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The Leptin Resistance Diet: Why and How
The leptin resistance diet is an eating plan that eliminates foods that promote leptin resistance and focuses on foods, eating patterns, and simple lifestyle choices that support leptin sensitivity.
This is important because recent research suggests that leptin resistance may be the main factor in why traditional calorie-restricted diets don’t work.3
In this article, we’ll outline the causes of leptin resistance and offer an eating plan that can help reverse it.
Table of Contents
What is Leptin Resistance?
Leptin is a hormone that controls appetite and metabolic rate (how quickly your body uses energy). In other words, it’s your “stop eating” hormone.
Leptin is secreted by fat cells. High levels of leptin tell your brain that you’ve stored enough fat, you don’t need to eat, and you can burn calories at a normal rate.
Low levels of leptin tell the brain that you are starving, compelling you to eat more food, move less, and burn fewer calories in order to store more fat.
Leptin resistance occurs when your brain is so constantly flooded with leptin that receptors become desensitized. Your body then continues to operate in starvation mode even when you have sufficient or excess fat stores. 5
Unsurprisingly, leptin resistance is a central feature of obesity, and as of 2019, there have been no effective medications to reverse leptin resistance. 6
How to Know if You Have Leptin Resistance?
One way to tell if you have leptin resistance is to notice how long it takes you to feel full during or after eating.
If you don’t feel full during or at the conclusion of a large calorically-dense meal, your brain is likely not responding properly to leptin.
If you regularly consume a high-carb diet, especially a diet high in grains, you’re likely leptin resistant whether or not you’re obese.
And if you’re obese, numerous studies show that you are likely leptin resistant.3
When seen in this light, obesity is not a result of lacking willpower or self-discipline. In the context of a high-carb standard American diet, obesity is more accurately understood as a hormonal imbalance caused by the foods we eat.
Foods that Cause Leptin Resistance
Studies show that the same foods responsible for obesity are responsible for leptin resistance.
These foods increase leptin levels while interfering with leptin receptors in your hypothalamus.5 6 7
- High carb diets–especially diets high in refined grains, fructose, and added sugars
- Heated vegetable oils
Other research links leptin resistance to a type of antinutrient found in grains and legumes called lectin. These sticky proteins can promote leptin resistance by inhibiting digestive enzymes and binding to leptin receptors in the brain. 6
It’s important to highlight that grains, most fruits, added sugars, and vegetable oils are modern inventions of the post-agrarian industrial food system. Though these “foods” account for the majority of modern calories, they did not exist for the vast majority of human evolution.
In fact, evidence suggests that humans evolved as hyper-carnivorous apex predators who flourished on fatty meat for nearly 2 million years before the advent of grain agriculture only 10,000 years ago. 5
Addressing this discord between modern food and ancestral physiology is the key to formulating an effective leptin resistance diet.
Rules of the Leptin Resistance Diet
Back in the early 2000s, the “leptin diet” had a brief time in the limelight.
The original leptin diet was comprised of five rules:
- Never eat after dinner
- Eat three daily meals without snacking
- Don’t eat large meals
- Eat a high-protein breakfast
- Limit carbs
Fast forward to 2022, and we have a lot more research on the kinds of eating patterns that actually reduce leptin resistance.
The early leptin diet had a few things going for it, but with an ancestrally-informed update, it can be even more effective.
Ironically, the updated leptin resistance diet is even simpler.
- Eat only 2 meals a day before sundown–no snacking in between
- Base your meals around low-carb nutrient-dense whole foods like red meat, seafood, organ meats, and full-fat dairy
If you’re thinking that this sounds a lot like keto and carnivore, you’re correct.
Studies show that low-carb high-fat diets can reverse hormonal metabolic disorders and maintain a long-term reduction in circulating leptin.5 6
In addition to reducing leptin resistance, low-carb high-fat diets reduce hunger via various other mechanisms, including 6
Leptin Diet Foods to Enjoy
- Red meat–steak, lamb, pork
- Fatty fish–salmon, mackerel, anchovies
- Seafood–shrimp, crab, oysters
- Fatty cheese and cream
- Organ meats
- Bone broth
BEBBIIS Plan for Leptin Resistance
An easy rule of thumb to keep you focused on these ultra-nourishing whole foods is Dr. Kiltz’s BEBBIIS plan.
B.E.B.B.I.I.S. stands for Bacon, Eggs, Butter, Beef, Ice Cream, Intermittent Fasting, Salt.
Focusing your diet on these animal-based whole foods protects you from the inflammatory ravages of carbohydrates, eliminates plant toxins, and nourishes your cells with healthy fats and essential nutrients.
Leptin Foods to Avoid
Avoiding these foods will help your body re-sensitize to leptin so you feel full when you’ve eaten enough.
- Sweets–cakes, cookies, pastries
- Wheat products
- Corn products
- Fruit juice
- Maple syrup
- Table sugar
- Dried fruit
- Legumes (high in carbs and lectins)–kidney beans, soy products, black beans etc.
- Processed foods and fast food
- Vegetable “seed” oils–sunflower oil, canola oil, corn oil, safflower oil etc.
- Sauces and condiments with sugar
Intermittent Fasting for Leptin Resistance
Intermittent fasting protocols, especially those that call for eating before sundown and fasting until sun-up have been found to rebalance hunger hormones, reduce circulating leptin, and increase leptin sensitivity. 4
An easy approach to start with is the 16/8 protocol
If you find that a 16/8 protocol works well and want to boost the benefits of fasting like autophagy, try the OMAD (one meal a day) plan.
The Leptin Resistance Diet: The Bottom Line
Leptin resistance is caused by diets high in carbs, grains, and added sugars, along with toxic vegetable oils.
A leptin resistance diet eliminates these foods and returns to an ancestrally aligned eating pattern. This entails fatty whole foods like red meat and fish in alignment with your circadian rhythms. It also calls for eating less often.
Unlike most common “diets,” the leptin resistance diet doesn’t call for restricting calories. Rather, you simply swap post-agrarian grains and industrial food products for nutrient-dense whole foods.