The Hormones Directly Related to Our Appetite, Cravings, and Weight
Did you know that our bodies make and circulate some 50 different hormones? There are 9 major players as it relates to our weight. Too much or too little of some of these can lead to weight gain and/or the inability to lose weight when trying. Check out my explanation of the hormones below with tips to increase or decrease their presence in your body.
This is the hormone in our body that says, “hey you, time to eat!” When your stomach is empty (and wants to be filled) it releases grehlin to tell your brain to snag some food. Pretty nifty mind-body connection, but don’t you wish it cooked for you too?
PROBLEM: Intuitively, that means grehlin is highest before eating a meal and lowest after a meal, but studies have shown that with overweight and obese individuals, grehlin only decreases slightly after a meal. This slight decrease in the hormone means that the brain does not receive a strong enough signal to stop eating.
SOLUTION: Decreasing sugar intake, especially corn syrup, and having protein at every meal is a good way to improve grehlin function in your body and raise satiety levels.
Leptin is a hormone that makes you feel full and is produced by fat cells. The message it sends to your brain is that your body has enough fat stored, so you do not need to eat more.
PROBLEM: Despite producing 4 times as leptin as others, if you are overweight or obese, your body develops leptin resistance. This means the body does not respond to the higher levels of leptin in their bodies, so their appetite is not decreased.
- Exercise regularly: 4-5 days/week of 30+ minutes
- Sleep 7-8 hours of high-quality sleep each night
- Take supplements like ALA (alpha-lipoic acid) and fish oil
- Eat anti-inflammatory foods like fatty fish and avoid inflammatory foods (dairy, processed foods, etc.)
PROBLEM: The commonly called: “stress hormone” is produced by the adrenal glands and is released when your body senses stress. If chronically elevated, it and can increase fat around the midsection, especially in women.
- Consistent high-quality sleep
- Eat a balanced diet
- Meditate and practice any form of stress management that works for you
This is the hormone that allows your cells to take in blood sugar for energy or storage and it is also the main fat storage hormone. Yep, this is the hormone we blame when we keep fat on our body! In fact, it tells fat cells to store fat and prevents stored fats from being broken down.
PROBLEM: Overeating and overeating things like sugar, refined carbs, and processed foods drives insulin resistance and increases insulin levels. When insulin levels are chronically elevated, it can lead to obesity and metabolic syndrome.
- Limit sugar intake, simple and refined carbs, and increase fiber-filled foods
- Increase magnesium intake to improve insulin sensitivity
- Eat healthy fats
- Eat lean and complete proteins at each meal
- Exercise regularly: 4-5 days/week of 30+ minutes
ESTROGEN: for women, have estrogen shifts throughout life and when they are too high or low, weight gain can occur. Estrogen levels are directly related to your age as well.
NPY (Neuropeptide Y) is a hormone that is also increased during stress and periods of food deprivation or fasting. It is produced by cells in the brain and nervous system and stimulates appetite, especially for carbohydrates.
To Decrease NPY Levels:
- Make sure you’re eating a high fiber diet
- Eat enough lean protein
- Take a pre- and probiotic; friendly “good” bacteria in the gut may reduce NPY levels.
- Fasting over 24 hours can increase levels
CCK: is a hormone that reduces your appetite and is produced when you eat protein, fat, and fiber.
PYY: is a gut hormone that controls appetite and plays a major role in reducing food intake, especially when you eat more fiber, lean protein, and limit processed carbs.
GLP-1: glucagon-like peptide-1 is also a gut hormone, plays a role in keeping blood sugar levels stable and gives you that satiated feeling. To increase levels of GLP-1 in the body, eat loads of leafy greens, take a probiotic, eat an anti-inflammatory and clean diet, and keep up with the lean protein.
CLEAN SLEEPING is how healthy living truly begins
Research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that women who are sleep deprived are 1/3 more likely to gain 33 LBS over the next 16 years than those who receive just 7 hours of sleep per night. This extra weight can lead to chronic diseases + more that oftentimes, nutrition + exercise cannot prevent alone.
High-quality REM sleep is the start of a healthy lifestyle. Point blank, without enough sleep aids in the reenergizing and rebalance of your body’s 10 control systems. It’s as if you are a cell phone that needs to recharge overnight to work at full-capacity with better battery life the next day.
