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The One Thing You Should Never, Ever Do if You Have Insulin Resistance and Want to Lose Weight

The One Thing You Should Never, Ever Do if You Have Insulin Resistance and Want to Lose Weight

An estimated 40% of adults in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 44 have insulin resistance, which is when the body doesn’t respond the way it should to insulin, a hormone the pancreas makes that helps manage blood sugar levels. 

Insulin resistance is often connected to obesity. More than 70% of people with obesity are insulin resistant. That means if you are someone with insulin resistance who is trying to lose weight in a healthy way, you certainly aren’t alone. Losing weight for anyone can be challenging. It often requires changes to the way you’re used to living. Need a place to start? Registered dietitians say there’s one habit anyone with insulin resistance and who wants to lose weight should stop doing ASAP. 

Related: The #1 Food That Helps With Insulin Resistance, According to Registered Dietitians Who Specialize in Diabetes

What Causes Insulin Resistance?

Caroline Thomason, RD, a registered dietitian and diabetes educator based in Washington, D.C., explains that insulin resistance happens when the body produces excessive insulin to keep blood sugar at bay and, in turn, cells become resistant to insulin always being around.

“If you think of insulin as a solicitor always knocking at the door, the cells will stop answering the door if solicitors are constantly there. However, if a solicitor knocks on the door when you’re not busy or only every once in a while, you’re much more likely to open the door. This is how insulin resistance works. The good news is that it is reversible or manageable through lifestyle changes,” she says. 

Kelsey Costa, MS, RDN,
a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant for Diabetes Strong, Inc., adds to this, saying that insulin resistance often appears before the full onset of diabetes, acting as an early warning sign of potential future health complications: “Persistent high levels of insulin can promote weight gain, especially around the abdomen, creating a vicious cycle of increasing weight and insulin resistance that may escalate to various health problems, including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.”

Thomason explains that insulin resistance is often caused by diet and lifestyle factors. “Overeating, specifically foods that require insulin, like carbohydrates, is the main nutrition influence on developing insulin resistance. Excessive carbohydrates and added sugars play a crucial role in developing insulin resistance over time,” she says.

While insulin resistance doesn’t cause weight gain, Thomason explains that weight gain and insulin resistance are a type of feedback loop. “The more weight gained, the more likely we are to become insulin resistant,” she says. 

Related: This Is the One Spice You Should Add To Your Diet if You’re Insulin-Resistant (Or Just Want to Get Healthier in General) 

The One Habit to Avoid if You’re Insulin Resistant and Want to Lose Weight

Since diet and insulin resistance are so intricately linked, it’s unsurprising that what you eat plays a major role in managing it, especially if you want to lose weight in a healthy way. Thomason says that if there’s one habit to avoid if you have insulin resistance and want to lose weight, it’s drinking sugar-sweetened beverages such as sweetened coffee drinks, soda, juice, sweet iced teas and energy drinks. “Cutting back on these beverages is one of the best ways to start improving insulin resistance,” she says.

In addition to nixing sugary drinks from your diet, Costa also recommends avoiding foods high in refined carbohydrates (like pasta and white bread) and saturated fat (like fatty cuts of meat and fried food). Instead, she says to focus on filling your plate with nutrient-rich foods high in nutrients such as fiber, protein and unsaturated fats.

Related: This Diet Is the Most Studied for Reducing Insulin Resistance—and Even Diabetes

Both dietitians say it’s also important to get regular exercise. “Research shows that incorporating dietary changes and regular exercise significantly enhances insulin sensitivity beyond the results of dietary changes alone. This synergistic effect is attributed to the way physical activity stimulates the muscles to use glucose more efficiently, independent of insulin’s action,” Costa explains, emphasizing that sedentary behavior significantly exacerbates insulin resistance due to the crucial role physical activity plays in enhancing the body’s sensitivity to insulin.

Trying to reverse insulin resistance can feel overwhelming, but Thomason emphasizes that anyone diagnosed with insulin resistance has a lot of control over their condition. “With small changes and consistency over time, you will be amazed at how much you can improve your health,” she says. Cutting sugary drinks out of your diet can be the first step you take in managing insulin resistance. Why not start today?

Next up, learn four ways that you can reverse diabetes naturally.

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