Have you ever felt like your life has been a different version of the Hunger Games? Caught in a constant state of feast or famine. The reality is that our bodies are designed to prepare us for an unknown famine, that in most cases will never come. Long ago, it was much harder to come by food. We would spend the bulk of our day in search of it. Like sharks, we naturally gravitate towards foods that are high in calories. The goal being, that we would have to find less quantities of food, as long as they were able to sustain us for longer periods of time.
The Downside To Ease
Time has passed and gone are the days of having to hunt or forage throughout the day to survive. With all of the advances in technology, it has never been easier to acquire food, and lots of it. Thanks to programs like door dash, postmates, and other food delivery options we never have to leave the comfort of our homes. Just like most cases, there is a cost for having this ease of access. Not only are the majority of the foods being produced (fast food) for delivery lacking in nutrition they are still high in calories.
It All Adds Up
While high calorie food sources have a place and time in all of our nutritional routines, several factors have to be taken into account. Looking back at sharks, who are in constant (seriously if they stop they die) movement. They need food, and lots of it to survive. It may feel like we are in constant movement. However, the reality of the situation is that the majority of us live a very sedentary lifestyle. This can make it much easier to pack on the pounds.
What is Really Going On?
There are a few villains that play a role in our populations constant growth in obesity. One of the more obvious enemies would be high calorie and low nutritional content dense foods (such as fast food). The less known villains would be the hormones at play within our bodies. Two of the hormones that have been picking up a lot of press as of late are Leptin and Ghrelin. Leptin is a hormone that tells our bodies when we are full. When we have low levels of Leptin our brains trigger Ghrelin production.
Hunger’s Ultimate Driver
Ghrelin is a hormone that triggers hunger. It is produced primarily in the stomach. Ghrelin is more commonly known as the hunger hormone because it increases food intake. However, it also helps prepare the body for the breaking down of food by increasing gastric motility and acid secretion. Which is why the highest levels of Ghrelin are found within the bloodstream prior to meals and return to a lower level an hour or so after consumption of a meal. Ghrelin also activates cells within the anterior pituitary gland and hypothalamus which initiates appetite. Some of Ghrelin’s less known functions are stimulation of growth hormone, regulation of reward cognition, learning, memory, the circadian rhythm, taste sensation, reward behavior, and glucose metabolism.
The Hormone Tag Team
Due to the fact that Leptin and Ghrelin work in tandem with one another it can be hard to separate the two. However, of the two hormones one is more dominant when it comes to hormone regulation. Leptin tends to be the main culprit for any fluctuations with Ghrelin levels. When we develop Leptin resistance (due to an excess of Leptin or inflammation induced dulling of brain receptors) it can trigger an upsurge in Ghrelin production. Because Leptin and Ghrelin work together Leptin resistance can lead to the Ghrelin effect. The Ghrelin effect, is when our bodies get stuck in a constant state of false hunger.
Natural Ways To Fight Back
Luckily, preventing the Ghrelin effect can be achieved the same way we reset Leptin sensitivity. The following are the six best ways to ensure your Leptin and Ghrelin levels stay within the normal range and avoid the Ghrelin effect:
- Don’t over restrict calories
- Get enough protein
- HIIT workouts
- Get enough sleep
- Keep stress levels in check
- Anti-inflammatory diet
The Dangers of Over-Restriction
While calorie restriction can be a great way to stimulate our metabolism, over reduction can bring it to a screeching halt. When we diet (whatever the trend may be), we tend to reduce our daily calories substantially. This can cause our bodies to over compensate for the significant reduction. If you have ever experienced yo-yo dieting, where you lose a lot of weight only to gain it all back and then some, this is caused by creating an unhealthy level of Leptin and Ghrelin in the body. Instead of resorting to over restricting calories remove as many non-natural (anything overly processed) foods from your daily nutrition.
Foods that are high in protein and fiber keep us full longer than any other foods. Now, when I say protein that does not mean it has to be meat! There is protein in vegetables and plants. One serving of broccoli, for example, contains 9 grams of protein. So, if you are considering going vegan just make sure you are incorporating lots of high protein plant options. To make things easier on those of you looking to reduce your dependence on animal based production checkout my top ten protein dense plants. If you are currently thinking about switching over to an anti-inflammatory diet you will want to keep this list handy too!
