How Your Hormones May Be Preventing You From Losing Weight, & What You Can Do About It

Carbs, Insulin, & Weight Gain

Insulin is a hormone which helps to regulate blood sugar levels in the body. It does this by utilizing sugar.  When you eat, your pancreas releases insulin, which then finds sugar in the blood and delivers it to your cells for energy. 

The more sugar from carbohydrates a meal contains, the more insulin gets released into the blood stream.  Your body can tell how carb-heavy a meal is because of your taste buds; the receptors on your tongue which detect sugar send signals to the brain letting it know that carbs are being consumed.  In the process of insulin delivering energy to the cells, guess what is NOT happening?  Your body is NOT burning fat for energy.  [1]When insulin is present in the blood stream, fat loss is stalled.  Also, if there is more sugar in your blood than insulin can carry out to the cells, it will get converted to and stored as fat.

Insulin Resistance & Weight Gain

Your body’s insulin response is also referred to as “insulin sensitivity.”  Insulin sensitivity is determined by genetics but can also be impacted by age, hormonal dis-regulation, and/or your eating habits if you have a predisposition for insulin resistance, diabetes, or exhibit very poor eating habits. For women specifically, insulin sensitivity can decrease due to PCOS and changing hormone levels as we get older.

The higher your insulin sensitivity is, the more effective it is at moving sugar out of the blood stream.  This is the reason why some people can eat whatever they want and not gain weight.  Insulin is working well in their bodies, and they probably also have high metabolism.  This means their bodies are using energy at a very fast rate.  As a result, there is a minimal, if any, sugar left in the bloodstream for fat conversion.

People with a slower insulin response, however, gain weight more easily because insulin is not moving sugar out of the bloodstream the way it should.  As a result, there is always excess sugar in the blood which gets converted to fat and then stored.

Over time, insulin insensitivity may develop into insulin resistance if there’s a genetic predisposition, or from eating too many processed, high-sugar foods.  The body becomes resistant to insulin the same way it becomes resistant to medication and other substances after repeated exposure.  When this happens, sugar stays in the bloodstream no matter how much insulin the pancreas releases.  As a result, this sugar gets converted to fat and then stored in the body.  But something else also happens.  Since the sugar is not being delivered to the cells as energy, your appetite increases as well as your cravings for sugar.  This creates a vicious and almost unstoppable cycle of weight gain.

Insulin resistance is reversible through diet modification and exercise, and there are also ways to improve and maximize your insulin response; however, if a person does not work on their eating habits, insulin resistance can lead to Type 2 Diabetes.

What You Can Do About It

At this point you may be wondering if you should stop eating carbs altogether.  Absolutely not.  Your body needs the energy it derives from carbs.  The key is not to eliminate them but to implement strategies for consuming them while maximizing your results. I delve into three proven strategies for eating carbs without having to worry in my FIT curriculum.

I also discovered an amazing supplement for helping the body regulate blood sugar levels. Personally, I have a predisposition for insulin resistance due to family history. Once I hit the age of 35, I found myself gaining weight very quickly and I’ve been finding it almost impossible to lose weight despite my best efforts. I attribute this to the joys of getting older! To help combat this, I’ve been employing a carb-timing strategy in addition to taking this supplement between meals, and I’m blown away by the results. For one, it helps to keep my blood sugar levels steady, which has eliminated cravings and spikes in hunger between meals. I’ve also seen steady weight loss progress, the healthy kind–I do not support quick-fix diets and tricks. My clothes are fitting more loosely as I lose inches. This is filling me with such a feeling of relief, as I was starting to feel really discouraged by what has been happening with my body lately, especially as a health coach and fitness professional.

What is Captavida?

Captavida is a glucose support and weight management supplement used by diabetics and anyone struggling with insulin resistance. Any one of my clients, past or present, will tell you I am very conservative when it comes to supplementation. I’ve only ever suggested they look into certain vitamin and mineral supplementation, and always advised them to seek confirmation from their medical provider before taking anything. Captavida is no different. In the 6 years I’ve been a certified fitness professional, I have never sold weight loss products, but this product is no ordinary BS weight loss supplement or “fat burner” offering unrealistic results. It is completely caffeine free and its all natural ingredients have been proven effective for helping to regulate blood sugar. Many of the ingredients I was already familiar with (with turmeric, cinnamon, aloe, ALA, and chromium) and knew their proven benefits, but this is the first time I’ve seen so many powerful and effective ingredients in one supplement. Take a look at what’s inside:

  • Biotin is an important component of enzymes in the body which metabolize certain substances like fats and carbohydrates.
  • Berberine, a chemical found in many plants, can also help regulate how the body uses sugar in the blood. It’s been used for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
  • Bitter melon contains a chemical that acts like insulin to help reduce blood sugar levels.
  • Curcumin C3 is an extract derived from the rhizomes (root) of the turmeric plant.  It’s the main active ingredient in turmeric, and has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is also a very strong antioxidant.
  • Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) improves the body’s ability to use its own insulin to lower blood sugar.
  • Cinnamon Powder improves sensitivity to insulin and has anti-inflammatory & anti-oxidant effects.
  • Ginseng Extract lowers blood sugar  in patients with type 2 diabetes when taken 2 hours before a meal (up to 3 grams, or 100-300 mg).
  • Aloe Vera can reduce blood sugar and improve cholesterol.   Research suggests that taking 147 mg of aloe gel twice daily for 8 weeks reduces body weight and fat mass in overweight or obese people with diabetes or prediabetes.
  • Laurus Nobilis aka Sweet Bay: early studies suggest that taking ground bay leaf 2x a day along with medication for diabetes can lower pre-meal blood sugar levels, “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and blood fats called triglycerides in people with diabetes. It can also increase “good” high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels.
  • Chromium Picolinate is effective at improving the body’s response to insulin or lowering blood sugar in those with diabetes. It can also help reduce hunger, cravings, and binge eating.

Disclaimer: Do your research own research, look into your own family history, and speak to your certified health care/medical practitioner about ways to manage your health and your weight BEFORE trying any supplement, including Captavida. I am writing about my experience with this product and its potential benefits, but am not prescribing this as a cure for diabetes, pre-diabetes, insulin resistance, weight loss or any other disease (including but not limited to high cholesterol and high blood pressure). The best way to manage your health and your weight is through a healthy diet and exercise.


[1] Fun fact: Did you know that artificial sweeteners can impede your fat loss progress?  When you consume “diet” & “sugar free” products which are sweetened artificially, your taste buds are still signaling to the brain that something sweet is being consumed even if it isn’t a real source of sugar.  Artificial sweeteners have the same impact on insulin levels as real sugar sources.  When insulin is present in the blood stream, your body is NOT burning fat.  Stevia is the only naturally derived, zero calorie sweetener which doesn’t impact blood insulin levels

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Is your subconscious getting in the way of your exercise program?

Values Conflict: The real reason you’re too busy to exercise.

You ever find yourself wanting to make a change, but life circumstances keep taking priority over your goals? You might want to exercise every night after work, but for some reason you just never make it to the gym because issues at home seem to arise the minute you lace up your sneakers. Or you keep saying you’re going to finish that book/online study program you’re dying to complete, but as soon as you sit down to focus on it, something else gets your attention. Yeah, you don’t mean to sabotage your goals (or your life) consciously, I know. The truth is, it’s not you, it’s your subconscious getting in the way.

The most common response we have whenever we betray ourselves (that is, we say we’re going to exercise but we wind up cleaning the kitchen instead) is to feel helpless (victim) to our circumstances and like there isn’t enough time in the day. Some of us might even beat ourselves up for “failing” to do what we said we would do. And with each failure, we feel farther and farther away from our desires.

A lot of people will tell you that you’re just making excuses. They’ll say you’re not too busy, you just need to make time. They’ll regurgitate this sentence: “We all have the same 24 hours in a day!” They take a righteous approach and it fails. The righteous approach is ineffective because it misses the real point!

What a great coach (assuming you have one) will do when they recognize this pattern in a client is have a conversation around the client’s VALUES, NOT TIME MANAGEMENT. Your goals, whatever they may be, need to be examined through the lens of context and ecology. This means you need to consider the greater impact and total cost of that goal before you can commit to it. How will losing 20 pounds impact your family life, your job, your social life, etc.? Do your goals conflict with your values? This is important because if going to the gym means you’re not going to be able to cook for your children, and your values dictate that your children deserve home cooked meals from scratch, then it doesn’t matter how badly you want to lose weight, you’ll skip the gym every time.

