In my blog “Leptin Not Working?” I discuss the hungry hormone leptin and the effects of leptin resistance. Leptin is a hormone made by fat cells that signals your brain to tell it how much fat is in your body. If you don’t have a lot of body fat, your leptin level is low, which boosts appetite, coaxing the body to accumulate more fat. But if you are already fat, the brain may be immune to the appetite-suppressing signals of leptin. This is a condition known as leptin resistance.
Leptin resistance means that your brain thinks you are starving when the reality is just the opposite. Dysfunctional leptin drives appetite and especially cravings for high calorie foods and junk foods. The brain is doing anything it can to prevent starvation.
Leptin resistance also causes lower metabolism and can lead to a host of other hormone problems like insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome, low testosterone (in men) and thyroid problems.
How do you fix leptin resistance?
There aren’t any medications to correct leptin resistance yet, but there is a lot you can do enhance the appetite-suppressing effect of leptin. Here are the top ten ways you can alleviate leptin resistance.
1. Eat a balanced diet.
Eating a balanced diet means eating equal (or roughly equal) percentages of the three major nutrients: carbohydrates, proteins and fats. I recommend eating about forty percent carbohydrates, thirty percent protein and thirty percent fat.
2. Eat the right kind of carbohydrates, proteins and fat.
Simply eating a balanced diet is not enough. You can have a balanced diet eating unhealthy foods but that won’t fix your leptin. You should avoid processed carbohydrates, especially those high in sugar and flour and eat more healthy carbohydrates like vegetables, fruits, whole grains and low fat dairy products. Eat low fat sources of proteins and avoid fatty cuts of meat. Eat healthy fats rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats like fish, olives, avocados and nuts.
3. Eat foods high in antioxidants.
Foods high in antioxidants like fresh vegetables and fruits alleviate leptin resistance because they calm inflammation.
4. Eat green vegetables before 10 AM.
Make eating vegetables in the morning a daily habit. Think of it as taking a vitamin supplement. You can add vegetables to your breakfast, have them as a morning snack or just wolf them down in a couple of bites. Try doing this, it won’t hurt you.
5. Eat consistently throughout the day
To alleviate leptin resistance, you need to avoid going long periods of time without eating. You should never skip meals, especially breakfast. It is best to eat every three to four hours while awake.
6. Move your body.
Exercise has a very power healing effect and leptin resistance is no exception. When it comes to exercise for leptin resistance there are two rules you must follow. 1) Do it. 2) Keep doing it. Consistency is a critical factor. I recommend exercising every day for one hour.
7. Drink enough water.
If you are dehydrated, you will be leptin resistant and you will have difficulty losing weight despite valiant efforts. You should drink two quarts of filtered water every day. Drinking cold water helps boost your metabolism in addition to helping leptin.
8. Get enough sleep.
Many people simply don’t get enough sleep. You should aim for getting six to eight hours of quality sleep every night. Good quality sleep is necessary for leptin to work properly. Sleep deprivation and sleep disorders have been linked to leptin resistance, increased appetite, lower metabolism, diabetes and a host of other ailments.
9. Eat fish high in omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in cold water fish, calm inflammation and alleviate leptin resistance. Shoot for 1000-4000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids daily. A four ounce serving of salmon contains about 2000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids. You can take supplements too, but make sure it is a high quality one.
10. Calm inflammation.
Having excess fat in the body is the most common source of inflammation. Fat cells make inflammatory chemicals known as cytokines which wreak havoc throughout the body. By reducing the amount of fat in your body, you will lower inflammation.
For more information on leptin resistance and all your hungry hormones, read my book Hormonal Balance: How to Lose Weight by Understanding Your Hormones and Metabolism.