As far as weight-loss goes, a lack of sleep is detrimental. Less than seven hours of sleep per night can reduce and undo the benefits of dieting, according to research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Not only that, but your fat cells respond to what people call “metabolic fatigue,” which can affect your body’s effectiveness of using insulin. Uh oh- in the long-run, this means fat cells are not removing fatty acids + lipids from your blood stream to prevent fat storage. You’ve also heard it before, but the same chemical in your brain that tells you that you’re tired, is the same chemical that tells you you’re hungry. Not many people can or wait to decipher between the two and wind up eating more. This is eating based off hormones too, so that can mean carb craziness + comfort foods galore.
Lack of true sleep also slows down the production of growth hormone, making your workouts suffer. Growth hormone is a natural source or anti=aging + fat-burning. The goal of a workout is to burn fat vs energy, so you’re impeding on your body’s true ability to get rid of the fat stores in your body if you’re too fatigued.
You know those days you wake up and feel truly refreshed and ready-to-go? No snooze button was hit, no coffee was mandatory, you could crush a workout, are more focused at work, are more inclined to make healthy food choices – you just have the energy to bust through the day! That is a sign you got your much-needed reboot time in bed.
There are plenty of tips to train you to get to bed + stay asleep:
- Have your worries abated or solved. I do this by having my tasks laid out for the next day, meals prepped or at least planned, a workout scheduled on my calendar, all emails answered (even if just to say: I see this + will answer at-length tomorrow,) + ensure my mind is quiet along with my environment, my technology is in another room or far away, + I have a comfortable bed with no television or computer on.
- On especially long or trying days, I’ll do a few relaxing stretches, yoga poses, or 5 minutes of meditative peace before hopping in bed. I also try soft music with a bath or reading a light-hearted book.
- Try a sleep tea or melatonin dose before bed to put you in the sleep zone.
The Obsession with The Scale
Many clients I have worked with over the years have had to work through their own perceptions of what the “ideal” size is for themselves. Oftentimes, referred to as their “perfect weight” or “goal weight.” I will tell you this right now, your ideal should not be defined by a single number or modality of measurement.
Psychologically, there has always been a certain level of negativity and misnomer when it comes to the number on the scale. Yes, it goes up and down for mostly concrete reasons, however, the number on the scale is not the sole representation of your health…or your size.
You have to break the psychological cycle of solely thinking about the number on the scale.
Determining your “ideal” healthy weight needs to involve considering a combination of several factors, including:
Body circumference measurements and how that relates to the lean muscle vs fat ratio of your body, which also affects the actual number on the scale, simple genetics and how that may affect how you wear your weight, when you have felt the healthiest and happiest, et al.
Measurements & What They Indicate
BMI (Body Mass Index)
This is a number that is based on your height and weight and how this weight affects your risk for weight-related health problems. Certain aspects are not addressed by the BMI, like muscle mass or body fat. Many experts argue against it’s effectiveness when used alone to determine whether an individual is at a healthy weight because it is solely based on height and weight, so it does not take into account the fact that muscle mass and bone weigh more than fat. A normal BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9.
This measurement helps describe the composition of your body by giving you a percentage of your total body weight that is in fact, fat. When you receive this percentage you then know the portion of lean body mass in pounds and the portion of fat in pounds. The location of this fat is also significant and can be determined by taking the appropriate measurements. It isn’t just about the total number on the scale because people with a lot of lean muscle mass may weigh more, but have less body fat which would make them in fact more fit. Conversely, someone who is “thin” may have a high amount of body fat despite being lighter on the scale.
I am sure you have heard of the terms “Apple-Shaped” and “Pear-Shaped” – and even various others. I think it is ironic that we are being compared to fruit when discussing our shape, however, there is something to be said about where we wear our weight.
- Apple-shaped individuals are those who tend to carry their extra LBS around their mid-section. This body type has a higher health risk for weight-related diseases like: high cholesterol levels, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
- Although this appearance is oftentimes due to a genetic predisposition, things like increased alcohol intake, high levels sugary beverage consumption, and smoking can lead to excess stomach weight as well. Increasing exercise and eating a healthier diet (duh!) are the best ways to reduce stomach fat and decrease these heath risks.
