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Your weight, your hormones

September 19th, 2012 | no comments


Although healthy food choices and mindful/connected eating are very critical pieces of the weight management puzzle, the fact that your hormones also play an important part can’t be discounted. According to Dr. Daniel Amen, clinical neuroscientist, psychiatrist, brain imaging expert, and author of Change Your Brain, Change Your Body, there are three essential weight-management hormones: insulin, leptin, and ghrelin.

Insulin is produced by the pancreas and is a storage hormone. When blood sugar levels rise, insulin takes nutrients (glucose) from the blood and stores them in the body’s cells. Since it is a storage hormone, it also stops the body from mobilizing and using fat as a fuel source. Too much insulin, according to Dr. Amen, stops fat burning. To maintain a healthy weight and burn fat adequately, it is important to keep insulin properly balanced.
What should you do? Never allow more than four hours to pass without eating a meal or snack and balance those meals with healthy carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fat. For example:

  • 1 slice whole wheat toast (carbohydrate)
  • 8 ounces skim milk (carbohydrate)
  • 1 cup fresh berries (carbohydrate)
  • 1 hard-boiled egg (protein)
  • 1 tablespoon natural peanut butter (fat)


Leptin is a hormone produced by the fat cells. It tells your body it’s full. The more fat cells you have on your body, the more leptin you tend to have. Leptin works on the brain’s hypothalamus to reduce your appetite when fat stores are high. When they are low, such as after dieting, leptin levels are diminished, which causes a spike in appetite and sabotages weight loss. It has been described as an antistarvation hormone because low levels lead to increased hunger. Leptin resistance may result from over-eating, as the hypothalamus becomes desensitized to its effects so you never know when you are full. Poor sleep decreases leptin levels too—even more of a reason to be sure you get at least 7-8 hours each night.

What should you do?

  • Get at least 7 hours of sleep each night. It isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity!
  • Don’t allow yourself to get too hungry (see above suggestion).
  • Get into the habit of gauging your hunger. Force yourself to answer the question- How hungry or full am I? For more information, see my post titled “How often should you eat?”
  • For Pete’s sake…stop dieting!

Ghrelin is secreted by the stomach and tells your brain when you’re hungry. Interestingly enough, ghrelin levels increase during dieting, causing a spike in hunger and subsequent overeating. Could this be why people tend to put weight back on after a diet?

What should you do? Eat frequent small meals and for Pete’s sake…stop dieting!

Just in case you didn’t get the hint…FOR PETE’S SAKE…STOP DIETING!



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