Speak To A Coach For Free Now

Weight Loss is Multi-Faceted – Gut Microbiome, Sleep, Stress & Your Metabolism

Posted by Lean Body Coaching

C. Elizabeth Anastasopoulos

We know that most of you are here for weight loss and as such, I felt it very important to explain that sometimes, weight loss will come easily; sometimes, it won’t. Why? Because weight loss can be far more complex than the conventional “calories in-calories out” thought process that most weight-loss programs tout.

I’ve had several clients say to me that when they did their research, they learned that to lose weight, they must eat no more than 1200 calories a day. This is very problematic (but popular) diet rhetoric because it fails to take care of one’s BMR: Basal Metabolic Rate. The BMR is the energy one expends to support the body’s regular functions: the brain constantly processing/sorting/storing information; the lungs inhaling/exhaling air; the heart beating and pumping blood to deliver oxygen to the body’s systems; bone marrow making new red blood cells; the liver metabolizing toxins/converting absorbed nutrients into usable forms … essentially, your BMR supports all of your body’s basic processes necessary to keep you alive. The average female, it has been found, has a BMR of approximately 1300-1500 calories per day (men are higher, of course). And if you’re overweight? Don’t imagine for a moment that your BMR is lower. In fact, as demonstrated in Dr. Kevin Hall’s Biggest Loser study, overweight people have higher BMRs to support fat tissue and the extra work the body has to do in order to keep their systems running smoothly.

Keep in mind, too, that BMR is one segment of your daily energy expenditure: it’s also made up of the thermic effect of food (TEF) and physical activities. So, if you’re determined to eat 1200 calories a day, then I’m just warning you that you are compromising the health of your metabolism. Your BMR will slow down in order to conserve energy in order to save your vital organs … period. and, over a period of time, you are at higher risk for gaining weight than losing it (Yo-Yo Syndrome—we teach this in Module 3).

If you have completed the modules, then you learned that there are four things that can interfere with your ability to lose weight: 1) nutrition; 2) exercise/non-exercise activity; 3) drugs/medications; and 4) hormones. Three of these are actually pillars to our overall health: diet, exercise, and hormones. As with any structure, the pillars must have a solid foundation. Without one, the pillars will begin to lose their strong-hold and, over time, crumble. Your body is no different in that it, too, has a foundation that must be reinforced every night because if it isn’t, diet and exercise can become ineffectual, and our hormones can malfunction.

The foundation of our health is sleep (we go over this in Module 18). Make no mistake: if you are consistently getting only 4-6 hours of sleep a night, experience frequent interruptions in your sleep, or miss out on deep, restorative sleep, then the pillars to your health are not as solid as you imagine. Take, for example, sleep’s impact on your ability to lose weight. Matthew Walker, PhD, a professor of neuroscience and psychology and the director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at UC Berkeley, points to a study done by researchers on a group of overweight men and women. Their sleep was limited to five-and-a-half hours for two weeks; the control group, also overweight, were allowed to sleep up to eight-and-a-half hours a night. The results were stunning, to say the least. Both groups lost weight, but what was significant was the type of weight they lost. The group who got the five-and-a-half hours of sleep? 70% of the weight lost came from lean body mass. The group who got great shut-eye for the two weeks? Over 50% of the weight they lost came from fat (1). We emphasize over and over in the program that the scale doesn’t tell the whole story. This study is an excellent example of how the number flashing back at you may be telling you a half-truth.

When it comes to exercise, sleep plays a major role in how well – or how poorly — you will perform. The most obvious impact lack of sleep will have on exercise is simply this: you’ll be too tired to do it. I’ve heard countless clients tell me, “I really meant to work out, but I was just so wiped out!” The less obvious impact sleep deprivation has on exercise is how well we will perform. Over 750 scientific studies have been performed to see if there is a correlation between sleep and human performance, and the answer is a resounding YES! In fact, anything less than 8-hours of sleep (and certainly anything less than 6) has shown that time to physical exhaustion happens 10-30% quicker, aerobic output is significantly reduced, and there is a reduction in blood saturation levels, just to name a few (1).

