Q- I always look forward to your articles and was wondering if you could help me with anything. I’m trying to lose weight, so I’m currently riding my recumbent cycle and lifting weights at home three days a week by cutting back on snacking and not eating after dinner.
I’ve lost 15 pounds, but feel like I need to change my routine to add more outdoor activities like hiking, golfing, and gardening. I feel better, but I thought I would lose a little more weight. I also wondered what role insulin resistance might play in my situation.
A- First off, 15lbs of fat weight lost is a fantastic result. It’s a big step in moving you in the direction you want to go. To continue to see ongoing progress, however, some strategic planning may be required on your part. Consider what you could do in terms of exercise and what you can do in terms of what (and how) you’re eating.
Whenever someone makes real progress with exercise and then hits a “plateau,” it’s very likely that their body has adapted to the stress placed on it by a new exercise program. When things are new, everything is a “new stimulus” to which the body is forced to adapt. This could be a new weightlifting program, a Pilates class, a boxing workout, or even something like running, trail walking, hiking, or a recumbent bike.
You will feel it in the beginning and experience pain and tiredness. After a short amount of time the adaptation occurs and you’ll be ready for something different. This could mean a change in the way you are doing your activity (heavier weights, less rest, higher intensity, steeper climbs, faster pedaling etc.)… or it could mean entirely new activities.
If you did nothing but adapt the way you exercise on a monthly basis, your body would continually adapt. For the purposes of this article, “fit” refers to building more lean muscle mass, burning fat, and increasing endurance. I’d also suggest keeping your formal exercise separate from your active life; things like golf, gardening, and hiking. Keep those activities in your life as much as possible, but view your exercise as something you do “in addition” to your active lifestyle.
When it comes to insulin resistance, there are several genetic and lifestyle factors that can contribute to the condition. Like all chronic situations, it makes sense to focus on the things you can control and establish routines and strategies that can have the greatest impact on your health while allowing you to live a life you truly enjoy. Using extreme measures to try and “beat” the condition has a very low likelihood of long-term adherence.
Insulin resistance (sometimes referred to as metabolic syndrome) is a complex condition in which your body doesn’t respond to insulin the way it should. This means that your body’s cells can’t use the glucose (sugar) in your blood for energy as they normally would, resulting in higher blood sugar levels and a mutual increase in insulin.
While the body can store some of the excess sugar and insulin in the liver and muscles, there is a limit to how much can be stored, and the rest will start to be stored as fat. In a somewhat chicken or egg situation, excess fat and body weight will further contribute to insulin resistance.
If you think you have insulin resistance, you should see your doctor who will perform a physical exam and may order a blood test while reviewing your family medical history and asking about any symptoms you may be experiencing. Some of the symptoms associated with insulin resistance include increased thirst and/or hunger, cravings for sweets, blurred vision, frequent urination, headaches, and skin infections.
My advice would be to add the outdoor activities that were suggested above as you develop an exercise plan that evolves, changes, and challenges you every few weeks by varying your style and intensity. I would also encourage the use of a food tracking app to get a better idea of what your current eating habits “really” look like and to gather hard data on your macro- and micronutrient intake, as well as to determine your daily calorie intake and, perhaps most importantly, how much sugar you’re eating.
Once a clear picture emerges, a consultation with a nutritionist or dietician could prove extremely helpful in planning meals and/or snacks. Alternatively, the latest Canada Food Guide can provide specific nutritional advice along with meal ideas and recipes to understand which foods have the greatest effect on blood sugar and which ones can help restore stable levels.
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