I want to make a little disclaimer, as you know, this is not a science based podcast. I’m not going to go all deep sciency into every single hormone and the role it plays in weight loss, because I’m also not a doctor. If you like that kind of science based podcast, I don’t blame you. I do too. I’d go head over to Sam Miller, and also the Huberman lab. Sam Miller does shorter podcasts, and the Huberman lab is like, you’re gonna marry him in for two and three hours at a time. They’re so good.
There are a lot of hormones that are involved in weight loss and the weight loss game.
I’m not going to go deep diving. Like I said, not science here. Also, I’m not a doctor, and I don’t play one on TV. I’m going to walk through a couple things I think we need to consider when we are talking about hormones and weight loss, and where to actually get started.
I’ve worked with 1000s, maybe even 10s of 1000s of women over the last 20-25 years in the health and fitness industry. So whether that’s working one on one with a client, teaching classes, or a variety of different transformation programs, I’ve worked with a lot of women. The majority of my clients right now are, of course, in their 40s and 50s. Now, if you’re under 40, God knows, you have hormones too. I know for me, when my hormones went sideways, I was actually under 40. I was let’s call it 39-40. That’s where things sort of fell apart for me. So I’m not discounting anyone who’s under 40. Your hormones can go berserk at any given time.
The reason why your hormones might go crazy. You could;
- Be under a lot of stress.
- Be somebody who chronically diet.
- Just be under eating for a long period of time.
- Have intermittent fasting windows that have been too severe, too long.
- On some kind of crazy diet.
- Do contest dieting, competition dieting.
- Have long commutes.
- Not sleep well.
- Drink a lot of caffeine.
- Not get a lot of the nutrients that you need.
There’s a million reasons why our hormones could not be ideal for weight loss.
I know a lot of us talk,or hear, about hormone balance. At any given time, our hormones are always shifting. We can become very obsessed with chasing certain lab values and trying to get things to be optimal. It takes time. It really does. I want you to know, if you’re feeling that things are not in balance. You’re not alone. It is okay. It’s going to take some time.
The discovery portion of figuring out what is actually going on is only the beginning. I don’t say that to scare you off or to say don’t bother trying to balance your hormones. Too bad. So sad. Bye bye. Don’t bother. No, we do want to figure it out and that’s a process. Then there’s the process of righting the ship, so to speak. Getting things back on track, but I want to start here for you. Hormones and weight loss are a very broad category. My intention is to start with five points.
1) Advocate for yourself.
If there’s only one thing you take from today, I hope that it is to advocate for yourself. I’m all about action. Implementing something. We can talk and we can chat. We can research and we can go down all the Google rabbit holes. Believe you me, I’ve been there. That’s really why this podcast exists, to save you a lot of time. We don’t need to collect more info. We actually need to do shit with it, right? We need to implement things and so one of the things you can do to implement on your journey on your road to the results that you want, is advocating for yourself.
I think most women are kind of built the same, whether you actually have children that you gave birth to. I think women do have a certain maternal instinct. Whether that is you will fight tooth and nail to defend your cat or tooth and nail to defend your kids, or your loved ones. We’re hardcore. We do shit for other people all the time, yet we don’t advocate for ourselves.
I’ll give an example. Let’s say you do have a child. Let’s call her little Susie. You take little Susie to the pediatrician and you tell the pediatrician. Hey, listen, little Suzy here. She doesn’t sleep. She sweats and it’s hot all night. She can’t lose any weight. She looks actually kind of puffy and distended. I was kind of constipated. Hair’s falling out moody as f*ck. Yeah, I think something’s wrong with little Susie, what do you think now? Right little Susie’s in menopause is what it sounds like.
Well, here’s the thing, your pediatrician is going to be dealing with you. Mama Bear activated. You are like, I need to figure this out. I am going to make sure little Susie gets good medical care. I will go to the end of the earth to solve this problem for her. Does this sound right? Is this true? Like if you have kids, you would go to the end of the earth.
