Low carb diet and its affect on your hormones

Why Long-Term Success on a Low Carb Diet Can Be Challenging for Women

“I lost SO much weight when I was on a very low carb diet but I also lost my period and experienced symptoms of fatigue, crankiness, my skin breaking out and dizziness.”

Low carb diet and its effect on long term health and long term weight loss
Low carb diet can lead to feelings of fatigue, dizziness and crankiness.

Does this sound familiar?

Even though going low carb is a great way to lose weight quickly, it is NOT the best for your hormones or your body.

What is a low carb diet?

There is no set definition for a low carb diet, and the amount of carbs allowed per day on this eating style varies widely.

It’s also important to keep in mind that this is going to depend on what type of low carb diet, how long you followed the diet, and the health of the individual following it.

low carb diet or keto eliminates carbs and has risk on blood sugar levels
A low carb diet affects hormone health and your energy as the glucose from carbs is needed in normal functioning of the body.

How a low carb diet affects your hormones:

I am all in favor of minimizing sugar and simple carbs while increasing healthy fat and protein intake but some take a low carb diet approach too far. This is because when you cut on carbs, you are also cutting out on high-fiber foods like starchy vegetables, fruits and whole grains (reminder that fiber is only found in foods WITH carbs).

Here are the different ways a low carb diet can affect your hormones and ultimately, your health:

Cortisol: A very low carb diet is a form of stress on the body and can alter hormone production.

Drastically reducing carbs can cause cortisol levels to go up which can cause weight gain or make weight loss very difficult.

Those that cut carbs and still feel like they are not losing weight tend to reduce their intake even MORE thinking that they are just eating too much and that is NOT the case. Reducing your calories lowers your metabolism and causes even more hormonal issues in the long run. It is a cycle that can affect your weight and health so it is important to understand HOW to eat for a healthy weight loss.

Thyroid: Thyroid hormones are essential in maintaining and regulating metabolism (1).

However, glucose, which is the energy you get from the breakdown of carbs is required to fuel the production of thyroid hormones. This is because the parts of the brain responsible for thyroid hormone regulation require glucose to function.

In other words, carbohydrates impact the two main thyroid hormones T3 and T4. These hormones are responsible for regulating metabolism and energy levels. When calorie or carbohydrate intake is too low, studies show that T3 levels can drop and this can reduce thyroid function and can lead to symptoms of weight gain and fatigue.

Endocrine function: A diet too low in carbs can lower blood sugars too low which can throw off normal insulin production.

This can lead to dizziness and irritability. And because the body has systems in place to try and keep things balanced, when blood sugars are low and you are not providing the body with carbs,  cortisol takes over and raises blood sugars.

And as you know by now, this is putting the body under more stress. Chronically high levels of cortisol can lead to adrenal fatigue, increased risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis.

Skin health: Your skin health says a lot about what’s going on in your gut and your hormones.

As mentioned earlier, when you reduce the amount of carbs you eat, you are also reducing the fiber you are eating. Fiber is imperative to your gut health because fiber is the FOOD for that healthy gut bacteria. When your gut health is suffering, it shows up in different areas like your skin, bowel movements, energy, and hormone production.

Your gut is considered the second brain for a reason. It plays a major role in your overall health and energy and when you are not feeding it right, it shows!

How to incorporate carbs in a way that supports your hormones

1. Focus on high-fiber carbs from nutrient-dense foods.

What are nutrient-dense foods? Nutrient-dense foods are those that contain a higher level of vitamins and minerals than other foods.

High-fiber nutrient-dense foods are your fruits, veggies, whole grains and legumes.

Fiber helps with hormonal balance because it slows down digestion and balances blood sugar levels. It prevents blood sugar levels from spiking and crashing due to its slowed digestion time.

Choosing carbs with at least 5 grams or more fiber per serving is best. However, this won’t always be possible and that’s okay. Take the time to familiarize yourself with high-fiber foods and make a list so next time you go grocery shopping you know you are choosing high-fiber.

