What is leptin resistance?
Have you ever had trouble sticking to a diet?
Are you overweight?
Do you crave sweets and junk food?
These are all signs that you may be leptin resistant. Leptin is a hormone that your body produces that controls feelings of hunger and satiety. So the more leptin you have in your body the lower your appetite is. If your body is constantly overloaded with leptin, however, it starts to ignore this hormone. In essence, it stops working. So your body feels hungry even though you have plenty of leptin in your system.
We often look at weight loss as a simple calorie in vs. calorie out mathematic formula and voila, we’ll lose weight. Technically it is true, that if you eat fewer calories than you burn you will lose weight but this ignores the psychology and hormonal functions that also play a role in losing weight. Because we are not computers… it can often be difficult to just consume fewer calories. In fact, if you are leptin resistant or are on a crash diet your body is doing everything it can to keep you from losing weight.
If you restrict calories but don’t consume a healthy diet you may find that you lose weight the first week or so but then find that your diet is extremely hard to stick with, you feel more lethargic and can’t stop thinking about your next meal. This is because your body is responding to how you are eating and your hormones are telling you to eat because it thinks you are starving. This is why crash diets don’t work and don’t last. To get lasting weight loss you need to address your habits and your hormones.
How is Leptin Resistance Caused?
Leptin is produced by the fat cells. The more fat you have the more leptin you will have in your system. The more you have in your system the more you will learn to ignore it.
How to Heal Leptin Resistance.
Sleep is so important in weight loss. When we don’t get enough sleep it lowers our blood levels of leptin and increases the hunger hormone Ghrelin. Shorter habitual sleep duration is strongly correlated with higher weight. (1) The link between sleep and weight are documented in many different studies. (2) It affects your leptin levels but inadequate sleep also affects your metabolism and drive to lose weight. (3) Here is some more info we’ve written on getting the right amount of sleep.
Exercise can both aid in leptin resistance or worsen it because of it’s relation to cortisol. Many people trying to lose weight actually end up overtraining. This can elevate levels of cortisol which results in higher leptin levels. High-intensity interval workouts have been shown to lower Leptin levels over time. When you do begin working out opt for sprints or weights over cardio or HIIT workouts. Walking is also very beneficial as walking helps lower your cortisol levels. You want to get enough exercise to lower your leptin levels but not too much that you start spiking your cortisol levels. Cardio is notoriously bad for leptin resistance. You may notice this after swimming or running that you are starving.
Eat to reduce inflammation
Eating a SAD American diet can cause inflammation in the body which also affects leptin resistance. (4) To eat to reduce inflammation you want to avoid foods that have a lot of white flour, sugar, and vegetable oils in them. Your sodas, fast food, and quick box dinners are generally loaded with this. Dairy is also inflammatory. Instead, eat healthy fats like olive oil or coconut oil, including lots of leafy greens, fruits, and tomatoes. As well as plenty of fatty fish and nuts.
Take fish oil supplements
Fish oil is an amazing fat loss tool. It can actually lower insulin and leptin levels directly, although the mechanism is not completely understood. Fish oil works with your body to lose weight by affecting a lot of your hormones. Fish oil balances insulin and leptin levels and also affects Thyroid hormone. Although Thyroid function is not directly tied to leptin it plays a large role in metabolism and weight loss. Fish oil affects all three of these powerful weight loss hormones ( 5) I really trust the nordic naturals brand for fish oil supplements. We use this one that has added D3 as well.
Balance Hormone Levels
Because leptin is so tied to other hormones it is important to focus on things that will help with Leptin resistance by working with other hormones as well. These include insulin, sex hormones, and cortisol.
Low estrogen levels can stimulate feelings of hunger in the brain. Estrodials act in a similar way as leptin in the body and can kind of mimic it so having low levels can make you feel more hungry. (7) However many people eating a SAD diet actually get estrogen dominance. This is often caused by insulin spikes from eating too many processed sugars and carbs. These are often brought back into check by correcting the insulin spikes. Things you can do to balance estrogen levels include exercise, consuming more flax seeds, taking magnesium supplements or eating a lot of green leafy vegetables.
Low testosterone can make it difficult to build muscle and lowers your metabolism. To regulate testosterone levels ditch the sugar and alcohol.
Progesterone levels also play an important role in weight-loss. They aren’t directly related to leptin but can still cause problems when trying to lose weight if you have low progesterone and high estrogen. Progesterone supports the thyroid which increases energy and metabolism. So having to little progesterone can also make it difficult to lose weight.
Balance Cortisol Levels
Cortisol is a hormone associated with hard to lose belly fat and poor sleep. It is our stress hormone. Cortisol is a dominant hormone and influences a lot of other hormones in the body. As such it can have a huge effect on weight loss and health. The best way to manage cortisol is to take a close look at how we manage stress in our life.
Start by trying to manage your stress level and how you cope with stress. Some habits that lower stress include: Yoga, meditation enjoyable hobbies, focusing on positive relationships, Cut down on obligations and demands, conserve your resources and learn how to delegate. Set aside time each day for yourself. As a parent, you may need to coordinate with your spouse or find a babysitter or get up early to focus and de-stress.
More on stress management:
Relora, traditionally used in Chinese medicine, has been shown to reduce cortisol in overweight people at night and help with stress eating. You can also add fish oil to your supplements as this has also shown to reduce cortisol levels.
Balance insulin levels
Insulin resistance is closely correlated to leptin resistance. Eat less sugar and refined carbohydrates. Opt for whole wheat, oats, or brown rice or fiber-rich foods like vegetables and fruit. If you are looking for something sweet opt for coconut palm sugar over other types of sugar as it is antibacterial and it doesn’t elevate your blood sugar. This is key in not spiking your insulin. Balancing out your meals and snacks with a carb, fat, and protein helps stabilize blood sugar as well.
Another thing to note with leptin resistance is that in many cases it can actually cause thyroid resistance and visa versa. This can make it doubly hard to lose weight and it cascades into the thyroid hormones. This results in high levels of reverse T3. It is best to have your thyroid hormones tested to see if you also have this condition. (6)
Ultimately healing leptin resistance occurs by getting proper sleep, eating enough protein, cutting out processed foods, eating plenty of fiber, getting daily exercise, lower carbohydrate intake. It’s a whole body and lifestyle change. Leptin resistance is the result of living a generally unhealthy lifestyle and it can’t be fixed without changing your lifestyle to a healthier one.