Leptin and the Weight Loss Struggle

I recently read an article from PBS that I found very interesting. It explains how our bodies have adapted to putting on weight as an environmental advantage to cold and the constant need to hunt and gather our food. Even as recently as the 1800s, curvaceous women were viewed as more beautiful and portly men as being healthy and well-off. Basically, your body wantsto keep some extra weight on.

This is due in part to hormones. You have a sort of fat sensor in your blood that works a lot like a gas gauge; it is called leptin. When your leptin concentration falls in your blood from weight loss, your brain catches this change and says, “hey, I’m losing weight, oh no!”
The researchers in the article did a small study with some individuals in which they put them on a liquid diet so they would lose 10% of their body weight. As you now know, their leptin levels had fallen by 10%. Some were given leptin and others acted as a control group and were notgiven leptin. This is what they had to say:”When we gave people leptin, their energy expenditure went up, their thyroid hormones normalized, and various other things that had otherwise acted to favor the regain of lost weight basically went away. Their bodies were happy at reduced weights because the signal, leptin, was restored to what the brain considered to be sufficient levels.”

I am not saying that taking leptin supplements will help you keep off the weight.  This will only work so long as you are taking them.  You don’t want to be dependent on a supplement to prevent you from regaining weight.

Image
The poor little mouse pictured above has leptin insensitivity.
The good news?

The good news is that it will stabilize, after time. One trick that I have read, but can’t find any research to support it, is that if you eat one good fatty meal a week, your leptin levels will spike and your body will think that you are still “in the good” with your fat levels. I will definitely look more into it. The point is weight loss is only half the challenge. Maintaining weight loss is often just as difficult because you body says, “noooooo”.

Unfortunately, there is no miracle pill or simple diet that can give you the weight loss you want, but it is far easier to accomplish your goals and know to be patient when you know what you’re up against.
Don’t be too discouraged. While I cannot find any solid evidence as to how long it takes to “reset”, your body’s set point will eventually move down. According to Natural Health magazine, 1 out of 6 people who do manage to lose at least 10% of their body weigh, put the weight back on within a year. They said that the reasons were complex and multi-dimensional. Food sensitivities, stress, thyroid issues, and hormones were listed as the most common causes for “hitting a rut” with weight loss. This rut is often what drives many people to become discouraged and often slowly, but surely give up on their diet all together.

Here were some suggestions they gave to help relieve stress during the dieting rut:
“Meditating for 10 to 30 minutes a day to help normalize Cortisol levels and boost levels of the appetite-suppressing hormone serotonin.
To relax your body and keep your digestive system cleansed, try 250 milligrams of magnesium daily.
Or take 500 to 1,000 milligrams of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) an hour before bed.
While studies are scarce, some animal trials and small human trials have shown the amino acid to both ease anxiety and promote fat loss.”

Most people are not aware that they are actually sabotaging their weight loss by stressing over it. It’s actually quite the opposite of what should be done in order to keep progressing. Think of the rut as a waiting period. During the waiting period, your body is still trying to convince itself that you are “starving”. Your body has been progressively slowing down your metabolism up to this point. Now you are waiting for it to sort of reset and decide that it is okay after all. Eventually your metabolism will begin to speed up and weight loss can proceed.

Doing some sort of exercise every day is very beneficial, as is doing affirming meditations. Decide what you want your new “set-point” to be for your weight. Every day, tell yourself that this is where your body should be. Relax, breathe deep, and try to meditate on reaching your set-point. Decide how you will achieve this goal and think about how happy it is to reach it. Don’t put any expectation toward it, just envision it as though it has already happened.

What is the most important thing to learn from this?
Muscle mass is your best friend.
1 lb of muscle burns about 6 calories a day at rest.
1 lb of fat, on the other hand, burns only 2 calories a day at rest.
That’s 3 times more fat burning for the 1 lb exchange.
In other words, put on some muscle and you willlose weight.

As I mentioned above, staying relaxed and happy is key to getting past the waiting period and moving on with weight loss.
Don’t get discouraged! That’s the opposite of what you should do, remember!?
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