Wednesday, October 6, 2010


I've been gaining weight again, even though my eating has not changed, and I went to my hormone doctor today to get the results of my blood tests.

First of all, here are my symptoms:

Unexplained weight gain
Warm flushes (like hot flashes without the sweating)
Heart palpitations
Extreme irritability (just ask my husband!)
Lack of energy
Unexplained weight gain (I know, I already said that one, but it bears repeating)

Some people also experience sleep disturbances, but I have not lately.

The results of my blood tests showed that I have low testosterone and extremely high cortisol hormone. My cortisol has always been around 3 or 4, and has been since I started going to my bioidentical hormone replacement doctor a year and a half ago. Today, I found out that my recent test is at 10, around 3 times my normal amount.

My doctor asked me if I have been under any stress lately. In fact, I have been under an extreme amount of stress due to the economy's effect on my businesses and even the value of my home.  So, um, yeah. I've been under some stress.

We all know from the TV commercials that cortisol causes weight gain, and specifically belly fat. They call cortisol the stress hormone.

Here is what I learned from my doctor today:

Stress causes elevated cortisol. Cortisol causes not only weight gain, but testosterone depletion. Low testosterone causes muscle wasting and fat storage, along with emotional weakness. So it's a vicious circle - stress causes elevated cortisol, which causes low testosterone, which causes emotional weakness, which makes a person more susceptible to the effects of stress, which cause an even higher level of cortisol, which causes an even lower level of testosterone, which causes... well, you get the picture.

So here is what I need to do, according to my doctor, and he says I should start feeling better in a few days and should start losing weight again:

I need to get my testosterone implant more often - every four months instead of five - because it gets used up faster in the presence of stress.

I need to exercise, because exercise reduces the hormone cortisol. I had torn a muscle in my leg, and had stopped exercising, but now it is healed and I need to start again. Whether or not exercise "burns calories" is not really the issue, but rather that exercise can regulate hormones.

I need to psychologically manage my stress better.

So here is my takeaway from the doctor's visit - I hope to start losing weigh again soon, with my cortisol and testosterone in balance. I now know that it is not my fault that I am gaining weight, and eating perfectly and exercising perfectly would not have made me lose weight when my hormones were still messed up.

It's kind of like the problem with being low thyroid. You can eat right and exercise until you drop, but if you are low thyroid, it will be difficult to lose weight, or may, if the thyroid is low enough, be next to impossible.

And I also want to encourage others who are eating what they should - high fat, moderate protein and controlled carbs - and still not losing weight, that it is not necessarily that Atkins is "not working for you". There are so many factors that influence weight gain, and what you eat and how active you are may not even be your problem. It could be sleep problems, it could be stress, or many other things. We need to persevere until we find the answer.

I may not know the answers to everything, but this I know - Eating the Atkins Way is the healthiest way to eat, and even if I never lose any more weight, I'm sticking with it!

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