Over a year ago, I was unhappy with my weight. I’d gotten into a few unhealthy habits, let some healthy habits slide, and saw my weight creep above my appropriate body mass index (BMI). So, I decided to do something about it.
Using Hormonology principles, I wrote up a practical and easy-to-follow eating and exercise plan that was tailored around my monthly hormone cycle–and I began following it right away. In about five months, I dropped over 25 pounds. And, I dropped a few more after that, resulting in a total weight loss of over 30 pounds, landing me square in the “normal” range of my BMI.
It’s now about a year later–and I haven’t gained back any of that excess weight.
Which, not gonna lie, surprises even me.
Not only did the Hormonology plan I wrote up help make it far easier for me to lose the weight than I predicted. It’s also made it a lot easier to keep it off than I predicted.
So, today I want to share the same Hormonology Guide to Slimming Down I used with you again in case you missed it the first time I posted it or you thought it couldn’t help you. And throughout the guide, I explain how each week’s tips helped me drop the weight and keep it off this past year.
Now, this guide isn’t a magic bullet–you’ll still need to exercise and adopt a healthy, lower-calorie, lower-fat diet to reach your own personal weight-loss goal.
However, knowing how your hormones will be impacting your appetite, metabolism, energy, cravings, water retention and other factors that affect your weight can help you reach your goal faster and help you stick to your exercise and diet regimen so you don’t give up.
That’s because you’ll be aware of hormonal hurdles coming your way–like intense food cravings–so you can dodge them.
Plus, you’ll know when to take full advantage of hormonal benefits that make losing weight easier–for instance, by doing more aerobic exercise during the two weeks in your cycle when you burn up to 30% more fat when working out.
Read on to learn how to take advantage of your body’s hormonal benefits and sidestep hormonal diet saboteurs each week of your cycle–and find out how each week’s tips worked for me….
Week 1: Set your goals and get started
Day 1 (first day of period) to Day 7
While it’s true you may get off to a slow, tired, achy start due to your period, this week is actually perfect for starting–or rededicating yourself to–a weight-loss regimen. That’s because as estrogen rises throughout your Week 1, it boosts optimism and inner strength, making it easier create–and stick to–diet and exercise resolutions. Even better, cravings for sugary, salty, fatty and carb-rich foods that plagued you during the second half of your cycle due to progesterone ease up as this hormone makes a hasty exit. On top of that, research shows you’re naturally eating a little less now than you did during the second half of your cycle thanks to rising estrogen, which has a mild appetite-suppressing effect. While pep and endurance may start out low in the first half of this week, they grow in intensity by the second half thanks to rising estrogen, giving you more energy to work off the weight.
Your Week 1 weight-loss challenges: If you end up caving in to temptation by eating a food on your no-no list, rising estrogen is giving your brain a bigger feel-good buzz from it, making it difficult to cut yourself off before doing real damage to your calorie count. And if you’re bothered by menstrual cramps, you may be tempted to soothe away the pain with indulgent snacks.
To reach your weight-loss goal: Start by mapping clear, practical and attainable diet and exercise strategies–don’t let estrogen-fueled optimism let you bite off more than you can chew (ha ha) or you could give up altogether. Then, take advantage of these low-craving days by eating more high-nutrient, low-calorie foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein sources. Finally, monitor your eating habits (for instance, by eating mindfully or jotting down what you eat in a daily diary) to help you become more aware of when you’re about to go overboard with snacks or portion sizes. If you do tuck into your favorite munchies, use portion control dishes or dole out a small serving so you don’t accidentally eat more than you intended.
How I used these tips to drop 30+ pounds–and keep them off: At the start of every Week 1, I rededicate myself to my diet and exercise regimen, going over my goals and weight-loss plan, which for me include cutting down portion sizes (I admit that I don’t count calories–too many numbers to keep track of), not drinking my calories (bye-bye, cola and sweet tea) and exercising three to four hours per week at first while I was losing the weight, then about two to three hours weekly–when my back allows–for maintenance (I do high intensity intervals on the treadmill and use free weights). Because my rising estrogen energy kicks in pretty quickly in my Week 1, I also include more active tasks in my day, like walking my dogs and doing intensive housecleaning and/or gardening (again, when my back allows).
Week 2: Take action
Day 8 to Day 14 (or Ovulation Day in your cycle)
Peaking estrogen and testosterone amp up the positives from last week–you’re still enjoying a slight appetite-suppressing effect, you have loads of energy and endurance, and your optimism keeps you motivated about reaching your weight-loss goal. These rising hormones also make you more open to trying anything new, including healthy recipes and workout routines. This makes it a great week to amp up your efforts by joining a support group or exercise class, fitting in an extra workout and challenging yourself to swear off one high-calorie baddie altogether, like soda, full-fat ice cream or fried chips.
