Healthy Living Magazine


Hormones control almost every aspect of your physical and mental health. When one hormone is a bit off, all of your hormones are a bit off. If they are not balanced, it is almost impossible to control your weight – no matter how little you eat or how much you exercise.

Our bodies produce dozens of hormones that control virtually everything we do: from how we think, eat, sleep and cope with stress to how clear our complexions are and how much we weigh. When levels of just one hormone fluctuate, that shift can have serious consequences for mental, emotional and physical health.

It’s not simply ‘calories in’ versus ‘calories out’ that controls your weight. It’s all about balancing the food you eat, how your liver functions and how certain hormones – including insulin, thyroid, estrogen, serotonin, leptin and cortisol – determine whether you are lean or fat. By understanding how these hormones work together, you can regulate your waist size more effectively.

Hormones: Insulin and Cortisol

Stress produces cortisol, which produces insulin – and insulin is the fat storage hormone. Many people deny being stressed, but if you commute to work, have small children, teenagers, or aging parents, if you do not enjoy your work, sleep too much, sleep too little, eat too much sugar, take pharmaceuticals, take too many or not enough supplements, if you don’t eat vegetables, if you don’t breathe deeply, enjoy your life or are worried about your health or weight, you are probably stressed.

Also, there is a correlation between where you store your body fat and which hormones are unbalanced. Excess stored around your love handles could indicate an insulin imbalance; fat stored around your abdomen could indicate a cortisol imbalance.

Most importantly, your body experiences the same hormonal changes whether your stress is actual or imagined!


Insulin, produced in your pancreas, is essential to process sugar in your bloodstream and carry it to cells to be used. Your blood sugar level is the amount of glucose from the food you eat or from unbalanced stress levels. Glucose sugar circulates in your bloodstream to provide energy to your cells immediately or to be stored for future use. A well-balanced blood sugar level is crucial to your overall fitness and well-being, regulating your hormones, triggering your body to burn stored fat, and increasing your metabolism to help you lose weight.

Too much glucose leads to high blood sugar levels which your body can’t break down so it gets stored as fat. Ironically, insufficient sugar can also lead to extra pounds. Eating too little glucose can lead to a low blood sugar level, causing your body to go into ‘starvation mode’: it burns your lean muscle instead of the fat – a double whammy to your metabolic rate.

A diet rich in the following foods will help to balance your sugar levels, your hormones and your weight: leafy greens; lean protein such as eggs, meat, fish and chicken; whole grains such as quinoa and millet, plus nuts and seeds; beans and lentils; and healthy fats such as avocados, olive oil and coconut oil.

What causes insulin excess? Again, the list is long: too much nutrient-poor, carbs-processed food, sugary drinks, sodas, packaged low fat foods and artificial sweeteners; insufficient protein intake, inadequate fat intake, deficient fibre consumption, chronic stress, lack of exercise, over exercising, steroid-based medications, poor liver function and toxin exposure.

Possible signs of excess insulin include age spots, sagging skin, skin tags, vision changes or cataracts, heart disease, poor memory and concentration, type 2 diabetes, sleep disruption or deprivation, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

The Cortisol Effect

Cortisol is the stress hormone produced by our adrenal glands. How we react to each of our stressors determines how much cortisol we produce. Possible signs of excess cortisol include weight gain, hair loss, and infertility or absent menopause.

Excess cortisol also interferes with serotonin, which can lead to clinical depression, anxiety disorders and insomnia. The long list of effects also includes mental clutter and poor concentration, breaking down of collagen and an acceleration of the aging process, heart palpitations and loss of muscle tone, increased blood pressure, blood clotting and cholesterol levels, and the sensation of feeling ‘wired’ at night.

How to Decrease Cortisol

All stress, actual or perceived, can cause a physiological response. The brain triggers the adrenal glands, which sit on top of the kidneys, to release the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline speeds up heart rate, increases blood pressure and boosts energy. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, shifts energy away from the digestive and immune systems to prepare for an ‘alarmed’ state, and increases blood sugar levels and the brain's uptake of glucose.
While some stress can be positive, the problem is ongoing, chronic stress. Day-to-day demands, worry, tension and poor lifestyle cause your adrenals to fire constantly and cortisol levels to be released in excess.

