Do you lack motivation when it comes to losing weight?
It’s a problem that most people come across sooner or later. Things go well when they feel motivated and have lots of willpower, but once willpower wears out and motivation wanes, many people go back to their old habits and wait until they feel motivated again.
Relying on willpower and motivation is one of the biggest reasons people struggle to lose the weight because being consistent over the long term is more important than going hard or being perfect for a short time. We explain this in our blog Why 52 imperfect weeks is better than 6 perfect ones when it comes to weight loss.
So, how do we stay consistent over time if we don’t have the motivation? Well, scientists have discovered a couple of things about people who are good at ‘self-control’ (aka willpower).
People who appear to have more willpower don’t use willpower at all. They have better habits and structure their lives in a way that they don’t rely on willpower.
Now, we have written many blogs about the importance of developing habits for weight loss, so if you want to learn more about habits, we recommend you read the following blogs:
Other people are better at delaying gratification to meet their long-term goals.
Unfortunately, many of us are geared towards instant gratification. We want everything now and aren’t prepared to wait. It’s why we get annoyed when our phone takes a few minutes to update to the latest software, or when we have to wait a whole week to watch our favourite TV show. Wanting quick weight loss results is also why people turn to diets and quick fixes, even though they’re proven not to work.
Interestingly, whether or not we need to be instantly gratified is largely to do with our hormones.
The role of hormones
Hormones are chemicals that are produced by different glands around our body. They travel through our bloodstream and play a part in many bodily processes. One function of a certain group of hormones is to regulate our mood. These are often referred to as the ‘happy hormones’.
There are four of these hormones, and each of them plays an important role in how we feel:
Endorphins serve one purpose only — to mask pain and enable physical endurance. Endorphins act as the body’s natural pain reliever and are responsible for the ‘runner’s high’ or the feeling of euphoria people get when they exercise. Back in the era of cavemen when food was scarce and tribes needed to hunt, it was common for our ancestors to have to track animals over a great distance. Endorphins meant they had the stamina to keep going and bring food home to their tribe.
Dopamine is the ‘feel-good’ hormone that is released when we achieve something. The feeling of pride and accomplishment after we complete a task is due to dopamine. In prehistoric times, dopamine was the reward that humans received for completing tasks necessary for survival such as hunting and gathering.
Often referred to as the ‘love hormone’, oxytocin is released through feelings of friendship, love, deep trust, and connection with other people. Humans who bonded and banded together as tribes had a much better chance of survival than people who tried to live alone. Oxytocin played an important role in the survival of the human race by making it desirable to live and work with a group of people.
Serotonin is the key hormone that stabilises our mood, feelings of wellbeing and happiness. It also helps us sleep better. Serotonin promotes social behaviour and is responsible for our need to feel approved, valued and important. From a tribal point of view, serotonin was what made people contribute to their group. The more people helped others in their tribe, the more their value increased and the more respect they received. The more respect and recognition there was, the higher their status in the group, and the more incentive they had to continue to contribute to the group. Serotonin works to encourage us to connect and help those around us because when we do, we feel good. We feel happy.
While each of these hormones play a vital role in ensuring the survival of the human race, in our modern society we are not as reliable on them for our survival. As a result, most of us have an imbalance of these hormones, and unfortunately, this imbalance impacts our weight.
How a hormonal imbalance affects your weight
A lot of people, especially those who struggle with weight loss and weight loss self-sabotage lack enough oxytocin and serotonin, and have too many endorphins and dopamine.
This imbalance is caused by people prioritising getting hits of dopamine and endorphins over anything else. This overwhelms the need for getting other hormones which is a magnet for instant gratification behaviours designed to receive immediate dopamine or endorphins, even if these behaviours are not the right way (instant gratification).
For example, rather than delaying gratification and working towards their goals, many people rely on quick fixes and instant gratification (e.g. dieting). This gives them quick, short-lasting hits of dopamine and endorphins which is not sustainable long-term.
