This week we’re talking about the H word. That’s right, hormones! Or more specifically, one hormone called leptin.
Are you tired? Overweight? Always hungry or craving sugar? Do you sit there with a full stomach and wish you could fit in just one piece of chocolate to round off the night? Perhaps you’re worried about ageing?
If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, then this article is definitely for you. All of these issues can be related to leptin.
What is Leptin?
Leptin is the one hormone we all need to understand. It is the army general of hormones; the leader, you could say.
What does it do?
Leptin’s function is to reduce your appetite and encourage your body to burn fat. Sound good so far? You bet! But this is just the beginning of what leptin does in the body.
It is also the anti-ageing hormone, regulates fertility and controls obesity. It is strongly linked with thyroid function and we all know how the thyroid controls metabolism, stress, and even beauty. An unbalanced thyroid can reduce the amount of hair at the outside of the eyebrow!
In fact, when scientists discovered leptin, they thought they had found the cure for obesity. This was it, the missing link! Leptin would be made and released to the world as the fat-fighting drug…
Yet that never happened. Why? Because it wasn’t as simple as it first seemed. The issue is not only how much leptin is in our body, but also how much we listen to it, and that is all linked to the way we eat. So there’s no “magic leptin pill” to keep us fat-free and forever young, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make leptin work for us.
How does it work?
Everyone’s body has the ability to create leptin, and we all have some floating around in our bodies. What makes the difference is how well our brain listens to it. It’s only when the leptin signals can be clearly heard, that we stop craving food, start burning fat, and stay younger for longer.
It’s a little like trying to listen to a phone call on speaker with the volume turned up too high. The person is still talking, the words are still there, but everything is distorted. Unless you adjust the volume, you can’t hear what is being said. Leptin is the same – without the correct amount of leptin, your brain can’t hear the “stop eating and stay young” signal clearly. If your brain can’t hear that signal, it thinks it’s time to eat more and store fat.
So where does the leptin signal come from? Surprisingly, leptin signals come from your fat cells.
Yes, I’m serious! Your fat is an endocrine organ. Your brain is a slave to your fat!
Ideally, when your body has stored a certain number of fat cells, and they are all releasing their own little bit of leptin, the “volume” is just right for the brain. Any more fat cells and the volume is too high, your brain acts to turn down the signal by reducing the number of fat cells available to send out signals. It sends a message to the body that there is no more need to keep eating, and you feel satiated. .
This means that when you eat right for your hormones, there is actually no need to use willpower to stay youthful, healthy and slim!
Interestingly, “I’m full” is not the only message the brain sends when it is correctly hearing the leptin signal. Leptin signalling also controls blood circulation, ensures correct bone building and density, keeps your body at a comfortable temperature, regulates your reproductive cycles and ability, and guides your body as to whether it should age or not.
This is a simplistic way of describing an extremely complex process in the brain and the body. However, you can see how important understanding how to manage leptin in your body is.
So how do we get fat in the first place?
If fat cells send out leptin signals to tell us when to stop eating and storing fat, how do we manage to become overweight in the first place? What’s going wrong?
The answer is similar to the toddler who wants a lolly. At first, everything is quiet and the toddler is blissfully playing. The mother is busy and productive, getting on with all she needs to do. Suddenly a little voice says, “Wanna lolly.” The mother probably pats the toddler on the head and tells him, “Not now, honey, you only just had lunch.” The toddle thinks about this for a while, then says, “Wanna lolly.”
Again, the mother tries to explain that now is not an appropriate time for a lolly. We all know what happens next… The toddler tries again and again, getting ever more insistent, “Wanna lolly! Wanna lolly!” By this time, of course, the mother has tuned out the yelling in the busyness of managing everything else.
The same thing happens with leptin. If the signals are too high, for too long, the brain decides to tune out and focus on more urgent (and in the case of the toddler, less annoying!) messages. Eventually the signal to stop eating is ignored all together, and the body puts on more and more weight.
What causes leptin to scream so loudly that our brain wants to stop listening? High non-fibrous carbohydrates.
Why haven’t I heard of Leptin before?
As we have seen, the dream of turning leptin into a “miracle drug” for obesity, didn’t become a reality. But this doesn’t mean we can’t learn to manage leptin ourselves. The key is in the way we eat.
The unfortunate fact is that pharmaceutical companies don’t make money from healthy people. This means they aren’t going to waste money teaching us how to eat well to control our leptin signalling. Neither are they going to waste money trying to pass this information on to our doctors. If they did, they might not be able to afford to manufacture the live-saving drugs we take for granted in hospitals and clinics.
So, if you want to learn about leptin, you need to find a different source to your GP or your pharmacist. Thankfully, we’ll give you the basics right here!
The only effective way to manage leptin is through the way you eat – and this is the most empowering news for each and every one of us.
You no longer need to rely on your will power to resist that last piece of chocolate, or the lonely slice of cheesecake at your favourite cafe. You don’t need to cover the fridge in sticky notes reminding you about your diet resolutions. All you need to do is eat to control the hormones that control fat burning. Be sure to check out the “Our Secret” section below for how to do this.
So how do I control my Leptin levels?
How do I eat to control my leptin levels? Basically, it’s simple:
- Eat a lot more good fats
- Eat less non-fibre carbs
- Eat a moderate amount of protein
Pardon? Does that say eat more fats? Yes!
Fats are actually fun – they taste great, they fill you up and they will help your brain hear the leptin signals clearly.
Which fats are good? High quality monounsaturated oils such as olive oil, almond oil, macadamia oil, fresh fish oil, avocados, fats from free range fish (not the sort grown in farms); organic, hormone-free chicken or turkey; free-range, organic eggs; nuts and nut butters (not peanuts – in reality they aren’t even nuts, they’re actually legumes!)
Which carbs are good? Non-starchy vegetables, particularly green and leafy varieties, cauliflower, capsicum, eggplant, onions; black soybeans.
Remember: it takes most people about 3 weeks to turn a new pattern into a habit. Give yourself three weeks to try eating to control your leptin levels and see how fabulous you feel by the end – you’ll never want to go back!