Leptin Resistance – Why It’s Hard to Lose Weight

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Staying active and eating a healthy diet… Many women put their faith in this powerful formula when it comes to weight management. Most of the time, we forget that our hormones also play a significant role in making the equation work! If you have been trying to lose weight, then it’s high time to discover the gatekeeping hormone for good metabolism and weight regulation. Let me introduce you to the hormone leptin! Read further to know how leptin affects weight and learn practical ways to prevent leptin resistance — the possible villain that holds you back from losing weight effectively! ?

What is Leptin?

Did you know that leptin can be the best teammate for anyone who wants to lose weight? WELL, IT SURELY IS! Leptin is s hormone directly connected to our metabolism and body fat! It is also called the “satiety hormone”. In other words, it tells your brain that there is enough energy stored and you don’t need more. As a teammate, you can take it as your health-conscious friend that regularly checks on you and whispers: “Sweetie, you’ve eaten enough, and we got enough energy now… No need for another bite”! ?

Leptin Resistance Could Be the Reason Why It’s Hard to Lose Weight

Leptin also watches out and maintains our energy level. You see, once our energy is balanced, the body does not trigger hunger responses. Unfortunately, when energy and hormone levels fall (which happens during menopause), appetite and food cravings may increase! As a result, weight loss becomes more challenging.

Furthermore, studies show that leptin controls T3, a metabolism-regulating hormone produced in the thyroid gland. In the absence of leptin signaling, the feedback loop between T3 and the brain is lost! Eventually, more menopause symptoms could show up. This explains how important the thyroid is. Once the thyroid gland malfunctions, it could branch out into many health problems and conditions.

Other functions of leptin include:

  • Production of Growth Hormones
  • Keeping the Reproductive System Balanced
  • Regulating Adrenal Glands

Realize how underappreciated leptin is? Let’s talk more about how leptin affects weight, and you might just be one roadblock away from achieving that number on the scale!

How Does Leptin Affect Weight?

Generally, many hormones in our body can influence our weight and metabolism — insulin, cortisol, estrogen and more. For now, the spotlight will be on leptin and the question is: How does leptin affect weight?

Here’s how it works:

Leptin primarily functions as a “messenger” that carries signals to the hypothalamus — the part of our brain responsible for food intake and appetite. When these signals reach our brain, we then feel full and satisfied. Thus, we are not driven any longer to eat more! In a simple equation: When leptin levels increase, hunger decreases.

Leptin is produced by our fat cells called, “adipocytes”. This is why leptin levels usually increase when someone gains weight and decrease when someone loses weight.

“Wait… If leptin is produced in our fats and decreases appetite, then overweight people having high levels of leptin can effortlessly lose weight! Right?”

If you had that thought above, sorry to say that this is not the case for people with obesity. For someone who is overweight, the leptin system doesn’t work the way it should! This condition is called “leptin resistance”.

When someone is leptin resistant, the person is not sensitive any longer to leptin’s signals. Consequently, the brain is not receiving the message that enough food has already been taken. As a result, leptin resistance leads a person to consume more food than necessary to feel “full” or satiated. This is how the unending cycle of weight gain happens in the case of obesity. ?

Are you familiar with the show, “The Biggest Loser”?

The show features overweight contestants competing to win a cash prize. How? By losing the highest weight percentage relative to their initial weight! A study about the participants of the reality tv show found that over the following 6 years, the combined hormonal and metabolic changes made the contestants regain much (if not all) of the weight they lost!

Moreover, it was also found that their leptin and metabolism levels never rebounded to what they had before they joined the show. In fact, the more weight a contestant lost, the worse the metabolism became. This explains why weight regains was inevitable among the contestants, even though they were eating less food than ever!

The lesson? There is an art and science to losing weight effectively, yet healthily! ? But before we finally dive into some tips on achieving that, let’s talk more about leptin resistance first!

How Leptin Resistance Turns On Hunger Signals

Can you imagine yourself being constantly hungry? Isn’t that the complete opposite of what you’re aiming for? ?