Your Week 2 weight-loss challenges: High hormones are also amping up all the negatives from last week–once you start munching, it may be difficult to keep calorie counts in check because these hormones make it taste so darned good. What’s more, you may feel so overly confident about reaching your goals that, if you do overindulge in calorie-rich foods, you’ll try to convince yourself you’ll be able to make up for it by cutting back on something else or exercising more. You have one more challenge to your weight goal this week: Peaking estrogen makes your stress response more intense, which can prompt the production of stress hormones, like cortisol, that trigger emotional eating and prompt your body to store fat rather than use it for fuel.
To reach your weight-loss goal: Continue monitoring your portion sizes. And, keep stress levels in check by taking a walk, meditating, practicing yoga, doing slow breathing exercises or sipping chamomile tea at the first sign of tension.
How I used these tips to drop 30+ pounds–and keep them off: During my Week 2, my hormone-fueled energy is through the roof. So, I add in more exercise days and do higher-intensity workouts when my back allows. However, I’ve done this almost to my detriment: On some days, I’ve gotten so enthusiastic, I’ve pushed myself too far, leading to soreness or injury that prevented me from working out the following days. So, be aware of this high-hormone hazard. I also eat less in my Week 2 because I know high estrogen is reining in my appetite. But, just like exercise, this can be taken to an extreme, so I make sure I still eat three square meals daily. They’re just smaller meals. To keep stress in check, I sip chamomile tea, take walks and use the Stress Releaser app that helps you slow your breathing while providing instant heart rate feedback results.
Week 3: Munchies vs. fat burn
Begins day after ovulation and lasts 8 days (that’s Day 15 to Day 22 in a 28-day cycle)
The excitement and confidence you had about your weight loss goal during the first two weeks of your cycle could be replaced by fear and self-doubt about not making any progress. That’s because estrogen and testosterone are plunging, taking your assuredness with them. What’s more, progesterone rises all throughout Week 3, and this prompts bloat by triggering constipation and water retention, making you feel like you packed on 10 pounds overnight. But, it’s not all bad news: Research shows that progesterone helps your body burn up to 30% more fat during aerobic exercise all throughout your Week 3 and most of your Week 4!
Your Week 3 weight-loss challenges: You may get suckered into thinking you blew your diet because the numbers on the scale stop moving or you put on one or two pounds this week. The constipation and water retention from rising progesterone are the likely culprits, which means the weight stagnation or gain is probably temporary. However, it’s still key to be mindful of what you’re eating since this hormone is also triggering cravings for sweets, carbs, fats and salty foods, making them more difficult to resist when you go grocery shopping, to the movies, parties or anywhere else munchies may be within easy reach. On top of that, this sedating hormone is making your energy drag, so you may not feel like getting up off the couch to exercise.
To reach your weight-loss goal: Combat a weight-loss stall by shedding those extra ounces from constipation with high-fiber foods (such as whole fruits, vegetables and grains) along with water. And try natural diuretics (such as asparagus, melon and dandelion tea as long you have no ragweed or rubber allergies) to eliminate water retention or sweat it out through exercise (never curtail your daily water intake to reduce bloat–dehydration doesn’t aid weight-loss and can actually worsen water retention). Also, try to avoid salt since it exacerbates bloat. As for cravings, when the urge hits, go for a short walk, play a video game or read for a few minutes. Research shows that distracting yourself for a short while helps you get past food yearnings so they fade without you giving in. Finally, motivate yourself to move by reminding yourself that your body burns 30% more fat during aerobic exercise. Then, take advantage of this biological blessing by doing fun activities that get your heart pumping, such as hopping on a bike or dancing.
How I used these tips to drop 30+ pounds–and keep them off: When rising progesterone lulls me to stay in bed when I should be hitting the gym, I just remind myself that this same hormone helps my body burn up to 30% more fat from exercise during this week and most of next week in my cycle. Most times, remembering this boosts my motivation to work out right up! However, when initially losing the weight, my motivation often came spiraling back down whenever I stepped on the bathroom scale: Like clockwork, every Week 3, the numbers would slow to a crawl…or not budge at all…no matter how much I ate healthy and exercised. But, I reminded myself over and over that this is the phase when progesterone-fueled water weight and constipation can really skew the numbers. And, virtually every time I waited till my Week 1 arrived again–and my body shed all that excess stuff it was holding onto–my weight would suddenly plunge. Patience and perseverance in this week and next week were seriously key. As for food cravings, I get my worst right at the start of my Week 3 as progesterone rises and estrogen plunges–that’s such a food craving double-whammy! So, this is the time in my cycle when I allow myself to indulge in one incredibly decadent treat, like a malted milkshake or a Cinnabon. And I eat it slowly and mindfully. This way, I get to enjoy something I absolutely love while still keeping overall calorie intake in check–so I don’t feel deprived or guilty.
