Weight Gain, Weight Loss & Knowing Your Metabolic Condition
Weight gain is a common concern for many of my clients as well as how to lose those unwanted pounds. Some statistics may help explain why.
Since 1980 obesity has more than doubled worldwide and in the United States 35% of adults and nearly 17% of children are struggling with the condition.
What I find to be just as common is the misconception that metabolism plays a major role in weight gain or loss, especially as we age.
Metabolism is a vital, complicated process rooted in the endocrine system that enables the body to produce and use energy. Hormones are calling the shots, so if hormones are out of balance, there is a good chance metabolism will be too.
Despite what is commonly advertised, there is no one diet, food, or supplement that “boosts metabolism”. Why a client’s metabolism may not be working at its optimal level and to what degree that is impacting their weight is as individual as the person.
This is the reason it is so important to understand the endocrine system and how it controls metabolism.
Anabolism vs Catabolism
Metabolism involves two different processes: anabolism and catabolism.
Anabolism is all about growth and building. It’s when the body takes small molecules and combines them to create larger, more complex molecules. It’s when the body uses energy to build muscle, develop and mineralize bones, or heal wounds. It involves specific hormones such as:
- Growth hormone
Catabolism is when the body breaks down molecules to be used for energy. Examples of this would be during digestion when the body breaks down proteins into amino acids or triglycerides into fatty acids. It involves hormones such as:
Catabolism takes place no matter what. The body will do whatever it needs to in order to break down molecules to find the energy it requires to survive.
Anabolism, on the other hand, only functions properly when the body is getting the nutrients it needs from food to heal, repair and grow.
What disrupts metabolism?
Anything that can throw hormones out of whack can disrupt metabolism. Below I focus on three common reasons this happens.
Stress messes with metabolism big time, primarily due to cortisol. The adrenal glands produce cortisol, known as the stress hormone, when there is a real or perceived threat.
Cortisol slows metabolism at the same time increasing blood sugar because it’s needed for quick energy. It also shuts down the digestive system (as well as the reproductive and immune systems) so all resources can be available for whatever action is necessary for survival.
This can cause the body to store fat and direct excess circulating fat to be relocated and deposited deep in the abdomen.
The constant exposure to cortisol brought on by chronic stress can lead to weight gain as well as multiple health issues which includes metabolic dysfunction.
Thyroid hormones regulate day to day cell metabolism, so any disease or condition that upsets the thyroid or the hypothalamus-pituitary-thyroid (HPT) axis can disrupt metabolism.
An estimated 27 million Americans have thyroid disease and half go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.
I see this each year as a number of clients who join my Empowered Self-Care Lab program are dealing with chronic conditions directly related to thyroid issues. Most have been unsuccessful at finding the help they need prior to becoming members.
It’s impossible to have optimal metabolism without a properly functioning thyroid.
Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs)
Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are one of the silent killers of metabolic health. They are found in pesticides, fragrances, plastics, industrial waste, and personal care products.
(The Environmental Working Group has a free guide to endocrine disruptors here.)
EDCs can block the connections between hormones and their receptors, reprogramming the parts of the endocrine system that govern metabolism.
They can alter the way the body consumes food and stores energy by changing glucose sensitivity and the way lipids are metabolized, basically transforming the body’s relationship with nutrition.
Yes, this can lead to weight gain, but it also can lead to thyroid disease, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome.
Finding Answers to the Weight Loss and Metabolism Puzzle
When a client is doing everything right but still struggling with their weight, it’s usually a symptom of a greater problem. It may involve metabolism, but not in the way most people think.
The endocrine system often holds the answer.
Understanding where to look can be the first step toward empowering my clients with the knowledge and tools they need for sustainable weight loss. In fact, once the root cause is discovered, for some it actually becomes easy!
Chronic health conditions at epidemic levels are robbing people of their best lives and the current healthcare system does little to provide real help or answers. Understanding the endocrine system can be key to helping people overcome these stubborn conditions.
I started the Institute of Nutritional Endocrinology because I knew I was making a meaningful difference in people’s lives and I wanted to share it with anyone willing to listen.
If you are a healthcare practitioner who wants to provide clients with the kind of help they can’t find anywhere else, I’d be honored to have you in my Nutritional Endocrinology Practitioners Training (NEPT) program.
Together we can bring the change so desperately needed.