Metabolic hormones like leptin control how much we eat. When out of balance, they can cause to gain weight and make losing weight nearly impossible.
How Metabolic Hormones and Weight Loss Are Linked
Metabolic hormones and weight loss are intricately linked. Your weight is effectively determined more by hormones than will power or even diet. Research shows hormones control appetite, how much fat you store, and even your metabolism rate.
When everything works right, you are thin and healthy. But, when metabolic hormones become unbalanced, your brain no longer effectively regulates weight properly. This is why we gain weight even when we are trying to watch calories and eat healthy.
What Ruins Metabolic Health
Our metabolic hormones become unbalanced for a number of reasons. Sometimes, genetics play a factor. However, consuming too many processed foods remains the biggest cause of metabolic hormone problems. Unfortunatly, avoiding processed foods has become near impossible.
Plus, with food companies genetically modifying plants to increase crop yields and profits, even trying to “eat healthy vegetables” is also near impossible. Farmers are increasingly turning to the use of growth hormones to also boost profits from raising livestock. Even fish stocks are compromised with all of the toxins polluting the planet.
Plus, food companies replaced fat in most foods with sugar to boost flavor and profits. Sugar causes insulin spikes which leads to cravings and consuming more food to satiate them. The food supply itself remains compromised with consumers have few options for healthy food other than home gardens. Unfortunately, not everyone can plant a garden to produce genuinely healthy food. Thus, the average person remains stuck with few options other than consuming foods that ruin their metabolic health.
As a result, obesity rates skyrocketed. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the obesity rate has increased by 185% in the past 5 decades. For adults, the obesity rate now approaches 40% of the population. Childhood obesity rates also increased by more than 200%. A full 17% of all children aged 2-19 are now obese.
Repairing Metabolic Hormone Health Vital to Weight Loss
Losing weight and keeping it off becomes almost impossible when your metabolic hormones are out of balance. Basically, you are fighting your own body. Even if you manage to lose 10-15 pounds, your body’s metabolism rate will slow down to reach a new baseline. This also why when we gain weight back, we tend to put on even more weight than before. It’s becuase your metabolism rate is now lower than before you started losing the weight.
Repairing metabolic hormones and weight loss go hand in hand. If you fix the underlying problem, your weight will drop naturally. That’s because your caloric intake will decrease because you need to eat less to feel satiated. Cravings also drastically reduce further restricting caloric intake. Plus, your metablism rate will increase boost caloric burn.
Obviously, there are things you can do to greatly speed up the weight loss.
To lose weight and keep it off, you have to repair the damage caused by all the processed foods over the years. So, we are going to look at the two most critical hormones that control your weight and how to repair the damage for each of them.
Leptin’s Role in Weight Loss
Leptin is a critical “satiation” hormone produced by fat cells in your body. That means leptin reduces appetite when eating to tell your body that it’s satiated or full.
Leptin sends signals to the hypothalamus in your brain, which is responsible for regulating appetite. Ideally, leptin signals the brain that your body has enough stored fat. In turn, that reduces cravings and should prevent you from overeating.
Since leptin is stored in fat cells, the more fat a person has the higher then leptin levels. When working properly, people with high levels of leptin should eat less and start losing weight. Unfortunately, the brain can stop detecting leptin. When this occurs, it’s known as leptin resistance.
How Leptin Resistance Drives Obesity and Sabotages Diets
When the brain can no longer detect leptin, it literally thinks you are starving. As a result, the brain thinks you have no stored fat which triggers 3 things that sabotage any diet:
- Cravings increase in both frequency and intensity (increases caloric count)
- Need to eat more to feel full and satiated (increases caloric count)
- Slows metabolism rate to conserve energy (reduces caloric burn)
So your brain thinks it is starving and triggers mechanisms to make you eat and conserve calories. It’s the perfect storm.
Unless you reverse leptin resistance, losing weight and keeping it off is near impossible. Research shows that the two biggest causes of leptin resistance are:
- Chronically elevated insulin levels (caused primarily by processed foods and sugar intake)
- Inflammatory foods that disrupt signaling to the hypothalamus
Reversing Leptin Resistance
Reduce Intake of Inflammatory Foods
Essentially, all processed foods cause inflammation of your hypothalamus. As a result, that can disrupt leptin signaling. Therefore, you really need to cut your intake of foods that cause this inflammation. Here are a list of foods known to cause inflammation:
Sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup:
Any sugary soft drinks, pastries, and table sugar are all examples of what you want to limit intake of.
Artificial Trans Fats:
Also known as “partially hydrogenated oils”, trans fats increase inflammation. Margarine, french fries, packaged cakes and cookies, and most fried fast food items are examples of foods made with trans fats.
