Could your missed periods and weight gain be a signal of a larger problem?
Are you struggling to shift that stubborn body fat despite eating well and exercising like a demon? There could be an underlying hormonal reason at play: you may have a clinical condition called insulin resistance, says leading Sydney dietitian, nutritionist and author Susie Burrell.
Insulin resistance (IR) means insulin – the hormone secreted by the pancreas to control blood glucose levels in the body – is no longer working as efficiently as it should. And Susie (pictured) believes it’s an incredibly common condition, estimating up to 20 per cent of adults are walking around with IR.
“Over time, numerous factors including a diet high in processed carbohydrates, relatively inactive lifestyle, and often genetics, insulin becomes less and less efficient at processing the glucose we consume in carbohydrate-based foods such as bread, cereals, fruit and sugars,” she says.
“When insulin is not working properly, the body is forced to produce more and more to process the same amount of glucose that we consume in food to fuel the muscles and the brain. The unfortunate thing when it comes to weight control is that the higher the amount of insulin that you have circulating in the body, the harder it becomes to burn body fat.
“This means that if you have insulin resistance, you can be eating an extremely healthy diet, exercising as recommended and actually physically unable to lose weight. In fact, as insulin is the central regulator of both glucose and fat metabolism in the body, when it is not working, the basic energy balance equation when it comes to weight loss – calories in vs calories out – simply does not hold true.”
Susie, who specialises in treating people with hormonal disorders, says up to 30-40 per cent of her female clientele present with both polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) – a health condition which affects a woman’s hormone levels, periods, and ovulation – and/or IR. And, left untreated, it can lead to Type 2 diabetes within 10 years.
So, what are the signs and symptoms of IR? Fatigue and sugar cravings are red flags, Susie says, but the most significant giveaway that a degree of insulin resistance may be present is in the way that fat is deposited on our bodies.
“Insulin likes to deposit fat around the abdominal area, which is why women (and men) with severe insulin resistance have a large belly, and the reason that a waist measurement greater than 80cm for a female too may be a sign that insulin resistance is present,” she says.
The dietitian/nutritionist, who recently launched her new program, Shape Me, The 30 Day Plan, says an IR diagnosis requires specific blood testing such as a glucose tolerance test via an experienced GP and/or endocrinologist. In addition, it often requires medication to help lower insulin levels and diet and exercise management are crucial.
“Shape Me has developed a specific dietary model which allows individuals with IR to get the right mix of carbs, proteins and good fats to allow them to lose weight,” she says. “Shape Me is the first online program to offer such specific dietary requirements and users also have ongoing access to me for any other specific questions about their IR.”
So, ladies, if you’re concerned you have IR, get your health checked out, stat. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
What do you think? Could IR be the reason you can’t lose weight?
Images via eatohealth.com, snbbloggingacademy.com, rehabprimalway.com