Some high-fiber foods:

  • Beans and lentils
  • Broccoli
  • Berries
  • Avocados
  • Popcorn
  • Whole Grains
  • Apples
  • Dried Fruits
  • Nuts

 

high-fiber carbohydrates are important in sustainable weight loss and health
For long term weight loss and hormone health, learn to incorporate high-fiber carbs while increasing protein and healthy fats

2. Eat them with protein

It’s always wise to compliment your carb choices with protein and healthy fats. This also helps balance blood sugars and keeps insulin from spiking. Although proteins are broken down similarly to carbohydrates, they have a minimal effect on blood glucose levels.

Plant-based protein:

  • Beans
  • Hummus
  • Lentils
  • Peas
  • Edamame
  • Tofu
  • Tempeh

Animal-based protein:

  • eggs
  • Meat
  • Seafood
  • Poultry

3. Eat them with a healthy fat

Adding a healthy fat to your high-fiber/protein snack or meal is going to help keep you satisfied, curb cravings and again, balance hormones.

 Fat has little and sometimes no effect on blood glucose levels. However, this does not mean you can eat as much as you want. It is so easy to over consume fats, even if they are healthy. Fats contain 9 calories per gram versus 4 calories per gram in protein and carbs. 

Sources of healthy fats:

  • Avocado
  • Cheese
  • Whole eggs
  • Fatty fish
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Olive, peanut, and canola oils

Bottom line:

Carbs are super important for your overall health and wellbeing. This is especially true for women because complex carbs help regulate their hormones so your body can be operating at its best. However, it is also important to keep in mind that there are some people that may benefit from a reduced carbohydrate diet. This is why it’s important to work with a dietitian to find something that fits your unique body and lifestyle and provide professional guidance that is supportive of your body.

 

 

 

Weight loss dietitian sitting on kitchen counter drinking water

How Much Weight Can You Lose in a Month? A Healthy Weight Loss Plan 

I’m sure you’ve seen those magazines that feature celebrity stories of rapid weight loss and the step-by-step meal plan on “how to lose 10 pounds in 10 days.”

Yeah, those don’t work (as I’m sure you know).

Instead of asking yourself “how fast can I drop these 20 pounds?” I want you to change the question to:

“What changes do I need to make daily that will help me lose the weight safely and actually keep that weight off?”

 

Weight loss dietitian cutting an apple
Weight loss that lasts does not have to feel impossible

So let’s get right in to it!

How much weight can you lose in a month ?

A good rule of thumb is to drop 0.5-2 pounds per week.

But know that there WILL be weeks where you don’t drop any weight AND there will be weeks where the scale spikes a little – and that is NORMAL!

In order to lose 1 pound of fat, you must expend or burn off about 3,500 more calories than you eat each week.

This requires you to drop your current energy intake by 500 calories per day.

Before you panic, there are ways to reduce your intake by 500 calories without feeling hungry or even needing to count calories.

Remember, the slower the weight loss, the more likely you will keep it off.

Woman stepping on a scale to see weight loss

How Much Weight Can You Lose in a Month?

A healthy rate of weight loss is different from the maximum amount of weight you can lose in one month, as rapid weight loss isn’t always sustainable long term.

Focus on ADDING non-starchy veggies in most of your meals

Non-starchy veggies are satiating and they fill you up with more volume and fewer calories. 

Examples of non-starchy vegetables include leafy greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, mushrooms, carrots, bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, and asparagus.

Fill half of your plate (or more if you want) with non-starchy vegetables, like salads or sautéed veggies.

Make sure there is protein at all of your meals and snacks

Including protein at every meal helps keep you full and satisfied for longer periods of time!

Protein is also important during weight loss because it preserves muscle mass during periods of caloric restriction.

Examples include grilled chicken, turkey, fish, shrimp, other seafood, eggs, tofu, and seitan.

Aim to fill one-fourth of your plate with protein-rich foods.

Swap some of your carbs to fiber-rich carbs 

Fiber is found in many different kinds of food but is especially abundant in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Eating more fiber is one of the most freeing ways to lose weight because you can be generous with your portions!

Additionally, they are loaded with nutrients giving your body the nutrition it needs to function properly while helping you lose weight without the restriction that often comes with dieting.