Vegetable and Seed Oils:
Some vegetable oils like soybean oil increase levels of inflammation along with many seed oils. Most are used as cooking oils and are also found in many processed foods.
Refined carbs are low in fiber and can lead to inflammation. Fiber is important to weight loss and it helps promote satiation, stimulates production of healthy gut bacteria, and improves blood sugar control. Refined carbs are also higher in the glycemic index vs. unrefined carbs. And processed foods that have added sugar or flour have refined carbs as do candy, cookies, white bread, pasta, many cereals, and any soft drinks.
Consuming moderate levels of alcohol does provide some health benefits. However, excessive alcohol consumption may lead to bacterial toxins from the colon getting out into the rest of the body. This harmful bacteria can increase inflammation levels.
Not only does processed meat cause inflammation, it also increases risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stomach and colon cancer. Examples of processed meats include sausage, bacon, ham, smoked meat, and beef jerky.
Increase Intake of Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Just as some foods cause inflammation, other foods naturally reduce it. Here is a list of foods that you can use to naturally reduce inflammation.
Berries contain powerful antioxidants know as anthocyanins. They have anti-inflammatory properties and can also reduce the risk of disease. Berries rich in antioxidants include strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries.
Fatty fish are rich in long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. Both EPA and DHA lower inflammation and the risk for metabolic syndrome, heart disease, kidney disease and diabetes. In addition, the body metabolizes both fatty acids into resolvins, compounds that also have anti-inflammatory effects. Some of the best fatty fish sources include:
One of the best foods you can eat happens to be broccoli as it provides a wide range of health benefits. Plus, broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable. Research indicates that eating a lot of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli reduces the risk of heart disease and some forms of cancer.
In addition, broccoli contains an antioxidant known as sulforaphane which reduces inflammation by lowering levels of cytokines that cause inflammation. And, when it comes to metabolic hormones and weight loss, broccoli is one of the best foods to put on your plate.
Hailed as a superfood, avocadoes should be included in any healthy diet. Avocadoes are rich sources of fiber, potassium, magnesium and monosaturated fats. Studies show that avocadoes also lower inflammation in young skin cells. Specifically, they help lower the inflammatory markers NF-kB and IL-6.
Green tea reduces your risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, and even obesity. When it comes to metabolic hormones and weight loss, few beverages are better for you than green tea.
Most of the health benefits of green tea are due to epigallocatechin-3-gallate, or EGCG. Green tea is rich in EGCG which inhibits inflammation by reducing levels of cytokine. Cytokine is pro-inflammatory and also damages the fatty acids in your cells.
Both bell and chili peppers are rich sources of antioxidants and Vitamin C that help naturally reduce inflammation. In addition, chili peppers have sinapic acid and feurlic acid which also helps further control inflammation.
Bell peppers also have the antioxidant quercetin that helps lower a marker of oxidative damage in people with the inflammatory disease sarcoidosis.
And in relation to metabolic hormones and weight loss, peppers are great foods to include in your regular diet.
Only a few of the thousands of different varieties of mushrooms are actually edible and grown for commercial consumption. But of those that are, they provide a host of health benefits.
For instance, mushrooms are rich sources of selenium, copper and all B vitamins. They are also low in calories and great for any diet. Plus, mushrooms have phenols and antioxidants that naturally lower inflammation levels.
One mushroom is particularly useful for both suppressing inflammation and losing weight. Lion’s mane reduces low-grade, obesity related inflammation.
But be careful. Several studies indicate that cooking mushrooms significantly lowers their anti-inflammatory effects. So, you may want to either consume mushrooms raw or only cook them slightly.
Other Strategies for Reducing Inflammation and Leptin Resistance
Research show that even moderate levels of regular exercise improve leptin sensitivity. It doesn’t really matter if the exercise is aerobic or anaerobic. Just regular activity provides the benefit. Studies show that exercising even 20 minutes daily is sufficient to improve leptin sensitivity.
However, for long-term health reasons and hitting your weight loss goals, more exercise is recommended. In addition, is recommended that you combine both aerobic and anaerobic exercise for best results. The anaerobic exercise burns more fat and builds muscle. More muscle mass increases caloric burn at rest as well.
Ideally, you should strive for about 1 hour of exercise at least 5 times per week. That will burn 400-600 calories per session depending on the specific exercise you perform.
However, please consult with your physician before starting any new exercise regimen, especially if your activity levels have been low. It’s best to start slow and realistically get into shape with modest increases in activity. Otherwise, you risk injury and other health issues but jumping straight into a vigorous exercise regimen.
Get Enough Sleep
Balancing metabolic hormones and weight loss are simply not possible without sufficient sleep. For instance, studies show that not getting enough sleep leads to a drop in leptin levels. In turn, this stimulates appetite leading to “late night” and midday snacking.