How to Maximize Your Workout
Not all exercises are built the same. One of my favorite things about HIIT workouts is the fact that you can burn twice as many calories in a third of the time. For most of us, one of the main excuses as to why we don’t workout is time restraints. With HIIT or Burst workouts we can now get a full body workout by doing less. The secret to HIIT being so successful is the fact that just when our bodies adjust to the current workload we switch gears. This constant change forces our bodies to stay engaged in each movement and forces our muscles to adapt to meet the new demands.
Are You Getting Enough?
Sleep is one of the most under recognized necessities of our bodies. When we go to sleep it gives our bodies time to detox (naturally) and repair itself. No matter how busy our lives may become we all need this down time for our bodies to conduct any needed maintenance. Even the slightest deficits to our sleep can have harmful ramifications. For example, losing one hour of sleep can reduce our mental function and impair our memory capability. Lack of sleep actually lowers our Leptin levels which raises our Ghrelin level. This makes us crave high calorie and sugar rich foods in an attempt to over compensate for our lack of energy.
The Stress Effect
Stress can have a domino effect on our hormones. Increased levels of Cortisol (stress) can lower our Melatonin which leads to sleep loss, followed by dips in Leptin and an increase in Ghrelin. Not to mention high levels of Cortisol cause our bodies to hold onto excess fat. To the body fat acts as an emergency source of energy. This is why when we deal with high stress situations, our bodies try to be proactive by ensuring we have more than enough excess energy for fighting or fleeing from an unknown attacker. Unfortunately, stress has worked its way into every aspect of our lives and as a result our bodies continually store excess fat. Excess fat produces too much Leptin which creates resistance to the hormone and increases the production of Ghrelin.
Inflammation, Our Bodies First Defense
Our bodies first response to an intruder is inflammation. This serves more than one purpose. The first, is that it increases blood flow to push out any unwanted intruders (bleeding from a cut). Secondly, it acts as a way to quickly transport our bodies defensive organisms (white blood cells) to the point of invasion. When the invasion happens internally our bodies still respond via inflammation. The highest type of internal invasion comes from the foods we eat. Eating foods that contain processed or artificial compounds presents our bodies with the issue of being unable to identify friend from foe. When our bodies cannot identify a food source it treats it like a threat. Which means, the body increases inflammation to the location and then wraps the possible threat in fat and relocates it to storage to be dealt with at a later date.
Do Your Part
Our bodies want what is best for us. Let’s face it, they have a vested interest in our success if we die they do too. This is why our bodies are constantly trying to fix all of the things that we broke while awake in our sleep. For most of us, however, the damage is more than the body can fix on it’s own. In cases like this it is in our best interest to do our part by detoxing regularly (once every three months is a great place to start), eating whole and natural foods, sleeping regularly, and exercising daily. Our bodies are capable of amazing things when we allow them to do their jobs instead of constantly cleaning up after us. It is time we started to work with them instead of against them. The following is a great recipe to help you do just that.
Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal
- ¼ Cup Pumpkin Puree
- 1 Cup Gluten-Free Oats
- ½ tsp Flax Seed, ground
- ½ tsp Cinnamon, ground
- ¼ tsp Nutmeg, ground
- ½ tsp Pure Vanilla
- 1 ¾ Cup Coconut Milk
- ½ Cup Pecans
- ¼ Cup Maple Syrup
- 1 Pear diced and sautéed
- In a saucepan combine milk, flax seed, and oats. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, stirring occasionally for 3-5 minutes. Stir in pumpkin and seasoning, cook for another minute. Remove from heat and serve immediately. Top with pears, pecans, and syrup.
Need a Helping Hand?
A happy and healthy life is closer than you may think. Our health is something that we all have to deal with daily, and when we don’t feel our best, it shows. If you are tired of just making it through your day then you NEED to start investing in your health today! You are not alone on this journey. If you ever need any help I am always here to do just that. Even if it is something as small as just acting as a sounding board. Do you have any questions or concerns I can help you with? Feel free to contact me directly at DrDeeandMe@gmail.com or you can even book a one-on-one call with me. Be sure to subscribe to gain access to tons of free goodies and check back daily for more great recipes and information!
Jana Short says
Dr. Dee, thank you so much for sharing all these incredible blogs with us. I absolutely love the graphic and your recipes are to die for.
Dr. Dee says
Thank you for your positive feedback. I really love to take all the feedback from everyone to make sure I am helping as much as possible. At the end of the day all I want is to provide everyone with the knowledge and skills they need to get the most they can out of everyday. If there’s anything I can do to help just let me know.