(NEW YORK) — If you are fighting the dreaded battle of the bulge, it may have less to do with your willpower to hit the gym and eat low fat foods and more to do with your hormones.
Marjorie Nolan Cohn, National Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and author of The Belly Fat Fix, says the secret to maintaining a healthy weight may be in balancing your hormones by giving yourself a hunger hormone makeover.
“Hormones play a role not only in weight gain but in our inability to lose weight once we’re already overweight or obese,” Nolan Cohn says.
There are two different types of hormones at play here: one that makes you feel hungry and one that makes you feel satiated.
Ghrelin is a hunger-stimulating hormone that also controls metabolism and thirst. But if you are hoping to take matters into your own hands and completely “shut off” this hormone and its effects, Nolan Cohn says that you are out of luck; but that you can be creative with it.
“The only way to shut it off and tune it down is to actually eat,” she revealed.
“We know through science and research that ghrelin peaks about three times a day; at 8 a.m., 12 p.m., and 6 p.m., and then there’s a smaller peak around 3 p.m. which coincides perfectly with the evolutionary times of meals.”
What you can do is eat generally ghrelin-suppressing foods such as lean beef, fat-free or non-fat plain Greek yogurt, or white fish. These allow you to eat a lot while only absorbing a minimum amount of calories.
And don’t think you have to eliminate the carbs. Nolan-Cohn says that sweet potatoes and rolled oats are also good at suppressing ghrelin because they are high in fiber and resistant starch that can slow down digestion and keep you feeling full for longer.
The hormone leptin, on the other hand, is responsible for alerting you when you’re stomach is full.
“When someone is at a healthy weight, their ghrelin and leptin are balanced perfect,” Nolan Cohn explains. “The problem is when we become overweight, our body actually becomes leptin resistant.”
So if you are hoping to use this “hunger hormone makeover” to lose weight, Nolan Cohn recommends eating on grehlin’s schedule for starters; having meals at those three peak hours, with a mid-day snack. She also advises against over-exercising, which can work against you by sending a starvation signal to the ghrelin producing cells, making you want to eat more.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Susan Scutti, CNN
Magdala Louissaint, KPVI
Jamiel Lynch and Debra Goldschmidt, CNN