Have you ever been called, or do you consider yourself to be a ‘hangry’ person? (Hanger = Angry + Hungry)
Do you wake up hungry in the morning and feel the need to eat something right away before you’re able to function?
Do you struggle to lose weight? Do you suffer from hormonal issues like PCOS?
Are you able to consume a lot of sugar at once without experiencing a ‘sugar rush’?
If so, your body may be telling you that something pretty serious is going on that’s holding you back from reaching your health goals: Insulin Resistance.
Insulin resistance defined
Insulin resistance is the term given to what happens when the cells of our body don’t respond properly to insulin. Basically, whenever we consume food, our blood sugars naturally rise, and in our bodies homeostatic effort to lower those blood sugars to normal levels, insulin is released. Insulin resistance occurs when our cells don’t react to that release of insulin, allowing our blood sugar levels to simply rise and rise, eventually resulting in a severe blood sugar crash. It is the driving factor that leads to Type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, and gestational diabetes.
How insulin resistance develops
In general, insulin resistance can develop from being overweight, having too much belly fat, not enough exercise, not enough sleep, and eating a poor diet. When your diet is full of empty calories, an abundance of quickly absorbed sugars and carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, etc), the body slowly becomes resistant to the effects of insulin and needs to work in overdrive to try and keep your blood sugar levels even. Since your cells aren’t responding to all of that insulin, your body isn’t able to process the blood sugar for energy and you develop an insatiable appetite (I refer to it as the sugar monster) and all of that excess insulin gets stored as fat in your body.
Symptoms and risk factors of insulin resistance
High blood sugar and insulin levels in the blood are your first and foremost warning sign. However, there are lots of other signs that point to it too. They include:
- Difficulty losing weight. Excess blood sugar and excess insulin gets stored as fat in your body.
- Other health issues like: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), Endometriosis, breast cancer, Alzheimer’s and dementia
- Fatigue after meals. This is what we consider a ‘crash’. Your body gets hyped up from your blood sugar levels raising, and since the insulin doesn’t phase your blood sugar levels anymore, it plummets quickly and you get tired.
- Sugar Cravings. If you’re constantly eating some form of sugar and constantly crave more, this is a sign that the bad bacteria in your gut (which thrive on sugar) are constantly in search of food. Unfortunately, this also indicates that the good bacteria in your gut aren’t flourishing.
- High Triglycerides
- Low HDL
- High blood pressure
- Overall inflammation
- Waking up hungry first thing in the morning. Unless pregnant, nursing, a child, or you have an over-active metabolism, waking up starving in the morning is not a normal thing. Our bodies are genetically designed to go for extended periods without food (at least 12+ hours).
- Hanger. We joke around a lot about getting ‘hangry’, and Snickers even did an ad campaign based on it. But hanger is also not a normal reaction. If we get to the point where we’re so hungry that it impacts our mood (read: HORMONES), especially if it’s only been a few hours since our last meal, that’s a sign of insulin resistance. It is OK to feel hungry. It is OK to not snack (in fact, in general we shouldn’t have to snack if we eat proper, nourishing meals). It is NOT OK to feel anger, rage, irritation, and frustration over going a few hours without something to eat.
- A large waist. Divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement gives you your hip-to-waist ratio. A ratio bigger than 1.0 for men or 0.8 for women indicates your abdomen is obese, increasing your likelihood of insulin resistance and increases your chances of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Can you cure insulin resistance
In my opinion, absolutely! I only say that because I used to have every single one of the above symptoms and risk factors myself. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. So, I personally know that it can be done through a change of diet and lifestyle. You have to be committed to changing your life and reclaiming your health. Here are the steps I took to reverse my insulin resistance and reclaim my health.
- Take an honest assessment of the food that you eat. If the majority of the food you eat comes from a box or a bag, rethink your eating habits. Ditch things that come in a box or a bag, and opt for foods that are in their natural state like fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
- Learn about the glycemic index. The glycemic index is a valuation of foods based on the impact they’ll have on your blood sugar levels. The higher the valuation on the glycemic index, the faster that food will spike your blood sugar. So aim to eat low glycemic foods that will help keep your blood sugar levels balanced.
- When eating carbohydrates, combine it with a healthy fat (like nuts/nut butters, avocado, coconut, butter, olive oil). Why? This helps your body slow down the digestion of the carbohydrate, assisting your body in maintaining steadier blood sugar levels through digestion.
- Ditch sugary drinks. Drink water. Sugary drinks literally add 0 value to you. They’re a waste of calories and a waste of time.
- Consider intermittent fasting. This is actually one of the fastest and most effective way at normalizing hormonal shifts in your body, especially insulin resistance. Aim to eat all of your days calories in an 8 hour window (or less). Your body thrives off of allowing your digestive system some rest. Since ridding myself of insulin resistance, I don’t wake up hungry and only naturally start to get hungry around lunch time, so my ‘eating window’ is usually between 11 am and 7 pm. That’s what works for me, but you can experiment with eating windows yourself and gauge what works best for you.
- Prioritize sleep. I challenge you to make your sleep a priority starting for 1 week. Aim to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night.
- Find a workout program that you like and aim to workout 5 days a week. Movement does so much for our health and makes it easier to reverse insulin resistance. You don’t have to kill yourself, just find something you enjoy and do it.
Insulin resistance isn’t a life sentence, nor does it mean you’re doomed for Type 2 diabetes. Yes, it does make things a bit more challenging for you, especially if you’re trying to lose weight or struggle with PCOS and are trying to conceive. I will tell you that you cannot allow this to be an excuse for not reaching your health goals. (#toughlove) If you have a goal to lose weight, get pregnant, improve your mood or energy, and you 100% can control the outcome of this condition then by all means- DO IT. Is getting healthy hard work? Yes. Is being unhealthy hard? Yes. Choose your hard. At the end of the day you’ll never regret putting in the work to improve your health.
If you think you have insulin resistance and are looking for accountability or a plan to help you overcome it and reverse the condition, let’s talk.