- Pear-shaped figures are those who carry their weight in their thigh and buttocks area, although are not a serious health risks, they are more susceptible to varicose veins and orthopedic issues.
Some Notes I Share with My Clients
- Remember that muscle burns more calories than body fat, so if you focus on building more lean muscle mass via exercise, you can increase your natural energy expenditure (which is your resting metabolic rate (RMR) or the calories you burn each day at rest.)
- Now, muscle weighs more than fat, so while you may not see the number on the scale go down, you will feel leaner. This helps your clothes fit better because this toning decreases inches throughout the body.
- Genetics are genetics, so seeing a doctor regularly to monitor things like cholesterol and blood pressure is important. You may workout religiously and watch every single thing you eat and still not be in total control of your numbers. Tis’ life. But, that does not mean you should let things fall to the wayside!
Some Personal Goals to Consider
- I think goal setting is an invaluable tool. However, goals should be attainable and realistic. After all, you want to reach them!
- Setting both short-term and long-term goals can keep motivation high as you meet the little mile markers on your way to finishing the marathon, you still get that sense of accomplishment along the way.
- Get selfish- the goals should be about you!
- For every physiological or aesthetic goal, there should be an immeasurable goal related to behavior changes, emotions/feelings, etc.
- For example: I want to run 6 miles without stopping, I want to lose 2% body fat, I want to learn to eat breakfast everyday, and I want to feel better in my own skin.
- Physiological goals should take the thoughts above into account-most people say they want to lose 10 LBS but forget all about body fat, fitness goals, health, and developing positive habits.
- Write them down and revisit them every week to stay on track.
- To reinforce your commitment, tell someone significant in your life your goals and gain their support in achieving them.
How I Have Stayed Motivated in the Winter
The cold weather “CAN’T DO” attitude is picking up and can pack a punch. But don’t let those gray days kill your motivational buzz! Stay motivated with what I use to keep working hard on living a healthy, fit lifestyle while Winter is here.
- SHOWER FIRST: when you wake up and can’t really, “wake up,” try a shower before the gym.
- WARM UP: Put your workout clothes in the dryer before you go outside to toast you up a bit. It feels so comforting, but also softens the blow of the cold blast of reality of the outdoors.
- DRESS FOR IT: Get a few new sweaters or sweatshirts to spice up your winter workout wardrobe- it will make you feel fantastic and enable you to layer your gear to get you in and out of the gym without getting cold. I love to take my workout clothes from “gym” to “street” with minimal effort. Favorite place to shop: Carbon38
- NEW, THEMED MUSIC: make new playlists for your specific workouts or with the ideal music that motivates you for each mode of exercise (intervals, long + steady cardio, weight lifting, yoga, et al.) Don’t want to make your own playlist? Use @spotify and check out their workout playlists. Already have some of your own? Motivate yourself by simply using “shuffle” as a way to make them different each time.
- PUT IT ON YOUR GIFT LIST: ask for holiday gifts that will help push you towards your healthy living goals. Some ideas include: fitness class packages, a gym membership, a piece of tracking equipment that can show you how much you move throughout the day, fitness clothes, a some fun athletic shoes, a workout bag, and more!
- SIGN UP: get yourself signed up for a morning boot camp class or regular classes to hold yourself accountable. I find that when I set a schedule and sign up, I go because I have paid for something and have somewhere to “show up.” Better yet, get yourself and all of your friends signed up for the LWA APP because I run consistent 30-day challenges you can all do together!
- MAKE IT A GROUP THING: I have friends and colleagues I meet up with to try new workouts or a healthy new restaurant. You can get co-workers to launch a wellness campaign in December so you all can help one another remain healthy during the holidays instead of catching up afterwards! Try weekly potlucks for healthy lunches, skip bringing in unhealthy holiday treats, make your office party a healthier affair, limit yourself to a 3-cocktails/week limit all month long….there’s so much you can do!
- MAKE IT SOCIAL: make it social- commit to physical activity by joining a community like LWA and using social media as your motivation/accountability! I post my own stuff on social media to hold myself accountable. I will motivate you to forget the excuses and stay on-task! Post your fitness & nutrition intentions on social media so you can’t be lazy + forget them!
