As I explained on my introductory page about leptin, leptin resistance can be a major factor in obesity and your inability to lose weight. Leptin sensitivity describes how good (or bad) your body is at hearing the signals that leptin sends to your brain.
If you have spent quite some time beating your body up with unhealthy, sugary, or processed foods, you’ve likely disrupted the signals that leptin is trying to send about your state of fullness. This means your body is confused and out of balance and needs to be adjusted to get back to normal.
Luckily you can override your system through just a couple of lifestyle changes. These include switching up your diet and exercising. Doing these things will put you in the process of “metabolic override” which simply means you are eating and doing things that will help your metabolism move more quickly.
Before we get to that, let’s review what leptin is and how leptin resistance and leptin sensitivity begin.
What is Leptin?
Leptin is known as the “fullness hormone.” This seemingly insignificant hormone actually has a major responsibility; telling you when you are full and should stop eating. The unfortunate fact is that people who are battling weight gain and/or obesity usually develop leptin resistance.
This means that your brain is no longer hearing your body’s cries and you continue to eat. Even worse, you believe that you’re “starving” when in fact you are overeating.
Leptin is made by adipose tissue, also known as fat. Once created, leptin is secreted into the circulatory system and travels up to your hypothalamus. Wikipedia states, “The hypothalamus controls body temperature, hunger, important aspects of parenting and attachment behaviors, thirst, fatigue, sleep, and circadian rhythms.”
Leptin delivers a message of “fullness” to your hypothalamus and in turn to your brain. But what happens when your brain doesn’t receive this message? It means you have entered a state of leptin resistance.
What is Leptin Resistance?
Leptin resistance is an unfortunate but very real piece of the weight loss puzzle. If you’re familiar with the vicious cycle involving insulin for diabetics, you’re not far off from understanding leptin resistance. Type 2 Diabetes begins with insulin resistance.
When your body is overloaded with excess sugar, your pancreas has to keep producing more and more insulin to process it. Sometimes this excess insulin overwhelms your system and your body stops responding to it. This is known as insulin resistance.
In the same way, when your body produces excess leptin, your body might not have the capacity to heed it’s call. Eating excess sugar (especially high fructose corn syrup) and highly processed foods leads to a buildup of fat in the body.
An increase in fat cells messes with your hormones – they produce too much leptin. The result? Your leptin receptors stop working properly, leaving you leptin resistant.
For a more in-depth explanation, check out this YouTube video.
Sadly, this means that you have lost one of the most important indicators of your satiety. Without this integral piece to the puzzle in place, your body never really understands when it’s full and it actually keeps encouraging you to eat. Doesn’t sound very fair now does it?
3 Steps to Help Reverse Leptin Resistance
After all the bad news I’ve provided, I do have something good to tell you. Leptin resistance can be reversed through certain diet and lifestyle changes.
It’s not easy, but it is possible to get your body and your hormones back into a balanced state. The best way to do this is through a “metabolic override diet.” This simply means you’ll eat in a way that gets your metabolism moving as fast as possible.
Below are the 3 most simple steps you can take in order to get your leptin back in order.
Step 1: Eliminate Fructose and Minimize Carbs
Studies have found that fructose overload plays a part in leptin resistance. Dr. Richard Johnson, a nephrologist at the University of Colorado has conducted research that found refined sugar, particularly fructose, is a big culprit. It’s extremely effective at halting the fat-burning process and causing leptin resistance in animals.
Sugars aren’t only found in sweet treats, they’re also abundant in simple carbs like white bread and pastries and, surprisingly, many fruits.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure you know sugar isn’t good for you, especially the added sugars in processed foods. However do you really understand the full gamut of ramifications that come with eating too much sugar?
Dr. Johnson states, “When you give fructose to animals, they lose their ability to control their appetite, they eat more, and they exercise less.” Wow! This might make you think before you pick up another candy bar, huh?
Dr. Johnson goes on to explain that fructose has two important effects. He states:
- It stimulates weight gain through its effects on your appetite and by blocking the burning of fat.
- It also changes your body composition to increase body fat, even when you are on a caloric restriction.
In order to curb your sweet tooth, you may want to start out by avoiding candies and high-fructose juices, and still nibble on natural fruits for a sweet fix. However you’ll slowly want to decrease your intake of fruits eventually too.
This is because fruits contain naturally-occurring sugar fructose which can still be harmful if you eat too much. According to Mercola, if you want to improve your leptin resistance problems, you’ll want to restrict your fructose consumption to approximately 15 to 25 grams per day.
