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How to Lower Insulin Naturally: My Weight Loss Journey

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How I lowered my insulin levels and started losing weight

How I lowered my insulin levels and started losing weight

I started looking into the keto diet about a year and a half ago, around August or September last year. I had gained a gross amount of weight during Covid, and had fallen into a dark cycle with regards to my health that I couldn’t seem to get out of.

Now, let me tell you, I have the best man in the world. I met him three years ago while the pandemic was still raging forth, wreaking its havoc on society and causing mass pandemonium and fear. He is supportive of everything I do, and when we first met in person, I was at least ninety pounds over my usual weight. I didn’t realize it because I really didn’t weigh myself, and hadn’t done so for probably about two years, which was part of the issue–I had a fear of scales, and I still do. Regardless, we hit it off, and the rest of the story is history; unfortunately, it was just the beginning of the constellation of health issues I was soon about to face.

When I Realized How Much I Weighed...

Eventually, I had my first doctor’s visit in probably three or four years, and when I stepped on the scale... I was shocked. The noise that filled the ellipses was the sound of my heart falling down through my chest, into my stomach. This couldn’t be happening. The number flashing in front of me couldn’t be real.

To protect my own integrity and maintain a shred of my own self-esteem, I’m not going to write that number here, even for my readers. Those who know me who might happen across this might have some idea, based on pictures they may have seen of me online that year, even if the ones I found the courage to post were few and far between.

Suffice it to say that the number was much, much, much higher than it had ever been, even during the peak periods in my past when I really wasn’t taking care of myself. It was so high that I had a hard time actually believing it. The doctor pulled me over to the scale a second time just to prove it to me.

It shocked me so bad that I stood outside of the clinic and smoked a cigar down to the nub, waiting for Boyd to pick me up, and, when I got into the car after a few minutes of waiting, I was so unnerved by it that I had physical tremors. When he asked what was wrong, I could barely tell him. A voice of conviction in my head prevented it, telling me that he was sure to abandon me if he knew the true number (of course, I failed to realize that he was not dating the number, and that I meant more to him in weight than pounds).

Even though I didn’t reveal the truth to him until later that day, while sitting on his lap, as he wrapped one of his arms around me and the other lingered on my right thigh, gently stroking it, the look on his face was accepting. He shrugged it aside after a while, concluding that much of it had to be muscle... bless him! I looked good to him no matter what.

Just because you are sticking to a healthy lifestyle, it doesn't mean your quality of food has to suffer.

Just because you are sticking to a healthy lifestyle, it doesn't mean your quality of food has to suffer.

Creating a Hypothesis: Things That Affected My Weight

Thus began my journey of hardcore researching and trying to get to the bottom of things. What had caused me to gain such an excess amount of weight was a mystery, but I did have some ideas to go on.

I knew it couldn’t all be chalked up to overeating, although I definitely knew the pandemic and the long, seemingly endless lockdowns from the previous year had stimulated some of that. Upon reviewing everything I had done or not done over the previous two years, several things stood out immediately.

For one, I started to take an antidepressant called Lexapro about three years prior. I had been on a mild to moderate dose for most of that time, but after the pandemic hit, I had practically doubled it. Even though I didn’t have an exact time frame in which I could pinpoint when most of the weight gain happened, I realized I was able to glean a few clues from the stream of endless, almost minute-by-minute Facebook pictures I was famous for.

There were minor changes up until about the time that I left New York in February of 2020, and, as I looked over the photos posted during the few months that followed, the weight gain started to become obvious. This was clearly right around the time when I made the increase, I thought. If you add the higher dosage of the pills for depression, visits to Nashville cigar lounges, drinking my favorite IPAs, and obtaining a frozen pizza to binge off now and then, things start to make more sense for me. Piece by piece, I was able to put together a puzzle, and finally, I had some version of a hypothesis.

Still, I Struggled...

Things were not as simple nor uncomplicated as they would seem from my comments. I had to find a place to start, and despite my strong suspicions about Lexapro and beer, I still did not have the full picture of what had happened. There were several doctor’s visits, dietary measures, calorie and fitness trackers, and medications involved, and for quite some time, I must admit, things were messy.

Talking to Doctors

The doctors seemed to be as much at a loss as I was regarding my weight problem, and I remember counseling with a dietitian at Trinity Hospital, the local hospital in Steubenville, who told me I should be taking in about 2100 calories (RMR, the resting metabolic rate, what you need in order to stay alive according to your weight). She also handed me a packet with guidelines to follow for gut-sensitive people, outlining what’s called a LOW FODMAP diet. FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols, which are short-chain carbohydrates (sugars) that the small intestine cannot easily absorb.

