Hormones matter: Doctor shares weight-loss advice for women after age 35 - TODAY
A new strategy for weight loss doesn't focus on working out more or limiting your portions: Instead, the method revolves around making sure you're eating the right food for your hormones.
Special anchor Maria Shriver spoke to physician and author Dr. Sara Gottfried about the tactic, which she says works especially well for women who are trying to lose weight for good.
"Your food actually regulates your hormones," Gottfried said. "So if you're trying to reduce calories, as an example, to manage your weight, that is a course of failure. Calories matter, but hormones matter more."
Gottfried said that instead of first thinking about hormones in their 50s and 60s, women should start thinking about them, especially in relation to their diet, at a much younger age. In her new book "Women, Food and Hormones," Gottfried laid out a four-week plan that can help women achieve hormonal balance, based on her own experience trying to lose weight.
"When I was in my 40s, I went on a ketogenic diet with my husband," Gottfried said. "He lost 20 pounds. I gained weight."
Gottfried added that it also is important to have a method that is specifically targeted to women, instead of treating all genders the same when it comes to weight loss.
"There's a bias when it comes to the research," said Gottfried. "We're completely different, we're not just men with breasts. We've got completely different hormone levels, so we have to eat in a way that helps those hormones."
52-year-old Anu French, a mother of two, said that during the pandemic she dealt with weight gain and the onset of menopause. She was diagnosed with prediabetes and high cholesterol, and she wanted to lose weight. French said that with Gottfried's protocol, she lost 40 pounds in three months and maintained the weight loss for a year.
"I was just feeling hope for the first time," French said. "Some of my menopause symptoms were already fading. I wasn't having the night sweats, I wasn't having the hot flashes in the daytime. I was feeling clearer and I was definitely feeling more energetic."
To determine if you have a hormone imbalance, ask your primary care provider about administering a simple blood test that can reveal that information.
Gottfried gave Shriver a list of foods that are good for maintaining those hormone levels during a visit to the supermarket. To balance insulin levels, the hormone that helps you regulate whether you store or burn fat, Gottfried recommends stocking up on dark, leafy greens, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, onions, and foods like avocados that are rich in healthy fats.
"You want to have 25 different types of vegetables per week," Gottfried explained, adding that things like eggplant, squash, zucchini, and bell peppers are "good for your hormones because it helps with balancing insulin."
Those vegetables are also packed with fiber, which Gottfried said can help you "with feeling like you're full longer."
Proteins like chicken, salmon, shrimp and scallops can help balance metabolic hormones, which are essential for losing weight.
As far as foods to avoid, Gottfried recommends staying away from things full of processed carbs and sugar, like pasta, corn, potatoes and alcohol. Some high-sugar fruits, like mango and pineapple, can get in the way of reaching your goal, though options like berries are good.
"(Sugar) spikes your glucose," Gottfried said. "It raises insulin, makes you store fat, especially belly fat."
One particular roadblock is eating out or ordering too much takeout.
"We want to be thinking about this," Gottfried said. "Is it related to the salt? Is it related to the industrial seed oils that are used? We don't really know."
While diet may be the biggest factor in balancing your hormones, Gottfried said that exercise matters too: Strength training and flexibility exercises can be "really good" as well.
Get the One Small Thing Newsletter!
Make a difference in your life, one small thing at a time.