Now I’m just kidding about all these sort of menopausal symptoms. But if your kid or your spouse or somebody you love and care about was suffering in some way, wouldn’t you be like somebody listen to me? If you don’t listen to me, I’m gonna find somebody who does. My guess is that you get answers. You get stuff done, when it’s other people. But when it comes to yourself, it’s fine. I’ll figure it out. I don’t want to be a bother, it doesn’t matter. It’s probably normal. I’ll just suffer in silence.
Many of my clients don’t, or won’t, just ask for what you want. Like you are in a restaurant. Whether that’s with dinner with your in-laws or at a party or a business meeting. You don’t want to look like a Karen. There. I said it. If your name is Karen, I apologize. I have nothing against the name. But you get what I’m saying. We don’t want to be a bother. I don’t want to be that person.
Well, here’s the deal. Be whoever you want to be to get the job done. So whether that’s going to a restaurant and getting exactly what you want. Do that and who gives a shit. People are gonna think whatever they want. Maybe they’ll think wow, look at her. She knows what she wants, she gets what she wants, she doesn’t care. Same thing with advocating for your own health. Ordering the lab tests that you want and need. That’s a big one.
I’ll give an example. You begin to suspect, maybe I have something going on with my thyroid. I don’t know. It’s common, super common. I’m not saying every single woman has a thyroid issue, but some do. When you express this to your doctor, they’ll be like, we’ll test. We’ll do the TSH, the thyroid stimulating hormone test, which is kind of standard. 90% of the time people’s test probably comes back within normal range and you’re told everything’s normal. Bye bye. Have a nice day. You’re like, well, if that’s normal then back to the drawing board. Back to suffering in silence, yet you might have a lot of symptoms. Things aren’t normal. This is where advocating for yourself comes into play. For you to be like, well, you know what, the TSH probably isn’t enough. Maybe we should be looking at other tests.
Advocate for yourself because you matter. You’re important. No one else is going to do it for you. No one can do it but you. What is the worst that can happen? The doctor doesn’t want to do it. The doctor thinks you’re crazy.
The nurse who works for my primary care, I think she hates me. I call and, oh hey, it’s me Bonnie. I’m demanding and I want what I want. I need this and I need that. I need it now. I need it yesterday. This is how it should go. My primary care doctor understands me and knows me and probably the woman who works in her office too. Just like, oh, this woman, so aggressive and so pushy, but you know what? Who cares.
I need what I need. I want what I want. I know what I’m looking for. And that’s that. At the end of the day, I could be nice, I could be sweet, I could be quiet, I could be not calm. It’s not that I’m confrontational. I just know what I want. People can think whatever they want to. It doesn’t matter what you do, it doesn’t matter what you say, it doesn’t matter.
Maybe the woman at my doctor’s office does like me, maybe she thinks I’m wonderful and fun, and interesting and smart. Maybe she just has a bad telephone personality, I don’t know. But I don’t care. I want you to advocate for yourself.
2) Always get copies of your bloodwork.
While advocating for yourself, I would always get copies of your bloodwork, always. You should have them all. Whether they’re a physical copy, like you have them handed to you or mailed to you and they are on paper and you could touch them and you filed them, or they’re electronic and you have them in your email. I would get copies. I would also repeat bloodwork, especially if you’re looking at something or something doesn’t seem great. I would repeat it in three to six months.
It is interesting. Every year you go to the doctor, they’re going to check your triglycerides or your cholesterol. What can happen in a year? If you’ve got some messed up stuff going on for a long time. Sometimes you could go get blood work and for whatever reason, in that moment, you have something that doesn’t fall within range. Maybe your A1C is a little high, or your triglycerides are a little bit high, or your C reactive protein is a little bit high. Something’s going on. I’d retest within three to six months, I would to see if this is just an anomaly or if something’s actually going on.
If you’re like, what is all this blood work? There’s a lot of standard blood work. I would definitely discuss with your doctor what they’re actually testing and that you get a look at it. You get your eyes on it and take your time. When somebody tells me, everything’s fine, everything’s normal, I take a look.