This last was given to me as a suggestion to aid in my efforts to heal my gastrointestinal tract, which, right about that same time, was beginning to go haywire. There were very few foods I could tolerate, and I was experiencing chronic heartburn, bloat, diarrhea, and every unsavory thing that I could probably describe (which I wisely won’t go into) related to the intestinal tract.

The Many Tired Attempts

I didn’t know what was going on, but I started to think that something MAJOR was going on with me that was probably more sinister than obesity. I followed the diet for a few weeks, continuing to take my prescribed medications. I increased the Lexapro as much as I felt I could without experiencing too many unwanted side effects. I tried cutting my calories to about 1500 a day for one week, and wasn’t rewarded with even a pound of weight loss.

For months, no matter what I tried, no matter how many calories I cut or how many different foods I tried to eat or cut out, no matter how often I tried to work out, nothing worked. I had constant heartburn, bloating, and indigestion, there was practically nothing I could handle, and I definitely wasn’t losing any weight. I think the mental anguish I felt from all of the work I was doing, which I felt my body did not recognize by giving me any return, was the worst part.

Eventually, I began to dig deeper into the world of YouTube and thought I would try to discover what resources today’s techno-mega beast had to offer. I came across the keto diet while researching insulin resistance.

What Is Insulin Resistance?

Insulin resistance was a phrase I had heard about but didn’t really understand. When I finally understood that the phrase referred to the inability of the body’s insulin receptors to properly make insulin, and its relationship to carbohydrates, things slowly started to click.

Not long before I started to research the topic, I had confirmed with the gynecologist that I had PCOS, which, according to the keto experts, was a clear indicator of insulin resistance. Knowing I had something, I continued to dig into these videos, making notes and to-do lists for myself, getting a little further into it each day until I finally felt that I had a full understanding of keto, and some idea of how to start it. I rapidly began the process of cutting my carbohydrates down, and in my case, a sliding scale seemed to work better than taking a hard fall.

I knew it was time to take my health under my own control, and, with the evidence written on a stack of notes and provided across multiple videos, from the people who truly seemed to understand these issues, I had enough conviction in this thing to give it a go. If I was ever going to get better, I couldn’t rely on the doctors I was seeing- clearly, they were more useless in this area even than me. At first, it was a slow process, and it was honestly impossible to tell how helpful the diet was to my overall health.

My Approach to Keto

I began the process of getting my feet wet in the ketogenic diet. There was a particular expert, Amy Berger (whom I met, by the way, and is as wonderful and down to earth in real life as she is in her videos), who I felt really exuded practical knowledge; the way that she explained it made it seem both realistic and attainable. Here is a link to her YouTube; I've also included a link to one of her keto videos above.

Finding Resources to Aid My Journey

I began following videos by people like her, Dr. Ekberg, Dr. Berg, Dr. Eric Westman, and other leading experts on the keto issue, as well as podcasts on channels such as Diet Doctor.

I made gradual changes to my diet, cutting back on my carbs a little more each week, taking notes all the while about how I felt physically, changes in mood, and overall wellness.

It was not all stars and fireworks for me like it is for some people who talk about their experience of losing weight and getting healthier, who seem to describe some kind of miraculous, overnight transformation. For days, nothing happened outside of the ordinary, except the difficult adjustment process of losing what was in my usual diet. After a few weeks had passed, I noticed that my hyperglycemia was getting better. That was the first thing to go. Eventually, a little bit later on, the chronic inflammation I was having started to go down. The IBS improved very slightly. There was more to the picture that I had not yet pieced together.

It helps to learn how to make everything yourself. We like to make sure our ingredients are clean.

It helps to learn how to make everything yourself. We like to make sure our ingredients are clean.

I Was Finally Losing Weight

A few months later, I’d managed to get the 20mg Lexapro tablet I was on to 10mg. The first week I made the last cut to the pill was when the weight loss happened. I began to lose anywhere between one and four pounds a week. Some weeks I didn’t lose any, but I kept going, chiseling away at the puzzle.

I was on a couple of different medications to help but wasn’t always consistent with them in light of my naturopathic leanings in this field. I tried metformin, 1000mg (a low dose), and a drug called phentermine, which is solely a weight loss drug. The phentermine probably helped the most, and there were weeks that I lost three or four pounds when I was doing the ketogenic diet with it simultaneously.