Don’t get me wrong, fruits are an amazing source of many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. I don’t recommend avoiding them completely, just be aware of which fruits have less fructose and focus on those.
Lemons, limes, kiwi, grapefruit and berries are relatively low in fructose content and contain a high level of nutrients to boot. You’ll want to avoid fruits that are rich in fructose such as apples, plums, pears and some dried fruits and fruit juices.
Step 2: Incorporate Intermittent Fasting
What is intermittent fasting? It’s a method of fasting that can help you solve your leptin resistance issues. It works like this: If you eat your last meal or snack at 8pm, then you wouldn’t eat again until at least 12 hours later at 8am the next day.
According to Mercola, intermittent fasting is a great way to get rid of excess pounds fast and help shift your body toward using fat as your primary fuel instead of sugar.
The unfortunate part of this method is that in order to be most successful you have to come extremely close to completely eliminating your sugar and fructose intake. Intermittently fasting requires a super healthy diet.
You’ll start by swapping your non-vegetable carbs with healthy fats. 50 to 70 percent of your daily calories should come from healthy fats. These include things like avocado, olive oil, nuts and coconut oil. You can find my favorite coconut oil on Amazon.
You can also take fasting one step further and participate in fasted cardio in the morning. A study in the British Journal found that fasted morning cardio helped participants burn 20 percent more fat than when they ate beforehand.
According to BodyBuilding.com this tactic is effective for fatburning because “as you sleep and fast overnight your body conserves its precious carb stores and leans toward mobilizing fat for fuel.”
Step 3: Begin a Consistent and Comprehensive Exercise routine
In order to help reverse leptin resistance, some kind of workout routine is vital. No more excuses! Consistency is key when it comes to improving your cardio and strength skills, and even more so if you’re trying to improve your leptin status.
On top of being consistent, also have to be intentional in your plan as well. The most effective workout plans include both cardio and resistance training. When it comes to metabolism boosting exercises, take a look at HIIT. If you don’t already know, HIIT stands for “High Intensity Interval Training.”
According to the American Academy of Sports Medicine, “High intensity interval training (HIIT) can boost metabolism and accelerate weight loss. During HIIT, a person consumes more oxygen than in slower, distance exercise, which can increase post-exercise metabolism.
Research has shown one session of HIIT can burn calories for 1.5 – 24 hours after exercise.”
The other good news about HIIT is that it helps you keep burning calories for the rest of the day even when you aren’t exercising. Pretty amazing right?
Men’s Fitness spoke with exercise physiologist and athletic trainer Scott Weiss. He shared that “HIIT burns more calories during and after a workout than continuous aerobic training.” He also stated that “The bursts of increased intensity simply increase the caloric expenditure, thus more total calories are burned aiding in better body composition.”
Keep in mind, if you aren’t used to high-intensity exercise, you must warm up for a decent amount of time beforehand. Whether you’re used to this type of intensity or not, you should always warm up your muscles through dynamic movements before exercise. You can also find beginner HIIT workout videos on YouTube.
How To Increase Leptin Sensitivity
If you begin with instating the steps above, you’ll be well on your way to increasing your leptin sensitivity. With less fat on your body and less sugar in your diet, your leptin stores will be able to properly communicate with your brain again. This way you’ll be know when you’re full and won’t feel those pesky hunger cravings that torment and tempt you daily.
A clean diet and consistent exercise routine will help eliminate that extra fluff from your brain and body and put you in a level place hormonally. Again, as I’ve mentioned on this page, I recommend doing a recheck in a few months. If you find your body or weight loss at a stand still or feel cravings coming on again, you might have pushed yourself into a state of leptin deficiency.
If that’s the case, refer to my tips here in order to get leptin flowing in your body again.
The unfortunate news is that it’s easy to develop leptin resistance. In a society with rapid access to foods high in sugar and carbs, it’s no wonder we are faced with this international epidemic. The great news is that we do have the ability to control and even fix our out-of-whack leptin levels. You can do this by implementing a metabolic override diet consisting of:
- Eliminating sugar and minimizing carbs
- Incorporating intermittent fasting
- Establishing a consistent and comprehensive exercise routine
It won’t happen overnight, but with discipline and commitment you can get your body and your metabolism to where you need it to be. If you think you might be in a state of leptin resistance, try out my tips above for increasing your sensitivity then comment below and let me know how it works!