Women, Hormones, and Fat Loss
Updated: May 12, 2020
For starters throw away everything in your brain about what you think you know about weight loss and fat loss. It isn’t always just about your diet and not exercising enough. Personal training clients for over 15 years has shown me this to be true. The fact is it is harder for women to lose weight today than it was when I first walked into the industry.
Back in the day, it was easy as eating good whole foods and prescribing weight training along with less cardio. Women notoriously under-eat and this is where the slippery slope begins. Most women I work with will do lots and lots of cardio without ever thinking about it. They will, however, run away from a dumbbell for fear of turning into a man.
Over the course of my coaching career, I have steadily noticed it is harder and harder to help a woman lose weight. This was, of course, frustrating, and with it came a learning curve from hell to overcome. The old adage among coaches if you are truly in a deficit you should be losing weight or you are violating the law of thermodynamics. So what did we all do? Cut more food, prescribe more cardio, and add more exercises. Anything to create a further deficit in our clients.
For a long time, functional medicine has gotten the rap that it is voodoo bullshit. I thought the same thing. The thing is functional medicine actually works. You have to overlook the marketing gimmicks of their titles more often than not, but littered on pages is a bunch of stuff that puts together pieces to the puzzle.
I began to devour countless items on things all the while applying the new education on my female client base. Slowly changes started occurring. Understanding stress and the effects on women’s hormones are the biggest components a woman needs to understand when approaching a health and fitness program.
Let’s face it, ladies, you all are damn machines. Created magnificently to endure a lot of stress. This is where the problem begins. Women will take every stress possible, carry it, add more, and then seek out even more stress afterward. Now the slow drain begins. You can see this in women who will say their belly is getting fatter and they have done everything they can think of. This is because cortisol binds to belly fat cells better than anywhere else in the body.
Nothing will de-rail your progress faster than stress. Dieting, eating fewer calories than your body needs to function, is a stressor. Cardiovascular exercise along with resistance training is a stressor. Combine these things with work, partners, possibly kids, and endless drama with friends and you have a recipe for frustration. You can overdo things and it is not uncommon for me to see women in their early 30s with a hormone panel that resembles a 60-year-old woman after menopause.
Women usually have terrible digestion issues. When you are stressed your body shuts off digestion because it thinks a threat is lurking. This is how women get issues such as Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth which is when the bad bugs in your belly are beating up on the good bugs causing bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation to name a few fun things.
Would you be shocked if I told you your liver is part of your digestion process and where the majority of T3, your body’s active fat-burning hormone is made? What about the creation of your hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone? This is why gut health is vital when pursuing a fat loss and weight loss program.
The other thing is when you are stressed your body lowers your thyroid output. This is a conservation tactic by your body to make sure it has the energy it needs to run away from the lion if it needs to. Women who have gut issues usually have a slow thyroid. Women will tell you their thyroid is the problem, but what really is the problem is stress.
One final thing stress does specifically in women is something known as “the progesterone steal.” Because of the hormonal pathways cortisol can steal from progesterone and slowly progesterone will steal from estrogen and testosterone. When this happens the hormone balance begins to shift until adrenal fatigue occurs. When this happens it is a good one year process to fix.
The first thing I encourage my female clients to do is lower stress. That begins with us actually eating food for us to get hormones back in balance. When you are stressed your body is pumping cortisol out in your body. Cortisol raises blood glucose levels. You can see this by taking your fasted blood glucose levels daily. If it is higher than 100 consistently then you begin addressing sleep along with gut health. The goal is to get blood glucose levels below 95, preferably under 90 consistently to keep fat storage at a minimum.
The next thing is to increase calories. Yes, ladies, you need to eat more. Weight loss and fat loss are a slower process for you all but it does not mean you cannot get to where you want to. You just have to be more patient is. Delete from your mind all those silly teas, wraps, and detox diets you have tried. They have landed you in the spot you are in because your body reacts to them as a stressor due to their extreme nature.
The third thing we do is to set-up a reasonable cardiovascular and resistance training program. Our goal is to increase your health and fitness, not to continually leave your body in a depleted state ripe for illness or injury. Things like walking, yoga, and mediation are heavily encouraged because they engage the relax and digest side of your nervous system.
Hopefully, as you can see it is not for lack of effort or discipline as to why you are not achieving the results you would like to. There are other things at play and understanding the stress component will help you get back on track in no time.
About Jeff Black
Jeff is a nationally recognized health and fitness coach, public speaker, podcast host for The Excellence Cartel, owner of Iron House Strength & Conditioning, bodybuilder, and Osteogenesis Imperfecta Advocate. He is also a roundtable expert on IntenseMuscle.com.
Today, Jeff works collectively with some of the top coaches in the health and fitness space presenting to other coaches and individuals on health and fitness. He has a passion for leadership and serving others to help them be their own hero. He is recognized for his results, but above all else, the passion he has for the coach’s heart he holds dear.