While losing belly fat is mostly a matter of how much you eat and how much exercise you do, other things may also influence how fast and how easily you lose those pesky pounds. If you’ve been hitting your workouts hard and sticking to your diet like glue without losing any inches, you might be suffering from something called leptin resistance.
What’s that? It’s not your fault you can’t lose weight? Just hold on a minute! Before you break you the celebratory candy and cookies, take a moment to discover what leptin is, and how it may be your weight loss nemesis.
What is leptin?
Leptin is a signaling hormone. It is produced by your fat cells and carries information to your brain, targeting your hypothalamus. Leptin’s primary job to tell your brain that you have enough stored body fat and that it’s okay for your metabolism to run at its normal rate.
Why do you need fat? Why can’t your body just be happy to let you get lean and mean? It all goes back to our hunter-gather days when food was much less abundant.
Your ancestors had to work very hard to earn their calories. If they had an unsuccessful hunt and came home without food, they needed to rely on their fat stores to sustain them until they managed to find something to eat. This could be several days.
As their body fat levels declined, so too did their leptin levels. This triggered a metabolic slowdown that ensured the remaining fat stores lasted as long as possible. This was good news for the hunter-gathers but is not such good news if you want to lose weight on purpose.
Your body doesn’t know you are voluntarily eating less. It still uses leptin, and if levels drop too fast, your body will put the brakes on fat loss by slowing your metabolic rate. As an extra survival bonus, low levels of leptin can also increase your hunger. That’s good news if you are a hunter-gather who needs some extra motivation to get out and find some food, but not so good if you are trying to stick to your diet and are running low on willpower.
The more fat you have, the more leptin your body produces. However, in some people, leptin signaling doesn’t work the way it should. Your body may be producing adequate amounts of leptin, but your brain isn’t getting the message.
Subsequently, it ramps up your hunger levels while slowing down your metabolism. This makes weight loss much harder than it needs to be. This condition is commonly known as leptin resistance and is thought to be one of the biological reasons for weight gain and obesity.
Leptin resistance encourages:
• Increased hunger so that you eat more than you need – your body thinks it’s starving
• Reduced energy expenditure – your body wants to conserve energy and preserve its fat stores so that they last longer
This creates a positive energy balance that your body uses to make more fat. Eating less and exercising will not be as effective as they should because your body is working against you.
5 signs you are leptin resistant
Now you know what leptin is and what it does, it’s time to determine if you are an unwitting victim of leptin resistance.
1. You are constantly hungry
Food tastes good. It’s one of life’s pleasures, and most people look forward to eating. However, if you are all-but obsessed with food, this could indicate that you are suffering from leptin resistance.
Normally, you should have periods where food is not on your mind. You feel full and satisfied. But, if you feel hungry mere minutes after eating, you may be in the grips of leptin resistance. Leptin tells your brain you are full, and if that message is not being received, you will feel hungry even if you have a stomach full of food.
2. You are dieting hard, but you aren’t losing weight
In healthy people, eating fewer calories or exercising more should result in weight loss. When you supply your body with fewer calories than it needs, it will have to use fat to make up that energy shortfall. This is called creating a calorie deficit, the main principle of weight loss.
However, when you are leptin resistant, your body lowers your metabolic rate – the number of calories you need per day. That means eating less or exercising may not produce enough of a calorie deficit for your body to burn fat. Eating less will not help as that will only create a bigger leptin deficiency.
3. You’ve been overweight for a very long time
The longer you have been overweight, the more likely you are to be leptin resistant. This is especially true if you carry most of your excess weight around your abdomen. High levels of body fat mean that your brain has been bombarded with lots of leptin for many years. As a result, it develops a sort of “leptin blindness.” Because of this, you won’t feel full, and that will lead to overeating.
If you have been overweight for a long time, you are much more likely to be leptin resistant than someone who gained weight more recently. This is one of the reasons that overweight kids often become obese adults.
4. You’re sleep deprived and stressed all the time
Leptin resistance increases hunger. It also triggers the release of cortisol – the stress hormone. If you are an unmotivated hunter, these responses can help get you up, out, and looking for food. But, if you are trying to get a good night’s sleep or need to concentrate for work, all that anxiety and stress are the last thing you need.
If you find it hard to sleep, even after a long day at work and feel stressed or anxious even though life is good and there is nothing to worry you, leptin resistance may be the reason.
5. You eat a lot of processed sugar and refined carbs
Do you crave sugar and carbs all the time? Do you give in to these cravings and have no willpower to stop? You are not alone! Lots of people are all-but addicted to sugar and carbs. Unfortunately, this is a cause and effect situation.
When you eat a lot of sugar and carbs, your natural leptin response will be disrupted. However, leptin resistance can trigger cravings for the exact foods that caused it in the first place!
This cruel twist of fate helps explain why eating less processed sugar, and refined carbs is so hard and why eating these foods invariably leads to weight gain.
If you find losing lard harder than it ought to be, you may be leptin resistant. The good news is that this problem is quite straightforward to fix. Cut grains, sugar, and processed food from your diet – stop snacking, get some exercise, and manage your stress levels better and the inches will eventually drop off.