By Sheryl Kayne

Why do I reach for a pint of Cherry Garcia frozen yogurt (instead of ice cream because I am watching my weight) after a full dinner and having to unbutton my slacks? Researchers are convinced it has a lot to do with hormones. According to Andrea Giancoli, M.P.H., R.D., of the American Dietetic Association, hormone levels fluctuate based on how much you sleep, how many calories you consume and when, and what those calories consist of, meaning higher fats, sugars, and added stuffs. Now it seems researchers are zeroing in on four so-called “fat hormones.”

Ghrelin: A hormone secreted by your stomach and intestines, ghrelin rises when you haven’t nibbled in a while and falls after a midday meal. The trick to keeping ghrelin levels in check? “Don’t starve yourself,” says Giancoli, “and get enough sleep.” Ghrelin levels are higher in people who get less sleep. Hmmm. Count me into that one.

Leptin: Leptin is produced by fat cells and it signals the brain: “Stop Eating!” When you lose weight, you lose leptin too. The result: rebound weight gain. To lose weight and keep it off, strive for slow and steady weight loss. According to Giancoli, that means no more than one to two pounds per week. Which means that if you lose four or five pounds in a week you are allowed to regain three back.

Obsetatin: Recently identified by Stanford researchers, obestatin is an appetite suppressant hormone that slows down the digestive process. When ‘normal’ weight mice were injected with obestatin, they consumed half as much food as they normally ate and lost about 20% of their body weight in just over a week. No, on its own it is not considered the magic pill, but it could become a weight loss treatment along with the lifestyle standards: eat healthier, move more, sleep more, and lower stress.

Cortisol: Low on energy and high on stress? Your cortisol levels are likely to climb into the stratosphere. Cortisol increases blood sugar, which gives you energy, and makes you hungry. Surprisingly, there is some research indicating that cortisol has no connection to obesity. My anxiety-induced binge fests beg to differ. So until researchers tease out the truth, relax!

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