As mentioned, leptin resistance occurs when the brain stops receiving leptin’s signals. Meaning, the brain doesn’t “get the memo” that enough food has already come into your system! As a result, it interprets that as hunger. Your brain will then turn on all the hunger signals to make up for the falsely perceived hunger. That sounds bad!

Having leptin resistance means everything you eat goes straight into fat storage — without being used for energy, making the problem even worse! This condition is one of the most common hidden culprits of weight gain. You can workout in the gym 24/7 or eat like a bird and still not lose weight if you have leptin resistance.

Have a wider understanding of leptin resistance through Dr. Becky Gillaspy’s video below and put this villain down to the ground! ?

6 Helpful Ways to Prevent Leptin Resistance

Lo and behold! You are about to learn the best food choices, healthy habits and lifestyle changes to regulate leptin levels! These could be the golden keys for you to finally maintain a healthy body weight! ?

1. Get Enough Rest and Keep Stress Levels Low

Getting enough sleep keeps your stress hormones in check! Enough sleep is also one of the best ways to prevent stress-related inflammation — which weakens the brain’s leptin receptor sites!

Maximize periods between your day when you can rest your mind and simply relax! Do at least one thing (or more if you can) that relaxes you each day. You can keep your stress levels low in any form that works best for you! ?

  • Exercising
  • Meditating
  • Praying,
  • Yoga
  • Bathing with Essential Oils
  • Reading a Book
  • Journaling
  • Painting

We also got an article specially made about different breathing techniques to calm you down and deal with stress in menopause! ?

2. Keto Green Way + IF

Various forms of healthy eating habits, such as the Keto-Green Way and intermittent fasting, have been associated with improvements in leptin sensitivity and weight loss! Experts believe that fasting helps control local inflammation in the brain that controls energy intake and expenditure — which contributes to a sustained energy balance and protection against obesity! ?

Learn more about the connection among hormones, eating habits, weight and even mental wellness! Watch this collaboration video from Ms. Violet Reveira, also known as the “Keto Psychologist” and Dr. Jason Fung, a Canadian nephrologist educating about natural ways to solve metabolic syndrome!

Interested in Keto Green Way+ intermittent fasting? We got a great article to help you jumpstart your way to healthy eating! ?

Why I Love Intermittent Fasting + How to Fast for Menopause!

3. Eat Mindfully

Here are simple words of wisdom from Dr. Josh Axe, an expert in natural and functional medicine, about mindful eating:

“How, when, where and with whom you eat can all influence how much you eat and how satisfied you feel afterward.”

One hundred percent true! ? If you take a closer look at the statement, these factors all play a significant role in our overall eating experience! So, here are tips that can help you eat more mindfully to help you avoid overindulging:

  • Don’t eat while distracted or multi-tasking.
  • Slow down and chew food thoroughly.
  • Fill half your plate with nutrient-dense veggies or fruit, so it will look and feel like you’re eating more!
  • Cook more at home and enjoy your meals peacefully.
  • Drink plain water, tea or black coffee.
  • Have a broth-based soup or a salad to ease hunger before the main course.
  • Remove tempting junk foods and other inflammatory foods from your environment as much as possible, especially at home or in your office.

To help you more about managing food cravings in menopause, check out our article here! ?

How to stop food cravings during menopause!

4. Consume Leptin-Boosting Foods

Do “leptin-boosting foods” actually exist? ? Well, foods that make you feel full can be considered the perfect choice to improve leptin sensitivity!
The following are the best ones to go for:

Berries: Blueberries, Blackberries and Strawberries
Unsweetened Beverages: Herbal, Black or Green Teas and Water with Lemon or Fruit Infusion

Healthy Oils: Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Flaxseed Oil

Vegetables: Choose kale or cauliflower instead of starchy vegetables like corn or potatoes.

Legumes: Beans, Peas and Lentils

Lean Meat, Poultry and Fish

Salad Greens


5. Avoid Foods High in Lectin

You might be thinking that I got the spelling wrong, but “lectin” and “leptin” are two different things!

