Hormones: A Weighty Issue

If you are like millions of Americans who have purchased new gym memberships to lead off the New Year, you may be brimming with motivation.  However, it’s not just what you eat or how much you exercise that matters.  Starting the New Year off with a healthier lifestyle can begin with understanding some key hormones and how to work with them.

GHRELIN

Ghrelin is a hunger hormone, which is produced in the stomach. If you skip a meal, your ghrelin levels rise and make you RAVENOUS, making it nearly impossible to resist the next food you see. For these reasons, breakfast is important as you are fueling your body after fasting all night.

The idea of fueling your body with the right food is just as important as not skipping meals throughout the day.  A study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that a high protein meal lowers ghrelin levels significantly more than meals high in fat and carbohydrates. [Blom et al, 2006]

LEPTIN

Leptin can be very helpful in the weight loss journey.  It is an appetite suppressor that signals you to stop eating.  A little-known fact about leptin is that this hormone’s effects on our body decrease as we age.  The older we get, the more likely we are to have leptin resistance.  To raise your body’s level of leptin and increase your sensitivity to this hormone, eat a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids.  Food options offering omega-3 include walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, wild salmon, mackerel, and sardines.  Lack of sleep also lowers leptin levels so make sure to get adequate amounts.

CORTISOL

Cortisol is the stress hormone.  Anytime you are faced with a stressful situation, your body pumps out cortisol to meet the challenge.  Cortisol encourages your body to hold onto visceral fat, also known as body fat.

Here are a few cortisol lowering tips:

  • Choose nutrient-dense whole foods over processed foods
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Practice mindfulness and other stress-reducing activities such as yoga
  • Speak to your registered dietitian or healthcare provider about omega-3 supplementation
  • Engage in regular self-care, such as getting a massage

Harness these three hormones to work for you so achieving and maintaining a healthy weight becomes more attainable.  As you move forward with your health intentions this year, the most important thing is that you believe you deserve to look and feel better.  You deserve that leaner body, healthier heart, and more nutritious diet.

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