What You Eat Can Make a Big Difference

A poor diet can trigger stress. During periods of stress, our demand for nutrients increases, there is a faster turnover of protein, fat and carbohydrates to produce energy to keep up with the demands we place on ourselves, and vitamins B and C are rapidly depleted.

  • Stress-busting B-vitamins are essential in the production of our feel-good neurotransmitters. While B6 is especially important in terms of busting stress, it’s also the first to be depleted by stress. Foods rich in B6 include tuna, turkey, beef, chicken, salmon, sweet potatoes, sunflower seeds, spinach, raw cashews, red peppers and bananas.
  • Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant, also helps curb large spikes in cortisol as a response to mental stress. Foods rich in Vitamin C include papaya, red peppers, strawberries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, pineapple, oranges, kiwifruit and blackcurrants.
  • Don’t skip meals. Stress levels rise as the demand for nutrients is increased but not met. Our bodies will lack the nutrients required to manage stress properly, and as a result, our health becomes compromised. Even normal stress begins to exact a toll.

How We Cope with Stress

When the pressure is on, many of us don’t take the time to eat. When the stressful moment has passed or we finally have time to eat, we typically reach for a treat. By then we’re low in blood sugar, extremely hungry and need to eat NOW. This energy slump, typically at 3 or 4 pm, sets us up for poor food choices.

While the concentrated shot of sugar found in soft drinks or sweet treats provides a quick energy boost, it’s short lived. We feel more tired and irritable than before the sugar fix. When our sugar level increases from food choices or stress, this again increases our insulin levels, and remember, insulin is the fat storage hormone. These high levels of sugar are taken out of the blood via the production of insulin, the sugar converts to body fat, and our blood sugar levels decrease causing us to crave sweets again.

Too much caffeine can also lead to stress. Caffeine increases anxiety, mimics the stress response and causes the body to lose B vitamins, necessary for vitality and energy, as well as calcium, important for muscle and nerve relaxation.
It’s a vicious circle: stress affects mood; mood affects food choices; food choices affect mood which once again affects stress levels – especially if we are upset about the food we just ate.

Sleep Your Way to Weight Loss

When it comes to weight control, never underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep. Getting enough sleep helps you maintain your weight, while sleep loss goes along with an increased risk of weight gain. Why? Part of the problem is behavioral. If you’re chronically overtired, you might be less likely to have the energy to go for that jog or cook a healthy dinner after work. Why? Lack of sleep increases stress which increases cortisol levels which increase insulin levels.

The other part is physiological. The hormone leptin plays a key role in making you feel full. When you don’t get enough sleep, leptin levels drop. Tired people are hungrier, and crave high-fat and high-calorie foods.

Melatonin can also influence weight loss: without the release of melatonin, we have less growth hormone production, which repairs and maintains metabolically active muscle tissue while we sleep. The more muscle mass, the higher your metabolic rate which allows you to burn more calories even while sleeping.

Less Stress Equals Less Weight

To control stress and its influence on your weight, try to diminish or remove the sources of stress in your life. Scale back your commitments, learn better time management, become more assertive. Use exercise, meditation and yoga to cope with stress you can’t eliminate.

Change your psychological responses. For example, if you tend to overeat when stressed, develop a list of non-food ways to handle the pressure. Learning to wait out the urge to eat – usually just 10 to 15 minutes –  is a simple change that can make a big difference. Take a walk, breathe deeply, listen to music, read a book or do some yoga to decrease your cortisol levels so your insulin levels don’t increase. But don’t restrict your calories too much because a lack of calories can also cause stress to your body.

Yes, it is a real balancing act!

Shawn M. Nisbet, is a registered holistic nutritionist (RHN), yoga teacher and Nordic pole walking master instructor. Tel: 416.804.0938. Email:;        



31 thoughts on “Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Weight!

  1. I will right away grasp your rss feed as I can not find your email subscription hyperlink or e-newsletter service. Do you have any? Kindly allow me realize in order that I could subscribe. Thanks.

