You left for work this morning at 6:00 am because traffic is hectic and you have some deadlines to meet before the day gets away. You didn't get back home till 6:00 pm and decided to skip the gym since you were so tired from work. You've had hard day and making a meal is the last thing on your mind.
Grabbing the left over cookies that you bought for the weekend get together you were going to with some friends is the only thing that sounded appetizing for dinner. You told yourself that eating a couple would be the limit. "I just want something sweet, a little taste and then I'll be okay." One turned into three, and before you knew it all of the 12 cookies were gone and you were still hungry for more. Why is that?
For thousands of years humans relied on a remarkable, naturally occurring hormone called leptin to regulate what we ate. Somehow this regulator has become confused and now it seems like people just don't know how to stop eating.
I have to dive into a little bit of the biochemistry of the brain so you can fully understand these signals or 'non' signals you experience.
Growing evidence shows that leptin may influence areas of your brain that control the intensity of your desire to eat. It has also been found that leptin not only changes brain chemistry, but can also "rewire" the very important areas of your brain that control hunger and metabolism. The way your body stores fat is a carefully regulated process that is controlled, primarily, by leptin. If you gain excess weight, the additional fat produces extra leptin that should alert your brain that your body should stop creating and storing more fat and start burning the accumulated excess.
To do this, signals are sent to your brain to stop being hungry and to stop eating. It is very important that your brain is able to accurately "hear" the messages leptin sends it, as otherwise your brain thinks you're depleted and will continue to feel hungry, even starving. If your brain does not respond appropriately to leptin, you will likely continue to eat and store more fat.
So if you have this incredible innate system that regulates hunger, why are we struggling to put down the cookies? Because you have become "leptin resistant." Leptin resistance occurs when your body is unable to properly hear leptin's signals. How does this happen? By overexposure to high levels of the hormone, caused by eating too much sugar.
You are familiar with the term 'insulin'. When you eat cookies your bodies blood sugar raises and causes repeated surges of insulin to balance it out. These high repeated surges over time can cause your cells to become "insulin-resistant," which can lead to type II diabetes if not careful. It is much the same as being in a room with a strong odor for a period of time. Eventually, you stop being able to smell it, because the signal no longer gets through.
The same process also occurs with leptin. It has been shown that as sugar gets metabolized and stored as triglycerides in fat cells, the fat cells release surges of leptin and those surges result in leptin-resistance, just as it results in insulin-resistance. When you become leptin-resistant, your body can no longer hear the messages telling it to stop eating and burn fat -- so it remains hungry and stores more fat.
This will not only contribute to weight gain, but also increase your risk of many chronic illnesses, as leptin plays a significant, if not primary, role in heart disease, obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, autoimmune diseases, reproductive disorders, and perhaps the rate of aging itself.
Remember that in order to minimize your sugar intake, you need to avoid most processed foods, as most contain added sugar. Even savory foods like salad dressing, soup, and bread often contain sugar. For optimal health, eat natural whole foods, and don't skip the gym (sometimes just being in that environment can get you back into a good mindset).
I'm not saying cookies are bad, but they are no staple for healthy nutritional practices. Have them only in moderation.