Why You Need To Learn About Leptin If You Are Overweight

Are you trying to lose weight? Or keep weight off?

You've tried exercising more and eating less right? You've tried other fad 'quick fix' diets?

But they don't work do they?

Sure these are short term fixes, but they're not long term solutions to a leaner slimmer healthier body.

I have a saying that I use a lot in my Program, it goes "Calories matter but hormones matter more".

You see, hormones play a pivotal role in whether one increases or decreases fat loss. More than the total amount of calories your consume (or burn).

Sure, the popular hormones like growth hormone and testosterone play a big role when it comes to fat loss. But there are two other hormones that play a much larger role in determining our body fat levels. These are the true star performers of the show. And you may have never heard of them before.

They are leptin and ghrelin. The big players in the game of fat loss.

Have these guys working in your favour and you'll drop body fat in no time. Have them working against you and no matter how hard you train or how little you eat, you're going to struggle reaching your fat loss goals.

Note: Looking for the quick one page guide with all the key takeaways? Download a FREE guide to leptin HERE.

Leptin – The Master Hormone

Leptin is a hormone in the body that has powerful effects on hunger and feelings of fullness. When you eat a meal, the body releases leptin. Increased levels of leptin reduce your appetite.

In a healthy body, high leptin equals no appetite.  

After your body has digested all the food, leptin levels will drop down and another hormone called ghrelin is released to make you feel hungry again.

An interesting fact about leptin is that it is secreted by fat tissue. The fatter the individual, the higher their leptin levels.

This makes leptin the perfect feedback system of the human body to keep our body fat levels down. If we get fat, the body produces more leptin to help us eat less.

It's a system that should stop us from over eating and getting sick and fat.

But If More Body Fat Equals More Leptin...?

I know what you're thinking. If more fat mass leads to more leptin production, and more leptin helps us eat less food, then why are people getting fatter and fatter and eating more and more?

Well, just how people can become insulin resistant, people can become resistant to leptin.

Meaning leptin is present in the body, but the body doesn't recognise its presence.

Years and years of poor diet and lifestyle choices (which I'll cover below) cause high levels of leptin known as hyperleptinemia.

Hyperleptinemia causes leptin to become less effective at controlling appetite. A horrible situation to be in, you eat, and yet you never seem to satisfy your appetite, leading to more and more food consumption in a very vicious cycle.

I should point out that chronically low calorie intake can also lead to leptin resistance (another reason to avoid low calorie diets). Under-eating can cause the same problem.

Ghrelin - The Hunger Hormone

No not gremlins, ghrelin (pronounced grey-lin or grel-in depending on who you ask).

Ghrelin is the hormone that sparks your appetite when leptin levels drop off. Low leptin equals high ghrelin. High ghrelin equals high appetite.

Quick Tip: Think to associate ghrelin with a 'growling' stomach. That should help you differentiate ghrelin and leptin.

Unfortunatley, if the body is in a state of hyperleptinemia (chronically high levels of leptin) then this can create habitually low levels of ghrelin.

You may think that this is a good thing. Long term low levels of ghrelin should mean less appetite right?

Well, no. What actually happens is that your body (your hypothalamus to be exact) becomes so sensitive to ghrelin, that even when tiny amounts of ghrelin are released, you become very hungry, very fast!

A rather horrible situation to be in.

Your primary appetite suppressant hormone (leptin) isn't working. And even though you have minute levels of your 'growling stomach' hormone ghrelin, the body is hypersensitive to these trace levels of ghrelin and cause you to become ravenous...

Your bodies inbuilt fat control system is broken...You're fat and you can't stop eating...Sound familiar?

What Causes Leptin Resistance?

Many factors contribute to leptin resistance. And like insulin resistance, it takes time to manifest - it's not an overnight issue.

A few things that can lead you down the path to leptin resistance and the resulting fat gain include:

  • Eating caloric dense but nutrient sparse foods (think doughnuts, cookies, vegetable oils, most processed foods, energy drinks etc).
  • Eating when you are not hungry (this is a big one, you override the bodies natural hunger mechanisms). Examples here include snacking when you're stressed. Using sports drinks instead of water to quench your thirst. Eating when your peers are eating. Being too polite to say no to your grandma's dessert after a big dinner...)
  • Broken circadian rhythms and poor sleep cycles.
  • Lots of international travel
  • Chronically high insulin levels
  • Overconsumption of lectins (found in grains, soy, and legumes that haven’t been soaked/sprouted/fermented)
  • Insufficient sleep
  • Too much stress
  • Not eating quality food when you are hungry.
  • Eating a standard western diet (lacking in key nutrients).

As you can see, there isn't one root cause to leptin resistance, and many of us are doing many of these things on a daily basis. No wonder society is getting fatter...

Am I Leptin Resistant?

