Friday, July 18, 2008

Why You Plateau: It Could be Your Hormones (Intro)

It seems a good number of the longer-term low-carbers [Say that three times, fast!] of my online acquaintance share another thing besides the low-carb lifestyle: Plateaus of a serious length of time before reaching maintenance level.

We’re all seeking the answer to overcome that dilemma. Some have 15-20 lbs. more to go; some have quite a bit more yet to drop. Despite our all-out efforts with low-carbing and cycling the low-carb woes and/or the exercise routine, there’s not much change on the scale and hardly any [if any a’tall] reduction in inches.

As the months go by, I consider that a plateau with serious intent!

Discussing the same issue with my doctor just weeks ago, he agreed the cause could be hormonal – especially when I described the inexplicable stall-gains each and every month. After taking various blood tests, I received a phone call three days later.

Results: Everything was “great” and “within normal range” [quote/unquote].

That wasn't true a year ago.

But now, I received uplifting reports for fasting glucose, cholesterol, and a beautiful HDL number of 58. According to the Protein Power books - for women, an HDL of 50 or over is fantastic! Hormones, too, were in 'normal range.'

The fun part came when the nurse stage-whispered over the phone, “Honey, whatever you’re doing, keep doing it!” As it turns out, she, too, is a low-carber! But my low carb lifestyle is not a secret with my doc. This time, he sat up and took notice of my great results, including all the weight loss. He actually asked what I did - forgetting we had discussed my plan over a year ago.

But I digress. I took the conversation with the friendly nurse a step further, asking for my exact test result numbers, as well as a break down for each hormone [and the numbers for ‘normal range’]. Despite being WITHIN normal range, there’s no doubt that some of my hormones are in the very LOW normal zone. [See, it all depends on how you define “normal range.” What was NOT clarified until I asked is that hormonal results ARE normal but LOW normal.) I won’t wait for them to bottom out (especially when those low numbers are already doing a number on me!).

There are two points to all this:

First, low-carbing greatly improves health, not just the number on the scale. So don't let the scale rule you because, as I have long said, "The scale doesn't tell the whole tale!"

Second, we arrive at my theory that a stall could be the result of one thing or a combination of things. A serious low-carb lifestyle can get the insulin response under control, but we can't forget that other hormones also play their part. If other hormones are either declining or out of balance, doesn't it make sense that they may be the cause of a long-term plateau ?

Insulin is, after all, a hormone. So low-carbing whips that little baby into line. However, for some, 'Zero Carbing' [ZC] is the only way to keep it totally under control. Yes, I said ZERO carbs. (Boggles the mind, doesn't it? It may take some time to wrap the mind around that axle, but let's at least give serious consideration to the idea.) Simply stated - Zero Carb means eating fattier cuts of meat - that is, fats and proteins - and that's it. [Zero Carb is not Stillman's, by the way, because Stillman's is low or no fat.] For some, ZC means no eggs, either, since eggs do contain a scant amount of carbs.

The reason for ZCing is a super-sensitive case of hyperinsulinemia, in which even small amounts of carbs still induce an insulin response. ZC's aim is to completely eradicate any insulin response, thus forcing the body to give up any fat hanging out in the cells and use that fat for energy. In other words, the 'metabolic bank' is trying to force us to put 'something' in the savings account, rather than allowing us to make a fat withdrawal. :> The only way to counter that is to refuse to put any carbs into the metabolic bank, thus forcing the bank to give us both the cash and the interest - that is, making it give up the fat it's trying so hard to hang onto!

Then there's leptin - another hormone. If it is not doing its job properly, it dictates the wrong message to the thyroid. The bigger fat cells have given up the ghost - that is, they gave up their fat, swelled with water for a while in retaliation, and may now be empty. But then again, maybe not, if leptin is the issue. And the smaller fat cells don't give up the fat so easily.

For women in [or approaching] the peri-menopausal years, it could be a leptin issue plus estrogen dominance. Estrogen likes to hang out in fat, and we ladies have an extra layer of fat that men don’t have (lucky things!). And what about cortisol - the 'stress hormone'?

Then, too, we ladies also have to deal with rising and declining hormone levels every single month. Sure, both men and women have hormones, and whacked out hormones could be an issue for both. But it is also clear that we of the fairer sex have 'extra' hormonal factors to consider, especially when we hit a true stall.

But don't freak out over all this, will ya? It can all be remedied by nutrition and, in some cases (like mine), with natural supplements to help the body do what it must. I realize some won't agree that supplementation is necessary, and that's fine...but I think otherwise.

One thing I've decided to do is start using a cream that contains prenelone and DHEA, which is sometimes called 'the youth hormone.' Prenelone is the 'precursor' hormone or the 'grandpa' hormone to progesterone - because if there there is not enough progesterone, estrogen dominance can be the result.

The other thing I'm seriously attempting, in order to overcome stubborn hyperinsulinemia, is to aim for "Zero Carb" - a serious step that many, understandably, wish to avoid. To repeat myself [because the topic bears repeating] Zero Carb has to do with completely controlling the insulin hormone. I'm also of the opinion that we should try, if at all possible, to eat meat and poultry that have not had hormones or chemicals added to them via shots or their food, because then we're assimilating that junk and very likely upsetting our own hormonal balance! I realize truly organic eating is an expensive lifestyle, especiallly in these days, but we can start with baby there will be more on Zero Carb and hormonal topics later!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I've been training via a combo of ‘nutritional’ or ‘naturopathic' classes while simultaneously researching and experimenting with "Zero Carbing."

As I've been studying 'outside the box' nutrition studies and theories for quite some time now, I try what I think applies to my circumstances. That willingness to try something 'unconventional' has held me in good stead, or else I would not have been low-carbing, or cycling, and I would never have gotten this far.

Since I find I'm not alone in the Land of the Grand Plateau, you're more than welcome to join me as I look for the passage OUT! :)