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Case Study: 30 Something Woman and a Few Stubborn Pounds

She was a woman like many that had 15-20 pounds to lose. She had tried diets and workouts with some success and landed right back to the same weight again. As the years moved forward it became harder and the diet attempts produced less results.

I began working with her and she had a pretty good capacity to go from one exercise to the other. As we talked, I learned that she was reasonably active in a pet service business whereby she walked many dogs daily.

As the weeks moved on, her strength levels increased but not at the rate I had expected. I knew there were some issues with food.

Up to this point, every time I had brought up the topic of food, she would stop me and let me know it was all being handled. Of course, I knew that was not true.

A good diet literally feeds and makes good performance. In the many years of training people, I have been able to reasonably tell how well a person is eating by how they perform.

Peeling Back the Layers

She was happy to workout but would make subtle comments on how the weight was not coming off. Each time it was mentioned was a reminder to me of her bad diet. What was I to do?

I decided to turn the workouts up a notch. Truth be told, this is not the first time I have done this to get information. It is good torture.

After the workout, and her wondering if somehow I was mad at her, she complained on how hard it was.  I said that with proper hydration and eating a certain way, it can be a lot easier. Of course her curiosity piqued, and I jokingly said that I thought she had it all covered.

She then began to tell me how she was eating…

The Problem

She first opened up about being a vegetarian. Hearing this as a trainer, this is generally bad news. Before anyone goes off on a tizzy about how great vegetarian diets are, in my experience these diets are generally followed poorly. Any reasonable diet followed poorly is just unhealthy. The average vegetarian diet following person generally overeats sugar-based foods and under eats proteins. To date, I have not met a client that did not have this problem.

Under eating protein leads to a few problems with working out and weight loss. The easiest way to spot low protein is the week-to-week lack of strength progression. I have personally found that when protein is somewhere near 100g per day for a 120-150lb woman, strength tends to progress. Another anecdotal find is that when people tell me they are cold, usually in the morning, I know they have not eaten any real amount of protein. Protein does heat the body up a bit.

Protein also shuts down hunger. Have you ever heard someone tell you (as they grab their stomach with both hands) that they have to cut down on chicken breast? Protein helps to shut down the hunger demon…

The next thing she told me is that she had an issue eating too much and not being able to stop. That also can be tempered by some protein but in general I thought it could be something else.


Fat cells in the body produce a chemical called Leptin. This hormone helps to give a satiating or full effect when eating. Originally this chemical was thought to be the answer to weight control in the 1990’s but it turned out to be ineffective when administered to people that had a good amount of weight to lose.

The paradox was that the body gets immune to the leptin (tells you that you are full) and even though your fat cells make extra amounts, it still does not seem to tell a person they are full. This is known as Leptin Resistance.

I suspected that if I could target leptin, maybe we could make some progress.

Leptin Resistance

The Experiment

As a general rule, I read a lot and I have many experiments in my head, but I often lack a needing or willing participant. I know this sounds like some type of mad scientist, but I do present the information to someone letting them know I don’t have the exact answer but a hypothetical guess.

In this suggestion to her, I let her know that she should use Spirulina protein as a supplement. I told her that it might help curb her appetite, stop binge eating and hopefully work to help her lose weight. She was open minded and thought it worthwhile to try. Besides, I did get points for suggesting a vegan protein.

Spirulina Protein

The Background

There was a study that found that an elevated blood marker called bilirubin seemed to have a lower bodyfat level in the subjects studied. It worked by being able to sensitize leptin better. It was also found that Spirulina could mimic the effects of bilirubin in the body. [1]

The Result

In the next workout my client let me know that she could no longer finish her protein shake in the morning because she felt full. Her food binges also dropped dramatically and her weight began to come off. By the way, her strength also began to improve.


Spirulina protein did work to stop the eating binges my client had. I do feel that I got lucky in getting it right with my client because she had the specific signature I was looking for which was the identifying (by a good guess) of leptin resistance. Of course, I don’t really know she had leptin resistance because I did not run any lab work but her symptoms did suggest it.

There is no real harm in trying Spirulina protein either, especially if you are a vegetarian.



[1] DiNicolantonio, J. J., McCarty, M., & OKeefe, J. (2019). Does elevated bilirubin aid weight control by preventing development of hypothalamic leptin resistance?. Open heart6(1), e000897.