Summer is finally here! We all want to look good on the beach however this often requires a little slimming down or toning up. For those lucky few this is as easy as eating healthier and moving more, while the rest of us may eat like a mouse, exercise like a beast, battle with insane cravings, feel miserable and get absolutely nowhere! It seems hopeless… But maybe it doesn’t have to be? Enter leptin, the single most important hormone that regulates your body weight.
Tell Me More About This Hormone?
Leptin interestingly enough is actually made in your white adipose tissue, or stored fat! Up until recently, fat was simply considered to be an ugly energy deposit area. But we now know that it is an active endocrine organ that produces significant hormones involved in brain signaling and other regulatory functions.
But What Does Leptin Do?
Leptin regulates energy intake and expenditure including appetite, metabolism and hunger. When levels are high, leptin signals to our brain that we’re full and can stop eating. When levels are low we feel hungry and crave food. This sounds simple enough but because leptin is manufactured in your adipose tissue (fat) when you lose weight rapidly these levels subsequently drop dramatically too. The result is then increased hunger, decreased thyroid function and slower metabolism! Often extreme or ‘crash’ diets don’t work for this very reason. As quickly as the weight comes off we pile it back on again when we can no longer stand being hungry and tired.
The following are complications (concerning leptin levels) that often arise when trying to lose weight:
It takes time for your leptin levels to adjust in response to rapid changes in body fat levels. Therefore to lose weight and keep it off it is always better to do it slowly. This allows your body time to reset the new lower leptin level as ‘normal’ so that you feel full when you’re supposed to.
Leptin levels are far more sensitive to starvation than overeating. This means that even if you’ve stuffed yourself leptin levels will increase but won’t skyrocket. Whereas if you don’t eat enough leptin plummets and you’ll feel as if your life is over unless you eat that whole packet of biscuits! Which leads us to…
Leptin Resistance. If your body is constantly trying to regulate extreme leptin levels and/or there are consistently high levels (common in over-eaters, obese or overweight individuals) the brain becomes desensitized and leptin resistance results. Note; studies have shown that overfed mice became leptin resistant in as little as 3 days!
Leptin resistance is temporary and unlike insulin resistance can be easily reversed with a healthy diet and appropriate exercise. I stress the word ‘appropriate’ because exercising too much can contribute to leptin resistance and thus weight gain.
Ok Great. Now What?
You may be thinking: “Well thanks for the info but what do I actually have to do to lose weight!?” Well, simply follow these 7 steps:
- Don’t crash diet – rather take it slow and make it a lifestyle change that is sustainable long term.
- Eat a healthy diet – low in sugar and grain carbohydrates, moderate in quality protein and high in quality healthy fats such as coconut and coconut oil, avocados, real butter, nuts and organic animal fats. Also include loads of organic vegetables and salads.
- Avoid excess sugar & processed foods – both of which make your brain less sensitive to leptin which subsequently increases hunger and fat storage.
- De-stress – The stress hormone, cortisol directly interferes with how leptin functions, making the body less sensitive to it.
- Supplement with Omega 3 fish oils – these wonderful essential fatty acids boost leptin levels naturally as well as increase the brain’s sensitivity to leptin signaling. Irvingia (African mango extract) is another supplement which increases leptin sensitivity and promotes weight loss.
- Sleep 7-9 hours – to naturally raise leptin levels and burn fat. Research shows that less than 6 hours of sleep a night lowers leptin, increases appetite, promotes fat storage and enhances cravings for carbohydrates and unhealthy fatty foods.
The bottom line is that in order to lose weight and keep it off, there has to be a balance. A better daily routine and healthy lifestyle stabilizes hormones such as leptin. This allows for your metabolism to function correctly. Following on from this, your appetite will be under improved control, and your body will even burn fat more efficiently.