  2. Nice post. I was checking constantly this blog and I am impressed! Extremely helpful info particularly the last part 🙂 I care for such info a lot. I was seeking this certain information for a long time. Thank you and best of luck.

  3. What i do not understood is if truth be told how you are not actually a lot more neatly-favored than you may be now. You are so intelligent. You understand thus considerably in the case of this subject, produced me for my part believe it from a lot of various angles. Its like men and women don’t seem to be involved until it is something to do with Woman gaga! Your personal stuffs outstanding. At all times care for it up!

  4. Hey, I think your blog might be having browser compatibility issues. When I look at your website in Firefox, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that, very good blog!

  5. The next time I learn a blog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as a lot as this one. I imply, I know it was my choice to learn, but I really thought youd have one thing fascinating to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something that you would repair if you werent too busy in search of attention.

  6. Thank you for sharing superb informations. Your site is so cool. I’m impressed by the details that you’ve on this blog. It reveals how nicely you perceive this subject. Bookmarked this website page, will come back for more articles. You, my pal, ROCK! I found simply the info I already searched all over the place and simply could not come across. What an ideal web-site.

  7. incrível este conteúdo. Gostei muito. Aproveitem e vejam este site. informações, novidades e muito mais. Não deixem de acessar para se informar mais. Obrigado a todos e até mais. 🙂

  8. I like this post, enjoyed this one thanks for posting. “The universe is not hostile, nor yet is it unfriendly. It is simply indifferent.” by John Andrew Holmes.

  9. What i do not understood is in fact how you are not actually much more neatly-favored than you might be now. You are so intelligent. You know therefore considerably with regards to this matter, produced me personally imagine it from a lot of varied angles. Its like women and men are not involved until it is one thing to do with Woman gaga! Your own stuffs nice. Always take care of it up!

  10. My spouse and i got absolutely fortunate that Peter could round up his reports with the precious recommendations he was given through the blog. It’s not at all simplistic to just continually be making a gift of ideas that some other people have been trying to sell. We really fully understand we now have the blog owner to give thanks to for this. The specific explanations you made, the straightforward blog navigation, the relationships you make it possible to create – it is many overwhelming, and it is helping our son and us imagine that this issue is thrilling, which is certainly incredibly indispensable. Thanks for the whole lot!

  11. I simply want to tell you that I’m beginner to blogging and seriously savored you’re web blog. Very likely I’m planning to bookmark your blog post . You amazingly have outstanding articles. Thanks a lot for sharing with us your web page.

  12. Enjoyed reading this, very good stuff, thankyou. “While thou livest keep a good tongue in thy head.” by William Shakespeare.

  13. After research study a few of the article on your site currently, as well as I genuinely like your means of blogging. I bookmarked it to my book marking website list as well as will be inspecting back soon. Pls have a look at my internet site as well as well as let me understand what you believe.

  14. Hello! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my good old room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this page to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Thank you for sharing!

  15. Hmm is anyone else encountering problems with the images on this blog loading? I’m trying to determine if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

  16. There are certainly a great deal of details like that to consider. That is a great indicate bring up. I offer the ideas above as general ideas yet clearly there are questions like the one you bring up where one of the most crucial point will be working in truthful good faith. I don?t know if ideal practices have emerged around things like that, but I make certain that your task is plainly determined as an up for grabs. Both boys as well as girls really feel the effect of just a moment?s pleasure, for the remainder of their lives.

  17. There are some fascinating time limits in this article but I don’t know if I see all of them heart to heart. There’s some validity but I’ll take maintain opinion until I look into it further. Good article , thanks and we would like more! Added to FeedBurner as properly

  18. Great blog you have here but I was wanting to know if you knew of any forums that cover the same topics discussed in this article? I’d really like to be a part of community where I can get feed-back from other knowledgeable individuals that share the same interest. If you have any recommendations, please let me know. Thanks a lot!

  19. When I originally commented I clicked the -Notify me when new feedback are added- checkbox and now each time a remark is added I get 4 emails with the identical comment. Is there any approach you may take away me from that service? Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.