The secret to hormone balance is understanding what balances your hormones anyways? The answer: your body. Hormone balance is a natural function that our bodies are designed to do extremely well. The pathways of hormone production, use, and breakdown include numerous checkpoints designed to keep everything in perfect balance. But in order to make balance happen, your body needs the right support.
When you know things aren’t in balance
The reason we experience imbalances despite our intricate hormone system, is that our body did not have something it needed and balance shifted. For example, if we are deficient in hormone building materials, like healthy fats, our body can’t make enough of the hormones we need. When this happens, other hormones try to “fix” the problem and are either over or under-active, creating symptoms of hormone imbalance. Some symptoms of hormone imbalance are fatigue, weight gain, headaches, mood swings, changes to your menstrual cycle, and much more.
How do you re-balance hormones?
The best way to balance hormones is to support your body. Providing your body with what it needs (calories, macronutrients, movement, and more) sends a signal that it is safe and provided for, which allows it to maintain balance on the hormonal front. (And keeps your efforts simple! Win-win!) It is important to remember that we want hormone balance because our hormones have the power to control our mood, weight, energy, nutrient utilization, cravings, fertility, and so much more. When we allow and trust our bodies to restore and maintain balance, we usually experience breakthroughs in our wellness and health goals.
The ways we move our body and how we fuel it are major signals that our body uses to interpret if it is safe and supported. Remember, we want our body to feel equipped to handle our daily demands, so that it can then use extra energy to rebalance. The effects of exercise can both promote and discourage hormone balance, which makes things a bit tricky. The reason it is common to look to exercise as the answer to hormone imbalance is because physical activity increases happy hormones (called endorphins). The key to flourishing in exercise benefits is understanding that a boost in endorphins does not mean that the rigorous activity you completed had only positive effects.
We also want our nutrition to be abundant in valuable nutrients like antioxidants, micronutrients, proteins, and healthy fats. When your body has plenty of calories in addition to the building blocks required to make hormones, you help set yourself up to help correct hormone imbalances you may be experiencing.
How do I use food to support my hormones?
The traditional approach to dieting is to restrict your food intake and follow “their” rules. However, the strict rules most often lead to binge-eating episodes. We then get stuck in the restrict and binge cycle where we restrict to get healthy or lose weight, but then find ourselves binging when it gets too hard, stress comes, or life happens.
Having our hormones out of balance can lead to binge eating. Maybe we don’t feel good, so we turn to food to deal. Binging then leads to more hormone imbalance and it feels like this cycle you can’t get out of.
So, what do we do?
Allow yourself all foods
The minute you allow all foods into your diet, the desire to binge and restrict disappears. It’s just like having a room full of toys for a toddler and the minute you take away one toy, it’s the only one they want. It’s the same story with food. As soon as we banish a certain food, we quickly build up a craving for it. This leads to the subsequent binge eating episode you may be familiar with.
It’s okay to feel scared to do this. You might feel like you’ll be out of control because restriction is the only control method you’ve ever known. But having a little bit of something you’re craving is a healthy habit, not a bad one.
Trust the process
As you allow all foods back into your life, over time you will find the happy balance with food that you’re looking. And that ultimately helps you balance your hormones in a way that serves your body.
Aim for consistency, not perfection
Sometimes we find ourselves desperate to change, to feel normal, to get healthy, to lose the weight. We hop on the diet train and are convinced we will be perfect at it this time. You know the rest of the story. It’s impossible to be perfect, we get frustrated, and it usually doesn’t last very long.
When approaching diet and exercise, instead of perfection, focus on consistency. Set a small goal that feels simple to you. Then, work on it a little at a time. If you’re working on changing your nutrition habits, choose one thing to work on at a time. Maybe that means drinking more water each day. If you want exercise to be a regular part of your life, try starting with 10 minutes or something that feels almost impossible to fail at.
Then, stay consistent.
If you miss a day or two, don’t beat yourself up for not being perfect, just get back to an overall healthy, varied diet the next day with no judgments; just love. Consistency (not perfection!) is the driving force for lasting change.
How to use exercise in a hormone-helpful way
We’re bombarded with messages of what we “should” be doing for exercise. What kind of exercise should you do? What amount of exercise is enough? If you don’t sweat, does it even count? There is so much conflicting information about exercise, but today let’s keep it simple.
Our bodies perceive exercise as a form of stress. When our stress remains high over time (from things like our jobs, social media, emotional conflict), stress hormones begin to shift all other hormones out of balance. Therefore, if you are stressed, adding a high demand exercise program into your routine could be pushing your hormones out of balance or worsening any imbalances that exist.
Choose what feels good
The best way to balance your hormones with exercise is to do what feels good. Here’s why: when your hormones are out of balance and you engage in vigorous exercise, it can potentially make them even more unbalanced. Instead of forcing yourself to do what you think you “should” do, ask yourself what feels good to your body and then do it.
Don’t focus on the rules of exercise because the best exercise plan in the world is the one you will follow.
Consider what your hormones would benefit from
That said, it’s also good to remember that our bodies perceive exercise as a form of stress. When stress remains high over time (from things like our jobs, social media, emotional conflict), elevated stress hormones begin to shift all other hormones out of balance. Therefore, if you are stressed, adding a high-demand exercise program into your routine could be pushing your hormones out of balance or worsening any imbalances that exist.
Exercise engaging the mind-body connection lowers cortisol (stress hormone) levels. Most of us need help lowering cortisol, as daily life and demands contribute to those levels being high. If your body is in a state of high stress, adding a rigorous activity can push it further into that state, which in turn prevents the safety and provision your body needs to feel in order to keep hormones and weight balanced.
If you feel high stress in your life, your hormones will thank you for doing some exercise that helps rebalance you and calms your stress. Maybe try yoga or pilates. Maybe even some deep breathing exercises work for that day. When you approach exercise by doing what feels good to your body, your hormones respond by balancing naturally.