We tend to think that diet, exercise, and obesity are completely within our control and that weight loss is merely a matter of willpower, diet, and exercise. These thoughts leave people who are overweight or obese feeling that they are just “weak” and that there is something wrong with them. Not only are these thoughts disempowering, but also they are not entirely true.The truth is that weight loss is not merely a factor of diet and willpower, but is also a factor of hormonal balance in your body. Leptin, ghrelin, and insulin are hormones that regulate fat burning, hunger, and weight loss. If you want to lose weight, then you need ensure these hormones remain balanced.
How Leptin Affects Your Weight
In a study published in Metabolism, scientists found that most obese individuals are leptin resistant. Restoring leptin sensitivity could therefore help restore healthy energy levels, regulate overall hormonal function, and improve your metabolism.
Energy levels, metabolism, and hormonal levels are all crucial factors in beating obesity. But what is leptin and how does leptin actually work?
Leptin – the Weight Loss Switch
Without going into major medical detail, leptin, insulin, and ghrelin, all function like the switches on a thermostat. In a heater for example, the thermostat monitors the level of heat in the room. When the room gets too cold the thermostat switches your heater on. When the heat level rises too high, the thermostat switches your heater off and this allows the temperature to drop again. Leptin levels function in much the same way.
As leptin levels increase, the increased leptin levels tell your brain to stop storing fat and to start burning fat. The brain, like the thermostat, switches fat storage off and switches fat burning on.
When the levels drop too low, like the temperature in the heater, then the brain switches fat storage on again.
In a healthy person, leptin levels determine how hungry you get and how much fat your body stores. The leptin system is a system that evolved to keep us from getting too fat on the one hand and from starving on the other hand.
Leptin Resistance and Obesity
Sadly, most obese individuals have developed a condition called leptin resistance. In short, their thermostat has stopped working. The good news for obese patients is that it isn’t entirely down to the fact that you are too “weak-willed” to lose weight, but rather a physiological condition – leptin resistance.
The biggest problem with leptin and obesity is that the hormone leptin is produced by your body’s fat cells. The more fat cells you have the more leptin your body produces. This creates a viscous cycle for individuals with obesity and may explain why most obese individuals are resistant to leptin. Obese individuals have more fat cells and therefore have higher leptin levels. The problem is that constantly high or increased leptin levels can result in the brain and body becoming resistant to leptin and the brain therefore does not turn your fat storing switch off, or the fat burning switch on. You therefore stay hungry and store more and more fat.
The Consequences of Leptin Resistance
Leptin resistance therefore results in two basic physiological consequences:
You remain hungry
Your brain thinks the body needs more fat and so it keeps telling you to eat and it keeps telling your body to store the fat.
You have low energy levels
Your brain instructs your body to conserve energy, which reduces your metabolic rate and the rate at which you produce energy.
Low energy levels and constant hunger are deal breakers where beating obesity is concerned. But for obese individuals with obesity, it isn’t all bad news. The good news is that you can beat leptin resistance.
How you Develop Leptin Resistance
Science has identified a number of factors that contribute to the development of leptin resistance. Contributing factors include:
I’ve mentioned in the past that inflammation may be the cause for all chronic diseases and it also interferes with leptin signaling in the brain and the body. In other words, inflammation can result in the brain not being able to recognize higher leptin levels.
The relationship between what you eat, how you feel, and what your body perceives is complex and science has yet to discover all of the underlying mechanisms of these factors. What science has concluded is that unhealthy diets high in sugars and fats activate the reward centers of your brain and this something that I’ve already mentioned in the past. This means you feel good when you eat and want to eat more. These diets also affect the way the body perceives satiety. These meals are often lacking in nutrients and the body keeps telling you to eat. It’s interesting to note that weight loss is one of the 6 things that happens to your body when you quit sugar.
High leptin levels also contribute to leptin resistance. This is rather a chicken and egg situation, and science has not concluded on which came first, but higher leptin levels cause higher leptin resistance in individuals who are leptin resistant.
For obese individuals, or even those of us struggling to lose weight, the first two factors represent new hope for beating Leptin resistance.How to Fight Leptin Resistance & Lose Weight
The key to beating leptin resistance is therefore by reducing inflammation and by eating a healthy diet that helps to reduce leptin levels in your body. Luckily, a diet, which reduces inflammation, is also the kind of healthy diet you need to help you reverse leptin resistance. Here are some diet related factors that will help you to reverse the cycle:
Avoid Refined Sugars and Processed Foods
Foods high in sugars and processed foods encourage inflammation within the body. By reducing your intake of these foods, you can help to reduce inflammation, which in turn can help to reduce leptin sensitivity. You can use these 13 effective tricks to quit sugar and avoid these top 10 worst ingredients in food.
Choose a Diet High In Fiber
Fiber is vital for a healthy diet, but for obese individuals, fiber is even more important. Meals high in dietary fiber make you feel fuller and curb calorie intake—this helps to reverse the cycle. Fiber also reduces cardiovascular risk factors. Foods that are in high fiber can also prevent constipation and even used as natural laxatives.
Choose a Diet High in Proteins
When you eat protein you feel fuller for longer, and protein consumption has actually been linked to reduced leptin resistance. The consumption of protein also encourages weight loss.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep has been linked to leptin levels, cravings for carbohydrates, and metabolic rate. I’ve mentioned the significance of good sleep for well-being and weight control in my eBook Blast Your Belly Fat. Individuals who don’t get enough sleep often crave and consume more carbohydrates and sugars. Getting enough sleep can therefore help you curb those midnight urges to raid your refrigerator. You can find more information on what to eat and on what not to eat in my Natural Health Revolution Program – This program will help you to achieve your health, nutrition and weight loss goals.
The Bottom Line for Obesity
Obesity is as much a disease as it is a factor of willpower. The truth is that a diet designed to encourage satiety and to reduce inflammation can help you reverse the cycle of leptin resistance, which can in turn help you reverse the cycle of weight gain and obesity.
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