• Kim Hood, MD

Leptin: Eating for Energy & Weight Control

Those of you who really know me, know that I love a nice, large, piece of grilled cow! However, I really love a good salad, and I’ve gotten quite picky on what I put on them. I’m not doing iceberg lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, cheese, and 1000 Island dressing anymore. The photo above it my favorite salad right now.

The newest trend in the diet industry is to eat a plant based diet. I don’t believe that lifestyle is for everybody, but I do believe that a plant heavy diet is absolutely necessary for health and energy. The salad I initially described, while not horrible, isn’t interesting in taste or packed full of the phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals as the one I have pictured.

As an obese woman, leptin insensitivity is an issue. Plus, when I did my “DNA Diet” test, I have the gene for impaired leptin receptors. This is a double whammy, and I will tell you why.

Leptin is a satiety hormone that is secreted by fat cells and tells its’ receptors in the hypothalamus of the brain that you are no longer hungry. It’s the reason why if you have ever lost weight, the more you lose the hungrier you seem to get. You also become tired because the brain thinks it needs to conserve energy, and there you have it! You’re fat and tired!!!

The obesity and lack of exercise increases the inflammation of the hypothalamus and increases free fatty acids in your blood, specifically Omega 6’s. This adds to the leptin resistance. The high levels of leptin also add to the resistance. This may have something to do with decreasing the number of receptors in the hypothalamus due to all the plentiful leptin. It’s not entirely understood.

So, how does an obese woman with messed up leptin receptors biohack this in order to control energy and appetite? Well, this is what I must do:

1. I MUST avoid processed foods. White flour and sugar are not my friends. Processed foods cause more inflammation than what is there from the obesity in the first place. It also affects my gut bacteria and the integrity of the lining of my GI (gastrointestinal) tract. This affects my absorption of important nutrients essential for my biochemical pathways that gives me energy.

2. I need to eat fiber! This makes my little gut bacteria happy. Right now, after my beautiful salad, they are having a bacteria party, secreting all the things that make the lining of my GI happy and function optimally. This also helps my insulin and glucose levels, and these are tied to leptin resistance.

3. I need to exercise. Right now, I can do yoga once or twice a week. I can walk around the block. For so long, exercise made me more tired and hungry. That’s a different topic, but the yoga is fun and feels really good.

4. I need sleep. As an obstetrician, I haven’t slept in 24 years. Poor sleep is implicated in leptin problems. It adds to resistance and it causes low levels. This may be due to cortisol production (stress hormones) in addition to the increased inflammation that the lack of sleep can cause.

5. I need protein. Protein improves leptin sensitivity. I don’t eat large amounts of protein, but I do eat 2-4 servings 3 times per day. If I have a salad without much protein, I will sometimes drink an 8 oz shake with amino acids or have a coffee with a glutamine rich powder in it. This has really helped with gut healing and decreased hunger for me. I do not do well with legumes. I would love to, but I cannot use them as a source of protein. However, my amino acids source is plant based, and it does not bother me. What do I mean when I say they bother me? When I eat legumes, I have terrible fatigue, hunger, and diarrhea.

6. I don’t eat late at night. Well, I try not to. Last night I was up late and got hungry. I just went to be instead of eating. I was tired anyway!

7. I take an Omega 3. This fatty acid is very important in reducing inflammation in the body and in reducing leptin resistance. Omega 6’s are needed in the body; however, if you are too high in Omega 6’s (found in processed foods), then you are primarily supporting the Omega 6 fatty acid pathway which leads to arachidonic acid, a very inflammatory by product of that pathway. My “DNA Health” shows that my body genetically prefers this pathway. So, I really need to stay away from adding Omega 6’s to my diet other than what I may get from healthier food sources. As you may know, chronic inflammation is what also can lead to heart and blood vessel disease.

Unfortunately, you cannot eat leptin. The gastrointestinal tract breaks it down. So, you have to do all the things you can to make the receptors in the hypothalamus sensitive to what you already have around. This is also one reason why you want to lose weight slowly. This gives the body time to adjust to your reduced leptin levels. Controlling leptin levels will really help reduce your hunger and will help keep your energy levels stable.

What’s in the salad?

1. 2 cups of greens (I used baby kale, spinach, and arugala)

2. Red cabbage

3. Red bell pepper

4. Carrots

5. Green onions

6. ½ cup blueberries

7. 1 small grapefruit

8. 1 Tbsp chopped walnuts

9. 1 ounce goat cheese (you could use feta or blue cheese)

10. 3 Tbsp dressing

a. ½ cup apple cider vinegar

b. ½ cup extra virgin olive oil

c. 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard

d. 2 tsp honey

You could also put some baked chicken or baked salmon, grouper, or mahi on it.

Nutrition info: 389 cal, 37g carb, 24g fat, 9g protein

TIP: Make a salad bar in your refrigerator. If you have a drawer for cheese and cold cuts, relocate them in your fridge. Find glass containers with lids to store your favorite salad fixings. Then you just make a quick salad for when you're ready!

Disclaimer: While I am a doctor, I am not your doctor. The information in this blog post is for information and entertainment and not intended as medical advice!

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