Has this ever happened to you?
You discipline yourself to a calorie-restricted diet to lose a few pounds. You have some success, though after a few weeks you have a weight loss slow down that comes paired with growing, gnawing hunger.
You end up craving and caving. Your drive to eat overcomes your better judgement and deepest dietary resolve, and eventually you plow through enough food – forbidden or otherwise – and pile all the weight lost back on. And then some.
It’s not your fault. The good news is that there is a way to nudge those numbers on the scale downward without hooking a reactive rise in appetite and rebound weight gain.
Are your hormones hijacking your willpower?
Leptin and ghrelin are 2 hormones (among others) that play a pivotal role in our appetite or lack of it. Put simply, ghrelin is the hormone that tells us to eat, and leptin is the hormone that tells we’ve had enough and it’s time to stop eating.
Leptin plays a big enough role in your appetite signalling that I make a point of addressing it in the second training call of Body Transformation Booty Camp. Ghrelin is known more as a ‘fast-acting’ hormone, playing a major role in meal initiation, meaning signalling you to eat. Now.
There are of course several biochemicals involved in the process of controlling your appetite, but leptin is a major player that we don’t want to mess with. Leptin came into the spotlight a few years ago when scientists discovered that mice injected with leptin became slim almost overnight. Unfortunately for the diet pill industry, this did not translate to humans. However, it shed important light on how important it is to manage our eating to keep leptin levels optimal.
- is made by your fat cells
- the name leptin comes from the Greek ‘leptos’, which means ‘thin‘ – interesting!
- is released into the blood when there are sufficient calories coming in, to:
1) signal the brain to reduce appetite
2) boost metabolic rate by encouraging your body to combust calories more quickly
- is secreted by the stomach
- seems to function as a meal-initiation signal
- apparently changes in response to low calorie dieting in order to help maintain body weight.
Leptin and ghrelin in English
Not to oversimplify, but here’s what all of this means to you. Calorie restriction in your attempt to lose weight can backfire by lowering leptin levels and raising ghrelin, which to you means a boost in appetite and whiter knuckles as you attempt to kick in you will power to control your appetite. And you know how long that lasts.
You know that a calorie deficit is necessary in order for your body to reduce its fat stores.
So, what are you supposed to do? If calorie restriction sets of a hormonal cascade that drives you hunger up and keeps you prowling for food, is the cause for weight loss hopeless?
Not at all. And you don’t need to go all psycho-Leptin Diet about it either. As a matter of fact, that’s one thing I want to warn you against. In our magic-bullet thinking, we tend to hook onto these factors that play a role to make them the holy grail. Don’t.
The secret to creating a calorie deficit without hooking the leptin and ghrelin response that backfires in roaring appetite and easy regain of weight is to:
- reduce caloric load but not too much
- find a way of eating that allows you to have satiety and avoid hunger while reducing the caloric load.
3 secrets for mastering leptin and ghrelin so you can successfully lose weight and keep it off
Take your ideal weight and multiply it by 10. You should aspire to never going below this number in calorie consumption each day. For example, if your ideal weight is 140, 1400 calories should be your lower limit. Don’t get obsessed about it, just check in with your numbers on occasion until you get the hang of it.
2) Eat a whole foods, low fat, high fiber diet: Fiber is deeply connected with satiety. (See”The 3 rules of satiety & why they are critical to your weight loss plan: Becoming naturally thin”
Can a low fat diet enhance the action of leptin and ghrelin?
Not only the size and frequency of meals have an effect on circulating leptin and ghrelin levels, but also the composition of a meal is a determinant of leptin and ghrelin levels in humans . For example, low-fat/high-carbohydrate meals result in an increase in circulating leptin concentrations, which is larger, compared with high-fat/low-carbohydrate meals. In addition, high-fat meals lower 24-h circulating leptin levels relative to high-carbohydrate meals. A low-fat diet seems to have an inhibitory effect on ghrelin levels, as one study reported that a low-fat/high-carbohydrate diet resulted in weight loss, without an increase in plasma ghrelin levels. 1
3) Move! Exercise tunes up your leptin machinery. A half hour of activity a day will do it, as far as leptin is concerned.
Chronic over-restriction of calories can be the eating mistake that dooms your weight loss and body-shaping goals. Remember, your body does everything for a reason and working with your hormonal profile by eating a low fat, unprocessed, and whole food plant-based diet, you can have your satiety and weight loss too. How perfect is that?
1[The role of leptin and ghrelin in the regulation of food intake and body weight in humans: a review Obseity Reviews M. D. KlokS. Jakobsdottir, M. L. Drent] DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-789X.2006.00270.x]
J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2003 Apr;88(4):1577-86.Roles of leptin and ghrelin in the loss of body weight caused by a low fat, high carbohydrate diet.Weigle DS, Cummings DE, Newby PD, Breen PA, Frayo RS, Matthys CC, Callahan HS, Purnell JQ. University of Washington School of Medicine, Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System, and Harborview Medical Center, Seattle, Washington 98104, USA. firstname.lastname@example.org
Turn off Your Fat Genes, Dr. Neal Barnard
About Lani & your FREE Fit Kit
Lani Muelrath, M.A., CGFI, CPBN, is the creator of Fit Quickies™ & the Body Shaping Breakthrough Kit, a FREE collection you can download instantly to learn Fit Quickie #1: ’7 Seconds to a Flat Belly‘ and your Burst Training Guide: How to fit 45 minutes of cardio into only 15 minutes. You can access your free kit here: Body Shaping Breakthrough Kit