One reason that estrogen dominance is connected to fat-loss resistance is because of the cross talk between two important hormones of metabolism: insulin and estrogen. When you are insulin resistant, which means your cells can’t absorb the extra blood glucose your body keeps generating from the food you eat, your liver converts the glucose into fat (see chapter 4). Those extra fat cells are now extra- neous estrogen-making laboratories. Rather than being your best friend, excess estrogen does a backflip and wreaks havoc on your ability to burn and lose fat. The best pattern interrupt is to eliminate meat (and alcohol) and increase fiber.
To make matters worse, beginning in your early forties you become resistant to estrogen because your receptors go into semiretirement and your estrogen levels climb higher to try to get the attention of those receptors. As a result, your memory falters, you feel irritable, and fat attaches like Krazy Glue to your waist. You are now officially resistant to fat loss, regardless of your weight, and it gets even worse in menopause. Put it all together, and you can understand why so many women begin to expe- rience slow metabolism and fat-loss resistance after age forty. The solution is to forgo meat and alcohol and consume one pound of vegetables per day. The bottom line: too much estrogen keeps you fat by creating a vicious cycle, which must be broken to help you lose weight permanently.
When I broach the topic of estrogen dominance with postmenopausal women, they bristle and tell me they are past all of that. They think of estrogen as a young woman’s hormone, responsible only for menstruation, mood swings, and fertility. Nothing could be further from the truth. Regardless of your age, it’s crucial to understand estrogen and how it is working in your body. Too much estrogen relative to progesterone can cause mood problems, bloating, fibroids, insomnia, and anxiety at any age—until you die. In addition (I’ll repeat myself so that it sinks in), estrogen dominance is the main reason women have a harder time losing weight regardless of age when compared with men. Lest you are still fuzzy, too much estrogen causes weight gain. Estrogen, along with other hormones, is responsible for how you respond to food, drink, and supplements. The seven metabolic hormones determine whether the food you eat is burned or stored as fat. So, instead of dismissing this hormone, I implore you to understand what it does and its central role in your weight loss.
The Vicious Cycle of Estrogen Dominance
When you understand that being overweight involves more than just how much you eat and how little you exercise, you have an advantage in the quest for a healthy body weight and lean body mass. That’s because you’ve learned how to work with the innate intelligence of your body instead of against it. I’ve found that when estrogen dominance is the primary reason for weight gain and weight retention, most of those women eat large amounts of conventional red meat and cheese, crave refined carbohydrates such as french fries (and don’t get the fiber they need to guide estrogen expertly through the body), juggle tons of stress, and drink too much alcohol. The result is that estrogen dominance blocks their metabolism—the speed with which they burn calories—in several ways. First, their microbiome has too many fat bugs (bacteria that hang onto fat) and not enough skinny bugs (bacteria that promote the burning of fat). Second, omniv- orous women with estrogen excess don’t remove that excess in their bowel move- ments like women who eat a more plant-based diet—which contains more fiber and stimulates removal of excess estrogen. Third, estrogen dominance makes a woman more likely to have bloating and constipation. Finally, women who eat red meat have higher rates of blood sugar problems, as indicated in a recent large- scale study of red meat consumption, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome in nearly a hundred and fifty thousand people, published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association.⁹ However, this study was observational and didn’t prove that red meat is the cause of blood sugar problems. Other studies suggest that processed meat may be the greater evil.¹⁰ Research shows that processed meats (meats that have gone through a chemical process to extend shelf life, including ham, hot dogs, lunch meats, sausage, and ham hocks) are full of nitrates and nitrites, and are associated with diabetes, accelerated cellular aging, and cancer.¹¹ Indeed, one study showed that ham worsens blood sugar far more than eggs.¹² If you wonder why it’s so hard for you to lose weight when a friend or spouse sees pounds melt away on the exact same eating plan, it’s likely you have different root causes of fatness. Over the next seventy-two hours, as you start the Meatless reset, observe closely how much weight you lose. If you drop a significant amount—in the range of 3 to 5 pounds over three days of the first reset—bingo! You’ve found your first answer: your estrogen imbalance, caused by meat and alco- hol, is keeping you fat. If you are a woman with estrogen dominance, resetting your estrogen is a cru- cial piece of the puzzle. Fortunately, you hold the keys to the kingdom and can im- pact your estrogen ratio at any age. When you balance your estrogen and reset your ratio, you’ll find a whole new relationship to food, weight, and your body.