You know the old saying: “Life is a lot easier if you don’t fight your hormones”. It’s like swimming upstream if you don’t cooperate these powerful chemical messengers. This is nowhere better shown than in the weight loss and dieting arenas. We have already covered how many people fail at dieting because they ignore How Neurotransmitters are Involved in Weight Loss. The same holds true for hormones as well.
As with almost everything else health-related, it is much, much more easy if you are willing to learn a little of the science involved. You don’t need a Ph. D. – you just need to take the time to hearn a few basic facts.
Of course, if you exercise hard enough and have steely discipline, you will lose weight no matter what you do. But with our busy and stressful lives, who can exercise for hours or be masochistically ascetic about anything?
A more realistic route to weight loss is through moderate excercise and moderate reduction in calories coupled with some basic hormonal knowledge that will make your life much easier. Here’s a few tips about your hormones that will make it much easier for you win the battle of the bulge:
1) Gherlin. One of the most important appetite-controllers is gherlin. Lack of sleep will significantly increase your gherlin levels and increase your appetite, particularly for fatty foods. Have you ever noticed that when you are tired you want to eat and eat in order to “comfort” yourself? Well, you’re just obeying your own hormones. So here is the key: get enough sleep.
2) Leptin. Another appetite-related hormone is leptin. Leptin is significantly decreased by lack of sleep, a fact that will send you in your weakened state repeatedly to the refrigerator and snack machine. Again, sleep is critical. By the way, researchers have also found that sugar and corn syrup also whack leptin, so keep the sugars lean and low. CAUTION: Researchers have found that mild stress resulting from an “enriched social, physical and mental environment” ends up decreasing leptin levels, which of course could increase appetite.  However, this same study found that leptin also causes cancer to thrive and grow and was linked to increased risk of colon and skin cancer.
3) Cortisol. Lack of sleep can also increase cortisol, which will fight any fat loss you are attempting every step of the way. “Work smarter, not harder” mean controlling this dietary bad boy. Highcortisol causes you to crave both high fat and high sugar foods. One way cortisol does this is by stimulating release of galanin, a neurotransmitter that triggers for fat in particular. Even worse, you midsection has a very hgih level of cortisol receptors, which means that stress will actually cause you to deposit more fat right around your stomach. One might call cortisol the Spare Tire Inflator, eh?
Of course, it’s not just lack of sleep that can increase cortisol. As we cover in our page on Stress, many other factors such as depression or a nasty boss will do the same thing. Again, see my link on Stress for some practical ways to lower cortisol.
I hope you noticed that all three of the above hormones are ALL affected by lack of sleep. The bottom line is that will be very difficult for you to lose weight, unless you are a highly disciplined person, unless you are getting adequate sleep.
Remember: hormones are your friends. Don’t fight your friends…