Leptin & Ghrelin – The Hunger Hormones Impacting Your Hunger & Weight

The human body works 24 hours a day, seven-days-a-week, to maintain a state of balanced function. This balance requires adequate nutrient intake, sufficient sleep, and effective stress management. One sign that our bodies are not achieving balance is extra weight. 


Millions of Americans are carrying around excess weight with them today. Americans as a whole have high-stress levels, poor sleep habits, and inadequate diets. This combination wreaks havoc on the hormones that control our appetites and our ability to process food into energy.


The human body has two “hunger hormones,” leptin and ghrelin. As you’d expect, these hormones have a direct impact on your ability to lose weight and keep it off. It becomes challenging to lose weight when these two hormones are out of balance.

Leptin – The “Hey, Stop Eating”

Many people hoped that the leptin hormone, discovered in 1999, would be the solution to obesity. The reason leptin appeared to be so promising is that it is the hormone that signals the brain that we are full. The thought is if leptin is produced in the fat cells, then the more fat we have, the more leptin we would produce. So logically, as we gain fat, our appetites would decrease. 


Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. As scientists soon discovered, when people became overweight, they became leptin resistant which means they’re producing plenty of it, and the brain no longer received the “hey, stop eating” message. When the brain fails to receive the stop eating signal, it believes the body is starving. Starvation triggers a self-preservation instinct to kick in, resulting in the body’s need to preserve as much energy as possible by slowing the metabolism, resulting in more weight gain. Don’t despair; we have the power to fix this by eating healthy, frequent, small meals.

Ghrelin – The “Feed Me Now”

Ghrelin is the opposite of leptin. The stomach produces ghrelin when it’s empty, telling the brain it’s time to eat. Sleep deprivation will kick the activation of ghrelin into overdrive. Ghrelin is extremely important in weight loss. When a new diet is started, most people get very strict in restricting their calories; ghrelin fights back hard, making you feel hungry. This is where many people get off track from their diets. Because people don’t like to feel hungry, they eat whatever’s available, usually not healthy food. The best way to avoid this from happening is to work your way into a diet. Eating as much healthy food as you can while still losing weight is the key to prevent the ghrelin attack.

Understanding Your Body’s Parts Help With The Whole Picture

By remaining mindful of the hormones and cycles that impact our bodies, we can more effectively establish lasting healthy habits. In regards to maintaining a healthy weight, this means focusing less on hitting the treadmill and more on striking the right balance. Some ways to ensure your hormone system is firing on all cylinders includes avoiding regular high-fat meals, getting appropriate sleep (consistently 8+ hours per night), managing your stress and exercising for 30 minutes or more four to five times a week.