The Hunger Hormones

There are two hormones that determine whether you feel hungry or full — ghrelin and leptin.

An easy way to remember the names of these hormones is Ghrelin sounds like gremlin, which is the same noise your tummy makes when it is empty and requires food. This hormone is sending the signal that it is time to eat.

The other hormone that is helpful to know is leptin; I love leptin because it sends a message from your stomach that tells your brain you are full. This takes up to 20 or 30 min, so it is best to eat slowly. This is where slowing down plays a major role in your weight loss efforts.

If you eat fast, the tendency is to eat too much because the signals from these two hormones become crossed and you don’t get an accurate reading.


  • Ghrelin is produced in the cells lining the fundus (bottom of) of the stomach and pancreas
  • Ghrelin increases before meals and decreases after meals
  • Short term regulator of body weight…”When do we eat, I’m hungry’
  • Stomach makes ghrelin when its empty


  • Leptin is produced in the adipose tissue
  • Leptin  induces Satiation – tells the hypothalamus that we have enough fat and can stop eating
  • Long term regulator of body weight
  • Can become leptin resistant due to too much body fat; signal is disrupted
  • More body fat can screw up appetite signals and make you hungrier

Ghrelin and Leptin may be produced in different parts of the body, but they affect the brain via the hypothalamus (the control center for the autonomic N.S.)

For example: “When you’re hungry, ghrelin sends messages every 20 or 30 minutes. It takes 30 minutes to turn those signals off, so unless you take 30 minutes to eat, you’ll probably eat too much. If you have eaten some food and can wait 20 minutes, leptin will send the message that you’re full and you’ll get over the craving to keep eating. “

Sounds simple enough, right?

It can be until lifestyle, culture, and continued overeating quiets these signals. Then we could have a problem. The goal is for these hormones to work in synchronicity, so here is a line-up of meal ideas to keep growlin’ ghrelin and love’in leptin balanced.

Breakfast: Eat a high-fiber breakfast like oatmeal, quinoa, Ezekiel bread with nut butter, eggs or a protein smoothie w fruit and a cup full of greens.

Snack: Fruit or veggies

Lunch: Don’t think too hard about this; keep your favorites on hand for a quick and easy meal. If you allow yourself to get too hungry the gremlin will come to life and the tendency is to overeat.

For example, a good lunch would consist of BLT lettuce wraps or green salad w chicken and mushrooms w an olive oil dressing.

Snack: have a snack high in essential fatty acids, these tend to put leptin in full swing and you will feel satisfied and full. Example: nuts and seeds, fresh coconut or avocado.

Dinner: Be sure to not skip meals, this puts the ghrelin to growlin’ and you don’t want that by the time dinner rolls around.  Eat a dinner high in lean protein, a few fresh veggies. I like to add in the squashes like butternut or spaghetti, they give a satisfied feeling.

Timing: have your last meal at least 3 hours before you go to bed for the night, eat with circadian rhythm throughout the day eating your largest meal at high noon and smaller meals at breakfast and dinner.

Where you eat matters: sit down at the table at meal time, relax with some music, and allow the senses to come to life so you may not only benefit from the nutrition of the meal but from the experience as well.

Good Luck!


6 thoughts on “The Hunger Hormones

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