If you are, or have ever been, overweight, obese, been on extreme diets, or chronically overeat (perhaps you went on a bodybuilder style ‘bulking diet’), then, yes.

But to be honest, a simple way to no if you are leptin resistant is:

1) You are overweight and you can't seem to lose the weight

2) More than 50% of the above list applies to you.

If you have a hard time controlling your appetite, a hard time stopping excess food intake despite eating a lot, this is another good sign that you're leptin resistant.

How Do I Fix This Mess? I Want To Lose Fat!

Like insulin sensitivity, leptin and ghrelin sensitivity can be improved through dietary, lifestyle and environmental changes.

Unfortunatley, it's not a simple solution. There is no magic pill to improve the situation. It does need dietary and lifestyle changes.

But done properly, you can fix the mess you have gotten into.

I have a complete Program that fixes all these issues plus more. It helps you improve your leptin sensitivity and drop body fat. You can learn more about The Program here.

Or follow the below 12 key things to improve your leptin sensitivity issues:

  1. Avoid eating junk food
  2. Avoid PUFA's (learn why here)
  3. Listen to your body - eat when you are hungry.
  4. Don't drink your calories
  5. Fix your sleep (learn how here)
  6. Get sunlight first thing in the morning (learn why here)
  7. Block blue light at night (learn why here)
  8. Minimise international travel (if you must travel, look at my jet lag tips here)
  9. Avoid excess lectin consumption (from grains, soy and un-soaked legumes)
  10. Stress less (learn why here)
  11. Eat a nutrient dense diet (learn more here
  12. Join The Program (which includes an 8 week 'Leptin Reset' Protocol, learn more here)

A big part of health and fat loss is addressing hormonal imbalances (such as leptin resistance). Remember 'calories matter, but hormones matter more". Fix the hormones and life becomes so much better!

Not Only Diet: Sleep and Leptin Resistance

As I mentioned above, leptin resistance isn't only a result of a poor diet. Lifestyle factors like stress and poor sleep play a huge role.

To fix leptin resistance you must improve your sleep.

Poor sleep contributes to fat gain. This is why I put so much emphasis on sleep in The Program.

Let's take a quick look at how leptin, sleep and fat loss are interconnected.In a healthy body, the following happens at night:

  1. After 4 hours of sleep in darkness (you shouldn’t be able to see your hand in front of your face when sleeping), melatonin is produced.
  2. When this happens, leptin creates a surge of fat reserves to be released for energy. Your thyroid is up-regulated, boosting your metabolism. At the same time, your mitochondria start burning this fuel to maintain a stable body temperature throughout the night. All this fat mobilization and burning happens effectively when you are sleeping a solid 7-9 hours a night. Elevated insulin (from big meal too close to bed) can shut down this process, along with exposure to artificial light at night.
  3. Meanwhile, lack of sleep (7 hours or less, or interrupted poor quality sleep):
  • Produces ghrelin, which stimulates appetite and down regulates the feeling of fullness. Making you overeat the next day.
  • Increases stress hormone cortisol
  • Decreases testosterone (testosterone burns fat in both men and women)
  • Lowers sensitivity to dopamine, serotonin, and neurotransmitters (less ‘feel good’ feelings), leading to depression. Also, when you are low in these hormones, the body craves junk foods for a ‘pick me up’ dopamine boost. Eating these foods when you don't need them contributes to leptin resistance.
  • Decreases reaction time, strength, and power

Hence why prioritising and fixing your sleep is a crucial step to addressing leptin resistance issues.

Join The Program. Beat Leptin Resistance. Lose Fat

I know it can be a lot to get your head around. Hopefully you'll move away from the 'eat less and exercise more' school of thought around fat loss.

If you are looking for a complete solution that not only addresses leptin resistance, but helps fix all hormonal imbalances, then be sure to check out The Program.

The Program includes an 8 week leptin reset diet, lifestyle plan, sleep guide, supplement protocol and training program designed to reset the bodies sensitivity to leptin, drop fat and improve the way you look and feel.

You can learn more about The Program HERE.

Alternatively, if you would like to download a simple 'one page' overview of this article click HERE.

Stick it on the fridge as a reminder to keep you on track. Send it to loved ones who may have a leptin issue. Or simply use it as a reference guide to improve your health and waist line!


This blog post was written by Alex Fergus. Alex is an ISSN Sports Nutrition Specialist, Fitness Professional and certified Superhuman Coach who continues to expand his knowledge base and help people across the world with their health and wellness. Alex is recognized as the National Record Holder in Powerlifting and Indoor Rowing and has earned the title of the Australian National Natural Bodybuilding Champion. Having worked as a health coach and personal trainer for over a decade, Alex now researches all things health and wellness and shares his findings on this blog. Learn more about Alex's Credentials HERE.


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