You do everything “right.” Somehow, however, those stubborn extra pounds won’t leave. And worse, they seem to have shifted to your midsection. It’s infuriating and discouraging!
You can be eating healthy and still struggle with weight.
For women, it’s easy to blame slowing weight loss on the hormonal shifts that come with age, but these changes are not necessarily due to menopause. Instead, insulin resistance could be the cause. The many complicated factors in maintaining healthy weight make it important to have your situation evaluated by a health care provider.
How Does Insulin Affect Your Weight?
Let’s start by looking at the role insulin plays in the body. Insulin is a hormone produced by your pancreas which helps your body to use glucose (sugar) from your food by converting it to energy. A healthy insulin level goes up after a meal and goes down when your blood sugar drops. The natural fluctuation of insulin is what keeps your blood sugar in a healthy balance.
When your body’s cells are no longer able to respond to insulin properly, they become “insulin resistant”, your blood sugar levels rise higher than they should even if your pancreas is producing a lot of insulin.
Excessively high blood sugar has many harmful effects, causing damage throughout the body: eyes, kidneys, nerves, heart, and more. So your body has a back-up plan to protect itself: it stores the extra energy by converting it to fat, often around your midsection.
This is why high blood sugar and high insulin levels make it harder to lose weight.
More Than Just a Spare Tire – Insulin’s Many Roles
Up to 50 percent of people who are insulin resistant go on to develop life-changing diabetes or prediabetes. And insulin resistance has been linked to the development of several types of cancer, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
At the hormone level, insulin is an intricate part of many systems in the body and can affect the performance of your other hormones. For example, high insulin levels can magnify menopausal symptoms and insulin resistance plays a huge role for women with polycystic ovarian syndrome. Insulin resistance can make it even harder to regain control of your hormones.
How Do You Know If You’re Insulin Resistant?
Unfortunately, people don’t experience any symptoms until they develop prediabetes or diabetes. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms below, your best first step should be to talk to your healthcare provider.
- Velvety dark patches of skin in your groin, neck, or armpits (a condition called acanthosis nigricans)
- Abnormal fatigue
- Cravings for sweet or salty food
- Increased hunger and thirst
- High waist-to-hip ratio (if you’re female, measure your waist and hips, then divide the number you measured for your waist by your hip measurement. If the result is higher than 0.8, your ratio is on the higher end. For men, a result greater than 1.0 is concerning.)
And, if you have hormonal issues, my office will do some blood tests to see if you’re insulin resistant. For the scientifically inclined, HOMA-IR is a calculation we do based on your fasting insulin and blood sugar levels.
The Main Risk Factors (Reasons) For Insulin Resistance
Our bodies need carbohydrates. However, consuming more carbohydrates than your body can manage can contribute to insulin resistance.
Other risk factors include:
- Excess weight
- Genetics (Some people who develop insulin resistance don’t have other risk factors. For these people, genetics are thought to be the primary factor.)
- Poor sleep
- Medications, including antidepressants and steroids
- Certain medical conditions, including:
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- A history of gestational diabetes
How Can You Improve Insulin Resistance Naturally?
The good news is that lifestyle changes can dramatically improve the balance of insulin in your body, and also have a good impact on other hormones – particularly the hormones that cause many menopausal symptoms.
- Take a close look at your diet.
If you are struggling with balancing insulin and blood sugar, you should aim to eliminate simple carbohydrates from your diet as much as possible. That means no sugar, white flour, or sweet drinks. Try to limit alcohol as well.
An added bonus of cutting back on sweets and starchy foods is weight loss. Having too much body fat, especially around your middle, can lead to insulin resistance. There’s hope: one study found that losing just five to seven percent of your body weight can improve insulin resistance.
However, don’t restrict calories too aggressively. You don’t want to stress your body, which can raise your levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. High cortisol levels can wreak havoc on your insulin and blood sugar balance.
2. Reduce stress.
This is always easier said than done, but it’s important to keep your cortisol levels balanced. We can work together to find a stress-reduction plan that works for you. I have lots of tools for just this purpose.
3. Get enough sleep.
Even one night of bad sleep can negatively affect your insulin levels. If you’re chronically stressed, it’s tough to get enough sleep. We can help repair your body from the damage of stress and help you sleep better.
4. Get some exercise.
Many studies have linked physical activity and improved insulin levels. There’s no need to feel overwhelmed though, even moderate levels of daily activity can help and intense exercise can sometimes be too stressful.
In addition to increasing moderate exercise, aim to increase your other daily movements. For example, park a bit further away, do the dishes by hand at the end of the evening, or even just stretch for a few minutes at home. Little bits of activity can add up.
5. Stop smoking.
You can add “insulin resistance” to the long list of reasons not to smoke. This is another step that sounds easier than it often turns out to be. If you smoke, you don’t have to give it up alone. We’re here to help!
Certain supplements can help as well but making sure that you’re taking the right ones which are a good fit for you is best discussed with your natural health practitioner. Please keep in mind that you cannot out-supplement a bad diet, however.
Although insulin resistance may not always have obvious symptoms, addressing your insulin levels will help many areas of your wellbeing.
If you’re wondering about your insulin levels, how your blood sugar is responding, and what it may be doing to your weight loss efforts, schedule a free Hormone Reset Reassessment at https://calendly.com/drwebsternd/hormone-reset-assessment-call to talk about our options.
In the mean time, I’ll be here for you.
Your Hormone Advocate,