I’ve had my own issues with hormones. I was eating right, exercising regularly, but no matter what, I couldn’t lose weight. I was even gaining weight and looking puffier.
I was doing everything right, but something just wasn’t clicking with my body. The weight just stayed put.
So, I started doing research on my own. A lot of it.
I focused on learning more about leptin (the “starvation hormone”) and insulin and what happens when your body becomes resistant to them.
I needed to discover what could cause my body to stop losing weight when I was working my butt off to lose it. What I discovered completely changed my approach to weight loss. And I now realise just how important hormones are in maintaining and healthy body and a healthy weight.
Here’s what I learned about insulin resistance and weight gain, how it can affect your body, and what you can do to reverse it.
What Is Insulin Resistance, Anyway?
Before we dive into what insulin resistance is, you first need to understand what insulin does.
Insulin is a hormone responsible for regulating your body’s blood sugar levels. Insulin moves sugar into your fat cells to protect your body from high blood sugar levels.
Insulin is a hormone that is produced in your pancreas. The pancreas releases insulin every time you eat. But, insulin secretion is the highest when you eat food that is full of sugar.
If you’re constantly eating a high amount of sugar, insulin levels will remain high, and your body will eventually become resistant to insulin.
Your body stops responding to insulin and your body cannot burn fat for fuel. Instead, it causes you to store more and more fat, causing you to gain weight.
Signs and Symptoms of Insulin Resistance
Everyone’s body is different and the way excess insulin impacts you may be different to how it affects your friends.
However, there are some common signs and symptoms that suggest you might have an insulin resistance problem.
You Can’t Lose Weight
The most obvious and common sign that you have insulin resistance is the inability to lose weight. No matter what you try, you can’t seem to shake those extra pounds. And the weight will mostly be concentrated around your belly.
If a healthy diet and regular exercise routine is not doing the trick, it’s best to see your doctor or naturopath. They’ll be able to test your insulin levels to see if this is the problem. They’ll also be able to see if you’re leptin resistance – the two often go hand in hand.
High Blood Pressure
When you’re healthy and everything is working right, your blood pressure should be around 120/80. This means your heart is delivering the right amount of pressure to your blood vessels.
If your blood pressure is higher than 120, it means those blood vessels are under a lot of pressure. They’re not built for this and high blood pressure can lead to an increased risk of heart attacks and even stroke.
Insulin resistance creates a sodium imbalance in your bloodstream. This leads to an increase in the volume of blood rushing through your veins. The larger the blood volume is, the more pressure gets put on your blood vessels.
Have your blood pressure checked and if it’s higher than normal, ask your doctor to check your insulin levels.
Other symptoms to watch out for include:
- Sugar cravings
- Feeling sluggish
- Dizziness when fasting or when you go too long without food
- Feeling irritable when you are hungry
High Triglycerides and Cholesterol
Triglycerides are the fats that get stored in your body, to use for energy—eventually. When they’re high, it means that your bloodstream is storing too much fat instead of burning it for fuel.
In most people, this results in both weight gain and higher cholesterol. When your insulin levels aren’t breaking down blood sugar and fats in the bloodstream, they start to build up.
This results in high cholesterol levels and needs to be taken care of as soon as possible. Why? Because high cholesterol and high triglycerides increase your risk of heart disease and heart attacks.
Relationship between Insulin Resistance and Weight
Which comes first, weight gain or insulin resistance?
If you lead an unhealthy lifestyle (eat too much sugary food, don’t exercise, don’t manage your stress properly), your fat levels will increase. Then the fat that your body stores, especially around your abdomen, can trigger insulin resistance.
How so? Well, abdominal fat releases a considerable amount of chemicals called adipokines. And, apparently, those chemicals counter the effect that insulin is supposed to have on your body.
So, your weight gain can cause insulin resistance and then that insulin resistance causes more weight gain.
Insulin resistance is still actively being studied by doctors around the world. While they haven’t definitively decided, they believe many factors can trigger insulin resistance.