I won’t go into all the negative effects lack of sleep has on your hormones, but know that ghrelin, leptin, and insulin are negatively impacted by sleep deprivation. The studies on insulin, in particular, are alarming. A group of healthy adults were allotted four hours of sleep per night for just six nights. Prior to the study, none of the participants had issues with blood glucose (ie: no existing signs of diabetes). However, after only six days of sleep deprivation, these participants were 40% less effective when it came to their ability to absorb glucose … 40% (1)! What are the implications of this? If you are someone who is routinely sleep deprived, your ability to utilize the glucose your body needs to function is greatly debilitated.

It is the unfortunate truth that our current way of living is one full of stressors: work, family, kids, activities, devices, sleep deprivation … you name it. And stress doesn’t necessarily have to come from outside sources; it can come from the inside (I’ll explain in the next section). So, how does stress thwart our desire to lose weight? When we’re stressed, our body does what it has done for thousands of years: it releases a cascade of hormones that are meant to help us run from or fight the enemy we’re facing. You’ve heard these hormones referred to as the “fight-or-flight hormones”: epinephrine and norepinephrine, collectively known as the catecholamines. Other significant hormones released during stress are cortisol, aldosterone, and antidiuretic hormone. This stress response comes in SUPER handy when we are, in fact, faced with a life-threatening/dangerous situation. However, this response 1) was not meant to be super prolonged and 2) doesn’t discriminate when it comes to the type of stress you’re under.

What does happen, then, when we keep ourselves in a chronic state of stress? First, prolonged exposure to cortisol will cause the depletion of muscle tissue as it works to raise amino acid concentrations in the blood, so they are available for gluconeogenesis. And don’t think that simply eating more protein is going to help; cortisol works to inhibit protein synthesis, so gorging on more protein is rather futile. Excess cortisol also leads to insulin resistance (See the connection with sleep deprivation here?) and a weakened immune response – so more illness.

For my stressed clients who report feeling bloated, you can thank the chronic levels of circulating aldosterone and antidiuretic hormone. Together, these hormones work to maintain blood volume by stimulating your kidneys to absorb more sodium and water. So, not only do you get an unpleasant “puffy” look, but you are also compromising your cardiovascular health as these contribute to high blood pressure.

To put it bluntly: if you are in a constant state of stress, you place yourself into a constant state of low-grade inflammation, and placing yourself in a constant state of inflammation makes you more susceptible to the myriad of chronic diseases that are associated with inflammation: obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression, Alzheimer’s Disease, and gastrointestinal diseases to name a few.

In the last 15-20 years, the gut microbiome has become a huge area of study. This stemmed from what was, initially, the Human Genome Project, spear-headed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). What scientists learned was quite shocking: we are more microbe than human, as the trillions of microbes that live within us outnumber us in total DNA. Specifically, approximately 99% of the genes in the human body are “of microbial origin” (3) This discovery gave rise to the Human Microbiome Project, and among the revelations of this study are that the gut system plays a major role in controlling all of our bodily systems, and that epigenetics (our behaviors, lifestyle, and environment) may play a bigger role in our health than our actual genetics.
Why is this not only fascinating, but also significant? A healthy, diverse microbiome (most of which resides in the large intestine and colon) has been associated with robust health, both physically and mentally. However, the SAD (Standard American Diet) way in which the western world eats has decimated the diversity of our microbiome, creating what is referred to as gut dysbiosis. In fact, according to Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College in London, the lack of a diverse microbiome is a “universal signal of ill health in the guts of the obese and diabetic people” (2) He points to a recent study which involved a group of Africans who ate a true paleo-style diet (high in complex carbs, legumes, and vegetables, moderate protein, and low-fat) and a group of African-Americans who ate a SAD diet (high in fat and low in dietary fiber). After two weeks of eating the SAD way, the Africans’ metabolisms changed to a diabetic, unhealthy one, while the African-Americans had reduced their markers for colon cancer (2).

