Below is a list of just some of the hormones that affect body fat regulation and metabolism. I hope this gives you a clearer idea of the wonderful complexity of our human system without making you feel overwhelmed. Remember, even though understanding the role of hormones is important, it all comes back to actionable steps – like the ones I have listed out on the EAT page.
Insulin: (“the bank teller”) – Think of insulin like a bank teller that only accepts it puts money in the bank (i.e. energy into the cells), but doesn’t release any back into circulation. When insulin is high, it’s partner hormone glucagon is unable to release energy from the cells into the bloodstream.
Leptin: (“the weather reporter”) – Leptin is a hormone produced by fat cells in the body. It acts on receptors in the hypothalamus of the brain, where it inhibits appetite. In essence, it tells the brain how much fat the body is storing for energy. However, through a condition called leptin resistance, it’s possible that this forecast is inaccurate and that the body will continue to store body fat well beyond what is necessary. Think of if a weather reporter told you it was freezing outside – you’d bundle up! But when you stepped outside, you realized it was 60 degrees and sunny, but it’s too late to turn back to change clothes. Your body can work in the same way if it thinks we are low on essential body fat!
Cortisol: (“the emergency responder”) – Also known as the “stress hormone”, cortisol is secreted by the adrenal glands to help the body recover from a fight or flight stress response. When you get stressed out, cortisol is there to help. However, chronically elevated levels of cortisol promotes insulin resistance and elevates leptin levels. This has led to cortisol getting a bad rap, when in actuality it is an essential hormone to our survival – we just want to make sure it’s not overworking itself.
Glucagon: (“the ATM”) – Glucagon is a hormone secreted from the alpha cells of the pancreas in response to the demand for energy. It lets the energy out of cells that insulin has stored. When your body gets low on energy (or cash in this example), you can go to the ATM and withdraw more. This keeps your blood sugar levels steady throughout the day.