Losing the war with your waistline? Your hormones could be plotting against you. Here's how to re-balance your health...
We all know the rules: to lose weight, you have to burn through stored fat. That means sweat, people. But for many women, despite slogging it out at the gym and eating super-healthy meals, the needle on the scales just won't budge.
But what if creating (and keeping) your best ever body, including reshaping any trouble spots, was as simple as making a few small lifestyle changes to help your hormones out?
Yep, it turns out there are certain hormones that stimulate fat
burning and can even encourage weight loss in specific problem
areas. So with the right knowledge and a few simple tactics to
balance your bad-boy hormones, you'll be slimming that waist in no
time Ready to meet them?
THE FAT CONTROLLER
What it is: Insulin manages blood sugars, converting food to energy your muscles can use, or shuttling it into fat cells for storage.
Why it's important: Eat too much sugar in one sitting (yes, we've been guilty of eating a whole packet of Tim-Tams in one go too), and your body releases extra insulin to cope. The result? An energy crash and a big ol' craving for more sugar!
When it's unbalanced: If you upset your insulin levels too often, your cells begin to ignore it and you're on your way to uncontrollable fat storage and diabetes. Not good!
Keep it happy: Ditch sugars, reduce starches and eat a moderate carbohydrate diet that's high in fibre. Include good quality proteins or a small portion of healthy fats with most meals.
THE APETITE MASTERS
What they are: Leptin decreases hunger and ghrelin increases your appetite and also gives you a nudge when you're dehydrated, which is why we sometimes confuse hunger with thirst.
Why they're important: If leptin is out of whack, your brain won't register when you're full, meaning constant cravings (the vending machine knows what we're talking about). It also tells your body when to tap into fat stores, so the aim of the game is to maintain a leptin-ghrelin balance.
When they're unbalanced: Sudden weight gain, mood swings, a large appetite, low energy levels or constant carb craving are signs your appetite control hormones may be all over the shop.
Keep them happy: Eat within an hour of getting up and choose protein or good fats for your first meal of the day. Limit sugars and starches but never go carb-free, and eat small meals throughout the day.
THE SUGAR HATER
What it is: CCK is a digestive hormone released when you eat proteins or fats. It tells your brain it's time to stop eating and your stomach to slow the rate of digestion.
Why it's important: It flips on your full switch, but doesn't register sugars and starches, which is why you can easily scoff a whole bag of lollies.
When it's unbalanced: If you constantly eat high-sugar or carby foods and little else, you'll find yourself in an endless unhealthy cycle. CCK tends to lie dormant, effecting your digestion and increasing cravings.
Keep it happy: Aim to include protein and/or good fats at most meals.
THE kJ BLASTERS
What they are: HGH and testosterone build lean muscle and promote fat burning, and have a positive effect on everything from whether your butt looks good, to your mood, immunity and even your sex drive.
Why they're important: HGH encourages the body to use fat as fuel. Testosterone is a potent lean muscle builder, which increases metabolism and boosts your libido ( don't worry, it won't have you looking like Arnie), and it'll alson keep you healthy, lean, motivated and feeling sexy.
When they're unbalanced: When HGH is running low, you'll store fat more easily, and feel tired and emotional. And if testosterone is plummeting, you may struggle to focus and can suffer from a dreaded case of bingo wings. Oh, dear.
Keep them happy: HGH is created while you sleep, so aim to get to bed by 10pm so it has plenty of time. Weight training gives a boost to both these hormones and testosterone loves protein, so increase your intake to keep those arms lean.
THE GIRLY ONES
What they are: Oestrogen and progesterone control everything from ovulation, sex drive and mood, to fluid retention and fat distribution.
Why they're important: Keeping them in balance is crucial for fertility, but also for, well, everything - keeping your body in proportion, your skin clear and your emotions in check.
When they're unbalanced: Mood swings and increased anxiety, excess fat on your hips and thighs and emotional ups and downs are all signs of disruption.
Keep them happy: Stay away from processed foods, alcohol (red wine's okay, phew!), non-organic animal products and soy products. When it comes to exercise, opt for resistance and interval training.
THE STRESS HEAD
What it is: Cotisol is released when you're stressed. At first, it encourages your body to burn stored glucose, but constant cortisol release shuts down fat burn altogether.
Why it's important: Cortisol has many critical functions, including glucose management and insulin release. You need this guy on your side when you're under pressure!
When it's unbalanced: Too much of it can result in fat storage, disturbed sleep patterns and constant exhaustion.
Keep it happy: Kick the coffee habit, or limit yourself to one pre-workout hit. Increasing Omega 3 intake and establishing an evening wind-down ritual are also great ways to keep your cortisol in check.