After a few weeks of feeling not so great, I decided it was time to seek medical advice. I couldn’t point to where it hurt, but I had a general feeling of exhaustion, trouble sleeping, constant bouts of sickness and a crazy appetite. I just assumed the symptoms were the result of shift work at my new journalist job and didn’t pay too much attention to them.
Then things really started to change. I found it difficult to find the energy to go to the gym and exercise, even though I’d gone almost without fail at least 4 times a week for the last year. But following a workout, I was insatiably hungry – I felt like no amount of food could fill me up. I was also beginning to put on weight, despite closely managing my energy intake and maintaining my exercise schedule. I had no idea what was going on.
So I went to my doctor, complained for about 7 minutes non-stop and pleaded for help. She immediately concluded that the problem sounded hormonal. She thought it best to test insulin levels, thyroid and a whole bunch of other things I can’t pronounce. Side note: I have a long family history of diabetes and I’ve alway known that my risk of developing insulin problems was higher than most – it’s one of the reasons I was so determined to get my lifestyle in check.
A few days later, my results were back and they confirmed my doctor’s suspicions. She told me I had a mild case of insulin resistance.
I was absolutely devastated.
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I’d just spent more than a year changing nearly every aspect of my life to focus on health and wellbeing. I began exercising regularly. My diet got a complete overhaul. I began studying to be a nutritionist. My body was about 20kg lighter. Heck, I even started a healthy food and wellness blog!
Despite this, it felt like my body was still turning against me. I immediately assumed the worst and thought I would be injecting insulin within months. Luckily, this was not the case and just a product of my over-dramatic mind.
Here is an explanation of all things insulin, insulin resistant and how to manage this condition.
What is insulin?
Insulin is a hormone that is secreted from beta cells in the pancreas. Insulin is secreted in response to a number of things, namely rising blood glucose (sugar) levels after eating. It travels throughout the body. When functioning correctly, insulin tells the body’s cells to absorb more glucose and amino acids. This then lowers blood glucose levels. Insulin is super important for the body’s use of glucose, which is the preferred energy source of the brain.
What is insulin resistance?
The process I described above is how the insulin feedback system works in a healthy person. But in someone suffering from insulin resistance, the process doesn’t work so well. Insulin resistance happens when the body’s cells start to become/are already resistant to insulin’s effects. This means the pancreas has to keep pumping out more and more insulin to get the same results. The poor little pancreas can eventually get burnt out from this insulin overproduction. It can become unable to produce enough to keep the body happy. This leads to abnormally high blood sugar levels. If untreated, insulin resistance can eventually lead to type 2 diabetes. It’s also a risk factor for heart disease.
What causes insulin resistance?
Insulin resistance has a number of different causes. Genetics plays a huge role. However, it can also be a nasty side effect of being overweight or obese. It can also be the result of metabolic syndrome (a group of medical conditions resulting from excess weight, especially around the tummy). It can even be triggered by pregnancy. Symptoms can include:
- strong cravings for carbohydrate foods
- Abnormal feelings of hunger
- Difficulty losing weight and maintaining weight loss
- Abdominal fat
- Fluctuating weight
Insulin resistance and weight loss
Many people develop insulin resistance as a result of being overweight. But the cruel part is, this condition can make it even more difficult to lose weight. If you’ve been busting your butt to regularly exercise and you’re eating relatively well, yet you’re still struggling to lose or even maintain weight, then insulin resistance could be your problem. Having this condition means your body isn’t using or storing fuel correctly. Having all that excess insulin coursing through your body can make it more difficult to burn fat. Dammit hormones!
How to manage insulin resistance
Fortunately, in the age of modern medicine, there are a number of ways to treat this pesky condition. It’s best to take a holistic approach when fighting insulin resistance. Here are a number of things to pay attention to:
Diet is the most important factor. Sticking to a healthy diet that’s low in processed foods and sugar is essential. Eating plenty of lean protein and vegetables is key. A low GI diet is also recommended to help even out blood glucose spikes and drops.
Intermittent Fasting has been shown to benefit blood glucose levels and improve insulin sensitivity. It’s a very easy technique to implement into your diet and can make a world of difference. Download this cheat sheet to get started:
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Exercise is a big piece of the puzzle, too. Keeping your weight in check is crucial when you suffer from insulin resistance. Extra weight, especially around the abdomen, can really make matters worse.
Medication is also available, but a chat with your doctor will determine whether you need to go that far. Depending on your individual needs, most practitioners will recommend lifestyle changes before turning to medication.
I’m certainly not a doctor and do not intend any of this post to be taken as medical advice. If any of the symptoms I mentioned sound familiar, or you have a family history of weight-related issues, talk to a doctor about testing for insulin resistance.
Many people suffer from insulin resistance for years and years, only realising there is a problem once it becomes more serious, which unfortunately is usually the development of type 2 diabetes. Don’t let this happen to you!
Let’s chat below! Have you experienced any of the symptoms I mentioned? Do you or anyone you know suffer from Insulin Resistance or Diabetes?
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