Sometimes, with blood work, normal can be considered anything above the lowest part of the range. The lowest, and I don’t consider necessarily, that’s normal, depending on what we’re looking at. If I want something to be optimal, that’s a different measure. You don’t have to be as interested in all of this shit as I am. But if it is your health, your well being, your future, your ability to live a long time and have a great quality of life and to be kicking ass for the next 50 plus years, you probably want to spend a little time on this and know as much as you can about what the tests mean. What they’re looking for. What you need to know.
Again, not trying to send you to medical school, but so that you have a baseline knowledge. If you have questions, ask your doctor or ask Dr. Google. It is all out there.
3) Knowledge is power.
I will say that my whole life, I was a terrible student. I did like did not like school. I did not want to read Lord of the Flies with the Odyssey or any fucking bullsh*t like that. Who cares? But I do read. My whole Amazon cart, my Kindle library and any actual book I have. If it’s not about business or mental health, it’s definitely about hormones. About thyroid health, about stress, about all the different things that happen in weight loss. That’s my jam. It may not be your jam.
When it comes to your health, you probably want to know some things. Especially if you already take any prescription medications. It is always interesting to me.
Speaking of different tests, a lot of my clients do take some medications. What happens with thyroid is that the first prescription most women are given is a T4 only medication. So usually something like Synthroid or Lebo thyroxin. It is interesting to me that many women don’t really understand what they’re taking. Whether it’s thyroid medication or something for high blood pressure or depression or even birth control. They don’t know what the medication is. Everything about it. Any interactions it has. I would.
At the very least, if you take any prescriptions, know what they are. I’m not telling you to get off of them. I’m not telling you they’re bad or wrong. If you are taking them or told that you should be taking them, know as much as you can about what you’re taking. What are the other options? What are the upsides? What are the downsides? Again, I’m not poo pooing any particular kind of medication.
My own journey, which might be in the part two, or the part three, or the part four was really figuring out through trial and error. Plus advocating for myself. Doing a lot of bloodwork, typical thyroid treatment was not working for me. It was only making things worse. Knowledge is power. I’m not telling you to go drive yourself crazy and to be all Doctor Googling and WebMD. Now we can use chat GPT to diagnose ourselves.
Don’t drive yourself crazy, but get some knowledge about what you’re taking. Make decisions that are best for you.
4) It is okay to fire your doctor.
You’re welcome. First of all, I am not anti doctor. I mean, that would be crazy town. That would be like you don’t need any doctors, just do it yourself. No, you need doctors. You need actually good doctors.
A good doctor is somebody who listens to you. Someone who’s willing to listen to you, who’s willing to take your opinion about yourself into consideration. Along my journey I went to a lot of doctors. Incidentally, one of the doctors I went to when I I was like, Okay, here’s the thing. I haven’t gotten my period. I’m gaining a lot of weight. Blah blah blah. I had all the things. I was uncertain. I was in a search for what is wrong with me. He was not that helpful. I had just finished competing and he was like, what do you like 2.9% body fat? I’m like, no, I’m rapidly gaining weight and you’re annoying me.
The funny part about it is, very nice doctor, but just wasn’t the right doctor for what I needed. He was a gynecologist. As it turned out, he was the one who delivered my babies via C section. My regular OBGYN was on vacation. Maternal fetal medicine was like, you need to have these at 37 weeks, we’re not going to 38 weeks. So I ended up having this particular doctor, who I was really miffed at at the time. I was like that guy’s stupid, that guy doesn’t know. Well, it turns out, he’s a gynecologist, and he was really good at delivering babies by C section. By the way, and God rest his soul, very sweet man.
My dad is a doctor. So I am not anti doctor. I actually have grown up with a lot of knowledge about doctors, the medical world and how the medical system has changed over the last 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years. I’ve watched it up close.
