Ten Reasons to Quit Dieting Forever | Females, Hormones, and Intermittent Fasting

Have you ever been on a diet?  I’m sure you have.  Haven’t we all?  The older I get, the more convinced I become that dieting will soon be an archaic term.  They never work in the long run and nearly always do more harm than good.
The effects are different in women.

In fact, females are more sensitive to the physical stress imposed by dieting and Intermittent Fasting (IF).  We experience problems with circadian rhythm, hormonal balance, and adrenal fatigue pretty quickly.  If you’ve ever laid awake at night feeling rather jacked up and hungry or “wired but tired,” you know what I’m talking about here.

Here are ten big reasons to quit dieting and start thinking differently about getting healthier.  Believe me, your adrenals, ovaries, and brain will all thank you for it.

1.  Increased ghrelin.   Severe food restriction (consuming 500-800 calories per day) causes an increase in ghrelin, better known as the “hungry hormone.”  This hormone is the reason for your ravenous drive through the Chic-Fil-A window after an exam, a sleepless night, or an emotionally stressful week. WORSE:  This effect does not end when you stop dieting.  It can go on for up to a year after you stop food restriction.

2. Decreased leptin. BAD:  Severe food restriction decreases leptin, or the satiation hormone.  Not only do you feel more hungry, it’s much more difficult to feel satiated.  This means that you go for dessert and a few snacks later on in the evening because dinner just didn’t do it for you. WORSE:  This effect can last for up to a year, too.  Feeling hungrier and less satiated after you stop dieting=the road to rebound weight.  Yuck.

3.  Disrupted gut bacteria. BAD:  Dieting disrupts the healthy bacteria in our gut lining which promotes fat burning.  Therefore, fat burning will likely stop despite food restriction, hunger, misery, and probable sleeplessness.  WORSE:  Disrupting the bacterial balance in your gut lining is the road to leaky gut, and I’m not talking about diarrhea here.

4.  Increased cortisol levels.  Elevated cortisol curbs fat burning, increases appetite, and causes inflammation in the long run.  I’ve already written extensively about this here in this post on how to fix adrenal fatigue.

5.  Excited hypocretin neurons.  Severe food restriction, and even IF, can disrupt female circadian rhythm by way of hypocretin neurons.  These boogers are activated through the stress response system, increased ghrelin levels, and decreased leptin levels.  Hypocretin neurons also activate some mood related neurotransmitters, which is probably the reason that some females experience a mood boosting effect when dieting.  Don’t get excited about this because sleeplessness and anxiety are no walk in the park.  Sleep problems decrease serotonin levels, and we don’t even want to go there.  Dark place.

6.  Adrenal fatigue.  Once your adrenals get sick and tired of answering your alarm signals, they’ll quit their day job and go to work at night.  You’ll basically feel like ass in the morning, start feeling better in the evening, and crave salty foods.  Sound familiar?

7.  Neuroendocrine disturbance.  Ladies, our endocrine systems are fairly delicate flowers.  Upset your hormonal balance via adrenal fatigue and the HPA axis and the entire thing wilts.  This means irregular cycles, possible infertility, and even miscarriages.  During menopause, we’re talking hot flashes, depression, total insomnia, and other awfulness.  Yes, dieting and long term fasting can do this to you.

8.  Your brain could shrink.  Women who severely restrict food intake or use IF on a longer term basis have been shown to experience shrinkage in the hippocampal area of the brain.  This effect isn’t there for males very much, but it is for females.  Do you really want to risk brain shrinkage to lose a few pounds?  Hope not.  Read more on how dieting can shrink your brain here or how to reverse the brain changes that happen under chronic stress here.

9.  Your ovaries may shink.  This is the ugly truth.  Worse yet, men don’t experience the same effect.  In a study on sex specific effects of fasting and dieting, low calorie diets and IF caused female mice to experience ovarian shrinkage.  The male rats experienced no testicular shrinkage when subjected to the same diets (http://endo.endojournals.org/content/148/9/4318.full).  Ovaries shrink, balls don’t.  How terribly unfair.

10.  You will begin to act like a dude.  Low calorie diets and IF cause major behavioral and physical changes in females.  We get excitable, sleepless, way more energetic during the night time hours, slow down our metabolism, become infertile, lose brain cells, shrink our ovaries, and……drumroll please…….regain the weight anyway.  This is a raw deal if I’ve ever seen one.

Convinced to shun dieting forever yet?  I hope so.  There are better ways to feel the way you want to feel without hurting your health.  Most of this relates to eating a diet high in good fats, lean proteins, grass fed beef, and unlimited cruciferous vegetables.  My diet is very high in fat.  While I don’t count calories or grams, I would guess that I probably eat anywhere from 50-70% good fats on any given day.  This may seem ludicrous to some, but I feel great and it works for me.  Keep in mind that I generally avoid processed carbohydrates, minus the occasions that I keep Stacy’s Pita Chips around the house.  In that case, I’m doomed.

Prior to last year, I generally worked out in the mornings on a fast.  This wasn’t on purpose necessarily, but I am always in a hurry to get my daughter to school and go straight to CFHC afterwards.  Best case, I had a protein bar (Quest only) before training.  These days, I have Bulletproof coffee in the mornings and have breakfast after training.

Grass fed butter or ghee + coffee (usually an organic,  cold pressed coffee bean from Central America)=Super!

Grass fed butter or ghee + coffee (usually an organic, cold pressed coffee bean from Central America)=Super!

Bulletproof coffee is a combination of high quality coffee, grass fed butter, and MCTs.  I usually use 1 TB of grass fed butter instead of coffee creamer and eat 1 tsp of organic, extra virgin coconut oil.  It jumpstarts my metabolism and helps me access fat stores for energy during my WOD.  Don’t knock it ’til you try it.

Afterwards, I generally have a protein shake or “French toast eggs.”  Whatever is faster is what I end up having.  I only use J Robb’s whey protein, and I’ll share the french toast eggs recipe with you here tomorrow.  How’s that sound?

That’s all for today from this South Florida mom today, folks.  Many thanks to the workers who stayed out all night on the road last night repairing the pipe that burst underneath our road.  The streets were flooded with sand and the Intracoastal, and no one could get anywhere.   Thanks to them, our road was re-opened for travel to work and school today.  Ciao!