So while getting enough sleep doesn’t necessarily reduce inflammation, it does help keep your leptin levels from getting out of balance. Ideally, you want to get at least 7 hours of sleep per night. If this is typically a problem for you, consider taking Melatonin which is a safe and effective sleep aid.
Concluding Thoughts on Leptin Resistance
We have focused this section on reducing inflammation, a key driver of leptin resistance. We have also provided other strategies that specifically impacted leptin levels in a positive way that helped with weight loss efforts. However, we have not talked about the relationship between insulin levels and leptin resistance.
Chronically elevated insulin levels are one of the other key drivers of leptin resistance. However, since insulin is also one of the metabolic hormones that helps control weight, we will cover it separately next.
For now and to keep the focus on metabolic hormones and weight loss, it is important to note how big a role leptin resistance plays in determining our weight. Researchers believe leptin resistance is one of the biggest causes of obesity. Unfortunately, the food industry itself has prioritized profits over the health of it’s customers.
It is no coincidence that the rise of processed foods over the past 50 years coincides with the rise of the obesity epidemic we see today. Processed foods drive inflammation and increase the risk of developing leptin resistance. Any significant fat deposits (belly fat, or fat on legs, thighs, buttocks) means your body is carrying around high levels of leptin. As such, you have some degree of leptin resistance because leptin is designed to help regulate food intake when functioning and detected properly by your hypothalamus.
By reducing intake of foods that cause inflammation and increasing intake of foods that reduce inflammation, the hypothalamus can detect leptin properly again. When that happens, cravings will naturally disppear, portion sizes will reduce, and your metabolism rate will increase. All things that will help you burn fat and keep from regaining weight.
Now, let’s take a look at the role of Insulin in regulating body weight.
Another one of the metabolic hormones, insulin is produced in the pancreas. Typically, insulin is secreted in small amounts throughout the day. After meals, it is secreted in larger amounts.
Functionally, insulin is like a gate keeper for blood sugar. Insulin allows your cells to take in blood sugar and either use it for energy or store it. Which occurs depends on your body’s need at that time.
Insulin is also a gate keeper for fat. It tells fat cells to store fat and also prevents stored fat from being broken down. So in terms of your metabolic hormones and weight loss, insulin plays a huge role.
However, when cells become insulin resistant, both your blood sugar and insulin levels spike dramatically. When insulin levels are chronically elevated, it is known as hyperinsulimia. It is this condition that leads to both obesity and the very leptin resistance we discussed previously.
And then you’re in a very destructive cycle. Because leptin resistance leads to overeating. And overeating, especially sugar, refined carbs, and fast food–thus drives insulin resistance and chronically elevated insulin levels. It’s like the perfect storm for obesity.
Fortunately, the strategies for reversing both leptin resistance and insulin resistance overlap considerably. However, here are the specific strategies for reversing insuline resistance (and in large part, leptin resistance):
Minimize Sugar Intake
Studies show high amounts of fructose and sucrose promote insulin resistance while elevating insulin levels.
Lower Intake of Carbohydrates
Insulin levels drop almost immediately by implementing a low-carb diet.
Eat More Protein
Consuming anything will cause a temporary spike in insulin levels. However, studies show that getting 30% or more of your calories each day from protein helps reduce belly fat naturally. That’s because protein naturally curbs appetite, speeds up your metabolism, and your caloric intake drops. Reducing your belly fat will ultimately lead to a drop in insulin levels.
Eat More Healthy Fats
Here, we are once again talking about fatty fish and anything with omega-3 fats. Eating more of them will help reverse both leptin and insulin resistance.
Turns out exercise is precisely what the doctor ordered when it comes to reversing both leptin and insulin resistance and losing weight. In one study, participants who jogged or walked briskly saw an improvement in insulin sensitivity in 14 weeks.
Increase Magnesium Intake
Studies show that people with insulin resistance have low levels of magnesium. Other studies show that magnesium supplements improve insulin sensitivity. Bananas, spinach, almonds, avocadoes, and bananas are foods high in magnesium.
As we have seen, healthy metabolic hormones and weight loss go hand in hand. Leptin and Insulin are two of the most important metabolic hormones to successful weight loss. However, as we have seen, they can become unbalanced and lead to both insulin and leptin resistance.
When that happens, a self-destructive cycle ensues. Leptin resistance leads to overeating and that causes chronically elevated insulin levels. Inflammation, caused by processed foods, refined sugar, unrefined carbs, and the food industry itself ultimately lead to the obesity epidemic we see today.
However, by using the strategies listed above, both leptin and insulin resistance can be overcome. And when they are, losing weight is easy and natural because your body is working with you to shed the excess pounds. It takes some effort but is well worth it to finally be the healthier, happier and thinner you!
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