Hormones and Weight: The Rest of the Picture

In the past couple of weeks we’ve covered the topic of cortisol as well as ghrelin and leptin. In addition to these, our weight and appetite regulation system includes a long list of hormones, neurotransmitters, and other substances that act as checks and balances to ensure that our body consumes, stores, and burns an appropriate amount of energy. Although the list below covers many of the other major players, a complete understanding of this system may require the purchase of a textbook. Insulin and Glucagon: The Blood Sugar Hormones Insulin and glucagon primarily act to regulate blood sugar – insulin reduces blood sugar levels, glucagon increases blood sugar by breaking down glycogen from

Hormones and Weight: Ghrelin and Leptin

How do we know when we’re hungry or full? The truth is, we’re not very good at noticing those signals from our body. We often make choices whether or not to eat based on external cues, like the mere presence of a box of doughnuts in the break room. But the signals are there, they do affect how we eat, and therefore how our body manages weight. Where do those signals come from? Understanding how ghrelin and leptin work is a great place to start. The most basic thing to remember is that ghrelin is the body’s primary hunger hormone, while leptin, conversely, indicates fullness. Ghrelin is produced by cells in our digestive system and travels to the hypothalamus in the brain. An empty stomach tr

Hormones and Weight: Cortisol

Cortisol is one of the more commonly-referenced hormones related to weight regulation in the body, and rightfully so. What is cortisol? Cortisol, released in the adrenal glands just above the kidneys, is a steroid hormone. The “fight-or-flight” stress response stimulates the release of cortisol in the body. How is it related to metabolic problems and weight? Cortisol does many different things in the body. In times of stress, it triggers the release of additional glucose as a short-term energy source. This is handy during a quick burst of energy, but consistently elevated cortisol levels lead to consistently elevated blood glucose; this increases the risk of developing insulin resistance and

Hormones and Weight: Introduction

A quick Google search of the terms “hormones” and “weight” offers approximately 123 million results. Some of the more eye-catching headlines include: Fix Your Hormones and Lose Weight! Lose Weight Through Natural Hormone Balancing! Reset Your Hormones to Beat Belly Fat! (thanks Dr. Oz – insert eyeroll emoji here) You should be very careful about purchasing off-the-shelf or online products that promise to “fix” your hormones. Although hormone therapy may be deemed medically necessary by a professional in certain instances, one-size-fits all solutions to induce weight loss by “balancing” or “resetting” your hormones are dubious and overpriced at best. Hormones do play a vital role in managing

Weight and Math: When the Numbers Don’t Add Up (And Whether You Should Add Them Up at All)

Calories in versus calories out. Who’s heard that phrase before? If you’ve attempted weight loss in the past, it’s likely you have. This phrase – calories in versus calories out – is really about math. If the person first determines how many calories their body burns each day, then consumes fewer calories than that number, they’ll lose weight, right? Hypothetically, yes. But not always. It’s complicated. Here are some of the problems that come up with this mindset towards weight loss. People aren’t very good at counting calories. On one side of the above equation, you have “calories in,” referring to the number of calories you eat from food each day. While nutrition labels and phone apps may

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