New year, new you, new diet? If you’re like almost a quarter of last year’s New Year’s resolution makers, then you’ve made a vow to lose weight and improve your eating. When the new year comes around, so many women feel prompted to throw themselves into detoxes, fad diets, and get-fit-quick plans in an effort to undo the damage of holiday indulgence. But do any of these trends actually work?
While every diet that comes across your social media feed this month will undoubtedly promise to transform your life, it’s important to understand how these diets affect your hormones. This is important if you’re trying to lose weight and you’re struggling with PCOS, Fibroids, Endometriosis, or any other menstrual or fertility issue.
Different Diets and Effects on Hormones
It’s really important to look at your whole hormonal picture when trying to figure out how best to lose weight. If you’re struggling with any of the menstrual conditions we treat at The FLO Living Hormone Center, then focusing first on restricting calories instead of reducing estrogen levels is going to result in no weight lost and worsening of your symptoms. You likely already know this from trying so many different diets to lose weight, and thinking that your period issues weren’t tied into it, and not achieving lasting results.
I myself know this personally, as a former PCOS sufferer weighing over 200 lbs. I tried all the different diets and exercise plans and not only couldn’t get the scale to budge, but also continued to see my symptoms get worse. What I learned is that the whole premise of separating out weight, skin issues, period issues, mood issues or anything else for that matter is beyond inefficient. They body is encoded with a pattern that requires specific support and then like magic, things start to hum along the way they should and you don’t have any more struggle.
So, let’s look at all the different diets, and their impact on your hormones, so you can make the right decision for you.
The Ketogenic Diet
This low-carb plan is intended to put your body into ketosis, a natural process that occurs when you restrict glucose and start burning fat as a fuel source. People on this type of diet usually eat less than 50 grams of carbs a day. Think of it as an even more carb-restrictive, fat-heavy form of Paleo or Atkins, which both glorify protein and fat and villainize carbs.
Upside: You’ll be less likely to consume processed junk if you’re seeking out fresh, whole foods, and you’ll likely feel satiated thanks to the ample protein and fat, even though most carbs will be off the table.
Hormonal Downside: There is conflicting information on the effects of this diet on your thyroid health and much of it concludes that it affects T3 production. With so many women struggling with hypothyroidism, it’s important to know this can adversely affect you.
Just about everyone needs to consume raw fruits and veggies on a regular basis, but a true raw vegan diet means that none of the plant-based-only foods you eat can be heated over 104-118 degrees F, and absolutely nothing should be pasteurized, refined, treated with pesticides, or processed. Advocates of raw veganism believe cooking food destroys important enzymes and reduces their nutritional content.
Upside: Loading up on organic, fiber-rich fruits and veggies is always a good idea! An abundance of these can improve your digestion and improve heart health, reduce cholesterol and inflammation. The influx of antioxidants can clear your skin and, according to some research, contribute to cancer prevention.
Hormonal Downside: Studies have linked strict raw food diet to amenorrhea. If dysbiosis is present, (if you’re using any synthetic birth control, then your gut microbiome is out of whack) you will not absorb your nutrients from raw foods as well which can lead to a micronutrient deficiency due to leaky gut. This can compromise your entire hormonal system and present with a whole host of symptoms from missing periods to mood issues to weight gain. Additionally, according to Chinese medicine, this type of diet is too cooling which can make the reproductive system more sluggish. This means your tendency for delayed periods can be worsened, you can have delayed ovulation, or even heavier bleeding as a result.
The wheat in proteins known as gluten has gotten a particularly bad rap in recent years, and for good reason: it’s not good for your hormonal health, which is why I recommend removing it from your diet when you follow the FLO Living protocol. But many diets advocate removing sometimes all grains for the purpose of dropping LBs.
Upside: Some people believe cutting grains can alleviate brain fog, and others turn to the restrictive diet to drop pounds fast.
Hormonal Downside: If you struggle with cravings and binge eating, going grain free is going to set you up for major cravings and make you vulnerable to more binge moments of irregular insulin levels, which can throw off ovulation and wreak havoc on metabolism and fat loss.
Intermittent fasting involves cycling between periods of time when it’s okay to eat and when food is off the table. There are various ways to do it (for example, allowing food for an 8-hour window during the day and fasting the other 16), but proponents claim it can help regulate blood sugar and burn fat.
Upside: People drawn to intermittent fasting have likely read of clinical studies examining its ability to lower the risk of various diseases and promote new cell growth.
Hormonal Downside: Doing this incorrectly and simply skipping meals is not good for your hormones. Depriving your body of nourishment for extra long stretches of time can negatively impact hormones like cortisol, insulin, estrogen, and progesterone, which, of course, can completely throw your cycle off kilter.