If your subconscious mind detects a conflict with your value system, it’ll sabotage your efforts no matter how important your goal is to you. The subconscious mind always wins (everything we do, and I do mean everything, originates from subconscious programming). You can’t fight it. Willpower has a lifespan of 20 minutes in the brain. You can’t force yourself to change. You have to find a way of reconciling your goals with your values. You have to convince your subconscious that the change you want to make isn’t going to threaten your beliefs or quality of life.

So you’re probably thinking, “How do I get there? How do I get subconscious buy-in?” The short answer is to be honest about your priorities and your values, and find a way to make your goals fit into them rather than the other way around.

NYC– Join me this June for a fitness retreat.

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To The Girls (and Boys) Who Throw Up Their Food…

This girl forced herself to vomit if she ate too much.
This girl dieted rigidly, but sometimes the hunger pangs became so severe she found herself binge eating…and throwing it all up.
This girl felt ashamed and often cried while staring in the mirror.
This girl felt like a fraud.
This girl had admirers asking her for weight loss help and fitness advice, but while she had a fit body, she knew she wasn’t healthy.
This girl lost 120 pounds naturally and felt like a monster naked.
This girl worried that nobody would love her because she was broken.
This girl knew the hatred she felt towards the loose skin around her breasts, on her stomach and inner thighs was not healthy.
This girl would cry as she added up the amount of money she would need to spend on plastic surgery to “fix” her body.
This girl’s life revolved around her diet and exercise regimen.
This girl carried tupperware with chicken breast and egg whites to the movies, and drank a lot of coffee to suppress her appetite.
This girl could see the outline of her abs behind a layer of loose skin, yet felt no sense of pride, only shame.
This girl could do 5 sets of 40 push-ups and still hated her arms.
This girl converted her living room into a fitness room so she would never miss a workout; she never had friends over.
This girl was preoccupied with her appearance every waking moment.
This girl didn’t like being this small, but she thought the further she was from who she was at her biggest, the safer she was.
This girl felt like a slave; enslaved to the fear of getting fat again.

One day, this girl whispered to me that she was tired.
I told her to rest.
She wouldn’t rest.
So I gave her injury after injury.
I forced her to sit down.
I forced her to revisit her relationship with food.
I forced her to cultivate love, compassion and forgiveness towards herself.
When her body began to heal, she would slowly slip into old patterns, so I gave her another injury.
Her knee.
Her wrist.
Her forearm.
Her elbow.
Both shoulders.
Her ankle.
Her shin.
SIT.
DOWN.

This girl sat down (she had no choice).
She learned to sit in silence.
In the silence, she heard her body asking for healing, but not healing from obesity…healing from TRAUMA.
Healing from sexual abuse.
Healing from physical abuse.
Pain stored in her body…wounds the fat hid and kept safe.

This girl sat down.
She wrote affirmations while sobbing, tears smearing the ink on the page.
This girl learned to eat food normally again.
This girl learned it’s okay to like cake.
This girl learned to kiss and caress the parts of her body she shamed the most.
This girl started a body-positive fitness movement that has evolved into something much more than she can verbalize.
This girl is inspiring others to heal through her healing.

This girl is me..
This woman…
Tamara Kellam.
I weigh 30 pounds more than I did in this picture (taken 5 years ago).
I have bat wings. LOL
And back rolls.
And armpit fat.
And I’m beautiful.
And I love having a big booty and full boobs!
And I still have a small waist.
And I work out consistently.
And I’m learning to establish a balanced eating plan that doesn’t alienate me from friends and family or drive me insane.
And I want to lose 15 pounds because I like myself somewhere between thick and fit.
And I laugh more than I ever did before.
And I grin from ear to ear about little things, like the sun peaking through the window.
And I no longer spend days in bed riddled with anxiety and suffering from depression.
And I cry and laugh at the same time and honor all of it.
And I have so many friends now, whereas before I thought nobody liked me.
And I sing while mopping the floors.
And my running pace is kinda slow but I love my running plan.
And I still can’t do a push-up yet but I will again some day soon.
And I have sex completely naked and feel no need to cover any part of my body like I used to.
And I can keep going, but the story is still unfolding…
I just know I’m happier in this body, happier with MYSELF, than I’ve ever been.

I love you.