I’ll give you an example. My dad is a lung doctor and also really smart. It’s amazing that I’m his daughter, because my brain is capable of only a sliver of what he’s capable of. I think partly, his parents really lorded over him and made sure that he did a lot of schoolwork and then went to Hebrew school for two hours a day, every day. He was forced to do his homework, be a good student, prioritize learning, read and all of these things. My parents were like, yeah, you just do whatever you want. Long story short, he ended up in college by 16 and in his lifetime he established the intensive care unit at his hospital and ran it for 30 some odd years.
I’m telling you this just to sort of set the stage like this is a smart guy. If you’re dying, you want Dr Lefrak to help you. It’s kind of like the show House. It’s a medical show about this Dr. House who takes on all of these complex cases. If you’re dying, you want Dr. House, you want Dr. Lefrak. I only tell you this because maybe 10 years ago, I think, my dad had some heart issues. He was taking a statin. It seemed like the statin was driving up his blood sugar. So he was actually testing his blood sugar at home.
I had a phone conversation. He’s telling me that he’s testing my blood sugar and eating really well. He said he ate a bowl of grapes and I couldn’t believe how high his blood sugar was. I had to tell him that a bowl of grapes is full of glucose. And he’s like, Oh, my gosh, you’re so right. This is the world’s smartest man. He’s a pulmonologist. He runs the intensive care unit. He’s super smart. Even now, he’s 83 and so smart. It’s frightening and yet, that was a true conversation we had. I only point that out to set the stage.
Even a really smart doctor doesn’t necessarily know about something out of their lane. He doesn’t necessarily know about nutrition or fitness. He knows you need to have good nutrition. He knows a lot more now. Just like the gynecologist I went to wasn’t really going to help me with my thyroid issue, but he did a really great job delivering my kids.
If you have a primary care physician who isn’t willing or able to help you solve some problems, or they’re trying to shuffle you off, go to an endocrinologist. It is very interesting that a lot of the endocrinologists also will be in this sort of like, I’m only going to look at your thyroid stimulating hormone. I’m only going to look at XYZ. I’m going to only look at this in a very narrow window.
The cost of advocating for yourself is that you might run into some dead ends. You might have instances where you don’t get answers or you’re not listened to or you’re told everything’s fine, and you know it’s not. It is okay to fire your doctor. It is okay to get another doctor. To get another opinion. To ask around.
I’m not saying that you’re smarter than them or I’m smarter than them. It is just about listening to your own body and looking at actual data that you have. Doctors are very data driven. Saying that you feel fat or feel yucky probably isn’t enough. You’re going to want to have some actual tangible things.
When I think about just the lane of thyroid, I think about;
- Hair falling out,
- Very thin eyebrows at the end,
- Dry skin,
- Cold all the time,
- Brain fog,
- Poor sleep,
- Inability to lose weight unless on a very low calorie diet.
That’s what comes to mind right away and that’s actual data.
Feeling like it could be thyroid is probably something they’re not going to listen to, but you know what? It is okay to not, doctors are not God. They’re not. Again, this is not anti doctor. I love doctors. I have great doctors. It took me a while to get there, but I have great doctors. The reason is probably because I fired some other ones and I moved on. I found doctors that listen to me. I did a lot of things on my own to show them. I figured some things out so they support my own journey in my own quest. It does take a little bit of time.
5) What is in your control when it comes to hormones and weight loss?
I think about this like, what would be hormone friendly food or what would be a hormone friendly fitness? We do have some control. I want to be very clear. When it comes to hormones in weight loss, we’re not doomed. Menopause is a natural thing. It does happen. I’m not anti menopause. I’m not waging a war against something that happens. It is part of life but it doesn’t mean that we have to suffer. That we have to just grin and bear it. We don’t have to become our moms or our grandmothers.
There are a lot of different things that we can do to make sure that we feel good and that our bodies are functioning optimally. I don’t have to function like a 25 year old, but I don’t need to function like I’m ready to shit the bed here.
What are some ways that I can set the stage for my hormones to be more balanced? Even if I can’t get the bloodwork or the result right now. Or I’m not really sure what the root cause of my weight gain or inability to lose weight. If I’m not really sure what the root cause is. Maybe nothing is wrong. Maybe it’s just been a very slow slide. I haven’t really noticed all the different ways that I actually am stressed.Maybe I haven’t been sleeping well for a very long time. I’m not having great digestion for a really long time. I always want to say, what is actually going on?