Fiber-rich foods include whole-grain spaghetti, lentils, beans, and peas.

Aim to fill ¼ of your plate with fiber-rich carbs.

Make time for regular movement and exercise

You need to get that movement in, sister!

Aim for at least 20 minutes a day and bonus points if you go outside to get that movement in.

My favorite underrated form of movement is walking. Don’t overcomplicate it because that’s when the excuses start coming up 🙂

Finally, allow flexibility into your meals for long term weight loss

It is so important if you are looking for long term weight loss that you allow flexibility into your day. The more rigid and strict you are with your diet, the less likely you will actually stick to it.

When you eat more fiber and protein during your meals, it helps to balance hormones which in turn leads to less cravings and fewer mindless snacking.

Filling your meals with nutritious foods ensures you are getting the nutrients your body needs to function properly and curb cravings because many times cravings are your body’s way of telling you to 1. Eat more food or 2. Eat more nutritious foods.

Bottom line, you do not want to lose weight rapidly and the goal is never to lose weight through restriction and strict dieting.

You really want to focus on losing weight in a HEALTHY way that improves your health, energy, mood and life.

My clients love how simple but effective this method is of being able to eat more food and still be in a calorie deficit without counting calories.

Send me a message on Instagram and let me know if this was helpful for you and which step you need to focus on!

 

Hormones and Weight Loss

Your weight is largely controlled by hormones.

Research shows that hormones influence your appetite and how you store fat.

This blog is going to discuss four main hormones and their effect on your weight.

Leptin

This is a hormone that reduces hunger.

Leptin levels are directly correlated with body fat levels. This means that as the amount of body fat increases, so does the level of leptin, therefore suppressing hunger.

You might be thinking, “Well if leptin suppresses hunger with higher body fat, why are people still struggling with weight loss?”

A concept known as leptin resistance, happens when people have normal or increased levels of leptin but the feeling of hunger persists and they do not decrease food intake. 

This is because the body stops responding to the hormone due to overstimulation.

Insulin

This hormone is similar to leptin in that insulin suppresses hunger and insulin levels increase in proportion to body fat.

Insulin is the hormone that manages your blood sugar levels.

One of its key roles is to move glucose (and nutrients) from the bloodstream into cells. Consuming excess calories, especially from high-carb, sugary foods—triggers an insulin response and the excess calories get converted into body fat.

As body fat increases, the body’s insulin response starts to malfunction, progressing from insulin sensitivity to insulin resistance.

At the insulin resistance stage, cells stop responding effectively to insulin and this is when you may be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Ghrelin

You know when you feel physically hungry? That is Ghrelin stimulation happening in the stomach.

This hormone secretion increases between meals when the stomach is empty and falls when hunger is reduced. 

Interestingly, with increased body fat, the reduction of ghrelin does not occur and may contribute to overeating. 

Furthermore, when you go on a restrictive diet and you drastically cut calories, ghrelin actually INCREASES.

That means when the body is in a state of eating a low-calorie diet, you feel hungrier.  This is a survival mechanism and it is your body’s way of protecting you.

Engaging in restricting calories, yo-yo diets, or crash diets will increase the levels of ghrelin in your body, which again, makes you hungry and all the more difficult to stick to a low-calorie diet.

Cortisol

Cortisol is one of the body’s primary stress hormones and it triggers “fight-or-flight” mode.

This hormone affects every cell in the body and it is a catabolic hormone. This means that it breaks down fat and protein into their building blocks to fuel the body during stress, infection, illness, etc. 

While this process is essential for survival situations, it also increases your appetite.

Elevated cortisol levels can cause cravings for sweet, fatty and salty foods because your body is looking for a quick source of fuel to cope with the breakdown of nutrients in the body.

Cortisol also affects fat distribution by causing fat to be stored centrally around the organs and your belly area.

This distribution of fat leads to an increase in health issues like high cholesterol, inflammation, heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

In fact, when you have fat around the belly, it’s a lot worse than having the same amount of fat around the hip.

So what does all of this information mean to you?

Using willpower and trying to drastically reduce calories in order to lose weight does not work long-term because of your hormones. In other words, those crazy trendy diets do not work.