Eating an Unhealthy Diet
Processed foods like white bread, candies, and soda may taste great, but they can do a number on your health.
Not only are they high in calories, but they’re also jam-packed with sugar. The more sugar you eat, the more insulin your pancreas has to dish out.
If you continue to eat those foods, your body will start to build up a tolerance to the insulin.
Already Being Overweight
Having a few extra pounds to lose is quite normal. But if you have more than 15 pounds to lose, your bloodstream likely already has higher-than-normal triglyceride levels or excess fat in the blood. This contributes to weight problems.
When you’re already dealing with excess fat, your body has to produce more insulin. Over time, you could end up developing insulin resistance.
I know…exercising might not be your favourite thing in the world. But regular exercise helps your body burn those stored fats and sugars for energy.
If you don’t exercise, you won’t have that extra push to get your body to plough through those reserves. This means the sugar collects in your blood and your pancreas will end up producing more insulin to break the sugars down.
Keeping active is important for so many reasons. You don’t need to do a super intense 1-hour workout every day. Any type of exercise is great – just get moving!
Unfortunately, most people experience high levels of stress every day, especially with our busy lifestyles. Stress triggers the production of cortisol, otherwise known as the stress hormone.
Cortisol causes blood sugar levels to increase anytime it builds up in your system. Your pancreas then starts working overtime to get your blood sugar levels back in check. If you live a high-stress lifestyle, insulin will be produced every time you eat AND whenever you’re stressed.
How to Treat Insulin Resistance
Luckily, insulin resistance can be treated. It just takes a bit of commitment and determination.
See Your Doctor
Insulin resistance is something your doctor can check for with a blood test. You’ll need to make sure they test you for – fasting insulin levels, fasting blood sugar and Hemoglobin A1c.
This can help you determine if your stubborn weight gain is related to insulin resistance or could be caused by something else entirely.
I recommend finding an Integrative Doctor that specialises in Insulin Resistance and hormones.
Focus on Your Diet
Instead of reaching for low-quality processed foods, choose foods rich in nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Lean proteins like chicken and fish and plenty of fruits and vegetables can help your body stabilize blood sugar. And be sure to reduce sugar and white carbs as much as possible!
If you’re not sure where to start, check out these delicious recipes.
Intermittent fasting is one of the best ways to reverse insulin resistance. The longer you go without food, the lower your insulin levels fall.
Going for long periods without food also gives your body a chance to use up the stored glucose (carbs) for energy and then it has no choice but to start burning stored fat. Being able to burn stored fat will give your body a chance to start becoming sensitive to insulin again.
Fasting for 12 hours and eating for 8 hours is a great place to start! Also, try to eat 2-3 meals and cut out snacking.
As I mentioned before, exercise helps your body start burning through your reserves for energy. This helps not just with weight loss but also helps manage your blood sugar levels.
When your body starts burning through those stored sugars, it keeps them from building up in your bloodstream. The less sugar in your blood, the less insulin needed to help your body get the energy it needs.
Addressing any nutrient deficiencies will help your body function better. So get a blood test and take supplements for the vitamins and minerals that you are deficient in.
Other supplements that help reduce insulin resistance include
- Alpha lipoic acid, and
- Green tea
Getting rid of stress is one of the best things you can do for yourself, but it also helps reverse insulin resistance.
Try to have some time in the day for yourself, and try to reduce that feeling of always being in a rush!
Run through a few simple yoga routines, start meditating, or even take a walk to clear your mind. Anything that helps you relax is a great thing to incorporate into your daily routine.
Remember, hormone imbalances can impact your life in more ways than you might think. If you ever feel like you’re struggling with a possible medical problem, see your doctor as soon as possible.
The sooner you can figure out if insulin resistance is the reason you’re not losing weight, the sooner you’ll start to see things change.
Hope you found this blog post helpful!
Love Rachael Xx