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Hormones and Your Weight: How Leptin and Ghrelin Sabotage You

Updated: Oct 3, 2020

Most people who lose weight gain it back with in a year - it’s sad but true. There are two main hormones that can increase the chances of gaining back weight if you are losing weight in the wrong ways- yo-yo dieting and losing the weight too fast.

Blame those sabotaging hormones, Leptin and Ghrelin. Your body is smarter then you think and will start regulating you through these hormones if it feels like you are doing something wrong. This is why those quick fix diets do not work and always lead to a rebound in weight gain.


Leptin regulates your appetite and is the signal your body gives when you are full and tells you to stop eating. This hormone is located in the fat cells of your body, so when you start to lose weight you seem to be more hungry than usual due to Leptin disappearing. When Leptin disappears so does the signal saying, “Stop! You are full!”

This is mostly true after about the first week of weight loss. That first week or so is when people are determined and feel like they can meet their goals. Then all of a sudden that second week hits and so does the hunger. Dieters can’t seem to get full, but really want to lose the weight.

If  Leptin lives in the fat cells then why do people with excess fat on their bodies keep gaining weight? Why isn’t this hormone extra alert? It goes back to the saying that too much of anything is a bad thing. When there is too much Leptin in the body the brain has a harder time seeing it, which leads to Leptin resistance. This changes the bodies behavior into thinking it needs to eat more and move less.

So how do you outsmart Leptin? Getting to an ideal weight in a healthy way will help hit that sweet spot for Leptin where there isn’t too little and there isn’t too much. Avoid fad diets and diets that have you lose too much weight too fast. In order to do this you should aim for about a half-pound or 1 pound a week weight loss.

  • Eat your meals slower, so you give Leptin a chance to let you know that you are full

  • Avoid processed foods and eat lots of protein and fiber

  • Make sure you are getting in your recommended amount of zinc because people with less zinc seem to have lower levels of Leptin

You may want to say screw it I want the weight loss now! But you are only setting yourself up for failure. Patience will help you sustain your weight loss in the long run.


Ghrelin is the counter to Leptin. Ghrelin tells you when you are hungry and alerts you to eat. After you have eaten and Leptin tells you to stop, Ghrelin will wait about 2-3 hours before it starts bugging you again.

When a person starts losing weight the body thinks that it’s starving, so the production of Ghrelin starts to increase. How do you combat Ghrelin from creeping around too soon? Eat foods that fill you up for a longer amount of time.

To do this you should be eating bulky nutrient dense foods. The source of these bulky nutrient dense foods is fiber. Fiber is what will keep Ghrelin away for as long as possible. Fiber slows the digestion process, so it takes longer for you to get hungry again. Where do you get your fiber? Fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains. Women should be getting at least 25 grams a day and men should be getting at least 30 grams a day.

Not only is fiber good for weight loss, but also it takes other harmful substances out of your body. When these substances start to build up other health issues start. I will address one of these issues in the next blog, but the other is cholesterol. Fiber helps lower cholesterol because it is taking it out of your body, which also leads to a healthier heart.

One of the worst things you could do is lose weight on a diet that has you drinking multiple shakes a day. You drink the shake fast because it is a drink, which is not good for Leptin, and then there is hardly anything but protein in these shakes. Protein alone, especially in shake form, will not keep Ghrelin away because it is not slowing your digestion so you will be hungry again within an hour or sooner.

Lose Weight Wisely

Leptin and Ghrelin are some of the main reasons people are not successful at weight loss. In order to lose weight you need to be eating, and eating correctly. Weight loss is all about patience, if you have patience it will pay off in the long run.

Persevere! What do you have to lose besides your weight? You have already gotten this far, so all of the hard work you have already put in would be for nothing. Don’t let the hormones win.

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