Two crucial hormones – leptin and ghrelin – have been shown to have a major influence on weight so it’s wise to know more about them. Not only that, you can control your diet and eating habits so that you optimise your hormones for better weight loss.

Leptin has the ability to encourage the body to lose weight by reducing appetite and boosting metabolism, whilst ghrelin (or ‘gremlins’ – my pet name!), is known as the ‘hunger hormone’ because it stimulates appetite, increases food intake and promotes fat storage.

How Does Ghrelin Work?

I remember learning about this hormone when studying nutrition and I was fascinated to learn that the ‘munchies’ we experience the night after drinking alcohol is ghrelin doing its evil work – we really are experiencing more hunger! Alcohol and poor sleep are major triggers for this hormone.  In fact, ghrelin is believed to increase food intake by up to 30 per cent; it circulates in the bloodstream and acts at the hypothalamus, an area of the brain crucial in the control of appetite. Ghrelin has also been shown to act on regions of the brain involved in reward processing such as the amygdala.

For an interesting video clip of how the type of food we eat affects our brain, watch this video. 

And How Does Leptin Work?

Again, for me, learning about leptin was a revelation, as it made sense of the fact that appetite was very much dependent on the quality of foods we eat. I experienced this first-hand when I changed the way I ate – I noticed a marked decrease in my appetite when I moved away from processed and sugary foods. As a result, I lost almost 20 Ibs and finally got a handle on the quantity of food I was consuming, meaning smaller portions soon became the norm.

We know that, as leptin levels rise, appetite decreases, and as leptin levels fall, appetite increases. Leptin also regulates the fat burning process within your body and, as leptin levels rise, so does fat burning, whilst falling leptin means a slowing of the metabolism. ‘Leptin resistance’ has also come to light in recent years. This occurs when the leptin message does not translate through to the body. This type of resistance tends to occur with a poor western lifestyle and diet based on processed foods, little or no exercise, high levels of stress and little sleep. Interestingly, fructose tends to increase leptin resistance (in other words, things like fructose-rich fruit juices or sugary foods should be avoided if you want to avoid leptin resistance).

Watch this video for a good description of how leptin works and more on leptin resistance.

7 Ways On To ‘Turn On’ Leptin And Switch ‘Off’ Ghrelin And Optimise Your Hormones For Better Weight Loss

1. Eat frequently: ideally every 3-4 hours.

2. Include protein at each meal: such as eggs, cheese, fish, beans, beef and Greek yoghurt.

3. Eat a high fibre diet, low in processed foods: include plenty of vegetables, salad, low fructose fruits and wholegrains and oats (depends on which Motivation Weight Loss Programme you are following).

4. Include healthy fats: such as nuts (almonds and walnuts are best), seeds, avocado, a little olive oil or coconut oil.

5. Take a high dose Omega-3s supplement (and eat oily fish/seeds): Omega-3 fatty acids help increase leptin levels by combating inflammation causing molecules, which are the main reason leptin resistance develops, especially among people who are overweight.

6. Prioritise Sleep: ideally aiming for at least 7, preferable 8 hours each night (we appreciate some people struggle with this but ‘catch-up’ sleeps and meditation all help to top up the body also.

7. Reduce Alcohol: try drinking water in between every single alcohol drink to slow down your drinking, or consider switching to a low or zero alcohol beverage on nights out – there are some great new ones on the market.

Blog Post by Maebh Coyle