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Trauma & Obesity: The Link We Ignore

One of the first things I do when a client asks me for help around their health and fitness goals is assess their mental health history. I’m not a mental health professional, but I’m trained to detect when someone’s challenges go beyond the scope of my practice as a health coach. For example, if someone is actively struggling with depression or an eating disorder, it’s my responsibility to make sure that they are referred to a licensed professional who is trained to deal with that specific issue.  I also explore their mental health history to see if it may be tied to their current physical state.

The weight loss and fitness industry tends to focus solely on weight loss methodology. This involves attempting to regulate the food we eat, and encouraging exercise. But very few health professionals check in with their clients around their mental and emotional well-being. This is unfortunate, as studies are finding there is a direct correlation between someone’s mental  health and physical well-being.

Me.

I was abused as a child, which affected the way my brain was hardwired.  Yes, exposure to various traumas at an early age will affect the physiological development of the brain.  This hardwiring pre-disposed me to depression and anxiety as I got older.  As a result, food became a coping mechanism for emotions I hadn’t learned to process.  But my issue wasn’t just about food.  Exposure to trauma and stress, especially in childhood, also affects our bodies.

In the late 90s, there was a study done which found a correlation between adverse childhood experiences and increased health risks as an adult (watch this TED Talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/nadine_burke_harris_how_childhood_trauma_affects_health_across_a_lifetime/up-next).  This study came about when a health professional at Kaiser  running a weight-loss clinic realized  many of his patients had been sexually abused.  It was eventually unconvered that stress hormones released during adverse experiences in childhood can predispose them to various health risks, including obesity.

While the brain is especially impressionable in childhood,  scientists studying neuroplasticity are finding that our brains remain malleable  beyond our youth.  This means trauma & grief (loss, illness, abuse, rape, etc.) experienced in adulthood also impacts the physiology of our brains.  And stress hormones (like cortisol) negatively impact insulin sensitivity, making it harder for the body to process carbs and subsequently leads to weight gain. 

So if we’ve known since the late 90s that obesity can be linked to trauma, why is it so often ignored by proponents of fitness and health?   Well for one, I think the topic can be uncomfortable for some people.  Listening to a person’s story around trauma & suffering requires a high degree of intimacy, vulnerability, and compassion.  Secondly, I believe that it has to do with this country’s consumer-driven culture. If we make obesity about people being lazy and undesirable, we can get people to spend money on weight loss products (a quick Google search showed me that the weight-loss industry as a whole was worth $64 billion in 2014).   There may be other factors involved, but I think these two are at the forefront of the problem, and require immediate attention.

Now, I’m not implying that everyone who is struggling with obesity has some type of severe mental health challenge or trauma to cope with. What I am highlighting, however, is in addition to educating people on healthy lifestyle practices, we also start checking in with them around their mental and emotional state of well-being.    If a person‘s unwillingness to exercise is linked to a depressive episode, then it’s the depression which requires attention, not their exercise habits.

Until health conversations become holistic and less weight-centered, we will continue to see people struggling to attain the physical well-being they so desire.   And until health practitioners (and society as a whole) cultivate and utilize compassion and acceptance instead of shame and guilt, we will continue to alienate those we claim to want to help the most.

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The Beauty of the Whole

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately, and of the different subjects I am studying, the topic of compassion and acceptance have been the most powerful. Yes, exercising compassion and acceptance towards others is ideal, but the real challenge is exercising compassion and acceptance towards ourselves.

I relate this to many of us who struggle with unrealistic body image goals; those of us who use exercise as a form of punishment because we don’t feel good enough; those of us who are under siege when it comes to food and fear that every morsel will immediately affect the size of our thighs; those of us who hate our stomachs; those of us who cry whenever we step on the scale.

Be kind to yourself. Practice compassion for where you are and what you’ve been through. Accept who you are, as acceptance is truly the key to transformation.

​People think body acceptance means not wanting to change anything about it. That’s actually not what body acceptance is to me. Acceptance is a form of mindfulness–a way of acknowledging what is while suspending judgment. It’s a way of observing objectively and deciding what’s best for you. As that pertains to body acceptance, you can accept that in this moment you want to change certain aspects of your body from a place of kindness instead of shame, guilt, and perfectionism.

Speak to yourself with the same loving-kindness you would a friend or loved one. LOVE yourself, the whole of who you are, instead of ripping yourself into pieces and sorting those pieces into piles of “worthiness” and “unworthiness.” Zooming in on every imperfection makes us miss out on the beauty of the whole.

Regardless of what your body looks like today, you are and will always be lovable and worthy.

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