Weight loss & hunger hormones

15 May

This excerpt is courtesy of Precision Nutrition (PN)

WEIGHT LOSS…… was it your top New Year’s resolution?

Every year, people with good intentions set out to lose weight, only to have even more weight to lose the next year later. One problem is that people try to lose weight quickly. Unfortunately, even if they manage to drop a few pounds fast, they bounce right back… and, often, keep on gaining.

Pilates Body Pilot’s weight management programme is based on the PN coaching system and it is designed to avoid the cycle of perpetual weight loss.
By slowing down the weight loss process and teaching lifelong healthy habits   Now, research confirms our methods. (But we knew that already.)
Only slow and steady progress leads to lasting change. Why?

Appetite hormones: Why self-control is not the problem

Myth: Weight loss is all about self-control.

People berate themselves or are judged by others for carrying a few extra pounds. To be fat means you’re weak-willed, spineless, and/or impulsive.

Fact: Powerful hormones control our perception of appetite and hunger, as well as our eating behavior.

While you still have the option of self-control, your body definitely has a strong voice in the matter. And willpower breaks down easily under stress; when blood sugar is low; and/or in environments that don’t support weight loss (like an office where everyone has a candy dish and it seems like someone has a birthday cake every day).

Here are some of the more well-known hormones that influence appetite, hunger, and satiety.

Hormone Effects
Cholecystokinin (CCK) Released in the small intestine when fats and proteins are eaten. Receptors that respond to CCK are not only found in the gut but also in the brain.
In the brain CCK depresses hunger, meaning the more CCK you have floating around the less hungry you are, and the less you’re likely to eat. This is why a lower-carb, higher-protein, higher-fat diet tends to make people feel fuller longer.
Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) Delays stomach emptying time that may make you feel more full.
Gastric inhibitory polypeptide YY (PYY) Secreted by small bowel and colon in response to food. Inhibits hunger.
Leptin  Mostly released by fat; decreases hunger. If you want to lose weight you’d want to have more leptin.
Ghrelin  Made mostly in the stomach; acts on the brain (hypothalamus) to stimulate hunger. If you want to lose weight, you want less ghrelin.

more CCK, GLP-1, PYY, and leptin

  • less ghrelin

What happens to hormones over the long haul?

The problem with thinking of yourself as just fat that’s burned like a candle is that you overlook things like hormones that through evolution respond to starvation by storing calories more efficiently. A few hundred years ago, it was a good thing that your body responded to starvation by storing as much fat as possible. Thrifty hormones saved lives. Now when starvation is self-induced in a sea of food it causes problems.

Hormonal effects: short term

The problem is what happens to your hormones — the hormones like leptin, ghrelin, peptide YY, etc. — that regulate appetite, hunger, and satiety?
After 10 weeks of crash dieting, you may have less leptin, peptide YY, and cholecystrokinin, as well as more ghrelin and gastric inhibitory polypeptide. The result: YOU will feel more hungry. Cue the need for even more willpower to keep the weight off. Sound familiar?

Hormonal effects: long term

We knew that crash dieting messes up appetite regulatory hormones for a short period, but until now, nobody had looked at the long-term effects of very low calories on these hormones. Why didn’t anyone look at what happened a year or more later? What happened to hunger? Still higher after a year. Think about that. A full year after dieting, you would feel more hungry. No surprise that most dieters regain weight lost and more… eventually.


If you try to lose weight quickly, you’ll end up trying to lose it every year instead of taking a year to lose the weight once.

It’s clear that very low calorie dieting has long term impact on hunger and appetite hormones lasting at least a year. Now imagine what multiple crash diets might do. By the way, stringent and chronic restriction also affects hormones that control gastric motility (the speed at which food is processed) and neurotransmitters (brain chemicals).
Thus, if you regularly “diet”, not only do you end up always hungry, you have indigestion and “brain hamsters” like anxiety or depression, and you rarely feel psychologically satisfied by eating — you always want more, or have strong cravings. Show me a “professional dieter” and I’ll show you someone who feels generally lousy physically, mentally, and emotionally. Hormonal disruption is strong stuff.
Could yo-yo dieting lead to cumulative changes in appetite regulation hormones? Very likely. Several years of yo-yo dieting later, you may feel much more hungry than when you started. Good luck with willpower then.

Bottom line

Lose weight quickly while nearly starving, only to gain most of it back (or more) and feel hungrier than when you started. Or lose weight slowly, for good, and feel better than ever… eventually.

What would you choose? If you want door #2… well… have we got a program for you.

Want some help?

If you’d like some help staying consistent with your exercise and eating plan, we at Pilates Body Pilot would be happy to help. In fact, we’ll soon be taking new Precision Nutrition based Coaching clients very soon.