The good news is, you can lose weight in a way where you are eating plenty of food and nutrients while losing weight HEALTHILY and SLOWLY.

Want to learn how?

You can check out my Instagram and you can read these articles: this one and this one are a great starting place.

And if you’re someone who is looking to find support in weight loss, then you may benefit from working with a Registered Dietitian (RD). An RD can help you create a specific and unique-to-you plan. I am always here to support you, so head to my WORK WITH ME page to learn more about becoming a client.

 

How to Stop Late-Night Snacking

Late-night snacking is one of the biggest struggles I hear from my clients.

And probably one of the most common reasons for weight gain over time.

If you find yourself feeling bored after the kids have gone to bed or you want a “late-night reward” for being an amazing mom and handling all of the tantrums, trust me, I GET IT!

But, late night eating isn’t the best way to handle these emotions and I am going to share a few ways to reduce late night snacking so you can sleep better AND feel better the next day.

When I first became a mom, it was very important to me to relax with my husband and spend quality time with him after my son had gone to bed. Even though that is still VERY important in my house, the late-night eating had to stop.

I would wake up in the middle of the night feeling terrible, or even worse, I would have the hardest time falling asleep because I was uncomfortable.

Then, the weight started to creep on slowly and that’s when I made the decision to stop this habit in it’s tracks and realign with behaviors that made me feel good physically and mentally.

Here are my top tips for reducing the late-night snacking and eating. Keep in mind it is not “bad” to enjoy a snack late at night because it feels good for you but if it is affecting your sleep and your health that’s when you might want to take a look at this behavior and come up with ways that serves you and are good for you.

1. Eat regular, balanced meals and snacks throughout the day.

This means including fiber, protein, and healthy fats.

  • Aim for 20-30 grams of fiber a day;
  • Eat at least 20 grams of protein at every meal (this number will vary and I highly recommend speaking to a Registered Dietitian if you have specific health conditions);
  • A serving size of healthy fats at every meal (around 10-15 grams)

2. Limit ultra-processed foods to help reduce cravings for late-night snacking.

    • This is candy, sodas, cookies, chocolate bars, juice, cakes, etc.
    • When you eat ultra-processed foods, your blood sugar spikes then crashes. This leads to an imbalance of hormones and feelings of fatigue and hunger which makes you crave more ultra-processed foods!!
    • The sugar crash sends a signal to your brain that you need more energy and the fastest way to get that energy in is by eating those simple carbs and ultra-processed foods.

 

3. Prioritize your sleep for reduced late-night snacking.

I know you may find this tip a little lame but the quality and quantity of sleep can have a HUGE effect on your hormones, especially your hunger hormones.

Studies have shown that lack of sleep increases ghrelin (hormone that makes you feel hungry) and decreases leptin (hormone that makes you feel satisfied).

4. Find an alternative to those late-night snack attacks!

I LOVE tea and there are SO many kinds of dessert teas that taste DELICIOUS and feel like a treat. You can try doing this for a few nights a week and see how you feel.

I started with 2 nights a week and I started to look forward to relaxing on the couch with a warm drink with my husband after the kids have gone to bed.

It is really nice and it helps me wind down before bed. It really sets the mood.

If you want to indulge in a late-night snack, that is 100% okay, too!!

Here are a few tips for that:

  1. Make sure you are not physically hungry. If you are then you probably need to eat more balanced meals during the day or add a protein and fiber during dinner to help keep you feeling full.
  2. Choose options that provide you with nourishment like fruit and nuts/nut butter, carrots and cucumber with hummus dip, peanut butter spread on celery sticks and topped with raisins, cheese, dried fruits with crackers or maybe even cheese with nuts.
  3. If you want something a little less nourishing, totally fine too! Make sure it is coming from a place of decision-making versus mindless eating. Make the decision to have a treat late at night and make room for it during your day.

Remember, these foods are not off-limits or restricted. On the contrary, make these food choices from an empowered state-of-mind versus feeling out of control around these foods!

If this is something you need help with, make sure to apply to my 1:1 program. We cover late-night snacking and more! Feel free to send me a message on Instagram if you want more details.

