You may be wondering what your gut health has to do with weight loss resistance.
However, the two actually have quite a big connection with one another because your digestive system communicates and interacts with every other system of the body every day.
This communication has a major impact on what your hormonal system is doing, which in turn massively impacts on whether you are gaining or losing weight. When poor habits are maintained for too long, certain changes in the nervous, digestive, and hormonal systems can kick in. These changes encourage weight gain, thus making it difficult to lose weight. Consequently, if you have been struggling to lose weight, the key just may be in your gut.
Your Nervous System
Our nervous systems are divided into two main branches: the sympathetic, or “fight or flight,” part is responsible for releasing stress hormones that get our bodies ready to run as quick as possible when we are in danger or ready to fight if we have to fight for our lives.
These days, the threat of a dangerous, fanged predator lying in wait for us in the grass is very small, meaning it is unlikely we will ever face that threat. Nowadays, we have a long list of other stressors that put us in fight or flight mode before we even catch a glimpse of a predator, real or imaginary. Sound familiar? It is easy to get stressed if you’re stuck in traffic; lack of sleep; arguing with family or friends; and bottling up the anger and frustration you feel about your boss, job, or perhaps your marriage; etc. Constant calorie deprivation, yo-yo dieting, and excessive cardio exercise (such as running) may not be thought of as stressors, but they do hold huge sway over the sympathetic branch of our nervous system.
The parasympathetic branch of our nervous system, on the other hand, is known as the “rest and digest” part of the nervous system. It helps you feel relaxed and chill out.
It keeps us from lashing out and helps you bite your tongue when you feel like snapping at someone. It ensures proper digestive function and helps the brain orchestrate hormonal balance. Without good parasympathetic nervous-system function, we are more prone to tummy aches, acid reflux, indigestion, diarrhoea, and other digestive disturbances. Over time, digestion can become impaired, resulting in malabsorption of nutrients, excessive inflammation in the digestive tract, and even leaky gut.
Why Continual Dieting and Over-Training is Not Good
The two branches or nervous system, the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches, are always in relative balance, like a seesaw. But…guess what? If you are always following a low-calorie diet and exercising excessively, the seesaw will begin to tip toward the sympathetic nervous system. If this imbalance persists for months and years, you are paving the way to sympathetic dominance—as if you have an elephant sitting on one end of your nervous system and a Chihuahua on the other. At this point, you will most likely have noticed that “what used to work before” isn’t working now, and you are not losing any weight. You may even be gaining some weight, in spite of your best efforts. On top of all that, you are probably noticing that you are:
- feeling tired and sluggish
- not thinking clearly
- skin may not look as good as it used to
- taking longer to recover from injuries and workouts
- catching colds more frequently
- experiencing GI symptoms that you never had before—bloating, burping
- experiencing premenstrual symptoms that you have not had previously
- no longer menstruating
Our Simplest Tips for Repairing Metabolic Damage
To help fix a broken metabolism, the nervous system needs to be rebalanced, whilst at the same time repairing the gastrointestinal system. As you begin to soothe your irritated brain and nervous system, your GI system begins to properly absorb nutrients once again and become fully functional on all levels. The body can then begin to manufacture and become sensitive to hormones again so that they can do their job optimally. This will then get the scale moving the way you want it to.
Manipulating Your Diet
With a reduction in cardio exercise, you may need to reduce caloric intake in order to prevent the weight fluctuations that are so common with this condition.
The easiest foods to trim back are calorie-dense items such as nuts, coconut products, and carbohydrates. Over time, weight fluctuations will stabilize as your gastrointestinal and hormonal systems normalize.
Changing Your Lifestyle Habits
The core issue of metabolic damage stems from an over stimulation of the nervous system’s sympathetic branch and a relative suppression of the parasympathetic branch. Bringing these two branches into a more functional relationship is crucial to healing the metabolism. Here are several strategies to help achieve this goal:
Stop excessive exercise
Stop doing excessive cardiovascular exercise. Aerobic exercise is not inherently bad, of course, but it can aggravate an already overstimulated nervous system.
Replace jogging with outdoor walks
A long, outdoor walk helps to increase the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system and releases feel-good hormones. It also helps burn fat without the dysfunction caused by over-exercising.
Less cardio, more weights
Weight training helps balance the nervous system, challenges the heart, and improves blood-sugar control, leading to better body composition (i.e. the amount of lean mass you have in relation to fat mass).
Get a good sleep pattern
Ditch your night-owl habit, if it is possible. Staying up late stimulates the release of stress hormones that trigger the fight or flight response from your nervous system. Your bedroom should be dark and cool, without electronics and lights beeping and blinking at you. You may even want to consider using a fan or air filter to supply white noise.