Hormones that are most likely to get imbalanced during the holidays in order of most significant changes and consequences are:
The 4th most affected hormone of the body is the thyroid hormone. This
hormone is most affected due to the consequences of 3 primary causes:
1. Inadequate sleep which decreases Growth Hormone and increases
2. Decreased exercise due to time restraints
3. Cortisol rise from increased stressors and increased sugar intake
The 3rd most affected hormone in the body is Leptin.
What is Leptin and what is its purpose?
Leptin is a hormone secreted by your fat cells and has a main function to protect your body against starvation. Leptin’s function is to communicate your nutritional status to your body and brain. It was discovered just over 10 years ago, and as far as weight loss is concerned, that’s extremely recent.
When your Leptin levels are high, your brain acknowledges this high level as being in a well fed state and decreases your appetite and allows you to burn fat more easily.
However, when your Leptin levels drop, your brain senses that you could be
potentially going into a fasting state and, thereby, wants to increase your appetite and preserve your fat. This is how it protects itself from starvation. It’s great for your body if you really are starving, but it’s not so great if you want to lose weight and decrease calories.
So LOW levels of Leptin is one way people and animals become fat. There are
actually genetic causes of low levels of Leptin.
Now with that said… and don’t let this confuse you… LOW levels of Leptin do not
seem to be the reason for most cases of obesity: In fact, most obese individuals have elevated circulating Leptin levels – which match the amount of fat tissue obese individuals have. More fat tissue – higher Leptin levels. So… if higher levels of Leptin decrease appetite and break down fat, why do obese people with high levels of Leptin and still remain heavy?
This conundrum, (elevated Leptin levels not acting to decrease feeding and thus
prevent obesity), has led to the discovery of the existence of physiological Leptin
resistance. Simply put, the failure of high levels of Leptin to suppress eating and
decrease body weight and fat mass can be explained though a mechanism similar to insulin resistance and thyroid resistance and is called… surprise… Leptin resistance.
Leptin resistance simply means that even at high levels, Leptin is no longer able to properly signal fat burning in your body, just as insulin receptors do not properly
respond to insulin in the case of insulin resistance.
Though it is felt that a similar type of receptor resistance occurs with Leptin and
Leptin receptors, there are numerous other avenues that researchers are finding occur with Leptin resistance. And by reviewing the research, it is clear to me that this is far beyond my ability to understand since all of the research now is in its infant stages and remains at the biochemistry and molecular levels.
However, there is enough information available to physicians and to nutritionists, to recognize that there does seem to be ways to trick the body into keeping Leptin levels at an optimal level, which can be used in your day to day dieting and food
consumption techniques, even during the holiday season.
And it has everything to do with what you eat and when you eat it. Let’s review what I’ve shared so far.
1. When Leptin levels increase, your appetite decreases.
2. Leptin levels increase when you are well fed.
3. Your body actually burns more fat when you are well fed.
4. When you go on a diet, Leptin levels decline because your body senses you
are potentially going into a starvation mode.
5. When your Leptin levels decline your brain stimulates your appetite.
6. When your Leptin levels decline, your brain also tells your body to hold onto
fat – just in case you really are going to starve.
Now for the next piece of information that is not review, so listen up… put down your multi-tasking for a moment, you won’t want to miss this! Research conducted by Boden, et al., at the Temple University School of Medicine showed that Leptin levels will not fall, even in response to all-out fasting, so long as insulin and blood sugar are maintained via an IV glucose drip. Leptin levels actually remained steady and elevated when animals were fed with an IV drip of glucose! IV
glucose, is pure carbohydrates – pure sugar. IV glucose is IV glucose. It is literally sugar water dripped into your bloodstream at a steady rate!
Now, don’t get excited. This isn’t saying you can eat plenty of sugar! This study
proves that it is a CONSTANT steady stream of glucose that speaks to your body like a well rehearsed orchestra! NOT spikes and dips…. but constant sugar. Does this surprise you???
Ok… let’s take a look at what this means! Because if I gave you a few minutes here to think about it, you’d probably figure it out!
What this means is that our appetite and fat reduction hormone, Leptin, is intimately associated with carbohydrates and insulin levels and adds another layer to understanding why we must keep our blood sugar levels very, very stable!
By decreasing your processed, low fiber, high glycemic carbohydrate intake, decreasing your calories by no more than 20% at any one time, and making sure you eat an appropriate amount of calories, spread evenly over the course of the day, you prevent your Leptin levels from decreasing and stop your body’s tendency to STORE fat with lower Leptin levels, and also stop the hunger trap.
Let’s outline these steps to keep Leptin levels high to stay in fat burning mode and appetite suppression:
1. Decrease processed, low fiber, high glycemic carbohydrates
2. Never decrease calories by more than 20% at one time when dieting
3. Spread your calories over the course of the day.
Ok! Awesome, huh? Now with the 3rd and 4th most common hormones behind us…
The 2nd most common hormone affected during the holiday season is Insulin.
When you haven’t planned, and you don’t keep the drip going… the result is that you get hungry. And the holiday season is prime for this. You get busy and may be out shopping or talking care of multiple responsibilities… or you’re running late and didn’t have time to eat something before your next responsibility appears… and all of the sudden… you’re without adequate healthy food! This also occurs when you’re traveling.
There are fewer opportunities to cook and if you’re anything like me, you miss the opportunity to eat because nothing healthy was present, and you’re suddenly faced with being suddenly and massively hungry.
Dips in your insulin – dips in your Leptin – your brain starts to run out of glucose and it will send a crazy mental signal and drive to eat which literally consumes you – the result is that you’re driven to eat immediately – especially refined carbohydrates, resulting in blood sugar levels and blood insulin levels increasing as quickly as possible, and wham-o!
Sure your Leptin level will come up… and you’ll stop eating… but only at the expense of a spike of sugar levels, a spike of insulin levels - and the development of Leptin resistance and Insulin resistance.
That’s no fun.
The answer? Ahhh.. You know it. And I know you do. And I’m just beaming with
pride because I know you know the answer. In fact, nothing makes me happier than knowing you know it! The Answer is: Don’t let the drip run out!
Never go hungry. If you get hungry… you’ve gone too far!
Now moving on to the 1st and foremost hormone affected during the holiday season: Cortisol
With all of the additional responsibilities that we take on, as well as the additional responsibilities that work generally brings on, and the financial strains that the holiday season can demand, it is no wonder why Cortisol is the number one hormonal imbalance of the body.
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