I Started Seeing Progress

Little by little, the number on the scale started going down. Keto, regular, weekly stops at the gym three to four times a week, and medication changes (including additions) were all necessary components in the grand total of weight loss for me last year... a WHOPPING fifty pounds! And this was coming from someone who had seemingly tried everything in the book. The tangled mess of poor health was finally starting to unravel...

Not only that, but I also had drastically improved energy levels somewhere along the way. This happened for me sooner than later; in fact, I am one of those rare people who started to regain my energy and strength, and I experienced healthy metabolic levels way before most of the weight came off.

All of my numbers started to go down at the doctor's. Cholesterol, blood pressure, and vitamin D levels dropped, and the best part was that a few months into the diet, I was no longer in a state of prediabetes. My A1C (which is the measurement of your fasting insulin levels over a three-month period) dropped from a 5.8 to a 5.4. Every time I went to the doctor’s, it dropped by a point, which in this context is just fantastic!

Techniques I Used

I feel I should speak to some of the techniques I used to help me stick with the keto diet because it truly can be a headache to try and do a diet like this without proper guidance.

As I said earlier, I would really recommend Amy’s channel because she is very down-to-earth. Dr. Sten Ekberg is another one I truly like (his YouTube is linked here), and his videos tend to be short and informative. He also addresses a line of topics that are relevant to most people. I would allow myself to go paleo for a few weeks (another word for a very low-carb diet) and then switch back to keto for a few more weeks, when I was ready to start losing again.

A Note About Paleo

My paleo diet merely consisted of a piece of gluten-free bread every other day, or maybe a sandwich made with gluten-free bread a couple of times a week. I made a number of healthy low-carb treats, and experimented with multiple recipes when I wanted something a little sweet or different. I was careful not to ever overwhelm myself with going too strict; had I done so, the resulting depression would have been extreme enough to probably prevent me from doing any dieting, period. I knew myself too well to dive headfirst into anything at the ‘deep end.’

I Started Cooking My Own Meals

I learned to cook, and this was a monumental learning curve, because keeping my ingredients clean meant that I definitely had less inflammation overall. It also meant that I could retrain my brain to enjoy eating some of my favorite foods again, or at least maintain similar eating patterns, but in such a way that it would not reinvent those nasty, obnoxious stomach issues.

Regular workouts and sticking to a healthy lifestyle overall have contributed to my progress.

Regular workouts and sticking to a healthy lifestyle overall have contributed to my progress.

Final Reflections

It’s been a long and difficult road for me. I am now well on the path to an overall feeling of wellness and am enjoying all of the benefits that good health and stamina can provide. Making this kind of change is not easy, and in speaking of my situation specifically–I can say there were multiple factors involved.

Yet despite the fact that several parts of the machine had to be put into motion for things to ‘click,’ there are a few basic axioms and pieces involved that will work for all the machinery. A very low-carb or ketogenic diet will reverse insulin resistance in nearly everyone, even those with the most extreme cases of diabetes, no matter the degree or severity of the condition. There are certain medications that will create weight problems for some people, no matter what any doctor tells you or how they try to package it (with all of the frills and laces).

There is NO end-all cure for depression and mental issues. A drug promised to be one’s salvation from pain will not be the portal to Heaven that doesn’t have any obstacles on the road to the gates. There will ALWAYS be side effects. It’s a double-edged sword, but ultimately whether you decide that these types of medications are good for you or not, is a decision that you have to make independent of this piece.

Speaking to the topic here, avoiding certain types of drugs, if at all possible, or cutting back on those which one might suspect could be complicating, or leading to, weight gain, sticking to a low carb lifestyle, and addressing the root cause of any major health issues by trying to heal them with natural methods, can all be noted in the game of weight loss.

The Road Is Rough, But You Can Do It!

It can be a complicated process and web to untangle, but if you are one of those out there who has lost your good health and want to change that and get out of the black hole you’ve dug for yourself–good news! It can be done. You will more likely need to do a bit of research, especially since many people with a lot of weight have further added to the problem by inducing other health complications, but the mess can be unraveled.

My advice is to be patient, learn how to lower your insulin naturally, and cut back on as many medications as you can that might be throwing up any kind of barrier. If you have several issues to address, you are going to have to prioritize a sequence to follow, and handle each of them in turn. Like a chain that gets knotted before you drape it over your neck, you sometimes find yourself in the unhappy position of needing to loosen one section at a time–after a certain point, everything will start to unravel. Such is the way it is with your health.

Good luck with all of it.

I have regained energy and strength after a year and a half of following the protocol I mentioned.

I have regained energy and strength after a year and a half of following the protocol I mentioned.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.