However, when we work on their habits and build our self-worth, we get long-lasting hits of dopamine and endorphins, as well as oxytocin and serotonin (i.e. we get a balance of all four hormones).
While there is nothing wrong with pleasure or dopamine, experiencing too much pleasure without effort is not good for us. It lowers the baseline for dopamine, meaning we need to get more and more of it to get the same rush, and lowers the potency and enjoyment of all other experiences. It’s a bit like eating a bar of chocolate to feel happy, rather than feeling happy because we have a fulfilled, purposeful life.
In other words, we prioritise dopamine and endorphins at the expense of oxytocin and serotonin.
This imbalance can impact our weight in many ways.
Lack of oxytocin
Remember, oxytocin is the ‘love hormone’, or the one that is released when we build real connections with other people. However, to build deep, trustworthy connections with people, we need to be vulnerable and be our authentic selves. The problem is that low self-worth gets in the way of us creating real bonds with other people. You can read more about this in our blog How low self-worth affects your weight.
When we lack self-worth, we’re constantly worried about being judged by other people. We worry what they think of us, worry that we’ll be found out to be an imposter, and worry that we’ll be abandoned. So as a way to protect ourselves, we put up walls and become people-pleasers so people will like us. In other words, we won’t let our true selves be seen. This fear of being judged prevents us from building meaningful connections with people. Instead, we have shallow friendships and toxic relationships which don’t give us the hit of oxytocin that we need.
Unfortunately, many people turn to social media to foster connections but these are not real, personal connections and don’t provide the hit of oxytocin. This can leave us feeling even lonelier and more isolated. You can read more in our blog Can chronic loneliness lead to weight gain?
When it comes to weight loss, lack of oxytocin has been found to contribute to higher levels of stress (a metabolic blocker), poor sleep (another metabolic blocker), and a larger appetite for foods high in sugar. It also contributes to emotional eating and binge eating.
Lack of serotonin
Serotonin is the hormone that helps us feel happy. However, things such as unresolved trauma, fear of being judged and abandoned cause people to isolate themselves, or shy away from building meaningful, authentic relationships. Not being connected to other people diminishes our levels of serotonin. Lack of serotonin has been linked to depression and anxiety disorders, mental health problems and chronic stress. This explains why around 1 million Australians experience depression, over 2 million have anxiety and 2.4 million people live with high or very high levels of stress.
Foods that boost the release of serotonin include both chocolate and coffee, which explains why people who feel low often these foods as a ‘pick-me-up’. While there is nothing wrong with eating chocolate or drinking coffee, too much can impact our weight.
With regards to weight loss, low levels of serotonin equate to high levels of cortisol which leads to inflammation and metabolic blockers such as poor sleep, more drinking, and more stress. You can read more about this in the following blogs:
- Sleep and weight loss: the unexpected connection
- Alcohol and weight gain: 9 ways drinking affects your body shape
- How stress and weight gain are linked
Low levels of serotonin are also related to chronic pain (which can make it hard to exercise regularly), and appetite issues such as overeating, undereating or alternating between the two. Our blog Overeating versus under-eating – what really causes weight gain will give you more information about this.
Too many endorphins
On the other side of the coin, many people have too many endorphins. Remember, endorphins are the hormones that alleviate pain and promote pleasure. They also make us feel euphoric after physically exerting ourselves. Many people become addicted to the endorphin rush caused by physical activity so they continue to engage in exercise to get that rush. This explains why people become addicted to exercise, get stressed or anxious if they can’t exercise, or say they need to be pushed harder.
The problem with overexercising is that it impedes our weight loss. Too much exercise places stress on our body which makes it harder to lose weight. It can also lead to injury and burnout, which means we can’t be consistent with our exercise. And if we’re always exercising and not giving our body enough time to rest and recover, our training will be ineffective and we won’t build muscle (important to improve our metabolism and weight loss). We’ll also either be too tired to turn up to our session, or we’ll injure ourselves because we’re not able to focus and concentrate properly. All of these things will impact our weight loss.