Lectin, also known as an “antinutrient”, is a type of protein that binds to carbohydrates. Lectins can be commonly found in an average American diet! Eating large amounts of lectins can damage the gut wall and prevent the gut from absorbing nutrients properly. Lectins interfere with leptin receptors — blocking leptin’s effect on controlling our appetite and satiation. When this happens, it may lead to an increase in blood glucose and cause insulin resistance. So, both leptin and insulin get affected by lectin… Giving is a big reason NOT to eat it! ?

According to Dr. Mindy Pelz, nutrition and functional medicine expert, the following are foods high in lectin:

  • Cereals
  • Grains
  • Corn
  • Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Beans
  • Legumes
  • Pasteurized Dairy

You see, few of these foods may be beneficial to our health, right? Fortunately, you can easily reduce their lectin content by cooking them with “wet” heat like stewing, boiling or cooking in sauce. But if you’re having weight problems or digestive issues, it’s best to cross out these foods from your diet.

6. Maintain an Active Lifestyle

Staying active is one of the best ways to build muscles, improve metabolism and increase leptin sensitivity (just like how it improves insulin sensitivity)!

By building strength and muscle mass, exercise reduces calories instead of being stored as body fat. Instead, they are used to grow and repair tissues! Staying active also promotes the release of growth hormones adrenaline and testosterone — enabling fat to be used as energy rather than stored!

In an age when we become more prone to health conditions or problems, exercise stays as one of the top ways to promote the use of sugar and fats in the blood — preventing them from winding up and causing metabolic conditions!

Just a friendly reminder, though… Keep in mind the lesson we had above about exercising! We are not in a reality tv show anyway, so simply keep it slow yet steady! ?

Too much exercise can lower leptin levels and usually increase appetite. Some studies have found that exercising from one to multiple hours interrupt leptin production and secretion! Therefore, being active needs to be balanced with rest and recovery.

Get moving and visit our ? exercise archives to see the type of workout that will suit you best!


Sometimes, we forget that each hormone is designed to have its unique function in our body. Our hormone levels, together with our lifestyle and eating habits, hugely influence every response or condition we may experience!

This makes leptin one of the most essential hormones we need to be mindful of. Leptin is the lookout hormone — the watcher of fat metabolism, energy balance and hunger regulation! To me, that sounds like a perfect buddy for a weight loss journey! Boost it up and reach your ever-anticipated destination safely.

Also, don’t put the blame on bad genes or poor self-discipline. Perhaps, we just missed out on how leptin and insulin work! As soon as you see and understand how everything works inside our body, apply the knowledge and you will lose that extra weight… I promise! ?


• Are Leptin Supplements Effective?

“Because leptin is a digestible protein that doesn’t enter the bloodstream, it can’t be taken in supplement form”, said Dr. Richard Atkinson, an obesity expert at Virginia Commonwealth University. In other words, leptin will be best absorbed by our body if it undergoes the whole digestion process — starting from the mouth where we chew, until we swallow it as it goes down to our intestine, for it to be released to our blood!

So, those “leptin supplements” sold online don’t actually contain leptin, even when their labels say so! Instead, these supplements contain ingredients that are made to help improve leptin functioning or feelings of fullness.

Ghrelin: “Leptin’s Hunger Partner”

While leptin is considered the “satiety hormone”, ghrelin is regarded as the “hunger hormone”. Ghrelin increases your desire to eat! When ghrelin and leptin levels are disrupted, your ability to eat when you are actually hungry and stop when you are full, can become significantly affected. Even though these two hormones have opposite functions, they work perfectly together in a check-and-balance type of way!

• Quick Tip: Decrease Triglyceride Levels and Increase Protein Intake

High triglycerides can interfere with the transport of leptin from the blood to your brain. The best way to lower triglycerides? Reduce your carb intake! Consequently, eating plenty of protein can cause automatic weight loss as it improves leptin sensitivity!

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Gita is the founder of My Menopause Journey. Since 2014, she has been supporting midlife women by sharing hard-earned learnings from her own experience. To advance her knowledge, Gita puts a lot of her time and effort into understanding the broad spectrum of women’s health. She immerses in extensive research about the physical, mental and emotional aspects of menopause. Gita believes in the life-changing power of healthy, holistic living — this is where she anchors her message to all women. Learn more about her marvelous mission in About us - My Menopause Journey.

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