Wellness@Elon: Mastering the weight-loss hormone

Leptin: Ever heard of it?

It’s a very powerful and influential hormone discovered about a decade ago. It’s produced by fat cells and has changed the way science looks at fat, nutrition and metabolism.

Leptin is essential to survival, controlling energy balance and metabolism by communicating with the brain and directing fat to act as a fuel reserve. This important role of leptin was what enabled early humans to eat and store fat when food was plentiful and in lean times allowed their bodies to be sustained by the fat stores.

In today’s society, the problem is that food is everywhere, all the time; there’s rarely a need for our bodies to live purely off of our fat storage. And yet leptin’s function hasn’t changed; the hormone still wants to create fat stores in anticipation of a “lean time” when those stores will be used. As a result, by constantly eating and, at times, constantly overeating, we develop leptin resistance: an inability of the brain to judge when fats are stored at the proper level.

Food cravings and an inability to attain or maintain a healthy body weight can be caused by leptin resistance. But there are ways that you can help yourself maintain proper levels of leptin, which in turn will help you meet your weight-loss or maintenance goals:

  • Don’t eat after dinner. Try to allow 11-12 hours between dinner and breakfast.
  • Eat three meals a day. Try to allow 5-6 hours between meals, and don’t snack.
  • Don’t eat large meals. Listen to your body and stop eating when, or before, you are full.
  • Include protein in your breakfast.
  • Reduce your intake of carbohydrates.

To learn more about leptin and how to manage the hormone, consult Byron Richards’ book, Mastering Leptin.

Submitted by Cindy Novak, Wellness Coordinator