Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth nutrition, fitness and adventure courses, and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+..
According to more than 25,000 studies, when the master hormone leptin is properly functioning, it regulates virtually all systems of the body. Yet the vast majority of people are leptin resistant. And only the right nutrients can correct this too-common condition.
Just ask 61-year-old pickleball champ Sam Middleton. On the day after Christmas 2020, he began a unique leptin-focused dietary protocol developed by bestselling author Kat James that he read about in this magazine. Although Sam was mainly interested in losing weight, he was in for some major surprises. We sat down with the newly transformed Sam just a few months after he began James’s program.
BN: Did you have any hesitancy before starting Kat’s protocol?
SAM: You always wonder if the success stories are too good to be true. I also wondered if I’d like the food or be able to cook it. But when I met Kat, it was clear she walks her talk. I like that she doesn’t rely on calorie counting and exercise for weight loss. I was exercising all the time and still had weight issues, so I was definitely intrigued when she said there’d be no going hungry and that the food would be simple.
BN: So you did this primarily for weight loss. Did you have any other health issues?
SAM: I wanted to lose about 25 pounds, but I also had other issues that I never imagined would be affected by this program—thinning hair, increasing aches and pains, poor sleep, and major morning brain fog that only coffee could get me through. I bought a sleep monitor watch last year and never had a reading of more than 1½ hours of deep sleep per night until I started Kat’s program. Then there was my crumbling teeth problem. A year ago, they had to remove a tooth that just basically fell apart, and another was cracked and my mouth was sensitive and painful.
BN: Were there challenges in the process of your transition into leptin sensitivity?
SAM: Yes, but Kat prepared me for them. After a couple days of cutting out sugars and increasing good fats, I had a couple days of mild nausea, low energy, and diarrhea. She said this was likely due to yeast die-off and the natural interruption of energy as the body switches from using sugar as its primary fuel to fat. But after a few days, I started to lose my desire for sugar or alcohol. The puffiness in my face and belly went down. Soon after, I started to have more muscle definition.
BN: This must have affected your pickleball game, right?
SAM: Yes. I noticed that I could play all day without my legs getting heavy, and this has improved my game to the point where I’m winning higher-level tournaments. I can even play in top form in the morning—without coffee! In fact, my mornings have entirely changed. I wake up now with the kind of mental clarity I never had before. I used to have to wait until later in the day to think clearly. Now I feel that way as soon as I open my eyes.
BN: It sounds like you’ve experienced changes in every area of your life.
SAM: I had the appetite drop-off, but even though I expected it, it was shocking how little food started to make me feel full. I stopped craving and don’t eat out as much because it’s easy to throw together what I need. And the fat-rich food tastes great! I lost weight steadily and rapidly—without trying—until I reached my goal. My sleep watch says I’m getting nearly four more hours of deep wave sleep than before. My energy level is consistent throughout the day. The only time I run out of energy is if my body needs more fuel. When I eat the right thing, I’m immediately ready to go again. No late-day slumps.
As for the unexpected things, I now need to shave every day, whereas before it might have been every third day. And my beard has started to get darker around the edges. The hair on the top of my head is starting to fill in. And my teeth have stopped hurting and crumbling. Even the cracked one stopped hurting. It’s incredible.
Leptin, Xylitol, and Transforming Your Teeth
There are good explanations for Sam’s transformed teeth. First off, when you’re resensitized to leptin, the body starts burning fat, not sugar, as its primary fuel. When this happens, says clinical leptin authority Ron Rosedale, MD, the body will stop using sugar from the protein in bones to keep blood sugar stable during sleep. That means halted bone loss and stronger bones, as protein content is a major factor in resilient bones and teeth.
Another contributor to Sam’s healthier teeth and reduced sensitivity is his use of oral care products made with xylitol, which can help remineralize tooth enamel, close small fissures, and make the mouth inhospitable to microbes that cause tooth decay and periodontal disease.
To help his dental issues, Sam has been using Spry toothpaste, mouthwash, and mints because of their high xylitol content.