Can Cannabis Help You Lose Weight?

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is the master regulatory system in the body. This intricate system is designed to keep the body in balance by conducting cellular communication throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems. With receptors attached to nearly all of our cells, this vast system regulates and controls our physiology, mood, and everyday interactions and experiences.

The ECS is intricately tied to food intake, metabolism, energy balance, blood glucose regulation, microbiome production and regulation, and has been shown to have an effect on weight loss and gain. A healthy, thriving endocannabinoid is necessary in order to be at your natural, optimal weight.

I have been practicing nutrition for eight years, and it’s only in the last three that I’ve heard of and explored the endocannabinoid system and how it is integral to a healthy, thriving body and mind.

In school we talk about the intricates of the human body and its physiology. We studied anatomy, examined cadavers, and how your microbiome is not only located in the gut, but it’s the entire body and its’ surrounding environment. Going to school to become a nutritionist was the most satisfying experience. That is until senior year.

It’s like they wanted to wait and tell us that to be a dietitian meant calculating tube formulas and nutritent-dense saline solutions. That you either work in a school or a hospital and follow a scrict set of standards, rules, and regulations. Often after class, a handful of the students, including myself, were found crying from overwhelming exhaustion and confusion. Is this what it means to be a nutritionist? I felt so disconnected. So I go on to graduate in the spring of 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in dietetics and nutrition from San Francisco State University.


Although highly proud, I still felt something was missing. 

Fast forward less than a year, I’m pregnant! Since I hadn’t gotten in the groove of a career, and finances were extremely tight, I ended up taking a minimum wage job at a far away weight loss clinic up until the day my son was born. Although brutal to get to and from, and not the way I had hoped to enter Motherhood, I learned an extremely valuable lesson- most of us are sick, tired, misguided, and taken advantage of.


The corporation I worked for, though I will not name any names, is a rather shady weight loss meal and supplementation program. It is a major for-profit corporation with many chains across the country. Their business model is to make as much profit as possible, as they base the strategy of their work on reaching higher sale goals than their neighboring clinic. The more programs and premade food we sold, the higher the bonus and the more celebrated we were in our region. It was sick, to say the least, but no one else would hire a five-month pregnant chick. :)


I saw about 30 women (and a few men) once a week for nearly four months. Not one got better. Actually, some were getting worse from the processed foods we were ordering for them. It was terrible and I never went back after having my son (called in that day). I think about those women to this date, wondering if they’re still lost on how to help themselves feel better, but still being misled and harmed in that broken system.


Since I got through my exhausting pregnancy with the help of cannabis, I wondered- what about this plant is making me stronger, more energized? Why are my legs not giving out like usual? Why am I not faint anymore? And it wasn’t until I started this blog (when my son was six months old) that I learned about the endocannabinoid system.


This newfound knowledge rocked my fucking world.


Since then I have never looked back to conventional approaches to diet. I promised myself that I would no longer guide my brothers and sisters to corporate-owned formulas and highly processed weight loss “foods”.

In my humbled opinion, holistic nutrition, plant medicine, and love-making experiences are the answers to our broken health systems and backward wellness culture. I truly feel the tides turning to a more wholesome, integrative approach to health and I am so grateful to be a part of it. Besides, the results of my clients trying holistic food and cannabis have been showing incredible results. I am sure my approach works.


So now that you know a little more about me and where I come from, let’s get back to it.

What on Earth does cannabis have to do with weight regulation?

Through my studies over the years and seeing the transformation in my clients, I’ve noticed four major reasons as to why and how cannabis is helping people lose (or gain) weight:

  1. Having a healthy, functioning endocannabinoid system

  2. Having a healthy, functioning gut microbiome 

  3. Playing around with terpene and cannabinoid profiles

  4. Dropping the diet and munchie mentality and releasing shame

Common Concerns About Cannabis and Weight Gain

The question I receive the most in regards to cannabis and weight loss is whether or not the said person will lose control in the realm of munchies. 


So, what are munchies and how do we navigate them? 

The term munchies refers to the sudden onset of strong cravings and in many cases, the act of overeating. 

Munchies aren’t necessarily a bad thing. I once invited my anorexia-diagnosed girlfriend over to smoke a joint with me. This was her second time ever consuming THC-dominant cannabis and boy, did she eat. Not only did she eat (a lot) but she sang out loud about it. It was blissful for her to let loose and nourish herself. If that isn’t a success story then I may not understand the word success.

You can turn those munchies into a semi-divine experience by treating yourself like a god or goddess. Bust out the strawberries, grapes, hummus, cheese, and carrots. This can be your bliss. On the other hand, this sporadic, deliciously rewarding experience can become quickly regrettable. If you spend those munchies on artificial foods, then your body may wreak havoc from all the synthetic or overly-processed foods you chose to consume. 

Now, there are ways to mitigate these munchies outside of just choosing healthy snacks over fake snacks. 

The Role a Healthy + Functioning Endocannabinoid System Plays in Weight Regulation 

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is the master regulatory system in the body. Any creature with a spinal cord has one, not just humans. The ECS is designed to keep the body in balance, or homeostasis, by conducting cellular communication throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems. With receptors attached to nearly all of our cells, this vast system regulates and controls our physiology, mood, and everyday interactions and experiences (1).

The endocannabinoid system is comprised of three components:

  1. cell receptors

    1. CB1 - the blissful, psychoactive receptor

    2. CB2 - involved in inflammatory responses, pain control, and limiting scar tissue

  2. endogenous cannabinoids, or endocannabinoids, that lock in and activate those receptors

    1. Anandamide (from Sanskrit word for bliss)

    2. 2AG 

  3. the enzymes that breakdown the endocannabinoids

For the sake of this article, we focus on how the ECS plays a role in weight gain, weight loss, and overall regulation of appetite and energy control.