Artificial Sweeteners and Weight Loss

Are artificial sweeteners a good alternative for regular sugar?

Artificial sweeteners provide desirable sweetness without the added calories. There are different brands and types of artificial sweeteners. Some of the most common brand names are Stevia, Sweet and Low, Truvia, Splenda, and Equal.

Sweeteners contain zero calories because our bodies can not metabolize these sugars. In other words, our body does not digest or absorb it.

Artificial sweeteners are almost double in sweetness than regular sugar. For example, saccharin (a type of artificial sweetener) is about 200 to 700 times sweeter than regular sugar and contains no calories.

However, even though artificial sweeteners are calorie-free, research shows that these sweeteners have controversial health effects in the long run.

Additionally, the chemical changes that occur in the body as you consume these sugar substitutes changes your taste buds. Long term use of alternative sweeteners can cause sweet foods, such as fruits, to taste less sweet because of these changes. 

Studies have also shown that those who use artificial sweeteners do not end up losing weight compared to those that consume regular sugar.

Research is still being done on artificial sweeteners and its risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

However, artificial sweeteners can be consumed in moderation for those that want a low-calorie sweetener occasionally. The U.S. FDA stated that sugar substitutes are safe when consumed within the Acceptable Daily Intake.

My personal opinion is to learn to eat your favorite sweet foods in moderation rather than trying to substitute it with an artificial sweetener. Many people believe that just because they are using a zero-calorie option they can eat more of it. This is why most people who eat “fat-free” and “sugar-free” options may end up gaining weight instead of losing weight.

The best option is to enjoy regular non-diet options occasionally.

Permanent weight loss requires you to understand your eating behaviors and developing coping mechanisms that have a true impact on the rest of your life.

If this is something you want help with, click here to apply to my high-touch 1:1 program.

The program is created specifically for moms that are struggling with balancing their health, weight loss goals and motherhood. I can help you lose weight for the last time, reclaim your life, and reprogram your thoughts around your body and food without cutting out any of your favorite foods.

 

 

Weight loss dietitian sitting on kitchen counter drinking water

Build Your Meals For Sustainable Weight Loss

Weight loss can be simple and you don’t need to count calories if you understand the way your body digests different nutrients.

Your weight loss efforts need to be sustainable and last long term and it all comes down to adding 3 key nutrients.

The biggest mistake I see happening is women will overly restrict their calories  and get into a cycle of feeling stressed and overwhelmed around food.

This leads to a negative body image, worsening of their relationship with food, and eventually regaining all their weight back. 

I am going to share with you the exact formula I use with clients to help them lose weight without cutting out their favorite foods or obsessing over calorie-counting.

  1. Aim for 20-30 grams of fiber a day
  2. Eating at least 20 grams of protein at every meal (this number will depend on many factors)
  3. A serving size of healthy fats at every meal (around 10-15 grams)

Learning to balance your meals with fiber, protein and healthy fats will help keep you satisfied and full and balances your blood sugar which helps curb cravings.

These 3 nutrients work together to help you lose weight in a healthy, sustainable way while nourishing your body.

Let’s talk about the details of each nutrient:

Fiber & Weight Loss

Fiber is a type of carbohydrate… yes you heard me right, it’s a carb. Don’t be drawn by all the fad diets that hate on carbs, carbs are good for you! They are your body’s main energy source, so you need them for your daily activities.

There are 2 types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber is great for digestion, lowering cholesterol, and regulating blood sugar while insoluble fiber attracts water into your stool, making it softer and easier to pass with less strain on your bowel.

Sources of soluble fiber include: oats, apples, beans, and nuts

Sources of insoluble fiber include: whole wheat bread, legumes, and brown rice.

Both are equally important for your digestive health and your overall body.

Fiber acts like a sponge in the stomach drawing in water and making the food like a gel which helps you feel full. This leaves you feeling full for longer between meals which in turn helps regulate weight loss. 

Aim for 20-30 grams of fiber per day which can easily be achieved by switching some of your food staples like white rice to brown rice or adding fruits or vegetables to your meals.

