Women, Food and Hormones, a book by Dr. Sara Gottfried, is a medical tour de force.
It’s especially valuable for those of us stuck in a healthcare system that focuses its scientific thought, resources, and trials on men.
How to Lose Weight
Gottfried teaches us much about the ins-and-outs of weight loss and gain, and specifically, how to reset the hormones of weight, appetite, and set point.
My favorite ideas of hers are on the hormones ghrelin, leptin, and adiponectin which I will outline below.
Hormones and Hunger
According to Dr. Gottfried, “hormones drive what you’re interested in, and food is no exception.”
Below I outline her views on the most common hormone imbalances that interfere with:
Free exclusive eBook, plus recipes and health tips, delivered to your inbox.
- Normal Eating
- Weight Loss/Gain
- Fat Storage
- Set Point
The Hunger Hormone: Ghrelin
Let’s start with ghrelin, the hunger hormone.
Gottfried states that, “ghrelin is called the hunger hormone because it tells you when to pick up your fork and start eating. Ghrelin is the counter hormone to leptin.
The more ghrelin in your system, the hungrier you are.”
On the other hand, Gottfried explains, leptin is the hormone for satiation.
Leptin tells your body to “put down the fork.”
Your fat cells secrete leptin which regulates :
- Energy Expenditure
Leptin tells the body how and when to burn energy.
According to Gottfried: based on your leptin pathway, you may have a fast or slow metabolism at rest.
Gottfried states: “when you eat a typical Western diet high in sugar and saturated fat, your cells are at risk of becoming numb to the leptin signal, so your fat cells start to overproduce it, making you inflamed and then more fat by lowering adiponectin.
The more fat cells your body makes, the hungrier you get as the fat cells crave fuel for their survival.
When leptin is in control, you feel satisfied with more modest portions of food, i.e., the right amount for your set point.
Fat Burning: Adiponectin
I was not familiar with the hormone adiponectin until I read Dr. Gottfried’s book, Women, Food, and Hormones.
Adiponectin tells your body to burn fat. Think about it, the word “adipose” stands for fat tissue.
The relationship between adiponectin and fat is inverse –the more fat you have, the lower your adiponectin levels.
This is not a good thing.
Further issues arise due to the fact that when adiponectin decreases, inflammation rises.
Conversely, as adiponectin increases, you not only burn more fat, but inflammation decreases.
Gottfried summarizes the powers of this critical hormone by stating that when you lack adequate adiponectin, you have great difficulty melting fat and staying lean.
Tips on How to Reset Your Hormones
Gottfried analyzes pathways and problems, but also provides the solutions below.
Here are her tips on how to reset hormones of:
- Set Point
Good Night Sleep Tight
Let’s start with sleep. Gottfried recommends more sleep to reset the following hormones to their optimum levels:
She goes on to say that if you have one night of poor quality sleep, you will temporarily worsen your insulin and prediabetes, so it’s even more important to eat well the next day.
Like me, Gottfried is not a fan of sleep deprivation.
She recommends aiming for 7 to 8.5 hours per night, I find I do well with 9 to 10 hours given how active I am throughout the day as well as dealing with fatigue from MS.
For more information on sleep check out the following blog posts:
Fiber is a very underrated food. It serves two incredibly important functions in the body.
First, fiber helps with digestion –one common cause of constipation is a diet low in fiber.
The other critical function of fiber is satiation –fiber fills us up!
Fiber Rich Food
I’m a fiber-aholic, keeping my fiber intake on the high side by eating a plant based diet filled with vegetables.
One of our favorite fiber rich foods is my BBQ Kale Chips recipe, pictured above.
Here are some other fiber sources I like to lean on:
Bone Broth Smoothie
I add psyllium and baobab to my daily Bone Broth Smoothie –its base is made with Kettle & Fire Bone Broth and it’s super easy to whip up.
Sometimes I throw in a bit of inulin as well.
Head over to Instagram for the full recipe. I love bone broth protein because it’s made of collagen, a substance that makes our bones denser and our skin more supple.
Chia Seed Chocolate Pudding
A couple of other great sources of fiber? Chia and flax!
Recipes with chia seed are great for increasing your fiber intake.
My beloved Chocolate Chia Pudding is a delicious low carb high fiber dessert, as is my recipe for Flaxmeal Tea in Paleo Cooking from Elana’s Pantry.
I also want to mention that chia fiber is one of the best constipation relievers out there.
Chia Seed in Water
Just be sure to hydrate the chia seeds with water hot off the boil and let them sit for a couple of hours to unlock the incredible soluble fiber. Drink it down –slime and all!
Go Slow with Fiber
Be careful with fiber! It’s important to build up slowly, as it can have the opposite effect on your bowels if you take too much too quickly.
Chia Seed Constipation
Further, always take your fiber with an adequate amount of water so that it doesn’t build up in a concrete-like way in your digestive system, slowing everything down, i.e., creating constipation.
Fiber Controls Appetite
Why all this fiber? In addition to creating a feeling of fullness and promoting gut motility, Gottfried states that adding extra fiber to your diet helps to lower:
That’s why I have provided so many ways for you to easily increase your fiber intake above.
How to Hydrate Fast
Not surprisingly, Gottfried is a fan of hydration. So am I.
While water is critical for proper hydration, electrolytes are also important.
That’s why when I want to hydrate fast and properly, I drink my water with electrolytes.
I use LMNT to keep my electrolytes balanced because it provides the following critical minerals in the proper doses:
The danger of overhydrating without electrolytes is that you can water down the electrolyte balance in your bloodstream which is dangerously unhealthy.
Overhydration is referred to as hyponatremia –as you can see from the image above, this is something I’ve slightly suffered from.
