If you have trouble sleeping, have cravings in the afternoon and feel rushed and worried a lot, then cortisol may well be getting in the way of your goals. Cutting calories may well only add to this elevated cortisol level. When cortisol is chronically high, it affects other hormones such as Ghrelin, the hunger hormone (making you crave more food – probably high sugar/fat) and also the hormone Leptin, the satiety hormone (thereby not feeling satisfied after eating).
Exercise wise, it may be best to focus on lower intensity work for the time being, such as yoga and long walks. Although this is not the most efficient exercise for fat burning it may just help to balance your hormones out to start with.
Lack of sleep will also elevate cortisol further. You need to think of ways to manage your sleep in order to manage your levels of stress hormones, which can ultimately cause fat storage especially around the belly. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter involved with sleep. It is produced in the brain from tryptophan. Tryptophan is a dietary amino acid found in many foods traditionally eaten at bedtime. The idea is, as you eat tryptophan containing food’s you provide the building blocks for serotonin, the body is then able to produce sufficient amounts to promote sleep. Cottage cheese, turkey and banana are examples of foods that contain tryptophan.
When looking at macros rather than just calories, it is key to note that high carb, fast-disgesting foods will elevate insulin, corresponding to an increase in blood glucose, much more than low carb, slow-digesting foods. High insulin levels = perfect fat-storing environment.
Calorie restriction and very low carb diets can also lead to reduced thyroid. Low thyroid hormone leads to a lower metabolic rate, reduced protein synthesis and can cause sluggishness and fatigue.
The above are just a few examples of the role hormones can play in your weight management. Therefore diets that only concentrate on actual calorie consumption and ignore macro and micro content are missing a big part of the picture and can lead to frustration and plateaus in peoples weight management programmes. Looking at your hormone balance and correcting this will help get you the results you wish.