Is Insulin Resistance Slowing Your Weight Loss?

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You do everything “right.” Somehow, however, those stubborn extra pounds won’t leave. And worse, they seem to have shifted to your midsection. What happened to your shape?

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.

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 signals your body to absorb glucose (sugar) from your bloodstream and turn it into fat. The insulin also shuts down metabolic burning, which is why it is called “the fat storing” hormone.

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.

But, if things start going awry in your body, and there is too much insulin produced, then too much intracellular fat is made, and if the fat is especially pronounced around your abdomen, it signals the cells to become “insulin resistant”.  They decide they have enough fat in them, and refuse to take in more glucose and turn it to more fat. That means that the cells no longer listen to insulin and as they don’t absorb the glucose from the bloodstream, the glucose levels go higher.  Also, it means it is much harder to initiate weight loss, since insulin levels are saying “DON’T BURN” the fat in cells.

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

Insulin resistance can affect other facets of your health in addition to giving you a spare tire.

In fact, 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. It can lower the functioning of your thyroid gland, and imbalance reproductive hormones—women made more testosterone and men make more estrogen, the exact opposite of what a healthy body would do.  

How Do You Know If You’re Insulin Resistant?

Despite its widespread effects, insulin resistance can be difficult to diagnose. In fact, many 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.)
  • Elevated Body Mass Index, Waist to Height Ratio

Common labs draw to check for Insulin Resistance include:

  • Elevated triglycerides and cholesterol
  • Elevated fasting or after eating glucose
  • Elevated fasting or after eating insulin levels
  • Elevated Hemoglobin A1C (three month average measurement of glucose levels)

The Main Risk Reasons For Developing Insulin Resistance

Our bodies need calories for energy. However, consuming more calories than your body can manage, can contribute to insulin resistance.

Other risk factors include:

  • Excess weight, especially abdominal
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Environmental toxins
  • Genetics (Some people who develop insulin resistance don’t have other risk factors. For these people, genetics are thought to be the primary factor.)
  • Lack of exercise
  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Medications, including antidepressants and steroids
  • Certain medical conditions, including:
    • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

    • A history of gestational diabetes

    • Hypertension

How Can you Improve Insulin Resistance Naturally?

The good news is that dietary and 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.

1. Take a close look at your diet.  

If you are struggling with balancing insulin and blood sugar, you should aim to reduce carbohydrates from your diet. That means no sugar, white flour, or sweet drinks, and a reduction overall in grains, noodles, rice and other starches. Try to eliminate or at least limit alcohol as well.  Eating more protein, fats, vegetables and a fruit a day, healthy whole foods, can make a big difference.

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.

3. Get enough sleep.

Even one night of bad sleep can negatively affect your insulin levels.

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. The key is avoid long periods of being extremely sedentary.

In fact, especially for middle-aged women, exercise that is too intense can raise cortisol levels, which in turn, can raise insulin levels, so getting creative with your exercise becomes more important as you get older. 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. Even 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 have to give it up alone. We’re here to help!

6. Supplements

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.

7. Environmental detoxification

Learning how to avoid environmental toxins that are termed obesigens (causing weight gain) or diabetogens (causing insulin resistance and even diabetes) is invaluable.  Dr. Morstein is an expert in this. Also, learn how to engage in simple ways to detoxify your body safely and effectively.

As you can see from the list above, our bodies are very intricate, and when something goes amiss in one area, the effects can be felt in many other areas. This dynamic is particularly true when it comes to middle-aged women and hormones. 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, give us a call! 480-284-8155

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