Tips for increasing fiber in your diet:

  • Replace white bread, rice, and pasta with whole wheat
  • Eat fruits and vegetables with skin on
  • Add in lentils, beans, couscous, or any legumes to your dish at least 2 or 3 times a week

 

Protein

When you hear protein, you think of meat and chicken… but did you know that lots of plant foods contain protein too like lentils and beans?

I recommend eating at least 20 grams of protein at most of your meals or aiming for 1/4 of your plate of protein. 

Food sources include: meat, chicken, turkey, eggs, fish, dairy products (milk, cheese, whey), legumes, nuts, seeds, quinoa, tofu, whole grains, leafy greens, soy, and hemp seeds.

 

Healthy Fat

Healthy fats help insulate and protect your bones and organs, aids in absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A, D, E, K, supports hormone production and keeps you full.

A serving size of healthy fats at every meal would look like a tablespoon of olive oil on a salad or a handful of almonds as a snack.

Food sources include: olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, nut butters.

If you have a hard time staying motivated to lose weight, make sure to check out this blog post I wrote a few weeks ago!

Here is a 4-part reel series I created on Instagram if you want more details!

Part 1: Fiber and weight loss https://www.instagram.com/reel/COk9aVrlER7/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

Part 2: Protein and weight loss  https://www.instagram.com/reel/CO0bq2ZFKtD/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

Part 3: Healthy fat and weight loss https://www.instagram.com/reel/CPGb9mdlXqb/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

Part 4: Putting it all together https://www.instagram.com/reel/CPYfQbclcdz/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link 

 

 

 

Weight loss dietitian standing in kitchen

How to Stay Consistent With Your Weight Loss Goals

Staying consistent with your eating habits is the hardest part of maintaining weight loss results for the long term.

In today’s blog, we are going to talk about three things that can help you stick to your weight loss goals.

When you first start out on your healthy eating journey, you are extremely motivated and you promise yourself that this is it. This time you will stay motivated and consistent and you won’t give up.

After a few weeks, that motivation dies off and you are left feeling bored, tired, and unmotivated.

I am going to share with you two things that have helped keep me consistent with my healthy eating for years now and has kept the weight off.

 

Friday Planning.

I used to try to plan for my upcoming week on Sundays but Sunday would roll around and I would make some excuse to not do it.

Sundays are my days to kick back and relax.

Once I realized that Sundays just do not work for me or my schedule, I decided to change it up.

Every Friday before I dive into the weekend, I sit down for 20 minutes and plan the upcoming week’s meals. I don’t always prepare the meals ahead of time, but I will ALWAYS pull out a piece of paper and pen and plan.

Just knowing what I am making for lunches and dinners throughout the week relieves me of so much stress and last-minute decision making.

So if you have a hard time planning your week’s meals, then take a look at the day you are trying to get it done.

Sometimes the days you have set to meal prep and meal plan just do not work with your current schedule.

You can plan at any time in the week that best fits your busy life.

Weight loss dietitian planning her week in advance

Motivation and Weight Loss.

Waiting on motivation to lose weight and stick with your healthy eating habits can quickly turn into excuses.

I talk about this all the time on my Instagram stories.

It’s not that you don’t have the time or resources to stick to your weight loss goals. How do I know that? Because when you were motivated, you had those things.

 

Waiting on the idea that motivation is needed to get things done is just an excuse.

Making excuses and waiting to feel motivated is easier than doing the work. But when you’re not doing the work guess what happens?

Nothing happens. You stay where you are.

So what you need instead is discipline. No one is coming to do it for you.

How to become disciplined?

First things first.

 

Know your obstacles when it comes to weight loss.

By knowing what is holding you back from sticking to your goals, you can navigate those.

For example, let’s say you know that your infant wakes up during the night and you plan on working out at 5 AM.

You already know that this is something that you have tried before and it doesn’t work with your current schedule.

So it doesn’t make sense to keep planning your workouts at 5AM. This ends up making you feel guilty when the issue was that you just didn’t plan it right.

Instead, schedule it at a different time. Find a time where you are feeling more energized and one that makes more sense in your day.

You have removed the obstacle and made it easier for you to commit to the workout.