When I think about hormone friendly food, I want to think about do I eat in a way that;
- I’m getting nutrition?
- My blood sugar is fairly well balanced?
- I’m thinking about total calories in general?
- I am hoping to lose weight but always over eating?
Some of it comes down to, what kind of data do I actually have? How accurate or how honest am I about my own lifestyle? About how I eat and drink? Or how I sleep? What supplements do I take? Am I regular on all of these things or am I wildly inconsistent?
I’m expecting to have hormone balance and I’m just inconsistent all around. That doesn’t even make sense. If you want hormone balance we have to actually set the stage for some level of consistent behavior. Consistent actions I take in the way I feed and water my human body.
When I think about hormone friendly fitness, what I learned in my quest is that more is definitely not better. Many times with clients, when I really work with them one on one, and I asked, okay, when you say you’re going to the gym and your strength training, what exactly are you doing? Nine times out ten times, as women who want to lose weight and want to make improvements, we sometimes go overboard. More is better. And we’re doing way too much in the gym. Too much volume, like I’m doing 17 different exercises, and I’m doing you know, 62 reps, and I’m, I’m doing every machine in the gym, and I’m doing all the things and I’m 90 minutes in the gym. I’m like, Okay, well, that’s way too much.
When we’re in a situation where we think or feel like my weight is not moving, or it’s moving very slowly. I’m experiencing things like sleeplessness, brain fog, not getting a lot done in the day. I’m moody, I’m constipated. I’m just not feeling young, radiant, vibrant. My joints hurt or I’m always taking a long time to recover. We really have to take a look at scaling back. We can’t be thrilled. It’s like throwing gasoline on a fire. And not the fat burning fire. It’s more like inflammation happening inside our bodies.
One of the things that I learned very early in my metabolic journey was that I needed to actually scale back my workouts to get better results. When I actually did less instead of being in the gym for an hour, trying to bang out these old school bodybuilding routines and do tons of sets and tons of reps. I was really scaling down more to a workout that probably took me 30 to 35 minutes. At first it feels wrong and like this can’t be right. But it is sort of the minimum effective dose.
When it comes to food Fitness, it’s doing less of the high intensity. It’s not trying to run and trying to sprint and trying to be the fastest and lift the most and lift it faster. I get it, that’s all fun. I used to truly enjoy CrossFit workouts where you would try to lift a lot very fast, and you’d be running and you’d be doing a lot of things. It was fun until I got injured. Until it wasn’t working for me at the time. I’m not poo pooing CrossFit or any other kind of workout.
There’s so many different women out there, each of us is a little bit different. How we’re built is a little bit different. Where we’re at in our fitness and weight loss journey is going to be different. I’ve maxed out at CrossFit a long time ago, it doesn’t mean that you can’t do that too. When I work with women for weight loss, especially when we’re looking at the overall picture and looking at improving hormone function for a better metabolism, I do look at someone who’s doing a lot of high intensity stuff. I try to suggest that if we want to keep high intensity, we do have to balance it with some less high intensity workouts. Things like walking, strength training, that doesn’t have to be over the top aggressive.
Know that you do have some control. Life isn’t all about things that just happened to us. Menopause or hormonal changes don’t just have to happen to us. We can actually play a bigger part in the choices that we make, and certainly the way that we approach hormone balance and we approach weight loss.
It would be crazy to be like, as soon as you’re in perimenopause, or menopause;
- You’re doomed.
- It’s over.
- You just forget about it.
- Don’t try anymore.
- Give up.
- You’re old.
- It’s all falling apart.
- You’re never going to feel well again.
- You’re certainly never going to look well.
- You’re not going to look good.
- You’re going to have a wide waistline.
- Nothing’s going to fit.
I’m a hell no on that.
I am all about women at any age, but of course in your 40s and 50s, living your best life.
A way you can play a part is that you really have to advocate for yourself.
