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Introducing Your Hunger Hormones

A new year often means resolutions and good intentions. For many, losing weight is at the top of the list. You may have the best of intentions, but your body is out of the loop. It has no idea that you are trying to fit into smaller jeans. When “dieting” the body senses that there is less energy coming in through food and responds by making you hungry. Leptin and ghrelin are the big players in regulating appetite and weight loss. But what do they do?

You might think that people that carry extra weight would have more leptin and not feel as hungry. The opposite actually happens. 

The brain thinks they are starving and don’t have enough leptin, producing more. This makes them hungrier, and the cycle continues.

On the other hand, ghrelin is the “Hey, I’m hungry! When do we eat?” hormone. The stomach makes ghrelin when empty, so it is highest before eating and lowest after. However, obesity can also disrupt this signal with the brain.

What can you do? Regular sleep is known to improve leptin and ghrelin levels. Physical activity and goal setting behaviors, which help shape our appetite and hunger cycles, also help regulate these hormones. 

Set yourself up for success by making positive life changes. Remember, quick fixes and yo-yo diets don’t work in the long run. Typically, 20% of people have already given up on their resolutions by the second week in January. Successful, long lasting change comes with good nutrition, behavior change, and movement. 

Robyn C. Del Negro, MD, is a board certified physician. She has been practicing conventional based western medicine since 1993. She completed a post-MD multi-year fellowship at the Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine and has specialty training with the Institute of Functional Medicine.

Dr. Del Negro loves sharing all she has learned with her patients, from the benefits of broccoli, to breathing and listening. Her mission is to empower her community to embrace healthy behaviors and optimize wellness.