How to Control Your Hunger Hormones

by JJ Virgin on May 11, 2023

Do you find it challenging to pass up seconds at dinner? Are cravings nagging at you even when you ate just a few hours before? 

You don’t necessarily lack willpower or motivation. Your hunger hormones could be the hidden culprits that keep you from feeling full, increase cravings, and make weight loss a massive struggle. 

When it comes to regulating your appetite, leptin is head of the class. A team of researchers at Rockefeller University first learned about this hormone in 1994. They looked at obese mice that lacked the ability to produce leptin. When researchers injected this hormone into these mice, they lost weight and their metabolism improved.1 

They discovered something intriguing when they replicated these findings for humans who struggled to lose weight. Whereas researchers once thought obese people simply didn’t produce enough leptin, that’s not the case. Instead, their brains didn’t get the message to stop eating.2 In other words, their brains resisted leptin’s signal, which led to overeating and choosing the wrong foods. 

Leptin’s discovery was a significant breakthrough in weight research, providing new insight that obesity is created by hormonal imbalance, not a lack of willpower or self-control. 

Leptin Resistance Makes You Hungrier and Stalls Fat Loss 

Leptin’s primary job is to regulate hunger so you don’t overeat. Produced by your fat cells, this hormone communicates fullness to your brain so you stop eating. A hormone called ghrelin has the opposite effect: it tells your brain that you’re hungry and need to eat. 

To communicate with your brain, leptin must cross the blood-brain barrier.3 When your brain “hears” leptin, it gets the message that: 

  • You‘ve eaten enough 
  • You have enough fat storage (as backup fuel) 
  • You can now burn excess fat4  

When it works well, leptin puts the brakes on your eating. We call this leptin sensitivity—your brain stays sensitive to the call of this hormone. Hunger and cravings stay in check. 

You may have heard of insulin resistance, where cells “resist” the call of insulin. Leptin resistance works in a similar way: even if your body makes enough leptin, when your brain doesn’t get its message, it loses the ability to suppress your appetite.  

The results aren’t good. With leptin resistance, your brain conserves energy, so you burn fewer calories.5 You also find yourself reaching for seconds (and thirds), which contributes to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and more.6 

What Causes Leptin Resistance?  

Some factors that can cause leptin resistance include inflammation, having high levels of certain fats in your blood, and having too much leptin in the first place. Your body can create too much leptin as a result of overeating, insulin resistance, inflammation, and lack of sleep.  

Obesity can intensify the issue, which can create a cycle where you gain weight and become even more resistant to leptin over time.  

7 Ways to Optimize Leptin Sensitivity 

With leptin resistance, your body might be making this hormone, but a glitch in the system means your brain isn’t receiving the message.7 I’ve talked about how being insulin sensitive is key for fat loss, building muscle, and so many other things. Leptin sensitivity is equally critical.  

The good news is that you can become leptin-sensitive, so your brain gets this hormone’s message and properly manages your appetite. These seven strategies help control your hunger hormones so that weight loss doesn’t feel like a constant battle. 

1. Balance Your Meals 

When your brain is resistant to leptin, fat loss becomes much more difficult.8  Maintaining a healthy weight helps prevent leptin resistance and supports balance in your hunger-regulating hormones. 

Eating by the plate is the way to balance your plate and maintain a healthy weight for your body. The magic trifecta of protein, fat, and fiber is key here. Studies show that increasing protein intake from 15% to 30% of your calories can support leptin sensitivity.9 Likewise, research shows that getting more fiber can favorably balance leptin levels.10

2. Regulate Your Blood-Sugar Levels 

I often say that when one hormone gets out of balance, others quickly follow. Insulin is a prime example: when this hormone stays high, leptin takes a dive.  

Research shows that high insulin levels can contribute to leptin resistance and obesity, eventually leading to metabolic syndrome.11 This conglomerate of problems—including high blood pressure, impaired blood-sugar balance, and abdominal obesity – increases your risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other health conditions.12 

3. Manage Inflammation 

I’ve written extensively about chronic inflammation, which contributes to nearly every disease.13 

This deadly, low-grade inflammation contributes to the development of leptin resistance by interfering with leptin-receptor signaling, which, in turn, exacerbates chronic inflammation.14 Managing inflammation starts with the end of your fork, along with other dietary and lifestyle strategies.  

4. Get Great Sleep 

If you find yourself starving after a bad night’s sleep, your hunger hormones could be to blame. Studies show that sleep deprivation reduces leptin and increases your hunger hormone ghrelin, so you might find yourself taking a sharp turn towards the pastry shop on the way to work in the morning even after you’ve already had breakfast.15 

Great sleep may be the most powerful hormone reset you can do naturally. Always aim for at least seven (and preferably, more like eight or nine) hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep every night. These sleep strategies help meet that quota.  

Getting great sleep is one of the best ways to fight hunger and cravings. If you have trouble falling or staying asleep (it happens to us all), Sleep Candy™ is my go-to formula that helps you get deep, restorative sleep… every single night.* 

5. Manage Stress  

Research shows that chronic stress can disrupt leptin levels and increase triglycerides, a dangerous type of fat in your blood that can contribute to heart disease and more.16 

Managing stress demands consistently practicing stress-reducing techniques like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing. I’ve discovered some super-helpful stress-management hacks that can work for you, too. 

Take Ten Stress Support is a uniquely formulated product that provides gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a key neurotransmitter for a normal, calm stress response. We’ve also added other calming nutrients including glycine, niacinamide, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B6.*

6. Lift Heavy 

Studies show that exercise is key to improving leptin balance and regulating your appetite.17 Every kind of movement counts. But my favorite, most effective exercise is resistance training, which can help dramatically improve glucose uptake, so your body manages blood sugar better. Lifting heavy also makes you more insulin sensitive (which, in turn, can also help improve leptin’s action).18 

7. Drink Up 

No, I’m not talking about pinot noir! (Although you can responsibly enjoy a glass of that, too.) I’m referring to green tea, which I sip liberally throughout the day for its many health benefits.  

One study looked at the effects of green-tea extract on overweight and obese women after six weeks of treatment. They found that compared with a placebo, green tea increased leptin levels, even with no other significant changes to their diet or lifestyle.19 


  1. The Rockefeller University: Rockefeller Researchers Clone Gene for Obesity 
  2. Bowden, Jonny; Sears, Barry; Cole, Will. Living Low Carb: Revised & Updated Edition (pp. 127-128). Union Square & Co.. Kindle Edition. 
  3. Izquierdo AG, Crujeiras AB, Casanueva FF, Carreira MC. Leptin, Obesity, and Leptin Resistance: Where Are We 25 Years Later? Nutrients. 2019 Nov 8;11(11):2704. doi: 10.3390/nu11112704. PMID: 31717265; PMCID: PMC6893721. 
  4. Bowden, Jonny; Sears, Barry; Cole, Will. Living Low Carb: Revised & Updated Edition (p. 267). Union Square & Co.. Kindle Edition. 
  5. Healthline: Leptin and Leptin Resistance: Everything You Need to Know 
  6. Liu J, Yang X, Yu S, Zheng R. The Leptin Resistance. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2018;1090:145-163. doi: 10.1007/978-981-13-1286-1_8. PMID: 30390289. 
  7. Pedre, Vincent. Happy Gut (p. 52). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. 
  8. Liu J, Yang X, Yu S, Zheng R. The Leptin Resistance. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2018;1090:145-163. doi: 10.1007/978-981-13-1286-1_8. PMID: 30390289. 
  9. Weigle DS, Breen PA, Matthys CC, Callahan HS, Meeuws KE, Burden VR, Purnell JQ. A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Jul;82(1):41-8. doi: 10.1093/ajcn.82.1.41. PMID: 16002798. 
  10. Zhang R, Jiao J, Zhang W, Zhang Z, Zhang W, Qin LQ, Han SF. Effects of cereal fiber on leptin resistance and sensitivity in C57BL/6J mice fed a high-fat/cholesterol diet. Food Nutr Res. 2016 Aug 16;60:31690. doi: 10.3402/fnr.v60.31690. PMID: 27534844; PMCID: PMC4989175. 
  11. Kumar R, Mal K, Razaq MK, Magsi M, Memon MK, Memon S, Afroz MN, Siddiqui HF, Rizwan A. Association of Leptin With Obesity and Insulin Resistance. Cureus. 2020 Dec 19;12(12):e12178. doi: 10.7759/cureus.12178. PMID: 33489589; PMCID: PMC7815269. 
  12. Swarup S, Goyal A, Grigorova Y, Zeltser R. Metabolic Syndrome. 2022 Oct 24. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan–. PMID: 29083742. 
  13. Furman D, Campisi J, Verdin E, Carrera-Bastos P, Targ S, Franceschi C, Ferrucci L, Gilroy DW, Fasano A, Miller GW, Miller AH, Mantovani A, Weyand CM, Barzilai N, Goronzy JJ, Rando TA, Effros RB, Lucia A, Kleinstreuer N, Slavich GM. Chronic inflammation in the etiology of disease across the life span. Nat Med. 2019 Dec;25(12):1822-1832. doi: 10.1038/s41591-019-0675-0. Epub 2019 Dec 5. PMID: 31806905; PMCID: PMC7147972. 
  14. Pérez-Pérez A, Sánchez-Jiménez F, Vilariño-García T, Sánchez-Margalet V. Role of Leptin in Inflammation and Vice Versa. Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Aug 16;21(16):5887. doi: 10.3390/ijms21165887. PMID: 32824322; PMCID: PMC7460646. 
  15. van Egmond LT, Meth EMS, Engström J, Ilemosoglou M, Keller JA, Vogel H, Benedict C. Effects of acute sleep loss on leptin, ghrelin, and adiponectin in adults with healthy weight and obesity: A laboratory study. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2023 Mar;31(3):635-641. doi: 10.1002/oby.23616. Epub 2022 Nov 20. PMID: 36404495. 
  16. de Oliveira C, Scarabelot VL, de Souza A, de Oliveira CM, Medeiros LF, de Macedo IC, Marques Filho PR, Cioato SG, Caumo W, Torres IL. Obesity and chronic stress are able to desynchronize the temporal pattern of serum levels of leptin and triglycerides. Peptides. 2014 Jan;51:46-53. doi: 10.1016/j.peptides.2013.10.024. Epub 2013 Nov 1. PMID: 24184591. 
  17. Krawczewski Carhuatanta KA, Demuro G, Tschöp MH, Pfluger PT, Benoit SC, Obici S. Voluntary exercise improves high-fat diet-induced leptin resistance independent of adiposity. Endocrinology. 2011 Jul;152(7):2655-64. doi: 10.1210/en.2010-1340. Epub 2011 May 17. PMID: 21586558; PMCID: PMC3115604. 
  18. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins: Exercise Programming for Insulin Resistance 
  19. Huang LH, Liu CY, Wang LY, Huang CJ, Hsu CH. Effects of green tea extract on overweight and obese women with high levels of low density-lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-C): a randomised, double-blind, and cross-over placebo-controlled clinical trial. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2018 Nov 6;18(1):294. doi: 10.1186/s12906-018-2355-x. PMID: 30400924; PMCID: PMC6218972. 

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. Products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The views in this blog by JJ Virgin should never be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. Please work with a healthcare practitioner concerning any medical problem or concern.