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Intentionally Bare Blog

Is a Calorie Just a Calorie? Not When You're Insulin-Resistant!

Ever notice that you can eat virtually the same food as a someone else (friend, spouse, co-worker, etc.), only for you to gain weight while that person doesn’t? This is always super unfair, but have you ever wondered why?

This has happened to me my entire adult life. Years ago, a friend and I vowed to lose weight together, ("For real this time!" we said), so we joined a weight loss group. We were pumped! We were ready! We were in it to win it! We ate the same number of calories and the same types of food.

A week later, we went for our pretty public weigh-in (not nearly as fun as it sounds). My friend had lost five pounds! Woo hoo!

But me? I had lost one single pound.

"It’s not fair!" I screamed inside my head while congratulating my friend on her achievement. How on earth could it have happened? I had never cheated (scout's honor)! I measured, I weighed, I counted every single darn calorie!

There are many reasons why two people can eat exactly the same things only for one to lose weight and the other to not (or worse, to gain weight). Age, metabolism, and food sensitivities all play a part.

I did not know then what I know now: I am insulin resistant. Being insulin resistant changes how you metabolize carbs--big time. When someone is insulin resistant, their body is unable to absorb the glucose in the blood. Throughout the day, the glucose levels continue to rise, even when you've stopped eating. You can't burn fat while you're producing glucose, so even when you are restricting your calories (but not carbs), the fat burning sign never gets turned on.

I was insulin-resistant, but still eating a "normal" amount of carbs. This caused my body to create a ton of insulin to counteract the carbohydrate intake, which caused me to develop Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), resulting in a vicious circle of hormone imbalance and weight gain. It wasn’t until I adopted the Keto diet that I realized how much eating a high-carb diet affected my hormones. Too many carbs can lead to hormone problems, weight gain (especially in insulin-resistant people) and insulin-related health issues like diabetes.

It doesn’t matter how few calories I eat: if those calories come mostly from carbs, I will never lose weight and my health will be horrible. The same goes with eating more calories: some days I'd be WAY over my calories (admittedly I do mostly lazy Keto, but sometimes for kicks and giggles I will track for a few days to make sure my macro ratios are in check), but because I was eating 70 percent fat (along with low carbs and moderate protein), I do not gain weight. My body is fat-adapted and burning fat efficiently, the way my insulin-resistant body craves.

As soon as I veer from that, BOOM! Weight gain.

True story: My husband and I went on an all-inclusive vacation with our best friends to Cancun. For fun, we each weighed ourselves before we left so we would know how much we gained on the trip (hey, we were going to a five-star, all-inclusive resort... gotta enjoy that)!

On the trip, I tried to be as Keto-friendly as possible. For the first four days, I would say I was almost 100 percent Keto; days five thru seven were pretty good; but by day eight, I started having an occasional dessert or piece of fruit. I only drank water, coffee (with powdered MCT Oil [US | Canada]), and water with vodka and lime if I was having an evening cocktail. Compared to my traveling companions, I was killing it in the healthy eating department! They enjoyed a lot of soda pop, sugary cocktails (like piña coladas), so many desserts, and just a whole lot of carbs.

We get home and each of us weighs in. Guess who gained the most weight? That's right: me. This is so ridiculously unfair, but proves my point. Because I am insulin- resistant and they are not, I was not able to handle even small amounts of carbohydrates (also, I was not eating enough fat to be in fat-burning mode). There are ways to help your body perform optimally while you struggle with insulin resistance. You can learn more about those here.

So don’t worry so much about calories. Instead, focus on what you are doing or not doing to raise your blood sugar levels. That is really the most important thing when it comes to good health and weight loss too.

Want to check in on my weight loss journey? I would love to meet you over in my Facebook group!

You got this!
Leta ~ Intentionally Bare

DISCLAIMER: The information in this blog is for educational and informational purposes only. The content in here is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or heard here.