Feeling sluggish? Having trouble concentrating? Always irritable? ALWAYS HUNGRY??? To a struggling dieter, these feelings might seem quite ordinary, but for a person carrying around more weight than they should, they could also be signs of something more serious. These feelings could be caused by spikes and plunges in your blood sugar, which could be warning signs for various types of illnesses associated with Diabetes. For someone trying to lose weight, uncontrolled blood sugar can be a serious road block. High blood sugar makes it harder to shed pounds because it prompts the body to store fat.
Diabetes is on the rise in the United States, and particularly in the African-American and Latino populations. According to the Center for Disease Control, there are approximately 24 million Americans currently living with some form of Diabetes, with Type 2 Diabetes being the most prevalent. While genetics does play a role in determining one’s likelihood of developing this disease, it is not the only predictor. Studies have shown that overweight people with excess belly fat (a waist circumference of 35 inches or more for women, 40 inches or more for men) are at a much higher risk for developing Diabetes, as well as a myriad of other health problems.
For many Diabetics, an early warning sign that often goes undiagnosed is a condition called Insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a pre-diabetic condition that can sometimes be reversed before it progresses into something more serious. Depending on the levels of glucose found in a person’s blood, a doctor might prescribe oral medications to help control the level of insulin production, but in many cases, diet and exercise are the most effective ways to correct the issue before it becomes more serious.
So what is Insulin Resistance and how does it work? When a person is discovered to be Insulin resistant, it means that the Insulin produced by their body isn’t being properly used by their muscle, liver and fat cells. Normally, when you eat, your body converts the sugars in your food into glucose. Your pancreas then produce Insulin, which is a hormone that helps guide the glucose out of the bloodstream and into the body’s cells, where it is used as fuel and converted to energy.
Well, that is how it is supposed to work. With Insulin resistance, however, the glucose taken from food isn’t sent into the bloodstream properly, so it never gets converted into energy for the body to use. The glucose begins to build up in the blood, but the cells still aren’t getting the fuel they need to function properly. Because the body’s cells are lacking the energy needed to carry on basic life functions, it signals the pancreas to secrete more Insulin to try and force the glucose into the cells. The presence of all that extra Insulin in the body brings more of the fatty acids out of food, which ends up getting stored in fat cells, causing weight gain. Trying to shed those pounds later on becomes more difficult as this cycle continues.
Eventually, the pancreas can’t keep up the high level of insulin production, and begin to slow down. When this happens, blood sugar rises to dangerous and uncontrollable levels, and that is usually when Type 2 Diabetes in diagnosed. And, as if all that wasn’t bad enough, a 2008 medical study found that overweight, Insulin resistant women are 50% more likely to be diagnosed with advance stage breast cancer.
Diabetes runs in my family, and I found out I was Insulin resistant a few years ago. I have been taking an oral medication called Glucophage since I was diagnosed. For a long time, I didn’t really take it seriously, and was very nonchalant about taking my medicine, or doing the right thing as far as dieting and exercise were concerned. As I have gotten older, I have seen how Diabetes can ravage and destroy the body, and am finally trying to educate myself and get a better handle on how to undo the damage I have already done, before it is too late.
My battle with my blood sugar is definitely a key factor in why I am finding it so hard to move past the current plateau I have hit in my dieting efforts. I have begun instituting small changes in my diet to try and control some of those spikes and plunges that often lead to me overeating or succumbing to cravings that sabotage my weight loss efforts. I’m hoping that in time, I will be able to stop using the medication and control my blood sugar levels on my own - before I become one of the 24 million Americans living with this disease.