Have you ever wondered the role of hormones in weight gain? Why is it so hard to lose weight when you eat a very healthy diet?
I recently read an article in Today’s Dietitian about how “brain and gut hormones impact eating behavior and weight loss efforts.” It seems that losing weight/maintaining a healthy weight is actually more complex than just eating less or exercising more. If you’re interested in learning more about how brain and gut hormones can affect your weight loss appetite and how to manage these hormones, you’ve come to the right place!
Below are some hormones to know:
“Leptin: A Satiety Hormone”
This hormone is actually released by the fat cells in our bodies. It tells us that we have had enough to eat and it’s probably time to stop munching. Interestingly enough, it is possible to build a “leptin resistance.” So, if you have too many fat cells, your body’s brain will no longer respond to the signals it sends
“Ghrelin: The Hunger Hormone”
Ghrelin is the main hormone that controls hunger signals. According to the article in Today’s Dietitian, this hormone will rise right before meals to trigger hunger, and then fall back after meals when you are full. This is a natural bodily function and it happens every few hours, which is why it is important to eat meals on regular intervals. Additionally, the amount of ghrelin will keep building until our body is satisfied with food. So, be sure to eat when you feel hungry, even if your next meal isn’t for another hour or so. This way, you won’t be starving and overeat.
“Dopamine: The Reward Hormone”
Dopamine is responsible for activating our sense of pleasure. Many individuals who overeat have a blunted dopamine response, which tends to cause those people to overeat. Additionally, it has been found that having higher protein meals tends to increase dopamine levels in our bodies and also prevents “post-meal cravings,” which explains why it is important to have a balance of foods in our diets.
When it comes down to it, genetics will always play a huge role on our hormonal signals as well as our weight. For example, there is a dopamine gene and some people have a different version of this gene than others. If you have one variation of the gene, you may have 30-40% less dopamine receptors, which can contribute to overeating if you need more food to get the pleasurable sensation.
So, with this information, how can you manage your hunger and fullness levels? Below are some tips.
1. Eat throughout the day.
By doing this, you will begin to regulate your hormone signals. It will prevent hormones from swinging from too much to too little. You will also keep yourself from getting too hungry, which will help you make more mindful decisions at meal times.
2. Balance protein and carbs at each meal.
These nutrients work together to keep you fuller for longer. Aim for higher fiber carbs like whole wheat toast, brown rice, wheat pasta, quinoa or oatmeal. Protein and carbs work to stimulate various hormones that promote satiety. Fats also work to promote satiety, so also add in some healthy fats, like olive oil and avocado, to your meals
3. Eat foods that will suppress Ghrelin.
This includes high protein foods (lean meats, eggs fish, Greek yogurt..). Also include some “unprocessed carbs” in your diet, like lentils, sweet potatoes and oats.
4. Practice self care.
Relieving stress in a healthy way will help you to feel better about yourself and your food choices. Make a list of activities you enjoy doing!
5. Make sleep a priority.
I think this one is self explanatory 🙂
Questions about how your hormones play a role in weight loss? Make an appointment with one of our registered dietitians! She can help you make a plan that is right for you. Call our office at 301-474-2499 or email us at [email protected].
Blog reviewed and updated January 2020
Whether you are a novice in the kitchen, or a seasoned chef, Dietitian Klara will work with you to help you reach your nutrition goals. Co-author of Nourished: 10 Ingredients to Happy, Healthy Eating, Cooking with Diabetes and Cooking with Food Sensitivities Guide.