What Really Leads to Results?
Do all these disparate diets have benefits? Of course — but if you’re a woman, as you’re seeing, you’re not getting the half the story that pertains to your biology. The cyclical nature of your biochemistry isn’t cut out for rigid food plans that call for the same foods day in and day out. And to nourish your body adequately, you certainly aren’t meant to restrict or eliminate essential macro and micronutrients, which is what so many of these diets do.
Any diet plan — no matter how flexible it may seem — is by nature restrictive. And when you restrict food groups in any way, you’re in danger of creating a micronutrient deficiency, which can be exacerbated if you’re microbiome is out of whack, you’ve been on the birth control pill, or you’ve experienced any kind of hormonal imbalance. And restricting in one area generally means overdosing on another, which can throw your body off balance as well (for example, veggie-heavy raw vegan diets typically lack the adequate amino acids necessary to produce sufficient hormone levels and animal protein-heavy diets can lead to liver congestion and estrogen dominance, the biggest culprit in hormonal dysfunction).
Eating Right For Your Hormones to Achieve Optimal Weight
I’ve talked so much about how I’ve lost 60 lbs twice over (once when I healed my PCOS and once after my pregnancy) and did it by harnessing my hormones and supporting my metabolism, not by restricting and struggling. You have to work with your body’s internal weight management system - a.k.a. hormones - to get results. But as women, when it comes to all of the diets marketed, they totally ignore our cyclical, fluctuating hormones. It’s never mentioned. You are essentially given information that is really only totally appropriate if you have male 24-hour hormonal patterns. It is only in that situation that eating the same way day in and day out makes sense. Well, you do not have male hormonal patterns, as you well know. But because so many of us don’t know what our hormonal patterns are in the first place, we don’t know that we’re being short-changed in the world of diets.
What you do need is a way to eat foods that support each phase of your cycle because of course you have different micronutrient needs each week as your body is doing something very distinct each week inside the world of the ovary and uterus. Your body isn’t the same every day and your diet shouldn’t be either! I created this phase-based eating concept 15 years ago to support the function of the hormones produced in a specific time frame throughout the cycle.
The Cycle Syncing Method™
Eating specific foods each week of your cycle and changing that selection of foods as you change phases of the cycle to support optimal hormone balance and metabolism.
Upside: Provides the most variety of micronutrients to support overall hormonal balance. Provides key foods at critical times to help break down excess levels of estrogen that can cause breakouts and PMS. Improves the quality of your bleed. Improves fertility, sex drive, energy and mood.
Hormonal Downside: You’ll realize how much time you have lost feeling bloated, fat, fatigued, moody, and crampy when you never had to.
You’ll enjoy a wide variety of cuisines - macrobiotic, raw, ketogenic, mediterranean, some intermittent fasting and not ever get stuck doing one day in and day out for academic reasons. The true differentiator for the FLO protocol, whose fourth step is The Cycle Syncing Method™, is the integration of you and your body’s needs into the plan itself; in order to restore and reclaim your hormonal health, everything about your diet and lifestyle should be relevant and relative to your female biochemistry. No singular diet trend or food plan will give you that — only FLO will.
But the key is that the foods you consume change from phase to phase — that means you get access to the most beneficial aspects of all of these different diets and you avoid forcing your body to do the same thing each and every day in the same way. That kind of monotonous, one-sided diet plan just doesn’t reflect the physiological shifts taking place in the female body, and it doesn’t set you up for success.
Eat Like a Woman
If you’re ready to be done with yo-yo diets, raging symptoms, and total hormonal chaos, it’s time to commit to a long-term lifestyle that works with the elegant ebbs and flows of your hormones. MonthlyFLO is the first-ever woman-centric health system that syncs with your unique rhythm. It gives you the foundation for solving any hormonal issues you may have over your lifetime. Over three months, you’ll be guided step-by-step to make simple, cumulative food and lifestyle changes that balance your hormones naturally. Make this the year you make a sustainable change and achieve real, lasting success.
Monthly FLO: The Cycle Syncing System™
Put your period symptoms into remission. Discover how to live in your FLO and get it all done with embodied time management.
MonthlyFLO is the first-ever woman-centric health system that syncs with your unique rhythm. It gives you the foundation for solving any hormonal issues you may have over your lifetime.
Using the principles of functional nutrition, MonthlyFLO is a specially-sequenced food therapy program that recalibrates your endocrine function. Over three months, you will be guided step-by-step to make simple, cumulative food and lifestyle changes that balance your hormones naturally.