How to Fix Leptin Resistance to Control Weight, Cravings & More

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Do you struggle with weight and have trouble sticking to a diet? Crave (junk) foods, especially at night? Eat and never feel full?

A little something called leptin resistance may be to blame!

These are all indications that you could have some leptin issues. Leptin is a master hormone in the body that controls hunger and feelings of satiety. Leptin is secreted by adipose (fat) tissue, so the more overweight a person is, typically, the higher his or her leptin levels.

The Culprit: Leptin Resistance

According to Mark’s Daily Apple:

Leptin is the lookout hormone – the gatekeeper of fat metabolism, monitoring how much energy an organism takes in. It surveys and maintains the energy balance in the body, and it regulates hunger via three pathways:

  • By counteracting the effects of neuropeptide Y, a potent feeding stimulant secreted by the hypothalamus and certain gut cells
  • By counteracting the effects of anandamide, another feeding stimulant
  • By promoting the production of a-MSH, an appetite suppressant

It is also directly tied to insulin levels. Many people these days are leptin resistant and there are many health problems tied to this problem. High leptin levels have been tied to high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease and stroke, as well as blood sugar related problems.

High levels of leptin and the accompanying leptin resistance can also decrease fertility, age you more quickly and contribute to obesity. If you’re trying to lose weight or improve a health problem, chances are you have leptin resistance. If you can’t seem to stick to health changes, chances are you have leptin resistance.

In other words, if you want to make lasting health changes or lose weight and keep it off, you have to fix your leptin. The good news is: if you’ve failed at diets or health changes in the past, it was likely because you failed to regulate your leptin levels and doing so can help you finally make lasting changes.

Leptin resistance and its related problems are a complex problem involving the endocrine system and reversing them requires more than simple calorie restriction or will power.

Leptin Stimulating Foods and Lifestyle Factors

As with all hormone issues, leptin resistance is a complex issue with no singular cause, but there are many factors that can negatively impact leptin levels including:

  • Fructose consumption (especially in forms like high fructose corn syrup)
  • High stress levels
  • Consumption of a lot of simple carbs
  • Lack of sleep
  • High insulin levels (vicious cycle here)
  • Overeating
  • Exercising too much, especially if your hormones are already damaged
  • Grain and lectin consumption

Leptin is the satiety hormone produced by fat cells, so it would seem logical that those with more fat cells would produce more leptin, which would signal the body to eat less food and weight would normalize. This over-simplified idea is great in theory but doesn’t always occur, especially in those with damaged metabolisms or endocrine problems (which includes most overweight people).

According to this article:

The problem is not in the production of leptin, but rather, studies show that the majority of overweight individuals who are having difficulty losing weight have a leptin resistance, where the leptin is unable to produce its normal effects to stimulate weight loss. This leptin resistance is sensed as starvation, so multiple mechanisms are activated to increase fat stores, rather than burn excess fat stores. Leptin resistance also stimulates the formation of reverse T3, which blocks the effects of thyroid hormone on metabolism (discussed below).

So, the person is eating excess food but the body thinks it is starving and tells the person to eat more. It’s easy to see how this cycle could contribute to weight gain!

How to Fix Leptin Resistance

As I said, this is a complex problem, but not an irreversible one. The good news is you feel better quickly once it’s under control.

In short, the (non-negotiable) factors that will help improve leptin response are:

  • Say no to sugar. Eat little to no simple starches, refined foods, sugars, and fructose. Eat quality carbs from veggies instead.
  • Get enough protein and fat. Consuming a large amount of protein and healthy fats first thing in the morning, as soon after waking as possible. This promotes satiety and gives the body the building blocks to make hormones. My go-to is a large scramble with 2-3 eggs, vegetables and left over meat from the night before cooked in coconut oil.
  • Get regular sleep. This step may be more important than all the rest combined. (Yes, really!) Be in bed by 10 (no excuses) and optimize your sleep!
  • Spend time in nature. Get outside during the day, preferably barefoot on the ground, in mid-day sun with some skin exposed. Here’s why.
  • DON’T SNACK!!! When you are constantly eating, even small amounts, during the day it keeps your liver working and doesn’t give hormones a break. Try to space meals at least 4 hours apart and don’t eat for at least 4 hours before bed. This includes drinks with calories but herbal teas, water, coffee or tea without cream or sugar are fine. For creative ways to do this even as a busy mom, see this post.
  • Don’t workout at first. If you are really leptin resistant, this will just be an additional stress on the body. Let your body heal a little first, then add in the exercise.
  • Change how you exercise. When you do exercise, do only sprints and weight lifting. Walk or swim if you want to but don’t do cardio just for the sake of cardio. It’s just a stress on the body. High intensity workouts and weight lifting, on the other hand, give the hormone benefits of working out without the stress from excess cardio and are great after the first few weeks. Also, work out in the evening, not the morning, to support hormone levels.
  • Detox. Remove toxins from your life as these are a stress on your body. Get rid of processed foods, commercial deodorants (make your own instead), and switch to natural cleaning products. How? I wrote a whole book on the topic with an easy-to-follow detox lifestyle plan and recipes.
  • Increase omega-3, lower omega-6. Eat (or take) more omega-3s by eating fish, grass-fed meats, or chia seeds) and minimize your omega-6 consumption (vegetable oils, conventional meats, grains, etc,) to get lower inflammation and help support healthy leptin levels.

How the Leptin Hormone Works

If you want to know more, here’s a great video that explains more about the leptin hormone cascade and how it impacts your health. Also check out the additional resources at the end of the post.

Additional Reading

Dr. Jack Kruse (a neurosurgeon) and Stephan Guyenet (an obesity researcher) have both written in depth about the causes of leptin imbalance and ways to reverse it. I highly recommend these resources for more information on their methods of correcting leptin resistance:

Do you have any of these issues? Think leptin is a struggle for you? Try this and let me know how it goes!

Can't lose weight and crave foods? Your Leptin could be off! This master hormone affects other hormone balance and overall health.

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


215 responses to “How to Fix Leptin Resistance to Control Weight, Cravings & More”

  1. Barry Kent Avatar
    Barry Kent

    Well well, you learn something new every day, very interesting and I’ll give it a go for sure.
    The lowdown on me, most of my life my weight was between 10 and 12 stone but at 38 I was diagnosed with Klinefelter’s syndrome 47xxy and proscribed testosterone HRT. More or less straight away I started gaining weight. Now 60 I weighed in at around 24 stone and in the last few years haven’t been able to lose any even though I’ve seen numerous dietitians etc over the years. I don’t deny I have a sweet tooth who doesn’t lol but I’ve never consumed much food let alone snacked between meals. Even though I walked or cycled everywhere and worked in construction I still put on weight and all anyone kept telling me was its your diet. I’ve cut down on what I consume as bariatrics explain you should do ie eat less lose weight. One thing I have found out in recent years is some hormone treatments can change your metabolism although many doctors and Endocrinologists say it has nothing to do with the hormones you’re taking, only female HRT can cause that, but I am dealing with the British NHS antiquated stone-aged medical practices. So I’ll give it a go what have I got to lose but weight lol

  2. Jack Kenney Avatar
    Jack Kenney

    bad advice, high protein intakes stimulate the production of large amounts of leptin, this exacerbates resistance, hence is not a good idea,especially animal based proteins(which cause an increase in inflammation and kidney damage). its also worth noting lectins are removed when you cook legumes. however in the end the best answer to leptin resistance or any other cause of obesity for that matter is to learn how to ignore the hunger and restrict calories no matter how hungry you are.

  3. Robin Avatar

    “Don’t snack?” So… the way to control an uncontrollable appetite is to stop overeating? I don’t think people reading this article are snacking on Oreos out of boredom or decadence. If we have leptin resistance, we’re fricking hungry and often at inappropriate times like an hour after dinner. It’s maddening! Many of us are already eating the smallest amount we possibly can not to become huge. Telling us not to snack just seems so pointless and condescending.

    1. Katie Wells Avatar

      Thanks for that insight! Having been there myself, I definitely understand that it’s easier said than done. I didn’t mean to present it as an easy solution, but just that if it is possible to avoid snacking between meals, it can help give the liver some time to rest and potentially help hormones. I personally found that focusing on high quality protein first at meals helped make it easier not to want to snack and also helped my cravings and weight over time.

