- menstrual cycle function,
- and cravings.
How To Tell When Hormones Are Out of Whack
An easy way to tell whether hormones are balanced in your body is to pay attention to whether you have reached hormonal ACES. ACES is an easy to remember acronym that stands for appetite, cravings, energy, and sleep. If these four areas are stable, its a pretty good indicator that things are in check. In addition to these four indicators you can also use the scale and your waistline to determine whether you’re moving in the right direction. If the scale weight drops, but your waist measurement doesn’t budge or even worse increases, you’re not losing fat. You want both your ACES in check and your waist measurement to drop.
3 Hormonal Fixes You Can Apply Now
- Get Your Blood Sugar Under Control. Mismanaging blood sugar is probably one of the largest causes of hormonal problems. While yes, our bodies need glucose to fuel our activity and brain, we don’t need as much as most of us are getting! High blood sugar can switch on fat storage, cause uncontrollable cravings, create inflammation in the body and flatline your results.
- Focus on Sleep. Aim for at least eight hours of uninterrupted quality sleep in a dark, cool, technology free environment. Sleep disturbances can impact cortisol, leptin and ghrelin and human growth hormone. Translated, this means that consistent, quality sleep can lower belly fat, decrease cravings and hunger the next day, and help preserve lean muscle mass.
- Exercise Smarter, Not Harder. Thank you hooping. Activities like walking, yoga, and hula hooping top the list as restorative exercise that lowers cortisol, increases feel good brain hormones and lowers inflammation in the body. Simply trying to eat less and exercise harder is going to backfire on your entire system. Your body will respond for a short period of time under this model but eventually cravings, energy, and sleep all tank. Aim for 3 hoop sessions a week complimented by quiet nature walks, relaxing baths, tai chi, yoga, meditation or even massage.
Step 2. Stop Counting Calories
Hmmm, It’s Sort of Accurate
Counting calories will work if weight loss is your goal. It may be time consuming to track and manage, although technology has made this easier and easier with apps available at our fingertips. But it relies on a principle of estimating how many calories you need based on a number of factors versus estimating the energy or calories of the food you take in. Let’s take a look at how this COULD be tripping up your efforts. And let me also say, if it’s working for you GREAT! Keep going! If it’s not, then it may be that the estimates are off just enough to throw your efforts off track.
Energy and nutrients listed on labels and databases can have an error margin of +/- 25%. And most of us try to balance this with energy expended during exercises. This adds even more variability, since this is even harder to measure than the food you eat. All of this means even if you are doing your best to measure this precisely, you could be off by 20% or more.
This Method is Simple and Uses Your Hand to Measure Portions
This super simple method is a lot easier than counting calories and will be a great place to start when putting your plate together. Monitor cues like hunger, energy, and cravings to determine whether adjustments need to be made. Here’s how it works (and if you’re a visual person check out our infographic below).
- Protein: Use Your palm to determine what portion you should have as a starting point.
- Veggies: Use your fist as a starting point to determine portions.
- Carbs: Use your cupped hand (no, I didn’t say hands plural – although truth be told that’s what I would like to do at every meal) to determine carb portioning.
- Fat: Use your thumb to determine a starting point for the amount of fat.
Step 3. Smash Your Biggest Weight Loss Obstacle
If you have heath and fitness goals or weight to lose, you may be wondering how to start closing the gap from where you are to where you want to be. All too often we focus on doing so many things at once, which can really impact your success because a) either you don’t do any of it really really well, or b) you focus on the wrong things that aren’t going to move the needle in the right direction or c) you’ve got unfinished projects all over the place. Most of us can relate to this problem in terms of productivity whether it’s work based or personal life/home life based. And obviously this impacts success, but it gets really really critical to correct this in the game of weight loss. In order to move in the right direction, it is absolutely critical that you get clear on “the one thing right now”.
Step One: Identify Your “One Thing”
Ask yourself, “What is the one specific measurable action I can take right now that if done consistently this week would produce results?” Let me give you an example from my own personal case study. Over the past year as the stress has piled on, I’ve gotten into the habit of bonding with Netflix and anything that has fat and sugar in it. Oh Netflix, how you’re killing me. Anyway, because I’m eating a) way too much and too much of the wrong foods and b) eating too close to bed, I’m now impacting my sleep, release of growth hormone and affecting how my body responds to hunger and cravings the following day. The rest of my meals are pretty on point for the most part. Not perfect, nor do I strive to be. BUT, cutting the nighttime snacking is going to have a big impact for me on moving me in the direction of getting back on track body composition wise. So my specific measurable action is to stop eating after dinner. Period.
Your one thing could be entirely different. Maybe it’s constant snacking. Or enough sugar in a day to fuel five kids. Whatever it is, sit down, take some time and identify your one thing.
Step Two: Is it a must do to achieve results?
This is where you now evaluate your “one thing” Take a look and really ask yourself whether it’s going to make the biggest impact on your goals. For me, the nighttime eating is. It’s throwing my calorie and hormonal balance out of whack, impacting my sleep and kicking off a cycle of overeating.
The most common issues I see with clients are:
- Too much sugar
- Too much snacking
- Nighttime binge eating
- Portion sizes are off
If you can’t answer yes to whether this a must do, go back and work on Step 1.
Step 3. Think Big But Aim Small
It’s absolutely critical to aim big on your goals, but I really encourage you to get laser focused and small in how you execute your “one thing”. Its critical to be very very specific in how you are going to carry out your one thing. It should not take up your entire day. It should not be all consuming. If it is, it’s too broad. Make it a task you can execute and check off your list!
Allrighty, here you go. The picture on the left is right about the time I started paying attention to my own nutrition principles I teach again. The picture on the right was taken this morning. There’s about a five week difference. If you aren’t taking pictures and measurements, please start. The scale is only one indicator of what’s happening.
Leigh Little is a certified Personal Trainer, Fitness Nutrition Specialist and Precision Nutrition Certified. She is a hoop dance performer and regular Canyon Hoops contributor with blog articles and videos and is the creator of Canyon Hoops Hoop Fitness DVD. To work with Leigh one on one for hoop fitness, dance, or weight loss contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org