The results: estrogen isn’t an angel or a demon; it’s a hormone that should ideally be within a healthy range, and too much or too little can be dangerous. So far, some studies suggest that a high-fiber, lower-carb diet might be useful in treating estrogen overload, but the best advice for anyone with PCOS or another serious problem will come from a real endocrinologist.
There’s probably a biological basis to stress eating, researchers say. Chronic stress causes your body to secrete excessive amounts of the hormone cortisol, and too much cortisol triggers cravings for high-fat, high-sugar foods. What’s most troubling, though, is that stress eating doesn’t just pack on pounds; it packs on pounds in the worst place, your middle (cortisol stimulates fat production deep in the abdomen).
Also some research shows that the human body is primed to consume most of its calories during daylight hours. But the lifestyle is problematic for many: Because family meals and dinners with friends often are scheduled for after sunset, "people who try to stop eating after 7pm can’t do it every day for the rest of their lives," says Dr. Seltzer, who supports an alternative strategy: Eating a hearty meal at your regular dinnertime.
Keeping track of what you eat is a great way of forcing yourself to focus on your diet and assess exactly what you’re eating. Without it, the calories can start creeping up without you noticing so a journal of some other means of tracking your calorie intake can be the difference between maintaining your weight or being forced to start dieting all over again.
All of these take a toll on your metabolism and ability to control levels of body fat. If you’re up against large amounts of stress in your life (from work, lack of sleep, relationships, finances, etc.), studies show you can greatly benefit from carving out more time in your busy stress relievers like regular exercise, meditation, spending time outdoors and keeping up with fun hobbies.
Eat More Produce. Eating lots of low-calorie, high-volume fruits and vegetables crowds out other foods that are higher in fat and calories. Move the meat off the center of your plate and pile on the vegetables. Or try starting lunch or dinner with a vegetable salad or bowl of broth-based soup, suggests Barbara Rolls, PhD, author of The Volumetrics Eating Plan. The U.S. government's 2005 Dietary Guidelines suggest that adults get 7-13 cups of produce daily. Ward says that's not really so difficult: "Stock your kitchen with plenty of fruits and vegetables and at every meal and snack, include a few servings," she says. "Your diet will be enriched with vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, fiber, and if you fill up on super-nutritious produce, you won't be reaching for the cookie jar."