If you’re concerned about experiencing hyponatremia, leave a comment and let me know if you’d like me to create a homemade electrolyte supplement recipe.
Magnesium Benefits for Women
How does increasing your magnesium levels contribute to weight loss?
Gottfried states that upping magnesium intake raises adiponectin and lowers inflammation.
You can do this with foods such as:
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Leafy Greens -spinach, kale, arugula, etc.
- Supplements -I love Mag Mind pictured above
I take Mag Mind because it contains magnesium threonate.
This type of magnesium doesn’t pass right through you (creating gut motility), but instead is well absorbed by the nervous system.
Morning Coffee Without Caffeine
Gottfried recommends limiting or removing caffeine because in excess this substance raises cortisol levels, and increased cortisol can lead to increased appetite.
Instead of traditional coffee with caffeine, I drink Dandelion Coffee when I’m craving a hot drink with a good hit of bitter.
Dandelion root is a great liver cleanser.
Intermittent Fasting Results
Gottfried recommends intermittent fasting to help lower insulin and your set point. I have a great article for you with detailed information on how to get good fasting results.
How Often Should You Eat?
According to Gottfried, to repair leptin and insulin, stop the snacking –I like this because I think of it as training your body for more serious fasting with mini-fasts.
She suggests eating three meals a day and rather than snacking, have a glass of water, then ask yourself: am I hungry, angry, lonely, or tired?
Gottfried also recommends not eating more frequently than every 4 to 6 hours on the days you’re not fasting to help optimize insulin and leptin.
How To Get Your Body to Burn Stored Fat
Gottfried states that it is optimal to exercise wisely for a minimum of 30 mins, 4x a week, going on to say that exercise has been shown to lower leptin, raise adiponectin, lower insulin, and burn fat.
I have a fabulous post on gentle exercise called Walking It’s Free that speaks to this.
Balancing Hormones for Weight Loss
I hope this summary of Dr. Gottfried’s fabulous book Women, Food and Hormones as well as my personal perspective and ideas for biohacking your routines have been helpful.
Let me know if you have any questions or leave a comment to share your ideas!
Would LOVE a HM hydration recipe!!! I’m try to stay away from prepackaged foods. Love chocolate but I also heard recently about what u are saying about caffeine but I would love to try the chocolate bone broth smoothie. Thanks for all ur great info all the time!
Karen, just click the link in the post to get the smoothie recipe. I’m working on the HM electrolytes :-)
Sheila Mennear says
Hi Elana. I had your 2 books before I subscribed to your newsletter. They were in line with my research looking for a way to get rid of Type 2 diabetes and lose weight. MIssion accomplished. I never thought of recharging my electrolytes though. You mention a recipe for increasing them. It would be wonderful if you would print it for us. I already take magnesium – for leg cramps and for constipation. It works well but I’d like that recipe please. Thank you for your time.
Sheila, I’m getting busy on the recipe :-)
I’d love a homemade electrolytes recipe
Kenzi, you got it. Stay tuned :-)
I would love an electrolyte balancing recipe. I drink a gallon of water daily . I love your posts and recipes,
Lana, I drink a lot of water too! Working on the recipe :-)
I have had hyponatremia for many years and have had doctors suggest that I eat more salt, drink less water or eat more protein. Please create a homemade electrolyte supplement recipe.
I have loved your post today, printed off many of the recipes and looked up the recipe for flax meal tea from your cookbook. Thank you !!
Sue, will do! So glad to hear you loved this post :-)
Kevelynne Ely says
Hi Elana, I have Dr Gottfrieds book and your review is incredibly helpful with the associated links from you posts. I upped my water intake to 90oz daily and am wondering if I should include a supplement like LMNT in some of that hydration? Would love your take on this.
Kevelynne, I use LMNT daily.
Jill Scribner says
Hi Elana! I always love hearing your book reviews and all the tips to make it practical! This book definitely sounds intriguing to me. I was just thinking of you last night as I took my magnesium, turned out the lights, and made sure my room was DARK! Sending you deepest thanks for your continued research in women’s health. All the very, very best to you and yours.
Jill, big hugs to you. Thanks for your comment!
I believe I also suffer from hyponatremia, I’m always Low on blood labs for my sodium and my creatinine is always off. Doctor always thinks I’m dehydrated and have electrolyte imbalance. I would love a recipe for this, to see if I can improve. Thank you for addressing!
Jamey, I am now in process on this :-)
Thank you for this post. It pulls together in a meaningful way the various bits of weight management information I’m collecting and presents them in a way I can action. Plus I, like you, have Celiac, and appreciate you’ve already thought of GF strategies. Fiber is my next challenge (who knew broccoli provided so little fiber vs. white beans?!).
The biggest weight challenge I’ve ever faced was/is taking an Aromatase Inhibitor (AI) that blocks estrogen absorption for hormone positive breast cancer. It is absolutely amazing how estrogen levels impact our weight, joints, bones, moods, carpal tunnel/trigger finger, hair, and more. These are things the doctors didn’t warn me about and many my oncologist still won’t cop to. The only thing that moved the scale for me was SuperSlow weight training, a Keto diet and Intermittent Fasting- Keto is challenging for me to maintain. Now I’m prediabetic. Taking things one day at a time and creating new routines around food and eating can be tiring, and can add up to positive changes.
Thanks for the continued encouragement and knowledge. Hope you are having a good day.
Holly, thanks for your detailed, lengthy comment. I’m sorry to hear that you have dealt with breast cancer. Here is my BC story:
Sending hugs your way,
I also like the unflavored LMNT, but would like to make my own, more economical version. Would appreciate a recipe!
Kathryn, you got it!