In my previous post about being overweight, emotional eating and overeating, we talked about the hunger scale and learning what our body is signaling when it comes to eating. We eat for biological reasons, and we also eat for pleasure, often resulting in overeating!
Obviously, the reason why people overeat is hardly ever simple. We want to blame it on willpower with viral memes telling us to keep working harder and never give up when we are just doing what our brain has been telling us to do!
Today’s post will cover several hormones, but one specifically that your body produces to signal hunger and how your brain reacts to it. This may sound like mumbo jumbo but what we understand we can change.
Much of what drives these hormones can be the food choices we make. When we eat comfort foods, a hormone called ghrelin may go into overdrive to keep us eating past the point of being satisfied.
In fact, increased ghrelin is linked to the same intense feelings that alcoholics and even drug addicts have that causes them to stay addicted. Research indicates that one thing that sends you back for seconds is, in fact, the hormone ghrelin!
In one experiment, “animals fed with the palatable diets had a larger intake of calories, gained more weight and became more adipose than animals fed standard rat chow.”(source)
Ghrelin is nicknamed the “hunger hormone” and for a good reason! In other studies, subjects were given the hormone and as a result ate significantly more than what was considered normal. The results led researchers to believe that ghrelin might be a factor in causing people to overeat. In particular, sodas with fructose seems to drive the hunger hormone especially high. (source)
Controlling how much ghrelin your body produces can be influenced by lifestyle choices. That is why it is important to get quality sleep because a lack of sleep increases the levels of ghrelin your body produces. Therefore, a significant lack of sleep can produce weight gain! (source)
Another factor that causes ghrelin to increase in production is stress. Many negative emotions lead us to seek food as a coping mechanism. That is because ghrelin is released in direct response to a stressful situation.
When we use food to cope, we tend to overeat. There are other influences as well, such as how near we are to food and how accessible it is. If you have a snack machine filled with hyper-palatable sugary foods in a place you pass by all the time, you are more likely to indulge in them frequently.
Leptin regulates long-term satiety not simply between meals because it’s primary purpose is to maintain a healthy weight. Leptin is also called the “starvation hormone” or the “appetite hormone” because when the body is low in leptin a signal goes to the brain like an alarm which triggers fat storage because fat cells store leptin. (source)
Insulin is known to increase leptin levels (the hormone that allows your fat cells to communicate to your brain that you have stored enough energy for metabolic processes). An Insulin level that is continually elevated means leptin resistance is just around the corner. Insulin turns sugar to fat. Insulin drives weight gain. Often, excess insulin blocks leptin at the brain.
So no matter how much willpower you can muster up if you have Leptin resistance your brain thinks you are starving and will make it significantly harder to lose weight.
Insulin can also be a factor in the body’s production of ghrelin. All of these factors come into play when it comes to how much we eat.
Imagine you eat a big bowl of ice cream. Eating the dessert triggers an increase of insulin so that the sugar in your blood is available for energy production. This trigger also increases leptin production and decreases the production of ghrelin.
According to some experts, one factor that changes the normal working pattern is consuming fructose. Because our bodies metabolize fructose differently than other types of sugar, it causes a disruption in the pattern. Consuming fructose in large amounts has even more profound adverse effects.
Fructose can be found in many processed foods and could be to blame for the alarming rate of obesity in America. Specifically, because consuming HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) may be increasing our tendency to eat more than we need. If you watch the series at the end of this video by UCTV you will discover how fructose is like alcohol.
Fructose has no effect on ghrelin and disrupts the brain’s communication with leptin which could have an impact on how much you eat. Low leptin levels and high ghrelin levels make us feel hungrier and more prone to overeating.
So the bottom line is fructose could be a huge contributing factor when it comes to insulin resistance and weight gain and also the diseases that accompany these conditions. Driving conditions such as high blood pressure, fatty liver, heart disease, dementia, diabetes, and cancer.
Taking these factors into consideration, we see that insulin resistance, leptin response, and ghrelin are significant factors in our ability to control how much food we consume. (source)
Like I suggested in the past several posts, eat a real food diet to not only reduce weight but make it easier to maintain a healthy weight. Textbooks teach dieticians that “a calorie is a calorie” but that unfortunately, is not true.
Eating a whole foods diet means avoiding foods labeled “diet,” “lite,” and ‘fat-free.” These names are intended to deceive you into thinking you are consuming a healthy food when in fact you are eating something highly processed. Over time this will not help your metabolism, it will drive your hunger.
A diet that is full of whole foods but also includes healthy fats will help to break the vicious cycle that drives our hormones to cause us to overeat. Our focus should be on eating an abundance of fresh vegetables, with a moderate portion of lean meat, healthy fats while minimizing sugar and grains.
In addition to what we eat, it is important to get plenty of movement and reduce stress. You can check out my free resources section to see what I use and also download my free guides to reduce stress, eat more vegetables, cut out sodas, and lots more!
I hope you are taking part in the Healthy Kitchen Challenge. Cleaning up the junky junk in our kitchen goes hand in hand with putting these hormones back in balance and “teaching” them to work for you!
Avoiding sugar, reducing inflammation, increasing Leptin production, getting quality sleep, and calorie cycling can all contribute to managing the levels of these vital hormones. These are all things we will focus on during the Healthy Kitchen Challenge.
Also, my 12 Steps to Achieving Superior Health will help to overthrow the monopoly our brain has had on our appetite!
The following video gives a thorough explanation on the subject.
, , and Short sleep duration is associated with reduced leptin levels and increased adiposity: Results from the Quebec family study. Obesity (Silver Spring), 2007, 15: 253–261.