The Truth About Overweight & Obesity
Enough pain, shame, frustration, and judgment. You can lose the weight you hate. Here’s the truth.
5 Foolproof Ways To Get Fat… And Stay Fat
Dr. Gary V. Koyen, Ph.D. | March 2021
We can learn a lot about obesity by studying what happens when the hormones that govern hunger, satiety (fullness), blood sugar regulation, metabolism, and fat deposition are elevated, normal, or deficient. The truth is that virtually all of our major hormones work hard to manage our weight.
The management of our weight is the result of an intricate and complex interplay of our hormonal messaging systems.
However, what we eat, how often we eat, and how many calories we eat of each of the three macronutrients (fats, proteins, and carbohydrates), strongly affect our hormones.
In this article we will focus on 5 primary hormones: insulin, ghrelin, leptin, Peptide YY, and cortisol.
Among other roles insulin manages blood sugar and enables the transport of glucose into the body’s cells. When blood sugar is chronically elevated insulin also becomes chronically elevated and “forces” the conversion of sugars into fats (through the liver), which are then stored as fat in the liver, surrounding organs, and fat cells.
In Type 1 diabetes the pancreas is unable to produce insulin, and the glucose the cells need for energy cannot be transported to the cells, nor can it be stored as fat. Those with Type 1 diabetes waste away and die regardless of how much they eat. They need insulin injections in order to survive. See photo.
Conversely, whenever insulin is elevated it will “grab” some calories and force fat deposition, no matter how little you eat. So, if I want to make you fat all I need do is elevate your insulin. If I were to inject you with excess insulin every day, you will become fat regardless of your best efforts to avoid that result.
One foolproof way to make you fat is to elevate your insulin. If you have chronic elevated insulin you will become fat, in spite of counting calories or going to the gym.
Among its other roles ghrelin tells you you’re hungry. It stimulates appetite, increases food intake, and contributes to fat storage. If I were to inject you with excess ghrelin every day, you will be constantly hungry and you’ll eat more. Research shows you’ll eat up to 30% more calories. Willpower is no match for ghrelin. Over time, hunger wins. There’s a genetic condition (Prader-Willi syndrome) in which the body overproduces ghrelin. The result is chronic hunger and severe obesity.
Chronic elevated ghrelin or over-sensitivity to ghrelin will make you fat.
Among its other roles, leptin is one of the hormones that tell you you’re full (satiated), and it also manages the amount of fat your body stores. When you have “enough” stored fat leptin signals that no more is needed, your hunger is reduced, and you eat less. There’s a genetic condition (congenital leptin deficiency) in which the body produces insufficient leptin. The result is extreme hunger, overeating, and severe obesity.
Peptide YY is another hormone that tells you you’ve eaten enough food (satiated). Peptide YY is released after eating, makes you feel full, and lowers your appetite. Research shows that elevations and deficiencies in Peptide YY significantly affect hunger, eating, and obesity. Studies show that both lean and obese subjects ate much less when infused with Peptide YY. Peptide YY is important because it responds best to proteins and fats, and less so to sugars and carbohydrates.
Cortisol is a steroid hormone, and is usually thought of as a stress hormone. Among its many roles it contributes to blood sugar regulation, metabolism, and salt-and-water balance. Its role in weight management and obesity is less direct than the other four hormones mentioned here. Nevertheless, one effect of chronic elevated cortisol is weight gain; one effect of cortisol deficiency is weight loss. Weight gain from chronic elevated cortisol is seen as puffiness, especially in the face, chest, and abdomen. For example, sustained use of prednisone as an anti-inflammatory will result in “puffy” weight gain.
...What this means for us
The implications are simple. These five hormones—if out of balance—will cause weight gain over time, regardless of how many calories you eat and how many times you go to the gym. Similarly, if you do lose weight in the short run by starving yourself, these five—if out of balance—will defeat your efforts to keep that weight off over time.
It only takes 4 ounces per month—only 3 pounds per year—of bodyfat gain to end up obese in 20 years, with 60 pounds of excess bodyfat. It’s nothing for these hormones—if out of balance—to produce 4 ounces of bodyfat gain per month, 3 pounds per year.
We cannot successfully manage our weight and body composition without keeping our hormones in balance, at appropriate levels, and fully functioning in their proper roles. If our hormones are out of balance, elevated or deficient, or not properly functioning, restricting calories and going to the gym will not work. If we live in such a way that we continuously disrupt these powerful hormones in our bodies, we will become fat and we will remain fat. Happily, the converse is true. If we return such hormones to normal levels we will become lean again. So, if the hormones are dysfunctional, our first focus must be to restore their proper functioning.
The solution to stubborn weight and obesity is two-part:
Learn more about the solution: