If you’re over 40 and when you look in the mirror you see a whole lot of fat around your belly (that wasn’t there before) BUT you just can’t stop eating – this is for you. Today we discuss Midlife Appetite.
This article on Midlife appetite is an excerpt from my “Mastering Midlife” course (launch Spring 2020) I do hope you enjoy. If you want to hear more about the course, please visit my website www.theshrinkshop.com and you’ll be the first to know when it goes live.
So here goes – Midlife Appetite
I think we’re about 30 videos into this course, and I’ve slapped you around the head with Insulin in at least half of them. I’ve repeated myself and reworded myself, I’ve come at insulin at different angles, showing different relationships, and I don’t apologize.
Insulin is that important.
Insulin was discovered in 1921, just a year later Leonard Thompson, a diabetic 14 year old boy, became the first person to receive an Insulin injection. In the 1930’s we were sticking anorexics with it, but then we figured this wasn’t the best idea. We used it on mental patients and we sourced the insulin from cattle and pigs (we eventually deemed that a bad idea also). In 1978 we figured a synthetic version and Eli Lilly went on to be the first to sell it commercially.
By 2030 79 million people will be taking insulin. Not bad for 109 years
We know how important insulin is with regard to body composition because we’ve had over a century to figure it out. 😏
Leptin, also a hormone, was discovered in 1994, just a young pup compared to insulin. I predict that in 100 years I will have to do a whole new course to incorporate everything we are sure to discover about leptin
Leptin is “new” and yet we can already see how powerful this hormone is with regard to appetite, energy expenditure and body composition. Dare to say as we find out more, Leptin may be the new Insulin, they are definitely best friends already. The role leptin plays has already lifted the veil of shame from many people who are overweight or obese. Knowing more about Leptin has stopped a lot of the finger wagging and we can now see how it is the curse of many dealing with midlife weight gain
As I have said before, this course is intended to build upon itself. If I had jumped straight in and started with leptin it would have overwhelmed a lot of people, but by now (hopefully) you can see how lifestyle can cause a hormone to run riot, you are now be able to join some of the dots together – how an eating behavior triggers a hormone and when a hormone is being over worked for a long time, the body (receptors) eventually become resistant and unresponsive to it.
In the majority of cases Insulin Resistance is acquired by lifestyle choices, not genetics. It is an environment that builds up overtime and often shows its head in middle age. Leptins story runs in parallel with insulin. So hopefully my nagging and repetition will pay off and what I’m about to say will sound eerily familiar.
WHAT IS LEPTIN?
Leptin is made in fat cells and in the small intestine. Leptin tells the brain (via the hypothalamus, a region of the forebrain) how much fat we have stored.
If we gain weight and store more fat, leptin levels rise, this is the message that goes to the brain and the brain obliges by reducing appetite and increasing expenditure (the rate at which energy is burned). In an ideal world, you eat less, burn more and lose the weight.
If we lose weight, fat levels drop, therefore leptin drops and this is the message that goes to the brain. The brain doesn’t realize that we want to see our abs by summer and it increases our appetite and reduces calorie expenditure. If you’ve ever tried and failed to lose those last few pounds – this may be why, it is also (one reason) why prolonged calorie expenditure leads to a plateau (or rebound)
Indeed, calorie restriction (even without weight loss) can reduce leptin levels!
When I did the section on appetite and cravings, I was tempted to talk about leptin then, but I thought if I did It would take attention away from the role of being a sugar burner or having a learned behavior to unravel. But now is the time to take the subject of appetite to a deeper level.
Often, we see heavy people unable to stick to diets, they can’t stick to the required portion sizes and within a month they quit (because willpower only lasts for a month – to be discussed more later in the course) So this heavy person blames themselves and so on and so on.
What we are now understanding is that these heavy people have more fat, so they should have more leptin and with more leptin the brain SHOULD reduce their appetite – but what if it doesn’t?! What if the brain doesn’t get the right signal and it still thinks this overweight person has low leptin and is starving?! If this is the case the brain will increase their appetite and slow their energy expenditure! We call this Leptin Resistance (LR)
LR = Heavy people with huge appetites = weight gain = LR = Heavier people with huge appetites 😥
The Leptin response is a type of negative feedback loop. We have many other negative feedback loops, like the way your body controls your temperature. If you are too hot your body will start ways to cool you down (like sweating or with animals, panting) If you are too cold, the body responds differently, you get goose bumps so that heat is not as easily lost, you start to shiver and blood leaves the skin and goes to your internal organs – all because your brain is told that you are hot or cold. We have negative feedback loops for breathing and blood pressure AND leptin is just another feedback loop informing the brain of our fat storage.