Week 4: Final stretch
Final 6 days of your cycle
Okay, so cards on the table: This may be the most difficult week of your cycle when it comes to sticking to your diet. That’s because plunging estrogen drags down the feel-good brain chemical serotonin, which can sap willpower, make you feel like you somehow failed in your weight loss efforts and/or that you don’t see any positive changes in your body. If you can get past those negative feelings and not let them sabotage your goals, you can actually use your Week 4’s hormones to help you slim down faster. That’s because progesterone is still making your body burn up to 30% more fat during aerobic exercise up to two days before your period!
Your Week 4 weight-loss challenges: To make up for your lack of serotonin, your body will likely push your toward comforting carbs (such as cookies, bread, cake, pizza, etc.), because they boost serotonin levels back up. (Ever notice how grouchy people get while doing low-carb diets? Mystery solved.) Plunging estrogen is also making you more sensitive to aches and pains during your workout and driving down your pep and endurance. As a result, you may tire out easily or find it harder to do you usual exercise routine.
To reach your weight-loss goal: When you get a hankering for carbs, remind yourself that “simple” carbs (like sugar and white flour) aren’t the only serotonin-lifters around. Healthier carbs (like whole grain bread, brown rice and beans) also boost flagging serotonin back up. Even better, they’re filling and help stabilize blood sugar, so you’ll naturally eat less at meals. You’re still experiencing bloating and constipation due to progesterone, so continue with Week 3’s tips for combatting both. And, finally, if you feel like giving up altogether on your weight-loss goals, just remember it’s probably just due to plunging hormones. Try journaling your feelings or calling a friend for support. If you keep up the forward momentum, you’ll see in just a few short days you’ll be feeling optimistic and renewed about your weight-loss efforts once again.
How I used these tips to drop 30+ pounds–and keep them off: Knowing my body is still burning up to 30% more fat during exercise throughout most of my Week 4 keeps me motivated to go to the gym. And, if flagging estrogen saps my energy, I don’t feel like I need to push myself to do a marathon workout. I let my body be my guide. I can get food cravings during my premenstrual week, but they’re usually not as intense as they are when progesterone is rising in my Week 3. So, I allow myself something small, like two tiny “bite-sized” versions of candy bars, like Twix, and that usually banishes them completely. But, that may be because I already eat a lot of healthy serotonin-boosting carbs, such as beans and whole grains, as part of my vegetarian diet. Women who don’t get as much of these foods may have more intense food urges during this premenstrual week. During my initial weight loss, seeing those numbers on the bathroom scale remain at a standstill was tough and a bit demoralizing–but, as I mentioned before, once I reached my Week 1, without fail the numbers would suddenly drop and I’d see the results of all my hard work. So, I always kept reminding myself during my premenstrual Week 4: Patience is key!
I want to add that after reaching my goal weight–and successfully staying there for a few months–I have loosened up my diet and exercise regimen a bit. I allow myself to have a few more special treats–occasionally and within reason. For instance, I recently discovered Starbucks’ Mini Caramel Frappuccinos that are 120 calories and 1 gram of fat (without whipped cream). And, I wouldn’t dream of missing the annual cupcake competition in my hometown of Saint Petersburg, Florida (you can see in the pic all the delicious booty I got from this weekend’s cupcake festivities). Unfortunately, I’ve also been sidelined from my usual exercise routine for going on eight weeks now because of back trouble. However, I still don’t gain back the weight despite a few extra treats and my temporary exercise ban because I continue to adhere to the other Hormonology principles, which includes resetting weight goals and eating more mindfully in Week 1, eating smaller portions and lower-calorie foods in Week 2, allowing myself in a decadent treat in my Week 3 to satisfy progesterone-fueled cravings (these cupcakes were my Week 3 indulgence this cycle–perfect timing, right?) and eating healthy carbs (like beans and whole grains, which happily I love) in my Week 4 to balance serotonin and reduce plunging estrogen cravings.
I just want to show you that while I’m careful not to adopt the same unhealthy habits that had me piling on excess weight, I’m also not a slave to food and exercise, either. I’m just following the general healthy habits we all should all be following–but, getting a little help by tailoring them around the weeks in my monthly hormone cycle.
I hope these tips help you reach your weight-loss goal. Let me know if they worked for you!
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