It’s hard enough as it is to lose weight and keep it off, but could your own body be making it near impossible? In this article, we’ll learn all about Leptin, what it is, and how it can either help or hinder your weight loss efforts for the long run.
What is Leptin?
Leptin, also known as the “satiety” hormone, is produced by fat cells in the body. It works by sending a signal to the hypothalamus of the brain to say that the body has enough energy stored as fat, and thus decreases appetite. In addition, Leptin also plays a role in fertility, immunity, and brain function.
Leptin works in opposition of ghrelin, which is the hormone that works to increase appetite, and signal to the body that food is needed. The more fat cells that are present in the body, the more Leptin and less ghrelin is produced.
Despite the increased amounts of this appetite-suppressing hormone in obese individuals, and those with high body fat percentages, weight loss and regulation is a common struggle. This is most widely caused by a phenomenon known as Leptin resistance.
What is Leptin Resistance?
While obese individuals, or those with higher body fat percentages have higher levels of Leptin in the body, it is not being used by cells as it should. This is known as Leptin resistance. The satiety signals of Leptin are not getting sent to the brain, similar to those with insulin resistance and diabetes.
Even though the body has excessive energy stored in the form of fat, the brain perceives that it is starving. As a means of protection from starvation, the body works to preserve the stored energy in fat cells by decreasing the amount of calories burned and increasing appetite, working against the effects of Leptin.
Once you start to lose weight, Leptin levels in the body decrease significantly. The brain perceives this as starvation, and works hard to preserve and regain body fat that has been lost. This is why many individuals go through “yo-yo dieting”, or a vicious cycle of losing then gaining weight. This can also be seen when you reach a plateau, or weight loss becomes increasingly difficult, or worse yet stops altogether.
What To Do About Leptin Resistance
While it may seem like there is no way to combat the negative effects of Leptin resistance, there are many lifestyle changes that can be done to fight against it, and continue your weight loss or maintenance efforts. Here are some easy steps you can take to maximize your weight loss potential.
Get Enough Sleep: Sleep is just as important, if not more so, as eating right and exercising regularly. Aim to get seven to nine hours of quality of sleep a night to keep your hormone levels in check.
Avoid Processed Foods: Simple carbohydrates, such as refined breads, grains, pastas, cookies, and chips affect Leptin levels, and can make weight loss difficult. Limit the amounts of these foods in your diet, or remove them completely to avoid empty calories.
Exercise: Much like any healthy lifestyle, getting regular exercise is key to weight loss and combating Leptin resistance. Work to get at least 30 minutes a day of exercise or physical activity. Do activities you enjoy such as riding your bike, swimming, or lifting weights to make staying active fun, and less like a chore.
Increase Protein Intake: A diet higher in protein can not only help with weight loss but also with Leptin resistance. This is due to its high satiety factor, keeping you feeling fuller for longer. Try to get some form of protein at every meal and snack – this could be from foods such as lean meats and seafood, eggs, Greek yogurt, or protein shakes.