If you are fortunate enough to have never been overweight, you may not have much body fat, but this is your normal and the brain knows that. If you have been heavy and drop a lot of weight, you may end up with the same body fat % as that blessed lean person, but that’s not the message that goes to the brain. The message is – we’ve lost a lot of fat/leptin, send help.
This is another reason that people rebound after a diet, but all is not lost, I will explain ways to help you avoid this unfortunate situation.
In summary, this is what leptin is meant to do;
LOSE FAT, LOSE LEPTIN = APPETITE INCREASES & ENERGY EXPENDITURE DECREASES
GAIN FAT, GAIN LEPTIN = APPETITE DECREASES & ENERGY EXPENDITURE INCREASES
Leptin is seen as some as an appetite stimulant, by others as a starvation regulator.
When someone eats too much sugar and doesn’t move enough, and they do this for long enough, they become Insulin Resistant (IR). Insulin is constantly being pumped out of the pancreas to deal with the persistently high level of sugar in the blood. In the end muscles become resistant (the person gets fat) and then fat becomes resistant (the person gets skinny, but that is the least of their worries at this point)
Too much of a hormone is a diseased state.
Because Leptin is secreted from fat cells, when we are greatly overweight there is a lot of Leptin going on, with LR the brain just doesn’t see it! (the same way muscle and fat cells stop responding to insulin)
In the case of Leptin, if the brain doesn’t know we have a lot of it, it responds as if we don’t have much of it at all – it responds as if we are starving – our appetite will be ferocious.
How many people do you know who are vastly overweight and yet can’t stop eating? Reality shows thrive on this stuff, “My 600lb Life” and other such disturbing shows, where we love to blame the person or their families. I’m not saying that Leptin Resistance is always the cause, but if you’re heavy and have really struggled with weight loss because of an appetite you just can’t control – this could be you, and for what it’s worth, no amount of willpower can overpower the brains response to Leptin Resistance.
LEPTIN & INSULIN
Leptin and Insulin are the best of friends.
Having high levels of insulin, will also keep stimulating the release of leptin, this would normally result in us feeling less hungry. However, when we are insulin resistant, we keep producing more and more insulin, which results in us producing more and more leptin. Just as with insulin, when this situation is prolonged the receptors stop hearing the message, and the result is Leptin Resistance.
Insulin Resistance – we have lots of insulin in the blood, but the cells respond as if it is not there.
Leptin Resistance – we have lots of leptin in the blood, but the brain responds as if it is not there.
Remember hormones travel in the blood and attach to their own receptors. Hormones are the key and the receptors are the lock, all being well the key attaches to its specific lock and the magic happens. With insulin and/or leptin resistance – the key doesn’t attach to its lock – the magic does not happen.
This relates to our age because “resistance” does not happen overnight. In the vast majority of cases, both forms of resistance are a result of a prolonged state that we have created with poor nutrition, stress, and lack of activity. Not blaming anyone here, because who amongst us knew?!
WHAT CAUSES LEPTIN RESISTANCE?
Both Insulin and Leptin resistance can often be reversed, but before we get there, what causes Leptin Resistance?
Remembering that Leptin is relatively new to research. So far, we can with certainty point to 4 causes of leptin resistance
- High levels of Insulin. Chronically high insulin levels mean chronically high leptin levels.
- Inflammation. Inflammatory signaling in your hypothalamus (brain) is one cause of leptin resistance.
- High levels of free fatty acids in the blood. These elevated free fatty acids may interfere with leptin signaling.
- Having high levels of leptin in the first place. This may be a unique situation and/or it is due to someone being overweight and especially obese.
All of the above are made worse by being obese, and its easy to say that the first thing you have to do is lose weight, BUT, it can be a cruel and vicious cycle, the more fat a person has, the more resistant they become and the brain signals them to eat more and burn less.
So, lets focus on what we can do to fix the problem, because just like with Insulin Resistance, we do have a lot of control when it comes to Leptin Resistance, and let’s be honest – doing nothing is not an option.