  4. Mayur Avatar

    One of leptin’s jobs is to tell your brain to use the body’s fat stores for energy where leptin resistance occurs when the hypothalamic cells in the brain stop recognizing leptin’s signals. Leptin is a hormone that is formed by fat cells. Also, It is responsible for many actions, it signals to the brain that your body is full and stimulates your metabolic activity.

  5. Kathy Avatar

    I’m leptin resistant and have been looking for ways to fight it. When you say sprinting, do you mean running? I can’t run anymore. I’ve always enjoyed lifting weights, so that won’t be a problem. I guess I’m looking for more specific guidelines for how to best work out. Things like what to do instead of sprints, what length of time makes a sprint or how many days of weights I should do. Some kind of schedule might be helpful. I’d be grateful for any ideas!

  6. Janeen Durant Avatar
    Janeen Durant

    I’m starting to see how this has been a problem for my 11-year old daughter. She has been overweight and an overeater since she was maybe 6 or 7, due to some family stresses at home. Things are a lot calmer now, but her body still craves sweets and comfort foods. I’m trying to figure out a safe way to help her before she gets to be a real teen. My mother and sisters all have weight problems, but I have trained myself to eat better and avoid the issues they’ve had. I wonder how necessary it is to get a doctors’ recommendation before starting her on something like a chicory root supplement. I’m also trying to come up with a kind, loving way to address the issue with her-to help her, not condemn her. She doesn’t seem bothered or teased, but she most certainly will in the future if we don’t resolve it.

  7. Curtis Avatar

    Lovely post…I too was a victim of junk food. I used to and eat. Just couldn’t fill up my stomach. I didn’t know what to do. I still remember sitting on my bed and trying not to open the bag of chips. I gained a lot of weight so at last, I seeked professional help. It really helped me. I seriously recommend others as well to always seek professional help if you want to change for the better. For me, it was steady care medical. I am grateful to them for giving me a new life. But post though was good and I hope this helps others as well.

  8. Arlene E Short Avatar
    Arlene E Short

    I just read your wellness mama and thank it is excellent. I have only one comment that I would like to make and that is you suggest iceberg lettuce for salads. Iceberg lettuce is very low and nutrition and there are other lattices such as romainee, Boston and Red and green leaf lettuce. They are much more nutritional. Thank you for your wonderful website and the good recipes that you have posted. Arlene

  9. Laurie Avatar

    As someone who has struggled with weight loss due to making too much insulin for much of my adult life (I’ve always been hypoglycemic since childhood), I thank you for answering the question: Why would making too much insulin create insulin resistance? No M.D. could answer the question. But, resulting leptin resistance makes complete sense!

  10. Monica Crumley Avatar
    Monica Crumley

    Excellent article, easy to read and understand. Especially love the video and the way Sean explains it. I’m sharing with my “healthy and happy from the inside out” group!

  11. Kristin Avatar

    Will small changes help? This seems so overwhelming. What are most important changes to make?

  12. Stephanie Avatar

    I have a question regarding working out in the evening vice the morning. Have you noticed any difficulty in going to sleep or do you workout later in the day but not close to your bedtime?

    1. Katie - Wellness Mama Avatar

      I do better working out in the late afternoon, but I think it often depends on the person and their own bodies as opposed to a hard and fast rule of when is best…

      1. Ethel Anderson Avatar
        Ethel Anderson

        Have listened to Kat James and she says no coffee because it negatively affects Leptin levels.

  13. Scott Manuel Avatar
    Scott Manuel

    Exercise can help to fix your leptin. But, ask for some assistance first and educate yourself first.

  14. ora Avatar

    I have tried losing weight, and I think I am eating better than I did in the past, but haven’t been able to stick to eating healthy. Now I am going to explain why: I live about 45m to and hour from my work. I have to get up at 3 am leave by 330/ 345 to get to work by 5am. I work 10 hour days 5am-330am. my spouse works in same town hours 6-430. I get home by 430 my spouse 530 at latest. dinner between 530 and 6pm and down time of about1.5 to 2 hours.. should we jus skip dinner and would that be ok. what about exercise? Would that be ok if we are to be in bed around 730-800 or could we jus get exercise on the 3 days we are off. not looking for sympathy jus straight talk. Do we really need 7/8 hour a day to control our leptin. we are in excellent health so far. but after this months physical looks like we are going down hill. any help or ideas would be great. is intermittent fasting ok. thanks

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      I do recommend intermittent fasting at times. I’m actually writing a blog post on this right now, so be on the lookout for it soon!