WHAT IS “WELLNESS”
#wellnesswednesday – this hashtag concept is something that most people attribute to fitness, nutrition, or certain self-care practices. While I love to have a set plan for my food + workouts for the week ahead, I also spend time thinking about what else I can provide myself with to feed not only my body, but my soul, mind, + emotional well-being.
WHAT DOES ‘WELLNESS’ MEAN?
Wellness can be interpreted in a lot of ways, but when it has been discussed within my education and industry, wellness is divided into 8 pillars. Two of those pillars are physical + nutrition. However, being “well” is a balance between all of the pillars that create our foundation as whole, healthy people.
This is definitely a topic that can feed into so many thought-provoking + significant conversations with others + within yourself. I wrote a blog about the pillars + how I identify with them in my life TODAY. These concepts will ebb + flow, shift, change, and challenge you throughout your life. The meaning and significance of each is personal + absolutely different for everyone.
Sitting with yourself + writing out what each pillar means to you, goals you have for yourself within each, + then finding ways to enrich each one within your life is a practice to begin in order to live well on all levels within yourself.
This discussion comes in time for the time of year where most people self-reflect. I encourage my clients to think about what is important to them, where their current strengths + weaknesses lie, + where they think they struggle the most in their lives or what makes them feel the most challenged before I have them write down specific goals.
CHALLENGE: Get to know yourself with this “wellness” exercise before NY resolutions take hold!
HOW-TO: AN EXERCISE IN DEFINING YOUR ‘WELL-LIFE’
Within the categories below, ask what each means to you (write it down,) rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the ‘best,’) of how healthy + strong you think this pillar is for you + why, then write out ways you can try and fortify that pillar.
8 PILLARS OF WELLNESS
PHYSICAL: physical wellness is moving daily, taking time for exercising, going to your timely doctor visits, sleeping well, + taking care of your overall hygiene.
Your body is your temple, as we’ve been told. It is important to treat it well by nurturing it through self-care, using it (daily movement + purposeful exercise,) resting with consistent + quality sleep so it can reboot, + ensuring that it is running well from the inside, out with regularly scheduled check-ups. Then, listening to your body + medical professionals so you treat it accordingly. Yes, this seems like it takes effort, but these are the basics of life that should be routine.
NUTRITION: clearly closely tied to physical health, is the focus on the fuel you give yourself daily to run efficiently + effectively. It is providing yourself with a clean, quality, whole foods diet filled with color, variety, + nutrients. It is hydrating yourself, taking the appropriate supplements as-needed, giving yourself a balanced food regimen that fortifies your physical health + gives you energy.
EMOTIONAL: a pillar that is tough to simplify, but when thinking about your emotional wellness, it is important to start with your ‘self.’ How do you navigate your feelings? Meaning: can you easily identify and asses your own feelings and communicate them to others? Simply put for me is that I ask myself if I am confident in my self-awareness and how I explain myself to those around me as well as to myself.
SOCIAL: your social network should be a set of positive connections with others that provide a support system for you. Building and maintaining these networks takes time and energy because social wellness is also giving as well as receiving love and support.
SPIRITUAL: while not a specific belief system, spirituality is generally described as a sense of purpose, direction, or meaning in one’s life. What that is for you and how you cultivate that in your life will vary greatly amongst people. Self reflection, mindfulness, meditation, writing, defining your intentions…these are all ways people can identify with their spiritual health. Defining your core values as a person is a great way to begin or redefine this journey with yourself.
INTELLECTUAL: can be defined as continually engaging your mind. Learning new things, challenging your brain with puzzles and activities, read or take classes you’re interested in, participate in discussions or current events that stimulate your mind. It’s a muscle people- we have to use it, push it, strengthen it, + more.
FINANCIAL: prosperity within your life financially is important to qualify, monitor, + plan ahead to achieve. Financial wellness is different for everyone, but actively assessing your monetary status is key to keeping it in check.
ENVIRONMENTAL: your surroundings and community as a whole are directly related to how you thrive. Do you have an organized home, a efficient work space, sense of safety, connection to the community, do you give back? Identifying your connection + care given to your physical surroundings will show you your true environmental wellbeing.