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How Leptin Affects Your Ability to Lose Weight

standing on scale

Leptin is mainly associated with weight fluctuations and appetite. Leptin is a hormone in the body that manages hunger and feelings of satiety. It is secreted by adipose (fat) tissue, so the more overweight a person is, typically, the higher his or her leptin levels.

The balance of leptin is altered by various factors, including disruptions in two other hormones that regulate appetite- insulin and serotonin. With weight gain, leptin levels rise, which causes the brain to send false signals of hunger, resulting in overeating. High leptin levels have been tied to high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, and stroke, as well as blood sugar related problems.

Difficulty losing weight can also be caused by leptin resistance. This is where it is unable to produce its normal effects to stimulate weight loss. This resistance is sensed as starvation, so multiple mechanisms are activated to increase fat stores rather than burn excess fat stores.

How to Tell if You are Leptin Resistant

The easiest way to do this is to look in the mirror.  If you’re overweight, you are definitely Leptin resistant. Simple as that.  If you still have a large appetite and crave carbohydrates, especially at night, these can also be signs that you are likely Leptin resistant.  If you are in decent shape and not sure on your diagnosis based upon the above symptoms, get a blood test and check your reverse T3. If you are, it will be elevated. It is also recommended to check your salivary cortisol level.  With Leptin resistance, you will most likely see higher cortisol levels later in the day.

Leptin Stimulating Foods and Lifestyle Factors

  • Overeating
  • Over consumption of simple carbohydrates
  • Fructose consumption (high fructose corn syrup)
  • High stress levels
  • High insulin levels
  • Lack of sleep
  • Exercising too much
  • Grain and lectin consumption

According to the University of Texas Health Science Center, naturally lowering leptin requires lifestyle changes and a balancing of nutritional intake. Leptin resistance is a complex problem involving the endocrine system and reversing it requires more than simple calorie restriction or will power.

Great Options to Get Things Back on Track

Step 1

Limit your calorie intake and start your weight loss journey. The more food you consume, the more likely you are to continue to gain weight, which increases leptin production. High leptin levels are linked to high body-fat mass. Pay attention to the calories you consume. Keep a food diary, if needed.

A simple guide for how much you should eat goes like this:

If you are a female, multiply your weight times 11. If you are male, multiply your weight times 12. The number you get is the amount of calories you can consume and stay the same weight. Example, 180lb female x 11 = 1980 calories. Your total daily intake needs to be below this for weight loss. A good target in this example would be 1,500 calories a day.

Step 2

Eat a balance of complex carbohydrates with each meal. If you don’t know what complex carbs are, do an internet search and compare complex carbs versus simple carbs. Complex carbohydrates sustain energy longer than foods with simple sugars such as candy, donuts, and chips. Instead, choose whole grain breads or pastas, brown rice, quinoa, and bran cereals. Remain aware of your calorie intake, while also eating foods containing natural sugars. You can also choose natural sweeteners like Stevia. As a rule of thumb, choose brown colored starches over white, as they are generally not as processed or refined with added sugars.

Step 3

Add fish to your meal plans every week. According to a 2002 study by the American Heart Association, incorporating fish into your diet lowers leptin levels. Try to consume salmon, mackerel and tuna at least twice a week for leptin-lowering benefits. Grilling or baking it is best. Avoid frying fish, which can add unhealthy fat content.

Eat more omega-3s by eating fish, grass-fed meats, or chia seeds and minimize your omega-6 consumption to lower inflammation and help support healthy leptin levels. Use of prescription-grade fish oil supplements is an option as well.

Step 4

Don’t work out until you get your diet in check. If you are really leptin resistant, this can be additional stress on the body. Let your body heal a little first, then add exercise. Try and start with daily exercise when you do. Take a 30-minute walk, jog, or bike ride to initiate physical activity. Daily exercise helps stimulate your digestive system and when paired with healthier eating habits, can aid in weight loss, therefore lowering leptin levels. Start exercising with low impact activity, and once you can work out for 30 minutes or more, try higher intensity workouts and weight lifting. Don’t do cardio just for the sake of cardio. It’s just stress on the body if done excessively. Do not work out before breakfast. It’s better to work out after 5 pm.

Step 5

Practice stress management daily. Experiencing consistent high stress can impact your hormone balance, appetite, and energy level. Reducing stress is important for regulating leptin. Try different activities for relaxing your mind and body and make sure you have a way to destress at your place of employment when needed. Seek counseling if you are unable to manage stress on your own, or take 10 minutes a day to mentally unwind.

If followed properly, you should notice changes in hunger and cravings in 4-6 weeks. Here are some of the signs that you are becoming Leptin Sensitive again:

  • Women will likely notice mood changes first, and their sleep should improve. Clothes will begin to fit differently, but weight may not change drastically initially because of effects on the pituitary. This will eventually change with time.

  • Men will notice quick weight loss.

  • You may notice a change in your sweating pattern.

  • You will notice you have better energy and better recovery from exercise.

  • Your constant hunger is gone and so are your cravings.

  • When you wake up, you will feel refreshed.

Other Recommendations

Keep a food journal to track daily calories and lose weight. Consider working with a personal trainer to jumpstart weight loss efforts and learn proper form for exercises. When improvements are noticed, make adjustments to include higher intensity exercise with heavy weights as recommended.

Do you need a doctor to assess your health and give you recommendations to help you on your health journey? Contact us to schedule a consultation!