Insulin Resistance: The calm before the storm
A few years ago, I got the shock of my life. I was informed that I was on my way to becoming a Type 2 diabetic. I had visions of going blind, having my feet amputated, being paralysed by a stroke or dying of a heart attack. How could this be happening to me. I ate healthily and exercised regularly. I knew I was “heavy”, but flip, I could still fit (albeit snuggly) into an aeroplane seat . Although accessing the on-board entertainment system on the inside of the armrest was always a bit tricky!
That news was a defining moment for me. That is how my interest and education in nutrition all began – with me. This journey changed my life forever. Fortunately for me I received the early warning signal before the storm hit. I was given the opportunity to rewrite my future. I am not going to develop Type 2 diabetes. I felt compelled to share my story in the hope that it might help others avoid this devastating disease too.
Before you say, “Oh well this doesn’t apply to me, I am not overweight”, please keep reading because even slim people can get Type 2 diabetes.
What is insulin resistance?
Insulin is a hormone which helps your body to remove and use glucose from the blood. Insulin “knocks on the doors” of muscle and fat cells. The cells hear the knock, open up, and let glucose in to be used. With insulin resistance, the muscles stop being able to hear the knock. Blood glucose levels then begin to rise abnormally, which then ultimately leads to type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance is often described as pre-diabetes. I like to call it the “calm before the storm”.
Signs that you may be insulin resistant are:
- Weight gain usually distributed around the stomach
- Difficulty losing weight
- Tiredness (especially in the afternoon or after a meal containing carbohydrates)
- Irritability and mood swings
- Constant hunger
- Difficulty concentrating (brain fog)
- High blood pressure
- High blood sugar and insulin
- Skin tags
- Sugar and stimulant cravings such as chocolate, sweets, coffee and cigarettes.
As a first step, you can do this basic online questionnaire to help you determine whether you might be insulin resistant.
If you suspect you may have a problem, then go have blood tests done so as to be completely sure of your health status. Information is power. You can’t fix what you don’t know is broken. Work through a reputable nutritionist or doctor who can accurately interpret the results for you.
So, how did I reverse my insulin resistance?
After much research, I decided to adopt a very low-carb diet. I cut out all grains, starchy vegetables and most fruits except berries. Since ALL carbs convert to sugar in your body, it just made sense to me that by limiting the carbohydrates in my diet, I could reduce my blood sugar levels.
My GP had recommended a medication called Glucophage. But since I have never been a keen pill popper I respectfully told him that I was going to try to manage it with diet. I didn’t believe in just managing symptoms, I wanted to fix the root cause of the problem. I was good about sticking to a low-carb eating plan. Compared to previous low-fat and low-calorie diets that I suffered through in the past, low-carb eating was easy and I never felt hungry.
Fast forward a year and I anxiously awaited the results of a new set of blood tests. Now here comes the really good part of the story – my GP phoned me and said:
Nicky, “Whatever you have been doing, keep doing it because your blood sugar and
insulin levels are completely normal“.
What a victorious moment for me. Not only had I reversed my insulin resistance, but all my other blood markers had improved as well. I had way more energy, I was 10 kilograms lighter and my sugar cravings had gone. Food didn’t control me anymore.
Now next time I fly I am hoping to see lots of space between my thighs and the armrests (although I am convinced that folk at Boeing love messing with us by making the seats smaller and smaller.)
There are 366 million people around the world who are suffering from diabetes. This number is predicted to rise to 552 million by 2030. Many of those will include children. The greatest increase in diabetes is expected to be in Africa .
Don’t be counted in that scary statistic. If you have a sneaky suspicion that you might have issues with your blood sugar and insulin levels – do something about it now.