What’s the Deal with Insulin Resistance?

I post a lot about insulin resistance here on Fefferfit. Most of my recipe ideas and food suggestions cater to it, because my personal weight loss philosophy revolves around it. An estimated 20% of the U.S. population has insulin resistance, but even though I was at risk for most of my life, no one ever warned me or helped me understand what I could do about it (besides take a pill). I had to do all the research myself. I think that kind of sucks. So here, friends, is what I know.

I was diagnosed with Polycycstic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) when I was a slim 14-year-old.

Jen & Mom at 14 | Fefferfit
Yes, this is the best picture I could find of me at age 14. Don’t Mom and I both look great? You’re welcome, world!

Because I have this particular hormone imbalance, I became even more likely to develop insulin resistance. Unlike a lot of people with PCOS, the weight and insulin resistance symptoms didn’t start to show up, for me, until after I put on pregnancy weight. I tried to lose it, and it just would not come off, no matter what I tried (Atkins. Protein smoothies. Mediterranean. South Beach. The worst: some super-low-carb thing where I ate six times a day and wasn’t allowed to have oatmeal. Blech). After a lot of desperation, I finally saw an endocrinologist, who tested my blood sugar. It was routinely at 99–the very cusp of pre-diabetes.

Jen at 200+ pounds | Fefferfit

I had honestly never really heard of insulin resistance. As my doctor explained it, my body was resisting the absorption of insulin, so my body had to produce more of it in order to counterbalance my blood sugar. The extra insulin meant my body was storing things as fat and didn’t want to let go. The best way to fight it was to drop some weight. Obviously, my body was making that a near impossibility, so she had a pill that could help me.

Bummer news: It didn’t help me.

 

How I Lose Weight with IR

So yeah, I could have gone on being frustrated and overweight and untreated, which seemed like my only options, for a while. But and finally, I just came to the conclusion that if my body was fighting high blood sugar, then what I was eating had to be the root of the problem, and possibly the solution. Right around that time, a friend with PCOS told me she was having success with this book, and that was basically the answer to my prayers.

The Insulin Resistance Diet | Fefferfit

I actually really hate the cover of this book, because it’s so marketing-centric with it’s “Fat Making Machine” and the choice of the word “diet.” But diets, to me, are systems of eating that are temporary. Diets have an end date. Diets have specific parameters re: what kinds of foods are “allowed,” and what kinds of meals you’re permitted to prepare. This is not a diet. It’s a guide for balancing any food so you can eat for the rest of your life. 

Basically, this is the insulin resistance bible. The Insulin Resistance Diet explains why it’s necessary to eat protein with carbohydrates and what amounts work best for balance. It also explains which kinds of foods will spike a blood sugar response and how to avoid that so that you can continue to eat from all the food groups in a healthy way. It’s about learning how to pair foods–any foods you want–in a way that won’t make you feel sick or store them as fat.

And, yeah, it’s definitely helped me lose weight! The great thing is that pairing your foods in a balanced way, like this, can actually help slow down insulin resistance on its own, even if you’re not trying to lose weight. When your body’s not fighting hard to produce enough insulin to process a carb-heavy meal, there’s no glucose spike, and your body doesn’t have to work so hard to produce insulin. Slowly, your fasting blood sugars come down, your fat stores start to burn, and you feel better. I’ve seen a change in my cholesterol and triglycerides, as well. You’ll always technically be insulin resistant–if you went back to eating straight refined carbs or whatever, you’d see your numbers start to climb again. You cannot cure insulin resistance. But this way of eating can help you manage it for the rest of your life. 

 

How about you? Do you have IR? What’s working for you? If I can help, I’m here!

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