Welcome to Day 11 of my 14 Days of Fat Loss! Today I am talking about our hunger hormones leptin, and ghrelin. Don't worry if your not familiar with these terms, I will explain everything you need to understand.
A common criticism of eating health is that your never full. That healthy food leaves you forever wanting more in comparison to unhealthy food which can leave us feeling stuffed. Therefore, when you are attempting to lose weight by following a nutrition plan, your might feel like your options have all the sudden become very limited. You may feel deprived, you may feel unsatisfied, you may feel overwhelmed with your new healthy lifestyle. These feelings and more can cause us to revert back to what we know, what were used to too, what makes us feel good. What we know, are use too, or feel good are often options that will keep us overweight for forever. So it is important to understand just how hunger works and more importantly, how our own fat can dis-regulate our hunger signals.
We have two primary hunger hormones which are Leptin, and Ghrelin. Ghrelin is your hour to hour hunger hormone.
When your stomach is empty (empty will be important so hold on to this fact), Ghrelin will be secreted by your gastrointestinal tract and signal to your brain's hypothalamus cells that you are hungry(increase in appetite). Once you eat, the actual stretching of your stomach turns your Ghrelin signals off. Ghrelin also has a role in regulating our reward perception in the brain, which is why eating for many of us is a very enjoyable experience. Both stress and just the sight of highly palatable food can stimulate Ghrelin. Therefore you must know the difference between hunger signals from an empty stomach versus those from stress, temptation, or even lack of hydration.
Leptin is your day to day satiety hormone that is produced by your fat cells. Leptin essentially tells your brain how much bodyfat you have. The more fat you have on your body, the more Leptin you will produce and flood your brain with.
So how does this play into your fat loss? Or a better question to ask is, why are we so hungry? Why doesn't the body ever recognize the excess fat on our body and simply burn it off? We don't actually need it due to the fact that there we no longer have to survive long periods of time without food. So what gives?
At some point, we decide to make questionable decisions about our food. The typical American diet will increase your insulin (your primary fat storing hormone) which then increases your weight on the scale and overall bodyfat. But then, our high levels of insulin will block our leptin signals at the brain. Meaning our brains think, that we have very little bodyfat when we actually have plenty. What do you do when there is no food in the refigerator? You go to the store. What does the brain do when it believes that you have very little body fat? Your brain tells you to eat more.
While this is occuring your bodyfat is increasing more and more which then creates more fat cells which are putting off more Leptin (remember Leptin is produced by your fat cells). Your bodyfat is now sending waves of Leptin to the brain which are making your leptin receptors in the brain insensitive. What do you do if your neighbor plays really loud music? You block it out, it's just too much to listen to, you try to de--sensitize yourself by putting on ear plugs. What does your brain do when your bodyfat is sending really loud hormonal signals? Your brain blocks it out, and your brain de-sensitizes your leptin receptors in order to do so.
Every comedy movie featuring overweight characters will portray said characters as being extremely hungry. Overweight people are not fat because they are hungry. Overweight people are hungry BECAUSE THEY ARE FAT. The excess fat is denying their brain the signals it needs to hear in order to turn up the metabolic oven.
This is huge! Losing weight is not just a matter of will power. There are hormonal signals that can work against us if we are not balanced. So what do we do to re-balance these hormones so that our brain knows that we have fat we do not want or need on our bodies.
The first step to increasing your Leptin sensitivity will be to eat high fiber foods. Fiber will not only help with expanding the stomach which will turn off your Ghrelin signals, but also pull your blood sugar down which will lower your insulin by lowering your blood sugar. High intensity exercise and quality sleep will also promote our body fat burning hormones which will help with decreasing our body fat, which in turn will decrease our Leptin output. Decreasing our body fat will decrease our Leptin output which will allow our Leptin receptors in the brain to become sensitive again. Staying hydrated will also help us with eating only when we need to as opposed to eating in response to false triggers (stress, stimulation, dehydration).