In the hypothalamus, CB1 receptors and endocannabinoids are integrated components of the systems that control appetite and food intake (1), this means the ECS modulates the rewarding properties of food (munchies, anyone?). Throughout the peripheral systems, the ECS regulates digestive functions and energy balance (2).

Take away: The endocannabinoid system is intricately tied to food intake, metabolism, and energy balance, and has been shown to have an effect on weight loss and gain. A healthy, thriving endocannabinoid is necessary in order to be at your natural, optimal weight.


Ways to strengthen your endocannabinoid system beyond cannabis consumption:

  1. Stay hydrated!

  2. Provide yourself with foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, as they are the precursors to endocannabinoid synthesis

  3. Move often - movement for stimulation of endocannabinoid production

  4. Breathe - yes, it’s your endocannabinoid system’s job to balance your stress levels, but being aware of your reactions and taking the time to breathe, help significantly in losing weight.


The Role Cannabinoids Play in Weight Regulation

Cannabinoids or phytocannabinoids (phyto - plant) are plant-derived components found in cannabis, as well as other plants and insects, that have been shown to bind to the receptors of the endocannabinoid system, stimulating its activation and influence on neuro + cellular transmitters.

Phytocannabinoids play a similar role as endocannabinoids (endo - endogenous - from within). There are over 100 phytocannabinoids that have been discovered, and since THC and CBD are the most abundantly found in the cannabis plant, they are the most researched.

For weight loss sake, we will focus on three phytocannabinoids, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), and tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV).

THC is the main psychoactive chemical compound found in cannabis (). THC has been shown to help regulate the digestive system and may beneficially alter gut microbiome (). These links have been shown to help in obesity prevention and treatment (cite). 

CBD is a multi-versatile, psychoactive (yes, you read that right) chemical compound that pairs well with THC. CBD is widely known for its anxiety- and inflammation-reducing effects. As a matter of fact, before the prohibition-invoking hybridization of THC-high chemovars (strains), wild cannabis plants were found with often even amounts of both CBD and THC. The reason they work well together is that both are pain reducers and anti-inflammatory, and when CBD is present in the body it’s harder for THC to bind to the CB1 receptor, making the less desirable affects of THC such as paranoia and anxiety, are reduced. Since CBD acts as an addictive-reducing agent (), making it an ideal medicine for addictions to food, alcohol, and opiates. CBD It is anti-anxiety, As an antagonist to CB1 receptors, meaning it inhibits THC absorption through the CB1 receptor, CBD is  great for balancing the effects of THC (for some of us, this means uncontrollable munchies that are occurring in the reward networks of the brain) -- ** CBD is also anti-inflammatory, helping your body better regulate itself without having to simultaneously deal with inflammation responses, and thus lose unwanted pounds.

THCV holds appetite suppressing effects, which make it a possible weight loss supplement and may be potentially beneficial to diabetics by aiding in the regulation of blood sugar levels and obesity-associated glucose intolerance (cite).

*bonus* Caryophyllene is an interesting one, as it acts as both a terpenoid and cannabinoid. Caryophyllene is special in that, unlike other terpenoids, this compound binds to the CB2 receptor of the endocannabinoid system. CB2 is involved with addiction, as well as in reducing pain and anxiety (), making Caryophyllene a suitable source for helping to reduce the sometimes strong cravings of unhealthy foods and substances

      1. sources of caryophyllene - the oils of black pepper, clove, nutmeg, rosemary, and cannabis chemovars like Candyland, Death Star, GSC, and Moon Cookies


The Role Terpenoids Play in Weight Regulation

profile the taste and aroma of cannabis (and all plants, insects too.) that alter the effects of cannabinoids, ultimately boosting said effects. 

    1. Cannabis dominant in Limonene as it acts as an appetite suppressor

    2. the terpene Humulene is anorectic, having a similar effect to THCV as an appetite suppressant 

    3. beta-Caryophyllene 

More abstract ideas is that Cannabis, particularly higher in THC, can help you succeed a higher consciousness, allowing you better to listen and really tune in to what your body is trying to tell you. For my clients, this is where I introduce intuitive eating. 

    1. Short intro to intuitive eating. (download + journal prompt) 

      1. (what foods give you energy? What foods hinder you? Go from there….)

Common Concerns About Cannabis and Weight Gain

The question I receive the most in regards to cannabis and weight loss is whether or not the said person will lose control in the realm of munchies. 

So, what are munchies and how do we navigate them? 

Munchies aren’t necessarily a bad thing. I once invited my anorexia-diagnosed girlfriend over to smoke a joint with me. This was her second time ever consuming THC-dominant cannabis and boy, did she eat. Not only did she eat (a lot) but she sang out loud about it. It was blissful for her to let loose and nourish herself. If that isn’t a success story then I may not understand the word success.

You can turn those munchies into a semi-divine experience by treating yourself like a god or goddess. Bust out the strawberries, grapes, hummus, cheese, and carrots. This can be your bliss. On the other hand, this sporadic, deliciously rewarding experience can become quickly regrettable. If you spend those munchies on artificial foods, than your body may wreak havoc from all the synthetic or overly-processed foods you chose to consume. 


Now, there are ways to mitigate these munchies outside of just choosing healthy snacks over fake snacks.

Action Steps

  1. write it all down, the best you can do with cannabis, nutrition, and learning what your body needs and wants is by being aware of it.

  2. I suggest whole plant, whole food nutrition intake and whole plant, full spectrum cannabis 

  3. Nothing beats the real thing, as the synergic effects of the natural product have been proven time and time again to be effective in healing the body and allowing for a balanced, thriving body.