- Know what the bloodwork is.
- Get copies of it.
- Look at it.
- Question it.
- You don’t want things to be in range, but it’s actually the bottom of the range.
- Get some knowledge.
Knowledge is power.
I’m not telling you that you have to go get a PhD. You don’t have to spend hours a day googling because we’ve probably already done that about diets and all of the other things. But have a baseline understanding if you are taking any prescription medications, or you’re told that you might or should be taking things. What are the different options? Knowing that. Doctors are necessary, and a lot of them are incredible, but some of them are not. It could also be that in this day and age, a lot of them are overworked. They are maxed out and they are not necessarily fully present for you. That is okay, it’s not about you.
It’s okay to say, this doctor isn’t right for me and move on. Find someone who is willing to run the test or willing to listen, to consider the symptoms that you’re having to give you all of the different options so that you feel better.
You could actually have several different doctors. You might have somebody who works with you just on your digestion. You might have somebody who works with you just on hormone replacement, if you’re going that direction. You might have someone who is the primary care, who kind of oversees everything that you got going on. You can have multiple doctors. As long as you’re communicating to them, then I think you’re in good shape.
Your doctor doesn’t have to be your best friend. They’re not on speed dial. They don’t have to call you Sunday night at midnight every time you know something’s gone wrong. But you want to have the kind of relationship where you know that they’re listening. If they can’t help you, they will point you in the right direction. Some of that is really just being able to express where you’re at and what your expectation is.
Lastly, put the ball back in your court. Sometimes we feel like hormones and weight loss are not in our court, like they’re just outside of us.
There are a lot of things that we can do to be consistent.
- The way that we eat.
- That we do or do not drink alcohol.
- The way that we stay hydrated.
- How much effort we put into sleep.
- Basic supplementation.
Surprisingly, a lot of people don’t take multivitamins. They don’t take d3. They don’t take fish oil. They don’t take magnesium. They don’t take probiotics. Some basics and you can discuss that with your doctor. You can add one thing at a time.
We do have some control when it comes to our hormonal balance, our hormonal health, and our weight loss.
NOTES IN ANCHOR
Do you truly know how many hormones are involved in weight loss?
The answer is….A LOT!
I’ve worked with 1000’s, maybe even 10’s of 1000’s of women over the last 20-25 years in the health and fitness industry. The majority of my clients right now are, of course, in their 40s and 50s. That means that hormones, especially those associated with menopause, are a part of our conversation around weight loss.
Here’s a news flash in case you didn’t already know, your hormones can go sideways at any age.
There are a million reasons why our hormones could not be ideal for weight loss. And I’m not going to lie…hormones are complex, to say the least. So I’m not going to go all deep sciency into every single hormone and the role it plays in weight loss. But let’s jump right in and start trying to figure out hormones and weight loss in episode 51 of the Unf*ck Your Weight Loss podcast now!
ABOUT THE HOST
Bonnie Lefrak is a Life & Body Transformation Expert and Founder of Self Made, a program designed to help you tackle the physical aspects of health and weight loss as well as the beliefs and thoughts that drive our habits and behaviors. It is her goal to help women create certainty in their own lives, their own results, and their own abilities.
Weight loss is not about the one “right” diet – it is about MUCH more than that. Weight loss is not about the one “right” workout. Weight loss is not about being positive and putting a big smile on. Weight loss is about FEELINGS. All of them. Not trying to bury them or hide from them but knowing and allowing the full human experience.
Weight loss is not about grinding hustling and will powering your way to some end line. Transformation (when done well) is done from the inside out.
By addressing both the physical and mental aspects of dieting and weight loss, she has coached thousands of women ages 30-55+ from all over and helped them ditch the mindsets that are holding them back, achieve permanent weight loss, and get the bangin’ body of their dreams.
Bonnie is an expert at Demystifying weight loss. She helps you unf*ck your diet brain.
She is on a mission to help women love themselves, to find PEACE in the process of losing weight, taking care of themselves, and leveraging the power they do have to become who and want they want right now.
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