In the 21st century our tastes buds, our brain chemistry, our biochemistry, our hormones and our kitchens have been hijacked by the food industry.
You cannot control the primitive urges and hormones that drive your eating behavior.
Dr. Mark Hyman
There are so many hormones that regulate our functions. You've heard the idea that 95% percent of our body is on autopilot and that 5% of our life is determined by our decisions.
Hormones are no different. They have regulatory functions and are responsible so many actions within the human body.
Today we are discussing one of the most important hormones responsible for hunger, metabolism, reproduction, fat management and energy production. It's your friend named leptin.
While the mainstream food industry is carb-loaded, nutritionally depleted place, the Paleo diet is the opposite. With a "mainstream diet", our leptin sensors don't ever receive the message that we ate real food. This leaves us hungry and unsatisfied.
Where does leptin come from?
Leptin was discovered around 1950 inside a laboratory at the University of Maine. As always, rats were the test subject. Obese rats were injected with leptin.
What happens when you, or in this study, rats have proper leptin levels? You lose excess fat and are able to restore your optimal body weight. Beautiful stuff right?
Leptin is a hormone secreted from your fat cells. Nora Gedgaudas usually refers to leptin as a "fat sensor". It's role is to give the feeling of satiety, which would explain the fast-food eating, stressed and obese culture we have created.
The population in general is obviously suffering from improper leptin levels because of the lack of quality fats such as avocado, coconut, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, duck fat and ghee.
How does leptin affect me?
Leptin is a good thing. Without proper leptin response, you will not feel satisfied from your meals. Late night cravings that occur when you haven't eaten in hours are perfectly normal. Except, we usually don't give the body what it needs at these times; we give it what our brain tells us we want. Quick fixes like carbohydrate snacks and sweets are common for some.
Instead, a better option would be some source of protein (meat, protein shake if you can tolerate dairy).
There are other psychological reasons behind our sweet cravings, but you need fat to promote satiety; not sweets! The proper response here would be to consume some good fats. Think avocado, eggs, grass-fed butter, etc.
If you are someone who is relatively new (>1 year) to eating a Paleo template, you could still be experiencing leptin-reistance.
Familiarity and a basic understanding of the terms insulin-resistance and leptin-reistance are critical. But, if you'd just rather know that eating a Paleo diet will improve these conditions, that's cool too!
Why doesn't eating less fix this problem?
The problem is caused from food, very true. Except, simple caloric restriction doesn't work because the standard diets of the population are still lacking the quality nutrients our body needs to function and feel satisfied.
So if we are eating less food (like all the mainstream weight loss programs teach) but still eat CRAP, obviously this is not the answer to fixing our obesity epidemic.
Caloric restriction with low-quality food is a very frustrating, dangerous and simply unhealthy lifestyle that many have been manipulated into trying.
Eating 1 meal a day with a lean cuisine box meal with a low-fat brownie and a diet coke is possibly the worst way to try to fix obesity.
So, what's the best way to fix obesity and leptin?
The book Mastering Leptin has some simple rules for leptin specifically.
Rule 1: Never eat after dinner. Allow eleven to twelve hours between dinner and breakfast. Never go to bed on a full stomach. Finish eating dinner at least three hours before bed.
Rule 2: Eat three meals a day. Allow five to six hours between meals. Do not snack.
Rule 3: Do not eat large meals. If you are overweight, always try to finish a meal when you are slightly less than full; the full signal will usually catch up in ten to twenty minutes. Eating slowly is important.
Rule 4: Eat a breakfast containing protein.
Rule 5: Reduce the amount of carbohydrates you eat.
I'd like to add..
Eat fat! Coconuts, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, ghee, fish oil, cod liver oil capsules and animal fats should make up at least 40% of your diet.
Add in a half plate of organic, cooked vegetables and some pasture-raised meat and you're on the way to being an unstoppable, healthy and happy person.
When you become resistant to hormones, especially leptin and insulin, problems ensue. The relationship between insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes are well established. Becoming resistant to leptin is a major cause of obesity.
Obese people generally have levels of leptin that are TOO high. The problem is that after having high levels of leptin for so long, your body comes non-responsive to it. This is from a diet-lifestyle of overeating.
See, when your food is lacking nutrients or contains micronutrient depleting ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup (cokes, juices many other places), aspartame (diet coke), most grains and wheat, you are starving from the inside.
The over-eating of nutrient-deficient foods keeps leptin levels high, but your body can't be tricked.
In short, you cant trick your genetically-ancient body into accepting McDonalds and a soda as real nutrients or food.
Women, pregnancy and leptin
Leptin actually plays a role in hyperemesis gravidarum (morning sickness during pregnancy) if your levels are too high from a lifetime of a high-carb, low-nutrient diet.
How do you fix this issue?
Diet is the most influential aspect of life that affects insulin and leptin levels.
- Reducing or eliminating all forms of sugar from your diet except for fruit (1-2 servings/day) will start to fix your resistance to this problem.
- Don't eat too much fruit. While organic fruit is amazing for the body, too much fructose can lead to leptin resistance.
- In turn, you will get satisfied from your meals, assuming you are consuminggood fats with them. No more heading to the pantry for sweets :-)
- Eat as much fat as you want (saturated and monosaturated). Most people need upwards of 50-70 percent fats in their diet for optimal health. Good sources include coconut and coconut oil, avocados, grass-fed butter, a small to moderate amount of nuts, and animal fats.
- Supplement with a good quality cod liver oil/butter blend. Green Pastures makes one that's not cheap, but very high quality.
- Continue to avoid wheat and grains as much as possible. I do consume white rice occasionally without a problem, test it for you.
Stick to whatever version of the Paleo diet works for you. I consume some local dairy in the form of cheese and it doesn't bother me. Some people may need to eliminate any and all forms of dairy.
Over 20 different conditions and diseases are attributed to obesity, which stems from an improper response to the food we eat.
What lifestyle habits help alongside the Paleo diet for healing?
- Consistent exercise. Exercise is great, we all should feel better after getting some. But, without consistent improvement and a minimum of 2 days of exercise a week, you are holding yourself back from optimal health.
- Quality sleep. As we've discussed, hormones influence almost every action in the body. From sleep to hunger to cravings and sex, hormones seem to rule us more than we think! Without quality sleep, your hormonal regulatory functions including growth hormone release to heal your muscles will not happen as efficient as normal.
- Small bursts exercise throughout the day. This is hard for many. But, sneaking in a 10 minute walk is essential for health. If your email inbox can't wait 10 minutes to lower your chances of developing cancer, tell that task to kiss your ass.
What has your experience and relationship with food been? Has it improved? Comment below!