Gut dysbiosis is also associated with the increase rise in autoimmune diseases. When there is imbalance in the gut, there is an increase in both gut inflammation and intestinal wall permeability. Both allow for an increase in circulating endotoxins which, in turn, trigger low-grade inflammation. Unfortunately, low-grade inflammation often results in immune responses that turn against the host: autoimmune disease.

At one time, it was thought that your brain told your gut what to do. It turns out that the opposite is true: your gut, through the gut-brain axis, influences how you think (positive or negative), how you feel (depression is corelated with gut dysbiosis; sadly, medications for depression continue to decimate the gut microbiota) and what you choose to eat. In regard to food choices and energy storage, obese individuals tend to harbor more microbes from the phylum of Firmicutes than Bacteroidetes (another phylum of gut bacteria), while the opposite is true for healthy individuals. This is a significant discovery because Bacteroidetes, along with other gut microbes, favor obesity by increasing one’s capacity to store extra energy (fat) (3).

The gut microbiome’s connection to our overall health is far too diverse to try and explain here. However, understand that what you chose to eat does matter and, if you have tap-danced on your gut microbiome over the years, you’ll be thrilled to hear that the gut microbiome is extremely malleable. You won’t fix it over night, but if you follow our suggestions in regard vegetable/fruit/complex carb intake, sticking to foods made my nature vs. those made by man, and limiting (for some clients, eliminating) red meat, full-fat dairy, and processed meats (I want to add to this list the inclusion of fermented foods), then you’re giving your microbiome a fighting chance.

Our program is in alignment with the three diet styles that have been praised as the healthiest: Mediterranean, DASH, and MIND. If you have checked out pages 5 and 6 in your cookbook, you will see that the protein sources we recommend are primarily fish; our recommended complex carb sources list is laden with legumes, whole grains, and starchy vegetables. Our fats list includes DNA protective nuts, seeds, and heart-healthy oil/avocado (for my recent clients, I’ve actually included 3 monovarietal olive oils that are highly recommended by Dr. William Li, research scientist, doctor, founder of The Angiogenesis Foundation, and author of Eat to Beat Disease). In other words, our program is not just designed to get you lean, it’s designed to promote your overall health.

What sets us apart, though, is our dive into relapse prevention – getting to the why behind what you do and why you do it so we can work on changing that behavior. So, if your coach writes to you week after week and doesn’t hear back, if your coach requests a food log and you never turn one in, if you are more interested in confirmation that what you are doing is right as opposed to the information your coach tries to provide, then it makes it very difficult for us to help you.

But do know, that we are trying to help. It’s why we chose this profession. It’s not glamourous, it’s not easy … but it’s satisfying to be able to do all you can to help someone to the best of your ability and be able to say, at the end of the day, “I’ve done my very best.” So please, focus on the changes you make every day that place you one step closer to health. I hope that now, you understand that weight-loss is multi-faceted (and I didn’t even talk about PCOS, hypothyroidism/Hashimoto’s, sex hormone imbalances, metabolic syndrome, etc.!). If so, then please know you will be better served celebrating your NSV (Non-Scale Victories) than obsessing over the scale. You may be tired of hearing me say this, but I can’t think of a truer statement:

“Focus on results, you will never change;
Focus on change, and you will see results.”

1. Walker, Matthew, PhD. Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams. Scribner: New York. 2017.
2. Specter, Tim. Your Gut Bacteria Doesn’t Like Junk Food – Even if You Do. 28/4/2023. Available at: https://www.bluezones.com/…/your-gut-bacteria-dont…/…
3. Willett, Gina, PhD, RD. Lecture: Improving Gut-Immune Relationship. INR Seminars.

See the effectiveness of Lean Body Coaching and meet the creator Keith Klein CN CCN in :


"A documentary that takes a hard look into the world of sustainable weight loss by exposing the fraud and deceit of the diet industry and our government. Find out the truth behind fad diets, food labels and permanent fat loss."

Coaches are not clinical nutritionists and as such, cannot diagnose, treat, or prescribe. Any hormonal advice is strictly advisory and is not to be taken as a substitute for a doctor’s medical advice.