why can’t you lose weight like you used to?
You hear the stories from Aunts or friends who are older about how the weight creeps on in your 40’s. They tell you can’t lose the weight when you’re older. The phenomenon sounds horrible, but also something that you can’t quite identify with. You silently hope it doesn’t happen to you.
Until it does.
This post is for you if the tricks you’ve used before to control your weight just aren’t working so well anymore. Maybe you also feel tired all of the time. You can’t figure it out. You workout like crazy, you’re strong, and you eat well. That’s what I thought, too. I want you to know what happened to me and the new solution that using with to control my weight in my 40’s.
In 2014 I found myself overweight. It went hand in hand with some sudden hormonal imbalances and that was difficult because I was eating healthier than I ever had and working out just the same as always. None the less, I buckled down and was able to lose 17 pounds over the course of 8 months. I committed to the ‘eat less, move more’ philosophy and cut down on my calories even more and upped my workouts to six days a week. I detailed my journey in a series I wrote on the blog called Younger This Year.
Shortly after I lost that 17th pound, my weight plateaued. I now know that this always happens when you cut calories because that signals your body to slow the metabolism in order to preserve fat reserves. But I wasn’t thinking of that at the time because as it happens, several stressful things happened in my life at once. I was super stressed yet I doubled down and joined a boot camp to ensure I would not lose my hard-won progress despite the stress. Incredulously, I watched helplessly as I gained every pound back in a frighteningly short amount of time – just 8 weeks. It was awful and confusing. I stopped trusting my body and myself.
Incredulously, I watched helplessly as I gained every pound back in a frighteningly short amount of time – just 8 weeks. It was awful and confusing. I stopped trusting my body and I blamed myself.
About a year passed and my weight stabilized at that heavier number. I continued to stay active while still searching for answers that make sense about what happened to me. I work out 2/3x a week, do yoga 3 times a week, and walk six days a week. I eat a healthy diet. I haven’t eaten junk or sugar (or the most part) for over 10 years! By October of 2016, I’d had enough and I was ready to try anything to stop feeling stuck, demoralized, and frustrated. I went into Rambo research mode.
the signs of insulin resistance
While researching my symptoms, I identified insulin resistance as an explanation for my inability to lose weight based on these symptoms:
- Feeling hungry all the time. If I wait longer than four hours to eat the hunger feels shaky and urgent.
- Good energy in the morning but by the afternoon I feel lethargic. After an intense workout, I feel drained.
- Periodic fuzzy and scattered thinking. Recall problems. Stumbling over my words at times.
- Craving sweets after a healthy meal.
- Several nights a week of poor sleep. Difficulty falling asleep.
- Weight gain mostly in my midsection.
what is insulin resistance?
Here’s a simplified explanation of this complex system:
- The food you eat is broken down into a simple blood sugar (glucose) that the body uses for its energy needs.
- Glucose needs the hormone insulin. Insulin’s job is to deliver glucose’s energy to your cells.
- If you’re overeating or eating foods that produce more blood sugar than your cells need, you’re going to wind up with a blood chemistry high in both glucose (blood sugar) AND insulin.
- When you have excess glucose/insulin it triggers insulin to convert that excess glucose into fat to store the excess energy for later.
This is why high blood sugar causes insulin to store fat.
But that’s not all.
- Excess insulin also signals your existing fat to resist being used as fuel.
This makes sense because if your body has determined that it already has an excess of readily available blood sugar in the bloodstream to be used for fuel then there is no need to dip into fat reserves.
the primal body
It’s helpful to remember that our bodies have survived over millions of years because of its ability to save excess fuel as fat and then lock it away to be utilized as fuel during times of famine.
So when you eat in a way that causes excess blood sugar/insulin you are signaling your body to not only get fatter but to also lock your fat reserves against being used as fuel.
“About twenty five percent of the population appears to be genetically resistant to the adverse effect of overproduction of insulin and insulin resistance. These individuals usually manage to stay very slim, no matter what they eat. But 75% of the population is not so lucky, especially during perimenopause.”
— The Wisdom of Menopause p. 230
I guess when you think about it that way, those skinny people’s ancestors are really lucky to have survived famine with little fat on their bodies. That’s probably why there’s so few of them in the world. They are an evolutionary anomaly.
Clearly, I’m not one of the lucky ones as far as that goes. I inherited genetic coding from ancestors who were genetically proficient at converting excess blood sugar to fat and then locking it away for future survival needs.
Right now, I’d survive a nice long time on my fat reserves, which would be great if we happened to be hit with a zombie apocalypse because I’d outlive those naturally skinny people for sure. But, fortunately(?), it’s not the zombie apocalypse, so I’ve got to figure this out.
When you have excess insulin in your blood it blocks the hormone leptin from working properly.
This is a big problem because leptin is the hormone that tells your brain that you are full.
Leptin is released from fat cells. It makes sense right? If you have plenty of fat reserves on your body you shouldn’t be overly hungry because your body knows there is plenty of fuel on board.
The problem is that excess insulin blocks the brain from receiving the signal from leptin. The brain never gets the message that you are full.
If you feel like you’re hungry all the time it’s a good signal that you are dealing with chronically elevated insulin levels that are blocking leptin’s ‘I’m full’ message. Elevated insulin will sabotage your efforts to eat less and lose weight because you will be hungry all the time.
the key is to lower insulin
You want to lower insulin in order to allow leptin to deliver its signal to the brain that you are full. When this happens you will genuinely not feel hungry.
