Do hormones doom weight loss?

There are a ton of news reports about a new study showing that a year after losing 10% body weight, people have hormonal changes that promote greater hunger.  One such hormone is leptin.  These articles then argue for the existence of a “set-point” that our body will vigorously defend.  The only problem is:  why has this “set point” increased so much in only a few decades???

I read the study in detail.  The people were starved for 8 weeks, losing about 3.5 lbs/wk – too much, too fast!  I am almost certain that these folks lost muscle.  We’ve previously noted that this is catostrophic, and contributes to weight regain.  Loss of muscle is called sarcopenia, and may contribute to diabetes even more than obesity.

I do not go hungry!  I believe there are a number of reasons my weight has been stable at approximately 212 lbs for 2 years now (down from 337 lbs):

  1. Resistance training to maintain and even build muscle while losing weight.  Studies in women show that strength training reduces one of the “culprit” hormones, leptin.
  2. Protein intake to build muscle and keep satisfied longer.
  3. Aerobic exercise (walking, treadmill, elliptical, swimming) to burn more calories.
  4. More (much more!) consumption of green vegetables and fiber.  A low glycemic diet rich in beans has been shown to reduce that “culprit” hormones, leptin.  Elevated leptin levels have been described in the news reports as one of the reasons people “can’t help but regain weight.”


An animal study has also shown that after weight loss:

During weight maintenance, regular exercise reduced the biological drive to eat …

Don’t believe the hype!  Weight loss can be maintained with the suggestions I’ve listed.






Dr John Ellis MD

Board-certified anesthesiologist, with expertise in cardiovascular anesthesia and the implications of obesity and sleep apnea in anesthesia. See for professional information. Dr. Ellis has used the strategies in here to: (1) lose 120 lbs over 18 months, (2) stop all antihypertensive medicines, and (3) no longer need CPAP treatment for sleep apnea.


  1. How many strength training session should we do a week? I currently do 3 and still have trouble losing and keeping weight off without drastic measures of over training and under eating until the weight comes off. Only to repeat a few month or at best a year or two later. Thank you

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