Reset your hormones to lose stubborn pounds

Hormones can affect our mood, our weight and even our sex drive. But like most things in life it’s not always easy to keep them balanced. Dieting, stress and anxiety are just a few of the contributing factors to hormones gone bad, but Dr. Sara Gottfried, a gynecologist and author of “The Hormone Reset Diet,” says you can reset your hormones to improve your overall health and lose stubborn pounds.

“The number one way you know [if you have a hormone imbalance] is that you’re gaining weight because 99 percent of weight gain is hormonal, and a lot of people don’t connect the dots. They don’t realize that their problems with energy, with feeling fatigued maybe even depressed or moody is related to their hormones,” Gottfried told

Instead of turning to prescribed hormone replacement therapy, Gottfried’s 21-day reset diet claims to naturally correct your hormonal imbalances with the help of a fork.

“I think it’s much better to do the foundational work to change the way you eat, move, think and supplement before you resort to prescription medication,” she said.

In Gottfried’s plan, every three days you “reset” seven hormones of metabolism by eliminating specific foods to get your hormones back into balance.

1) Meatless: to reset estrogen
Carnivores tend to have higher levels of estrogen than vegetarians and this could be due to the hormones in meat. Hormones, such as estrogens, are often given to feedlot cattle in order to promote growth.

“The problem here is too much estrogen relative to progesterone. So women have estrogen, it’s what makes us feminine, it gives us breasts and hips, but the problem is you can get too much of it. Meat eaters make more of certain bacteria that raise their estrogen levels, so it keeps getting recirculated in the body over and over again and we want to stop that. We want to reset estrogen by going meatless and also giving up alcohol for 21 days.”

Another reason to adjust your estrogen levels Gottfried adds is that from age 35 to 50 women tend to make more estrogen relative to progesterone.

2) Sugar free: to reset insulin
The insulin hormone helps the body convert food into energy. Consuming too much sugar all the time can increase your body's demand for insulin and create insulin resistance. When you have insulin resistance glucose builds up in the blood, which can lead to diabetes, prediabetes, and other serious health issues. Many experts also believe that excess fat around the waist is a primary cause of insulin resistance.

“What you want to do in this reset is get off of sugar and get off of the sugar substitutes-- the artificial sweeteners,” Gottfried said.

In order to forgo sugar for 21 days, Gottfried also said to be aware of sneaky hidden sugars.

“Sugar is hidden in a lot of places. I would go to restaurants and get balsamic vinaigrette and not think twice about it, but balsamic vinegar has a fair amount of sugar in it compared to red wine vinegar for instance. So you want to look for those hidden sugars and get them out of the diet.”

3) Fruitless: to reset leptin
Fructose is the sugar found in fruit and having too much of it in your diet is linked to problems with insulin and the hormone leptin that controls hunger.

“Most people were told to eat nine servings of fresh fruit and vegetables a day, but I can tell you most women are eating a lot of fruit-- and they’re not eating the kind of fruit my great grandmother ate. An apple in her day had 2 grams of fructose, which is what makes fruit sweet. An apple today has been hybridized for sweetness. It’s more like a sugar bomb and has typically 20-25 grams of fructose. So what we want to do is steer away from the high fructose fruit and eat things like olives and avocados which are much better for your hormones,” Gottfried said.

4) Caffeine free: to reset cortisol
Cortisol is known as the “stress hormone”. Although 90 percent of Americans drink coffee, your favorite cup of java can become toxic at certain levels Gottfried said.

“Caffeine raises your cortisol, and I think a lot of women don’t realize that they're dependent on it and that it’s jacking up their nervous system. So, one thing that happens when you drink a cup of coffee or two or three, is it raises your cortisol level. And that then gives you sugar cravings throughout the day, so that you have this blood sugar that goes up and down, and I want to stabilize it by getting you off of caffeine,” she said.

5) Grain free: to reset thyroid
Some of the worst grain-offenders are breakfast cereals, white rice, pasta and potatoes. Research has shown that grains can cause blood sugar spikes that lead your body to deposit more fat. Gottfried suggests swapping out your grains for coconut wraps, sweet potatoes, yams and flaxseed crackers.

“Grains affect the thyroid, but gluten is especially the problem here because gluten looks a lot like the thyroid and so it can make your body attack the thyroid,” Gottfried said.

6) Dairy free: to reset growth hormone
Gottfried explains in her book that conventional dairy raises growth hormone and insulin. And like insulin, growth hormone can determine how much fat you deposit on your stomach.

“You know the average cow in the U.S that’s raised as livestock is injected with six different steroid hormones-- designed to make it fat, but then were eating that cow and eating the toxic fat and getting some of those bad bio-chemistry that’s not so good for you,” she said.

Milk alternatives Gottfried suggests include almond milk, coconut milk and coconut kefir.

7) Toxin free: to reset testosterone
Unfortunately, we are exposed to toxins every day. Our food becomes toxic when its genetically modified and sprayed with pesticides or fertilizers and even our cosmetics and cleaning products can be toxic.

“The important thing is to realize we all get exposed to endocrine disrupters, [which are] these artificial chemicals that are in plastics. We get exposed to them in a lot of different ways-- receipts that you get at your local store often are coded with bisphenol A (BPA), which acts on your testosterone levels. So in women it tends to make you raise your testosterone, and in men it tends to lower your testosterone. So, this acts as an endocrine disrupter, and we want to stop that war that’s happening in the body and get rid of those toxins,” Gottfried said.

Detoxing helps remove estrogen-disrupting chemicals, improves thyroid functioning and boosts metabolism she added.

Gottfried explained that cutting out these seven foods groups is not a life sentence of deprivation.

“It’s designed to be a detoxification for 21 days, so this is short term. It’s designed to get you back into conversation with your body so that you can create a clean slate,” she said.

For more information on Gottfried’s diet, visit