Taming the Hunger Hormones
If you have ever been on a restrictive diet to lose weight, you are more likely to regain that weight
within a year.
Weight rebound is primarily due to the role of weight-regulating hormones in our bodies. These chemical messengers play a vital role in weight loss and regain.
Ghrelin and leptin are two hormones that play a crucial role in weight maintenance, so stabilizing them is key to sustaining long-term healthy weight.
Ghrelin, also known as the “hunger hormone,” is produced in the gut when it is empty, sending a message to the brain that it is time to eat. As ghrelin levels increase, they encourage the body to store fat. Low levels of ghrelin minimize hunger and fat storage.
Ghrelin levels rise with weight loss. One of the main reasons sustained weight loss becomes complicated is because restricting calories leads to increased ghrelin levels, making us hungry. There are ways to control ghrelin, which will be discussed in “10Tips to Stabilizing Your Hunger Hormones.”
Leptin is made by our body’s fat cells that decrease our appetite, sending a message to the brain to tell us to stop eating. The higher the number of fat cells the body has, the higher amount of leptin in the body. You may be thinking that since you have a lot of body fat on your body, your leptin should be high which should trigger your brain to tell your body to stop eating. When we eat more than our body’s daily energy needs, we increase leptin. When our body has too much leptin due to higher amounts of fat cells, leptin signals to the brain stop working. Our brain mistakenly believes our body is starving and sends a false sign to eat more and conserve energy.
When we lose weight temporarily, our leptin resistance doesn’t reverse. Hence, if you lose weight you end up gaining back the weight you lost.
Treating the hormonal imbalance of these hunger hormones means considering many factors like obesity, health conditions, diet, sleep and lifestyle habits that throw our hunger hormones out of whack.
10 Tips to Stabilizing Your Hunger Hormones
Stable hunger hormones minimize cravings, increase satiety and improve leptin resistance.
1. Avoid crash diets. Staying conservative with calorie cutting is the best way to lose weight. Severe calorie-restrictive diets increase ghrelin production.
2. Incorporate High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). The best form of exercise to modulate ghrelin levels is HIIT and resistance training. HIIT reduces ghrelin and suppresses appetite, while resistance training helps gain muscle, increasing human growth hormone production and hindering ghrelin production.
3. Eat more protein. Foods rich in protein and healthy fats helps you fight hunger. They slow the digestive process keeping us satiated for more extended periods which keeps ghrelin levels low.
4. Consume resistive starches. Eating foods rich in resistive starch, a carbohydrate resistant to digestion and supports healthy gut bacteria, suppresses appetite by boosting leptin function. Lentils, oats and sweet potatoes are rich in resistant starch.
5. Fiber is our friend. Consume fiber-rich nutritious vegetables like brussels sprouts, broccoli, spinach and squash. These vegetables fill our stomach with fiber and water, dropping our ghrelin levels.
6. Limit fructose in diet. Fructose that is found in packaged foods has a marked negative effect on hunger-regulating hormones (Notice, whole fruit is not included). It increases ghrelin production.
7. Eat Omega-3 rich foods. These help the functioning of leptin in your body and reduces ghrelin levels by increasing satiety.
8. Eat often. Eating regular meals and snacks throughout the day keeps leptin and ghrelin levels stable. Mini-meals help satisfy the appetite and provide nutrients throughout the day.
9. Manage stress. Add stress-reducing activities like meditation, yoga, massage and walking in nature. Chronic stress stimulates ghrelin production.
10. Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation results in hunger and hormonal imbalance of satiety hormones. Just two hours less sleep per night leads to higher ghrelin levels and excessive sugar cravings. Reduced amount of sleep is also negatively correlated with leptin levels.
Focusing on healthy habits and creating an environment that encourages consuming healthy foods, reducing stress and moving our bodies can lead to long-term healthy weight.