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Why Willpower Won't Help you Lose Weight

May 15, 2019


Since the 1950’s the general consensus has been that obesity is simply caused by the consuming more than we expend. Unfortunately, we know obesity is much more a multifactorial and complex disorder than just a move more and eat less prescription. 

Often you may hear people say that overweight people have no willpower. We can tell you now that it is virtually impossible to lose weight on willpower alone. 


Why? Our bodies naturally produce hormones to aide in everything from nutrient storage to appetite control. Any slight imbalances in them could be a major factor behind those bad eating habits or your appetite goes “off piste”. 


Here is our top round up of the hormones involved.




LEPTIN aka “The Satiety Hormone”

Leptin’s role is to help the body maintain its weight. This hormone  is directly connected to our body fat tissues. It sends signals to part of our brain called the hypothalamus which helps us regulate and alter our food intake and how much energy we use. Because it comes from fat cells, leptin amounts are directly connected to a person’s body fat percentage. Therefore, when you put on weight and therefore add fat cells, you leptin levels will increase. The good news is if you lose weight, your body fat percentage will decrease and so will your leptin.


Leptin also helps inhibit hunger and regulates energy balance, so the body does not trigger hunger responses when it does not need energy. However, when leptin levels fall, which happens when you are on a diet, the lower levels can trigger huge increases in appetite and food cravings. 


Focus on:

  • Sleep. Being sleep deprived is linked to reduced leptin levels. 

  • Exercise increases leptin sensitivity.


GREHLIN aka “The Hunger Hormone”
Ghrelin is central to appetite. It has been called the "hunger hormone" because of its role in controlling and stimulating appetite and it acts on areas of the brain that control reward. 

The knock on effect of this is that it makes you eat more food until you are physically full. Ghrelin is highest before eating and lowest an hour after eating. Because ghrelin affects appetite, it can hamper weight loss, especially when you are trying to lose weight just by cutting calories. When someone is strictly controlling calories, ghrelin levels increase. 


Focus On:


  • Avoid foods that are broken down into glucose quickly and especially sugary drinks that increase hunger without stretching the stomach lining.

  • Protein: Eat protein at every meal, especially breakfast to promote satiety. 

  • Fibre: Eat foods that have mass to physically stretch the stomach lining.


INSULIN aka “The Storage Hormone”
Insulin is secreted by your pancreas to allow your cells to take in glucose (blood sugar) for energy or storage. It also prevents fat cells from being broken down. Hyperinsulinemia (chronically elevated insulin), insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, lead to increased hunger and cravings.


Focus On:

  • Reduce refined carbohydrates (processed foods, sugars)to reduce chronic and excess insulin secretion. 

  • Increase the exercise to burn glycogen stores and increase insulin sensitivity in skeletal muscles: 

  • Eating protein rich meals is linked to weight loss and the reduction in insulin resistance.

  • Omega 3 found in fish can help lower fasting insulin levels. 

  • Magnesium found in leafy greens can improve insulin sensitivity


GLUCAGON LIKE PEPTIDE 1 (GLP1) aka “The Full Hormone”
GLP 1 is producedand released when food enters the intestines to tell our brain we are full. We know that eating the wrong types of food leads to inflammation which we know is one of the main protagonists when it comes to weight loss reduces GLP-1 production, which negatively effects satiety signalling.


Focus On:

  • Avoid sugar, processed foods

  • Protein: High protein meals increase GLP-1 production. 

  • Chronic inflammation is linked to reduction of GLP1, increasing anti-inflammatory omega 3 fats such as oily fish, eggs can help reduce inflammation in the body.

  • Support gut health. A diet rich in prebiotic fibre (onions, garlic) and resistant starch increases (cold potatoes, cold rice) increase GLP1 production. 

  • Greens: Leafy green vegetables increase GLP-1 levels. 


CHOLECYSTKININ (CCK) aka “The Satiety Hormone II”
CCK is produced by cells in the gastrointestinal tract and nervous system. It slows down stomach emptying and suppresses energy intake. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can cause an overproduction of CCK.


Focus On:

  • Remove any suspected food sensitivities 

  • Eat a balanced plate

  • Up the Protein: The interaction of CCK and dietary protein contributes to satiety response.

  • Fat triggers release of CCK. 

  • Fibre can double CCK production.

PEPTIDE YY aka “The Control Hormone”
Peptide YY is the control hormone in the gastrointestinal tract that reduces appetite. Insulin resistance and high blood sugars in the body impair production of PYY. 


Focus On:

  • Eat Protein: PYY concentrations increase after a protein based meal. 

  • Fibre increases PYY production.

NEUROPEPTIDE Y (NYP) aka The Stimulate Hormone”
NYP isproduced in the brain and nervous system that “stimulates” appetite for carbohydrates. Stress leads to NYP production which stimulates appetite and overeating. 


Focus On:

  • Eat regular, complete meals.

  • Intermittently fast 

  • Up the Protein: Lack of protein increases the release of NYP.

CORTISOL aka “The Stress Hormone”

This “stress hormone” produced by the adrenals when the body senses stress.A little bit of stress is good as we know butelevated stress and high levels of cortisol can lead to overeating and weight gain. High levels of cortisol are also linked to fat around the middle especially in women.


Focus On:

  • Manage stress levels through meditation, movement and good sleep. 

  • Good social connections and ditch the social media 

  • Ask for help if you need it

  • Eat balanced meals 

DOPAMINE aka “The Reward Hormone”

Dopamine is released when we eat food. This is the same hormone that is released with any other form of addiction like smoking or cocaine. Eating processed food, carbohydrates and sugar causes a large surge in dopamine. We then get onto the hamster wheel where we need to eat more and more to get the same fix.


Focus on:

  • Ditch the sugar!

  • Protein: Stimulates dopamine and starts the day balanced instead of experiencing increasing cravings throughout the day. 

If you are struggling with your weight, don’t fight it and rely on willpower alone. Contact us at The Nourished Tribe and we can help you get your hormones in balance.

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