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Listening to Your Leptin

How to tell when you’re full, and what to do when that signaling is off.

Article by Ben Wagenmaker | 28 Feb, 2021

Everyone, meet Leptin.

Leptin is your satiety (fullness) hormone that tells you when you’ve eaten enough. On a high-carb diet, such as the Standard American Diet (SAD), leptin does not work efficiently, and many folks don’t realize they’re full until they’ve eaten too much. On a low-carb diet, sensitivity to leptin is typically restored.

Most of us, however, are not used to eating until our fullness signal kicks in. We have not been trained to listen to our bodies’ hormonal signals because we’ve all been raised to eat when the government said so (ie, three times a day, plus snacks) and what the government said was good for us (high-carb, low-fat). Thus, the Standard American Diet (SAD) became our guideline instead of our own body and the chemicals it uses to alert us to its needs: our hormones.

Are You Over Eating?

Most folks think that overeating is a matter of too many calories. Kinda, sorta, but not really.

That would be like saying that a sink is overflowing because there is too much water. Yeah, there’s too much water in the sink, but the true reason for the overflowing sink is that someone forgot to pay attention to how full the sink was and shut off the faucet.

In a similar way, overeating is eating past the point of satiety, regardless of how many calories you’ve ingested. If your body sends you a signal that you’re full and you ignore this signal and continue to eat, you've probably overeaten. If you finish your plate because you don’t want to waste and you ignore your body’s fullness signal, you’ve probably overeaten. If you eat too quickly to give your body time to tell you it’s full, and by the time you realize that you’re full you’re more stuffed than a Thanksgiving turkey, you’ve probably overeaten.

Ultimately, it’s a matter of re-learning and re-training our minds to listen to our bodies, only eat when hungry, and stop eating when full. As a general rule, the human body is designed so that if you listen to your hormones, you should never have to worry about calories. You know, just like our ancestors did.

What if You're Never Full?

However, some people are leptin resistant. Most of us are familiar with insulin resistance (wherein our bodies have to produce more and more insulin to be able to control blood sugar because of resistance at the insulin receptors in our cells), but not leptin resistance. Leptin resistance means that your cells stop telling you you're full at normal levels of leptin present, and you need to produce much higher amounts for your body to get the message that you are now full. In layman's terms, being leptin resistant means you might eat way too much before you feel your body’s fullness signal. In the worst case scenario, leptin resistance can mean you never feel full at all, and your body is constantly signaling that it's hungry, even when it shouldn't.

If you have metabolic damage, it’s possible that your hunger and satiety hormones might also be damaged. One sign of leptin resistance is getting poor results with “intuitive keto” (listening to your body, not tracking). You might have tried eating when hungry and stopping when full, but perhaps you gained two pounds when you wish to lose fifty. That's doesn't necessarily mean you've intentionally eaten too much or too little, it may mean your leptin signaling is broken and your brain simply isn't sending out the proper fullness responses at the proper times.

Putting it Together

If you have tried “intuitive keto” (listening to your body, not tracking) but are unhappy with the results, perhaps you are leptin resistant, in which case you may consider counting calories for a while. For some people, this is a temporary measure that helps them know they’re eating adequately without getting into excess, until such time as their hormones have healed and can be a better guide.

One important note to remember: a starvation diet is never a healthy way to eat. If you're tracking calories and find that you're frequently in severe deficits, that can be damaging to your metabolism and may cause further damage to your hunger/fullness signaling. As always, it's about finding the right balance to fueling your body.

If you have not yet tried intuitive keto, we strongly encourage you to try it for 2 weeks and see how it affects your body. Just eat when hungry, and stop when full. You might be pleasantly surprised at the results. In the case that you’re less than pleased, that means that you have tried it and now know your body better than you previously did. It’s a win-win. Keto on, folks!

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