The human body is very complex, having evolved over generations to respond to signals delivered from our environment, lifestyle and diet. We have developed a finely tuned hormonal balance system which regulates many critical functions throughout our body, including how we store or burn body fat for energy. The food we eat and our particular life habits have a significant effect on our ability to lose weight and keep it off permanently.
Appetite Hormones in Control of Fat Metabolism
The appetite controlling hormones, leptin and ghrelin provide a powerful signal to the brain which determines whether calories and fat are converted to triglycerides for storage or used as a source of energy. The two hormones are tightly connected as they continually communicate based on our food choices, meal timing and degree of insulin resistance.
Leptin and Ghrelin Affect Weight Regain
The results of a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism show that the levels of leptin and ghrelin before beginning a new diet may predetermine your ability to sustain weight loss. Specifically, increased levels of leptin and lower concentrations of ghrelin before dieting correlated with weight loss which could not be maintained by study participants.
Making Changes That Affect Permanent Weight Loss
Since leptin and ghrelin were discovered by researchers over the last 10 to 20 years, so much remains to be learned about these potent appetite and fat metabolizing hormones. While research continues at breakneck speed to understand how the pair functions at the cellular level, scientists learned early on that popping a leptin or ghrelin pill had no effect on weight loss or altering concentrations of the hormones in the blood. The only way to make these hormones work in your favor is to make the following dietary and lifestyle changes.
Lifestyle Change 1: No Food after 7 PM
Food digestion requires large amounts of energy and resources from your body. When you eat late at night, this process takes precedence over other important maintenance functions which normally occur overnight. Further, your body burns fat as you sleep, which is hampered when you go to bed with a full stomach.
Lifestyle Change 2: Eat 5 Small Meals Every Day
We have evolved as hunter-gatherers at a time when food was scarce and small meals were eaten as they were available. Today we tend to eat 3 large meals each day which overloads our cellular capacity to effectively process and utilize the excess calories. Target 5 smaller meals of 300 to 400 calories each depending on your activity level with no between meal snacking. Each meal should be nutritionally balanced including choices from all food groups.
Lifestyle Change 3: Eat Breakfast with a High Quality Protein Source
You’ve heard it before – start your morning every day with breakfast. This is good advice, as food stimulates your metabolism and increases your calorie consumption for the remainder of the day. Even more important, include a good protein source such as chicken, turkey, nuts, seeds, whey, or peanut butter. Avoid traditional breakfast cereals, breads and processed breakfast foods as these will break down quickly leaving you more apt to snack.
Lifestyle Change 4: No Sugar or Refined Carbs
Refined junk food carbs and sugar destroy your metabolism, as blood sugar and insulin levels rise and fall rapidly which also affects your appetite hormones. Carbohydrates from vegetable and other natural sources have the opposite effect as the high fiber content prevents metabolic disaster. Refined carbs also tempt you to snack between meals which is a sure fire method to pack on the pounds.
We are creatures of habit, and many will find it difficult to make even the smallest changes to their diet or the timing of meals. We’re driven by a genetic engine which is programmed to function optimally on a naturally low sugar and carbohydrate diet eaten at staggered intervals. While our body does adapt and allow for some variability, our permanent weight loss goals can only be met by controlling our appetite hormones, leptin and ghrelin.