Don’t feed the Insulin Beast!
Don't Feed the Insulin Beast
Doctor Nadia explains how to tame those cravings
Like many of you, I’m a visual person and use different forms of imagery, analogies and comparisons to help something make sense to a client. I often use the story of “David and Goliath.” This is a Bible story, and although I am not particularly religious, it’s one I think many people know, or at least recognize the analogy. David is the “little guy” and Goliath is the “Giant,” yet David, the underdog, beats Goliath.
Sometimes on your health journey, you feel like David, and Insulin seem to be as huge as Goliath. So, how can you be like David? One thing I always tell my client is: if you want to defeat the insulin beast, don’t feed it! Seems simple and obvious enough, yet for some it isn’t!
Let’s think about when insulin (the hormone released when we eat that controls blood sugar) is at its highest level – also known as hyperinsulinemia (high blood insulin). There are many hyperinsulinemic states that we can recognize. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is one of them. Periods of elevated stress or illness can be as well. Bouts of insomnia can lead to hyperinsulinemia. Shiftwork, unfortunately, seems to raise insulin. After a vacation or big holiday season, you’re likely in a hyperinsulinemic state. The reason for this is simple: your insulin levels are high because you’ve either eaten more often and/or later in the evening, eaten more carbs, or some other physiological state has raised your insulin levels.
What happens when insulin is high? You feel bloated, sometimes feel some pain/inflammation, irritable and you crave more carbs (this is easily recognizable in PMS). It happens when you have a cold, too, and when you don’t sleep well, are stressed etc. When you have a cold, for example, you unknowingly feed that high insulin – that “Goliath.” Some people believe that if you have a cold or sore throat you need tea with honey (all day long), cold/cough syrups and cough drops.
These have immense amounts of sugar or sweeteners, and so will raise your insulin a ton. I’m not here to give you medical advice, but I personally gargle with warm saltwater, use a good saline nose spray, eat good foods, drink lots of water and rest! (Hint, hint!)
When women go through PMS, they have more intense carb cravings (at least some do), and these women will often cave and eat all the things they are able to avoid the rest of the month. Their “willpower” seems weaker. When you’re stressed, or haven’t slept well, you notice the same sort of thing. Every time your insulin is high, you knowingly or unknowingly feed the insulin beast and it gets bigger and bigger, to the point where you feel like “David” and powerless in comparison.
When I start working with people, one of the common questions I hear is: “When I am craving sugar/carbs, what’s a good ‘substitute’? Should I have berries? Low-Carb sweeteners? Nuts and Cheese?” and this is when I tell my clients the above analogy. “When you are craving sugar/carbs, DON’T FEED THE INSULIN BEAST!“
This is probably not the time to eat the berries, nuts, cheese and sweeteners. Now that I have explained why, you might be wondering what to do instead. Well, it is very simple: you either kill or tame the beast. Those are your two choices.
You can kill the insulin beast by fasting. Just don’t eat at all. Insulin will inevitably go down and you will emerge victorious! Personally, I find this hard to do when my insulin is very high. But many find this easier. It might be easier for you not to eat at all than to choose to eat only certain foods. That would be the second option: “tame” the beast by eating only certain foods for a short period of time. We call this “fat fasting“ and there are many resources on this technique. This dietary strategy would help reduce insulin, which would “tame” your insulin beast into a small “pet” that you can easily control. Your cravings will go away in a few days and you will be back to a place where you can decide what you eat and when you eat it!