Health First, Weight Loss Second

So often, I see people trying to lose weight in the context of absence of health.  What happens in most of my conversations with clients is that we uncover bigger and greater goals than just weight loss.  I see weight loss as something that can naturally happen when we look at other determinants of health.

Weight loss is not as simple as calories in and calories out.  If that was the case, my job would be easy.  In reality, it is a more sophisticated equation that is in part nutrition and exercise in addition to hormones, digestion, brain chemistry, and lifestyle.

Most of the time, I see cases where exercise and nutrition are figured out and it’s the latter part of the equation that has a big question mark over it.  Where do you begin and how do you know where to look?

The best place to start is to take a look at your lifestyle, and answer these key questions:

  1. Do you get enough sleep?
  2. Is your job causing a lot of stress in your life?
  3. Do you have trouble sleeping?
  4. Is your social life influencing decisions around food and exercise?
  5. Do you resort to alcohol, food, and other substances for relief?

When you are stressed, overwhelmed, not getting enough sleep, and are burning the candle at both ends, the last thing your body will do is shed weight.  Focusing on stress management and making health a priority in your schedule will help balance the stress hormone cortisol, which is at the culprit of most fatigue, burnout, and weight gain complaints.  

Other hormones aside from cortisol that play an important role in our general wellbeing, appetite, food cravings, metabolism, and weight include thyroid and sex hormones produced by the adrenal glands.  If your lifestyle is out of whack, your hormones may reflect that as well and with that comes a host of symptoms that you can recognize as signs of hormone imbalance.

How do you know if hormones are to blame? Here are couple questions to get you started:

  1. Do you wake up tired or crash during the day?
  2. Do you have cravings for salt or sweets?
  3. Is libido your friend or long lost friend?
  4. Do you have trouble losing weight no matter what you do?
  5. Do your regular labs look normal, but you don’t feel great?

These are very basic questions, but answering yes to more than one of these can be a sign of one or more hormone imbalances.  These questions are not just about weight loss or weight gain, they are also about tuning in to other aspects of our health that are just as important.

Our hormone and general health are significantly dependent not just on diet, but digestion as a whole.  Sometimes poor digestion, however, is a result of a hormone imbalance and in the context of a great diet people will still complain about bloating, acid reflux, indigestion, and fewer bowel movements.  

Having optimal digestion is key to any health journey as so much is dependent on it.  Taking out food you’re sensitive too will decrease inflammation in the body, improve digestion, increase energy & clarity, and may even contribute weight loss, especially if there was inflammation due to food sensitivities or allergies.  

How do you know if the problem is in your gut? Answer the following questions:

  1. Do you experience any bloating post meals?
  2. Do your bowels move daily?
  3. Do you have a diminished appetite?
  4. Are you ravenous for junk food?
  5. Do you symptoms of heartburn or indigestion?

The foods we eat have the power to influence our internal gut microbiome, which in turn secrete neurotransmitters and hormones that impact everything from mood to energy, and our food preferences. 

I’ve spent over a decade studying food cravings and how they impact our physiology.  In my personal experience,  I wondered why it was so hard to give up sugary foods, and in my clinical experience, I’ve witnessed the struggle to give up or at least decrease processed food intake.  

Everything I mentioned earlier (lifestyle, hormones, and digestion) will influence food cravings and the number on the scale.  If you find yourself sticking to a nutrition program only to resort to old eating habits, because the pull to junk food is so strong, consider these questions:

  1. Do you have a hard time giving up processed foods?
  2. Do you feel like you “need” sugar?
  3. Do you get irritated or depressed when giving up sugar or other processed foods?
  4. Do you have moments of bingeing on food?
  5. Do you use food to change how you feel?

The two neurotransmitters that impact our cravings around food are serotonin and dopamine.  These two key neurotransmitters regulate mood, food preferences, and most importantly, habits.  When they are lower than normal or there is an imbalance in their production, weight can start to creep up as decisions around food become more about pleasure.  

Sometimes these imbalances cannot be corrected with just whole foods, and in my personal and professional journey in helping people balance hormones, stress, and neurotransmitters, I designed a product that addresses these components, naturally.  Because some people produce more or less of the key neurotransmitters, and thus, struggle more or less in overcoming cravings. 

Weight loss is not just about looking at the number, but looking at the overall picture at how the body is functioning as a whole.  My goal is to provide you with as many tools and resources so that you can make the best decision based on the support you need.  

If you have any questions on the topic or want to learn more about how you can improve your health and start getting the results your want drop me a note at

In Health,

Dr. Elena

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Dr. Elena Zinkov