Losing and maintaining weight is not just about the food and drink you consume versus the energy you put out.
Although energy balance is important, there are other hormonal factors at play that influence your ability to maintain a healthy weight. These hormones can be positively influenced by your nutrition and lifestyle choices.
The hormone that has the greatest connection to weight gain and disease is insulin – specifically too much of it. Even if you are eating the recommended number of daily calories, a diet high in sugar (cakes, sweets, biscuits, chocolate) and starchy carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, rice) causes raised insulin levels which can result in weight gain as the cells absorb too much glucose and the body converts this into fat. Conversely, a balanced diet based on lean proteins, vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and some whole grains can help to keep your insulin production and weight in check.
Thyroid function plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy weight. The thyroid hormones stimulate diverse metabolic activities in most tissues, leading to an increase in basal metabolic rate. Yet, hypothyroidism, or low thyroid function, is a major player in weight-loss resistance, affecting one in five women and one in ten men. If you have any concerns about your thyroid function, ask your doctor to check your thyroid function.
Leptin and ghrelin are the ‘hunger’ hormones that also help to regulate your metabolism, appetite and body weight. While leptin is considered the main ”satiety hormone” because it helps control your appetite, ghrelin is considered the main “hunger hormone” because it increases your desire to eat. When levels of leptin and ghrelin are disrupted, your ability to stop when you are full and to eat when you are truly hungry can become compromised, leading to changes in body weight. Factors that affect the balance between the hunger hormones include:
- Calorie intake – be mindful of total calorie intake
- Dietary patterns – meal quality and regular timings matter
- Sleep/wake schedule and sleep duration – sleeping well is key!
- Light exposure – get outside in the sunshine
- Exercise – plan regular moderate exercise
- Stress – take strategies to manage stress
The take-away is that your nutritional habits, dietary patterns, and nutrition quality can all have a positive influence on your fat burning hormones. In addition, lifestyle factors like sleep and stress management can also turn on these hormones and help you achieve and maintain your weight loss goals.
Abir Hamza-Goodacre is a BANT-registered nutritional therapist who works at Benenden Hospital. For information on how we can help with nutrition services, please contact us or call our Private Patients team on 01580 363158.
Published on 16 October 2020