We shouldn’t just want to lose weight to look good; we should do it for our health. It’s well known in the medical industry that excess abdominal fat is a marker for poor health because it is strongly correlated with metabolic syndrome: the umbrella term used for a variety of conditions that appear concurrently like high blood pressure, high triglycerides and insulin resistance. These conditions increase your risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
The most daunting part of weight-loss is where to start. From experience, the most effective weight-loss regimes start with small changes. I know it sounds cliché but major diet and exercise overhauls rarely produce positive outcomes. It’s overwhelming enough trying to make a few small changes, let alone changing your entire lifestyle! In this post I talk a lot about insulin and cortisol, their roles in the body and why they’re important factors to consider when losing weight.
Cortisol is commonly known as the stress hormone and is essential to the maintenance of homeostasis within the body. However, when this hormone is chronically elevated it promotes visceral adiposity (fat around the organs – or ‘belly fat’), insulin resistance and loss of glycemic control which all contribute to the development of metabolic syndrome.
High cortisol levels can lead to gluconeogenesis (the formation of glucose from non-carbohydrate sources in the body, like stored fats and proteins) which is often derived from protein in the muscle leading to progressive muscle wasting and increased glucose levels in the blood. This is a normal bodily function but can be detrimental if you’re already suffering from diabetes or pre-diabetes. Abdominal fat, gluconeogenesis from muscle protein and increased demand for insulin creates a vicious cycle as cortisol thwarts the effects of insulin – essentially rendering cells insulin resistant as long as cortisol remains high. Insulin is a hormone that is needed to bring sugar out of the blood and into the cells where it can be used for energy so when cortisol is constantly high, sugar stays in the blood. Over time the pancreas struggles to keep up with the demand for insulin – the cells don’t get the glucose they need and sugar stays in the blood. This is when carbohydrate cravings start kicking in because the cells need sugar!
Top Tip: Addressing stress and cortisol levels is the number one step when it comes to weight-loss. Meditation, deep belly breathing, massage and yoga are great ways to reduce stress levels as they help activate the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) which promotes the body’s resting state.
Improve Blood Sugar Control
Changing your diet to balance blood sugar levels isn’t only the key to weight-loss, it’ll also help improve energy levels. When you eat foods high in refined carbohydrates, like breads, biscuits and cakes, your pancreas pumps out a huge amount of insulin to grab all the glucose from what you’ve just eaten. Once insulin has taken the glucose into the cells, blood sugar levels drop, you become tired and look for the next sugar ‘fix.’ This sends the body on a roller coaster ride of high and low blood sugar levels and the pancreas is left exhausted. Eventually, the pancreas tires of the demand for insulin and gives up. Then BAM! You’ve got diabetes. It takes a long time for diabetes to develop which is why it’s imperative to make lifestyle changes now to ensure your habits set you up for a healthy retirement, so to speak.
Monitoring the type and amount of carbohydrates consumed is a good place to start when you want to balance out blood sugar levels. When you eat complex carbohydrates like sweet potato, wholegrains and legumes, glucose is released slowly into the bloodstream which prevents that blood sugar spike. Ensuring to eat a mixture of protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates at every meal helps sustain energy levels throughout the day and prevents dips in blood sugar. If you’ve heard of the Low GI (glycemic index) diet, this is what it’s essentially based upon. This is crucial because it helps you feel fuller for longer and helps to curb carb cravings which is what happens when blood sugar is low. We all know that 3pm slump in the afternoon and the desire for a sweet treat to have with a cup of tea or coffee. Instead of getting into bad habits, try swapping it for something healthier. See my suggestions for snacks below.
Here are a few examples of meals which will help keep you satisfied and keep your blood sugar levels in check:
Breakfast: Wholegrain oats mixed with chia seeds, your choice of milk, a piece of fruit topped with chopped nuts and seeds. You could also try my Skin Glow Soaked Oats
Lunch & Dinner: Lean meat/tofu with salad greens, avocado and roasted sweet potato
Snacks: A handful of almonds with a piece of fruit, celery sticks with hummus, a couple of protein balls or a Power Muesli Bar
This trace element is needed to shuttle glucose into the cell by stimulating insulin uptake and enhancing its activity. Chromium helps to maintain healthy blood sugar levels and has been shown to decrease fat mass and build lean muscle making it helpful for people with diabetes* and athletes, alike. Active individuals may also find chromium helpful as they tend to consume a higher amount of carbohydrates which increases the need for chromium.
Tip: Try incorporating more chromium rich foods in your diet like beef, nutritional yeast, brown rice, cheese, turkey, fish, broccoli, mushrooms and potatoes.
Ask any body builder and they’ll tell you that carnitine helps with fat burning. N-acetyl carnitine allows the body to use stored fat for energy more easily as it helps to transport fatty acids into the mitochondria for oxidation. This nutrient has also been shown to help lower blood glucose and improve insulin sensitivity. N-acetyl carnitine is great for those who already weight train for that extra boost in performance and fat-loss, but it’s also great for those wanting to lose weight as a complimentary supplement to a lifestyle change.
Tip: A relatively high amount of carnitine (<3g/day) is needed to achieve these results.
I hope this post was helpful! If you have any questions, please comment below or send me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to book an appointment with me, visit my bookings page – I’d love to help.
Have a lovely week everyone,
Love Stace x
*If you have insulin dependent diabetes, you should not use chromium unless your healthcare practitioner prescribes it. Chromium supplements can make insulin function more effectively and, in effect, reduce insulin requirements.