Hormones, not calories, determine weight loss and fitness. Hormones not calories control hunger, cravings, energy and mood. Taking the hormonal weight management approach is more about eating the right things than it is about counting calories.
What is leptin
Leptin is a weight regulating and appetite control hormone produced in fat cells. Under normal conditions, when fat cells fill up, they begin to secrete leptin. Carried in the blood stream, leptin works its way deep into the brain and stimulates the hypothalamus. A leptin stimulated hypothalamus releases hormones that speed up metabolism, burn excess fat, provide satiety and maintain healthy weight.
So what’s the problem?
Calories don’t control metabolism: hormones do.
Persistently elevated leptin levels are associated with obesity, overeating and inflammatory diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer. Consistently high levels of leptin release from overstuffed fat cells results in leptin resistance. Leptin resistance is perceived by the body as starvation.
The misperceived state of starvation activates multiple pathways that increase fat stores and slow metabolism. Specifically, diminished thyroid hormone production, diminished thyroid hormone activation, increased thyroid hormone receptor resistance, increased appetite, increased insulin resistance (another weight loss challenge: see website newsletter Diabetic Syndrome) and inhibition of fat cell fat burning capacity. This starvation response, that also occurs with calorie restriction diets, can thwart even the best of efforts by sincere weight watchers.
What is a lectin
Lectins are carbohydrates that plants make to protect themselves from insects and diseases. Some plants have high levels of lectins including all legumes, dried beans, soy, peanuts and the nightshade family: potato (especially genetically modified potatoes), tomato, eggplant and peppers. The other major source of dietary lectins comes from cereal grains: wheat, rye, barley, wheat germ, quinoa, rice, oats, millet and corn.
Why the concern
Lectins are proinflammatory and promote leptin resistance by blocking leptin receptors. Blocking leptin receptors promotes the starvation response which instructs the body to slow down and store fat.
What to do
- Exercise. Keep up with a regular exercise regimen (see website Exercise newsletter)
- Sleep. Maintain a healthy and regular sleep schedule (see website Insomnia, Parts I & II newsletter). Sleep deficit promotes leptin resistance.
- Look at the volume of your meal: just three days of overeating triggers leptin and insulin resistance.
- Look at your daily food distribution. Make breakfast the main meal of the day, lunch lighter and dinner the lightest meal of the day.
For more tips regarding mealtime habits please review my website newsletter: Weight Solutions.
Fructose additives promote leptin resistance.
The Standard American Diet with high fructose corn syrup, soft drinks, jazzed up fruit drinks and processed foods definitely promote leptin resistance. Please note that real whole fruit does not have the same negative effect as fructose spiked foods.
Green tea or green tea capsules, fish oil, mulberry extract
Sample Dietary Plan
Eat: wild fish (never farmed), organic grass (not grain) fed meat, chicken, turkey, lots of organic low starch vegetables (easy on those nightshades), low sugar fruit (apples, strawberry, papaya, berries: no juice) and nuts. This is a low lectin, leptin enhancing diet: very much like the Paleolithic diet.
Eat three meals a day and work with the above healthy lifestyle and dietary suggestions. To each meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner), you can eat 5-15 bites of starch, selecting from: rice, millet, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, legumes (not soy), or potato.
The starch group is the variable. You want to include enough carbohydrates so that you aren’t starving between meals, (maybe a little hungry, but not overly) and still have good energy for exercise and other activities. You may need to adjust the starches up or down, or adjust the time of day that you eat them, generally morning is best. In time you can add in milk products if you like, and other starches. Just ‘listen to your body’ and you will learn what hormonal diet is right for you.
Since everyone is different, this adjustable plan will work for almost everyone. Work with it to find what food types and amounts give you the energy you need leading to the weight that you want. If you want to eat more than three meals a day, that is fine, just split the amount you’d eat in the three meals into four or five or six smaller meals.
For best results consider purchasing a body fat analyzer to be sure it is fat and not muscle that you are reducing. You can get a good one for about $35.
Be creative and ask at your favorite healthy food store for alternatives: for example, coconut oil can be substituted for butter, almond flour can be substituted for white flour, and a little honey can be substituted for other sweeteners.
These suggestions will help many people who get good exercise and eat a healthy diet, but still retain weight. If these suggestions aren’t working, I offer my patients a more assertive hormone balancing supplement and injection program to get a handle on unwanted weight.
Weight management can be a challenge. Overexposure to leptins and lectins often sabotage the best of intentions. The suggestions in this newsletter can help unlock those barriers to weight loss. Along with the appropriate amount of client specific exercise, the most important factors in weight management are proper food choices with hormonally smart caloric intake and patience: one to two pounds a week is an excellent rate of loss.
I hope you have enjoyed this month’s newsletter. Comments and feedback are welcome.
Jon Dunn, ND