Too much dopamine
Dopamine is the ‘feel good’ hormone. It’s the one that gives us pleasure and satisfaction, and we usually get it from doing or achieving things. Unfortunately, people with low self-worth place their value in what they do and what they achieve, which means they are constantly driven to do more or engage in workaholism. Coupled with the fact that people with low self-worth are often people-pleasers, they create an extremely busy life full of stress, which leaves them very little time to work on their weight loss.
Dopamine is a very potent hormone as it was designed to help our ancestors continue to work for their survival. However, in today’s society, we can get hits of dopamine without needing to work for it.
Common ways people get ‘easy’ hits of dopamine include eating (especially unhealthy foods), social media and other technology such as watching TV, drinking alcohol and caffeine, taking drugs, having sex, listening to music, working to excess, or gambling.
While there is nothing wrong with feeling pleasure, getting ‘easy’ hits of dopamine are not as potent as the ones obtained by working for them, and therefore the effects don’t last as long. Because it’s easy to become addicted to dopamine, we start to crave more dopamine rewards. This causes us to engage in more unhealthy ways of getting dopamine because we need a fix.
When it comes to our weight, the need to obtain a quick dopamine fix distracts us from doing the work required to lose the weight. These ‘quick fixes’ of dopamine are also likely to derail our weight loss efforts. This explains why people go on diets despite knowing why diets don’t work. In addition, too much dopamine can contribute to binge eating, which can also lead to emotional eating.
Why do you need to balance your hormones?
If we have an imbalance of these ‘happy hormones’, we will try to fill the void by getting extra hits of dopamine and endorphins, because these are relatively easy to get. However, engaging in these behaviours only sabotages our weight loss. When our system is in balance, however, weight loss will be easier and our results will happen quicker. We’ll achieve what we call the transformation state of flow.
So, the goal then is to create the right balance of these four hormones and to create the environment in which the right chemicals are released for the right reasons. The easiest way to do this is to increase our oxytocin and serotonin levels which automatically reduces the behaviours that lead to the imbalance (i.e. excess dopamine and endorphins and not enough oxytocin and serotonin).
How to balance your hormones for weight loss
The problem is that most of us rely on the small, quick hits of endorphins and dopamine at the expense of serotonin and oxytocin. What’s worse is that the effects of these hits don’t last, which means we keep coming back for more. As we’ve seen this approach sabotages our weight loss. However, if we can learn to delay our gratification, we’ll get more meaningful hits of dopamine.
So, what does delaying gratification mean?
It means working on our habits and mindset instead of relying on diets and quick fixes. When we work on our habits and mindsets, we build self-worth. Believing we’re worthy means we won’t care what other people think of us and we’ll be able to be vulnerable and create deeper connections with others, thereby ditching the toxic relationships and seeking out meaningful relationships with other people.
Improving our self-worth also means we’ll be willing to work on and invest in ourselves every day. When we work on ourselves, we feel fulfilled and don’t need quick fixes to get constant hits of dopamine or endorphins to feel good. Instead, our hormones will be balanced which will make it easier to lose the weight.
How we can help
At Imani Tribe Transformations, we understand the power that harnessing hormones can have for your weight loss. That’s why we help our clients address the habits and mindsets that are causing their ‘happy hormones’ to be out of balance. Through our DATSTM Personal Coaching Program, we provide personalised action plans along with accountability and structure which helps our clients continue to progress with their goals and get the regular hits of dopamine and endorphins, that will support them in their weight loss. We have also created a strong, supportive and close-knit inclusive community that infuses a sense of belonging because we know that this improves serotonin and oxytocin levels — the two hormones many people are deficient in.
If you want to lose weight with a group of people with similar goals, apply for our DATSTM Program today.
However, we only want to work with people who are ready to make a change. If you’re not ready for our signature program why not start with a Holistic Weight Loss Coaching Call, designed to take the guesswork out of your weight loss so you can finally lose the weight for good.