One of the questions I often get asked is “how do I lose weight off my legs?”. My top half is leaning off but I always feel that my legs are getting left behind.
To be honest, this is a question I find rather difficult to actually answer. My legs have been the body part that I have battled with most of my life.
According to my memory, I have had cellulite even before I hit puberty and I still have cellulite today. I was overweight as a younger child and I remember looking enviously at the other girls in my class at school with their petite ankles and nicely shaped calves.
Last week Friday it was a beautiful day. I’d had enough of work for the day, my head was ready to explode, so I decided to shut down my laptop and head down to the beach for a late afternoon walk. I was walking along the beach looking down to avoid looking into the sun and it suddenly occurred to me…
I don’t dislike my legs anymore, in fact I quite like them!
I will never have fine ankles (thanks mom!), I will always have cellulite on my bum, but they are strong, they are shapely and, to me, it doesn’t matter what size they are, but that they look this way.
I will be honest and say the legs I have today, are not the same legs I had 5 years ago and they are probably not the legs I had 5 years before that. They may not even be the same legs I will have in 5 years time… but I think I know what works for me so that I can continue to love them.
My Oestrogen Body Type
In 2010 I went to Sweden to attend a Biosignature Conference by Charles Poliquin. His assistants measured everyone’s body fat using skin folds in front of the entire class!
Slightly embarrassing when the measurement of the skin sitting just under your bum is called out in front of a whole group of people and later projected on the screen at the front of the room!
Anyway, if you go by the whole Biosignature thing, higher skinfolds on your legs are associated with higher levels of oestrogen.
Biosignature or not, this is called a gynoid body type – pear shaped as opposed to android which is apple shaped – and this body type is associated with increased risk for hormone-related-cancers which are typically oestrogen driven due to oestrogen being associated with growth (e.g. tumour growth).
I definitely do have symptoms associated with higher levels of oestrogen. If you had asked me this before I moved to London in 2008 I don’t know if I would have been able to answer this. Not because I didn’t, but probably because I was less aware.
But now that you mention it, I did have a benign breast lump aspirated when I was only 15.
How our genes express themselves in dependent on the environment in which we bath them.
When I moved to London in 2008 I was hauled head first into an environment which did not suit my genes and by the end of the year I was hospitalised for a laparoscopy to investigated endometriosis – which fortunately came back negative – because of my extreme symptoms come that time of the month.
I still do suffer with monthly symptoms but I have brought these under control using the advice I gave in this video.
Last year I did genetic testing with 23andme and it did reveal a few polymorphisms in the gene’s associated with metabolising oestrogen. This would mean that I don’t necessarily breakdown oestrogen that well and this would make sense in terms of my “gynoid” body type.
The point of all of this background information is to say these are what my genes are doing. Yes genes interact with the environment and I’ve done a lot to improve the environment with food, lifestyle and supplements, but I am never going to have flawless legs. I CAN make a difference to the shape and tone of my legs and if I can (with my genes!) so can you.
These are some things that I do/have done which really help
- Resistance training
I train my legs currently 2 times a week, I also use my legs when I do some sprints, yoga and running but even when I’m not doing these things 2 times a week does the trick. This is usually focussing one session on squats, lunges and more quad dominant movements and a second session on glutes, hamstrings and posterior chain.
I don’t mess about, I lift heavy and I push myself. I have a love hate relationship with split squats and I would definitely say that adding split squats as well as some isolation and activation work into my weekly training has made a big difference in the shape of my legs
- Eat all the food
Everyone is different and will be at a different stage in their health and fitness journey. I am a massive believer in personalisation. What works for me will not be the exact thing that will work for you, you may need a tailored version or something completely different.I don’t know, it depends where you are at. For me, if I train my legs hard I need to eat.
On these days I will mostly eat an excess of 2000+ calories and 200g+ carbs. Your numbers might be different but if you want to build shape, you will need the building blocks. Low carbs and low cals probably won’t cut it.
Not to mention that restrictive diets increase adrenal stress which can drive oestrogen up (or at least the relative balance between progesterone and oestrogen creating what is known as oestrogen dominance).
I have naturally dry skin. I always have. I’ve noticed in the past couple of years that my skin gets even more dry than what it used to. I’m not sure if it’s an age thing or a sun damage thing but it was becoming a problem.
I’m quite picky about what I put on my skin. Because of the whole oestrogen thing I prefer natural skincare products without parabens or phthalates (chemicals which can look like oestrogen to the body). That said, I am also a little lazy with these kind of self-care practises – I’m not really a make-up done, hair styled, toes painted kind of girl! Lately however, I’ve been working on increasing my patience with it and 2-3 times a week I exfoliate and then do a deep moisturising session using bio-oil.
- Speaking of which…. Exfoliate
This has been a life long habit of mine. I use exfoliating gloves several times a week to get rid of dead skin and improve circulation and blood flow.
- Eat foods that support detoxification of oestrogen
There are plenty to mention but important ones include
- brassica vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts)
- green tea
I have also supplemented in the past with:
- DIM (the active component in brassica’s)
- vitamin B
- green tea
-all of which have been very effective.
- Ensure my gut works well
Oestrogen is detoxified an excreted via our bowels. Therefore, you want to make sure you not only have the tools to detoxify oestrogen but you also want to make sure you eliminate it from the body in a timely manner. Fermented foods and a good diet with plenty of fresh foods make sure my digestive system works well.
- Manage stress
My life is a continuous journey of stress management. I think everyone’s is. I don’t think we can ever be totally free of stress but we can accept responsibility for the things we can change – I’ve changed many things from where and with whom I live, the relationships I have been in, the way I run my business to who I will or will not spend time with – and change our thoughts to the things which create stress – this is much harder to do!
Stress affects the body in so many ways which I won’t go into the details of here, there will be another blog for that… BUT… what you do need to know is that stress will impact you hormones and your weight.
- A little bit of self love…
Self love and compassion is something I aim to teach my clients. It’s not an easy thing to do. However unhelpful it is to berate ourselves, changing this doesn’t come easy as it is often the case of shifting behaviours built over a life time.
I am a MASSIVE fan of giving gratitude. I give gratitude for the amazing things I have in my life and I also have gratitude for the amazing things my body can do (however it looks!).
I love feeling strong.
I love being strong and it is not something I want to sacrifice anytime soon.
I don’t want to be limited in life by being too weak or too unfit. I like my body to be as ready as it can be for anything. So far, it’s serving me well, because I treat it well and I will continue to appreciate this symbiotic relationship we have.