HOW TO INCREASE LEPTIN SENSITIVITY
- Cut Sugar – When researchers were studying leptin, they induced it in animals by injecting them with sugar, especially fructose. Limit your sugar intake (duh) and watch for hidden fructose in food. Fructose is a fruit sugar, but most fruit only has about 6% fructose, but be mindful of it anyway and keep your honey and agave to a minimum. Although thought of as more “natural sweeteners” honey is 40% fructose and agave syrup 56%
- Reduce Inflammation – inflammation raises leptin and leptin increases inflammation!
Please, PLEASE cut the processed food and if you know you’re sensitive to gluten (wheat, barley, rye) cut that out too! Gluten leaks through the intestinal lining and increase intestinal permeability. Increased intestinal permeability leads to inflammation in the hypothalamus which will reduce leptin sensitivity and ultimately will cause leptin resistance.
- Improve Gut Health – A healthy balance of gut bacteria is critical for maintaining the integrity of the intestinal barrier and keeping inflammation at bay. Include plenty of prebiotics in your diet by eating garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, shallots, beets, green peas, cabbage, chickpeas, nectarines, watermelon, grapefruit, pomegranate, dates, figs, pistachios, and cashews, you can also use (as I do) a prebiotic supplement called Insulin.
Probiotics also possibly increase leptin sensitivity.Probiotics have been found to help modify leptin. The strains to look out for are lactobacilli and saccharomyces boulardii. Fermented foods contain probiotics, eating fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt (fermented, no Yoplait😊 ) and kefir can help.
- Exercise – When you exercise your muscles secrete inflammatory compounds, these go to the brain where they in fact have an anti-inflammatory effect, and causes leptin sensitivity to increase.
- Eat Low Carb – The best way to improve leptin sensitivity is to increase insulin sensitivity, and the best way to do that is to reduce carb intake, eat only slow acting carbohydrates, and don’t eat a carbohydrate by itself. Monitor your blood sugar by using a blood glucose meter https://theshrinkshopshop.com/collections/frontpage/products/blood-sugar-testing-kit
- Lower Stress – Stress is a major cause of inflammation and elevates insulin. I know this is the one you don’t want to hear, but stress will make you crazy, overweight, bloated & inflamed!
- Sleep – Another one you probably don’t want to hear, but research showed that leptin levels dropped by 20% with just 6 nights of mildly interrupted sleep. I’ve seen how sleep can ruin someone body composition so many times, that I developed my own product. www.theshrinkshopsleep.com
- Calorie Cycling – this is old school 😊 When I was dieting for bodybuilding competitions, we would have a “cheat day” every 10 days or so, for that one day I would drastically increase my calorie intake. Today we call it a “leptin reset day.” There are several ways of doing calorie cycling, I used to do a full day, other people do part of a day, and others do several high calorie meals per week (usually in the evening). One word of advice here, most of the extra calories must come from carbohydrates, fat will not have the desired leptin response. This might be hard for some of you that live low carb (as I do) as a huge carb day works against everything you know, but for a leptin reset – the calories have to come from carbohydrates.
That’s it for Leptin, I just want to leave you with one final point to ponder, and that has to do with Leptin and Intermittent Fasting.
INTERMITTENT FASTING & LEPTIN
This is another example of how this course is intended to build upon itself. If you were just trolling youtube and you came upon this information it would probably make no sense. However now, after all my talk of “lipolysis” I think you’re going to be pretty comfortable with what I have to say here.
So think back to the videos/text on Lipolysis (the breakdown of fat).
The first step of lipolysis is epinephrine and Intermittent Fasting increases this fat mobilizing hormone. When leptin declines due to weight loss is usually reduces your BMR (basal metabolic rate), it does this by reducing the output of epinephrine and norepinephrine.
With Intermittent Fasting (IF) these two hormones increase despite the declining leptin. Basically, leptin does not slam on the break with these two hormones as it usually would when you lose weight. Fat loss goes on regardless during IF!
Because you are now familiar with Lipolysis you will understand the powerful impact IF can have on anyone trying to lose weight, and especially for those trying to lose those last ten pounds.
Usually, as a diet goes on leptin will reduce epinephrine (the first step in lipolysis/fat breakdown) BUT not if you incorporate Intermittent fasting. With IF that crucial first step in fat breakdown is actually increased, and this is HUGE!
It’s one technique I use a lot in my coaching, especially when I see the weight loss slow down.
If you use The Shrink Shop app for training/nutrition you will see this approach a lot in my packages. If you don’t use my app – go check in out! It’s on IOS and Google Play, just look for The Shrink Shop.