  15. Tiffany Avatar

    I have been STRUGGLING to loose weight my entire adult life. I’m 34, 270lbs, 5 9’ and a busy body. Tried every diet and pill and I’m tired of it. Read your article and watch d a short video on lepton. How do I know how to regulate this? Can you give me an example of how I should eat. Considering Keto for the eight time and trying to stick to it but for some reason I haven’t been able to. I desperately need help. Going to a weight loss dr soon but I am afraid he’s just going to put me on a shake regimen. An example of one days eating for my weight age and height would greatly be appreciated so I can do it for a week and feel the difference. Lately I’ve been low carb but enjoying a small amount of fruit smoothie I make for my family at dinner to subsidize sugar cravings. Eggs for breakfast, sandwich or burger without bread for lunch or salad and a low carb dinner containing mostly vegetables a meat source and then maybe 6-8 oz of a fruit smoothie. I don’t know what I’m doing just staying away from process foods and making better choices. I would appreciate some feedback pretty pretty please. Thank you.

  16. Xena Ferrario Avatar
    Xena Ferrario

    Great information and video. This just increased my knowledge.This will be helpful information to share with family, friends or anyone else.

  17. Melissa Avatar

    I am not trying to spark bad feelings, I know this is a hot topic out here in the blogosphere, but I just want mention that the no carb/no sugar diet is not for everyone. Many people are very reluctant to admit that there is no one size fits all diet. I used to be one of them. I was super low carb for three years, and gluten free for more than one span of that. I felt great for about a year, but after that my immune function tanked, and certain hormonal systems went crazy (google hyperprolactinemia). My husband is a carrier for mono, we had been married for years and I’d never contracted it. Suddenly I had it, and then six months later I had a relapse. I also had this weird fungus develop on my hand. I am a nutritionist, and so I was baffled as to what that thing was feeding on, because I was *so* careful about what I ate. Over a years time, I tried nearly everything to get rid of it, and it never cleared. During this time, I was delving into some information for a client (I’m a holistic nutritionist), and I found that some people’s bodies interpret a low carb diet to be a starvation situation. I added well prepared carbs back into my diet, and a month later the hand fungus spontaneously cleared. Three months later my immune system was entirely back on track, and a few hormonal imbalances that I’d had cleared up. I had also gained a bunch of weight being low carb (crazy on a low carb diet, right?) and lost a bunch of muscle mass. As it turns out being a long term low carb dieter can cause people’s bodies to enter a near permanent catabolic state, where the body starts breaking down protein into carbohydrates. I lost so much muscle mass before I realized what was causing the problem! I still haven’t lost the weight entirely, but my muscle mass is steadily improving. I feel confident that as my body recovers from what it took to be starvation, that will rectify itself in time. I have been told that I was just addicted to gliadorphins, but that isn’t it. I am sincerely healthier including carbohydrates in my diet.

    A low carb diet is something I will still recommend to some clients, but I am much more careful with using it as a tool than I was before, and I never recommend it long term except in severe cases of intestinal disease. Evidence is on the rise (anecdotal) that this kind of diet can even dramatically reduce fertility (I work almost exclusively with individuals and couples experiencing fertility problems, who want to try addressing them with diet before trying more invasive methods). I have seen women who stopped menstruating while on a low carbohydrate diet, who saw the complete reversal of their symptoms once they resumed carbs. I never completely stopped menstruating, but I was rendered infertile while following this diet. My signs of fertility all showed up happy and healthy shortly after reintroducing more carbohydrates. You just have to put the clues together for your own body, and continue to monitor your health while undertaking a diet with few carbohydrates. And remember, just because it is working great now doesn’t mean that is the diet your body will need for the rest of your life.

  18. Eddie Avatar

    I have insulin resistance and according to a doctor, if one has insulin resistance than they’ve had leptin resistance for much longer. I have started my leptin reset diet and I know you mentioned hormones. Will correct my leptin issues help with my hormonal imbalance?

    Thanks in advance.

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