That is a beautiful thing.
You want to lower insulin so that you stop storing excess blood sugar as fat.
You want to lower insulin so that your fat cells will open the door to be used as fuel.
You want your body to be able to dine on your own fat.
And not be hungry.
Doesn’t that sound amazing?
how to lower insulin
The good news is that we can regulate insulin by controlling the types and quantity of food that we eat.
- Eat food that minimizes insulin response. Stay away from any kind of concentrated food. Concentrated food is any food that has been processed from its natural form and concentrated for flavor. This includes sugar, alcohol, processed food, and any kind of refined flour. Some people even find that they have to stay away from almond and coconut flour. You guys, don’t skip that part about wine consumption. Regular drinking over time can put your system into metabolic chaos. I’ll post more on this later.
- Eat less often. Since insulin levels go up every time you eat you want to eat less often. This will give your body a chance to experience lower insulin levels. If you are snacking all the time your insulin levels will always be slightly elevated no matter what you eat.
- Eat more fat. Consuming fat does not cause glucose or insulin to rise. So, getting most of your calories from fat will allow you feel full for much longer and allow leptin to work. Eating fat will signal your body to use your own fat for fuel.
- Eat more protein. Protein also helps you feel full for longer and it won’t spike insulin as much as carbohydrates do.
- Strictly limit carbohydrates. Eat carbohydrates in the form of vegetables and fruits that don’t spike insulin levels. Have a look at the glycemic index to determine which ones are best for minimizing insulin response. These are vegetables that tend not to be sweet like dark leafy greens and colorful vegetables. Of all fruits, berries have a minimal impact on blood sugar.
- Don’t overeat. Overeating and managing desire are two really important and related topics. Let’s talk about that in another post, though because I want to keep the focus here strictly on how to get fat-adapted and lower insulin. Stay tuned for more on this. I’ll link here when it’s posted.
does it make sense for you?
I had to really sit myself down and consider if I could actually be becoming insulin resistant.
- I have always had the feeling of being shaky and hangry when I let myself get too hungry.
- After my surgery to extract my wisdom teeth I didn’t eat for a few days and became clinically hypoglycemic – fainting in the shower, and visibly shaking if I went more than an hour without food. It seems I’m predisposed to swings in my blood sugar.
- I’ve always preferred bread and pasta because they make me feel better fast.
- My sudden weight gain that appeared in my mid-section is a definite and obvious sign of insulin resistance.
Now that I know much much certain foods can spike insulin blood sugar, I suspect my ‘healthy eating’ was creating chronically high insulin levels, which has been locking down my ability to lose fat.
More signs – I’m tired, lethargic, and still craving something sweet even after a healthy meal. Also, there is that pesky reality that our body chemistry changes as we get older. What we could once tolerate eating 10 years ago and still maintain or even lose weight can cause different effects now. Yes, that totally sucks, and I have to accept that that is probably what is going on with me.
a new perspective
Armed with this new information, I now see things differently. My body is fighting hard to run on glucose spikes because I’ve been eating in a way that has signaled it to run that way. My body is just an evolutionary machine that is designed to survive in the most efficient way possible.
I’m going to have to override my body’s evolutionary impulses to dine on glucose instead of my own fat. I know that I’m insulin resistant and I’ve got to do something about it.
my plan to get fat adapted
In October of 2016, I listened to my body and decided to try something radically different because this time, I know that my body has different needs. As a result, I’ll be eating to train my body to dine on my own fat for fuel.
I did some research and found that the ketogenic protocol is an effective way to lower insulin levels and eliminate insulin resistance, access fat as fuel, and get leptin working properly again.
When you eat this way your body will switch over its energy-burning machinery to burn fat as fuel. This is a process that takes some time; usually 2-6 weeks.
When the body prefers to fuel itself on your own fat is what’s known as a fat-adapted state. The longer you run in a fat-adapted state the more permanent this mode of operation becomes.
Fat-adaptation happens when your body has adapted its internal machinery to run on your own fat as fuel instead of blood glucose (sugar).
You get Fat Adapted by
- not overeating and
- choosing to eat foods that do not spike insulin levels.
The nutrient intake on a ketogenic diet typically works out to about 70-75% of calories from fat, 20-25% from protein, and 5-10% from carbohydrate on a daily basis when calories are not restricted.
In order to be successful on a ketogenic diet, you need to understand why it works and you’ll also a way to get started that is balanced, emphasized hormone health, and is tailor made for our chemistry as women. I did tons and tons of research and found the answers you need to get started successfully.
I’ve been committed to a ketogenic lifestyle since then and it’s completely changed my life. I’ve been reporting back on the good, the bad, and the ugly. If you’d like to follow along you should follow my daily updates on Instagram and join this community. When you do, you’ll get tools to hack midlife, resources about the low-carb high-fat way of life and the support you need to thrive in mid-life.
comment & share
Do you have experience with insulin resistance, becoming fat-adapted, or eating a ketogenic diet? Comment below! Please share this post with a friend who might be interested.
p.s. Follow my keto journey on Instagram @thriveinmidlife
p.p.s. You know I’m not a doctor, right? Please do not take this as medical advice. See the disclosure.