You Have Been Diagnosed with Insulin Resistance, Now What?

Before I explain how to improve insulin sensitivity without complicating and restrictive diet, let me first explain what is insulin resistance.

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. Its purpose is to carry glucose inside the cell across the cellular membrane for energy production and to sustain life. Insulin resistance occurs when the cells in our body are not responding to the insulin, and glucose can not enter the cells. As a result,  more glucose will be circulating in the blood resulting in the pancreas producing more insulin.

It may be hard to determine insulin resistance with regular blood tests as the blood sugar levels can be within a normal range at the time of the test. The individual could be insulin resistant for years without even knowing it. A person with unmanaged insulin resistance may not have symptoms in the beginning stages until the condition progresses into diabetes.

As insulin resistance progresses following symptoms may occur:

• Fatigue
• Difficulty focusing or brain fog
• Increased hunger
• Fat accumulation around the belly
• High blood pressure
• High blood cholesterol levels
• Difficulty losing weight
• Increased thirst or urination

Common causes and modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors for insulin resistance:

• Obesity, especially around the midsection
• Sedentary lifestyle
• Higher consumption of refined carbohydrates and simple sugars
• Conditions like nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and polycystic ovary syndrome
• Family history of diabetes
• Smoking tobacco
• Age (More likely after 45)
• Hormonal disorders
• Certain medications including steroids, and HIV medications
• Disturbed sleep and sleep problems like sleep apnea

Now that I have explained what causes insulin resistance and the risk factors let’s look at the options to improve insulin sensitivity.

In my clinical experience as a nutritionist, the best way to manage, and in some cases reverse insulin resistance is through diet and lifestyle changes.

You have probably heard about some diets that are hyped up, and in fashion like Keto, Intermittent fasting, Paleo, etc. Maybe you have even tried some of those in the past too. Often those diets are recommended by fitness and health gurus with claims they are the best for health and blood sugar balance. And they do work great, but they all have a couple of downfalls. The major complaint about those diets is that they are restrictive. Also, they can be hard to follow, especially if one has a rich social life.

So, what is the best approach for insulin resistance management?

It’s the one that is easiest to follow, understand and implement. Sounds too simple, doesn’t it?

From my experience as a nutritionist, I like recommending the Mediterranean diet for maintaining good blood sugar levels. It’s not too restrictive and the focus is on consuming lots of fresh food, vegetables, fruits, dairy, legumes, whole grains, healthy fats, fish, and lean meats. Mediterranean diet is also low in processed foods with poor nutritional value, refined carbs and saturated fats. Eating more fresh vegetables will help with fibre intake, which is essential for blood sugar balance. And the major perk is that it’s easy to implement and stick to. Yes, ketogenic diets also work great for managing insulin and blood sugar levels but they are too restrictive, hard to maintain, and can cause nutritional deficiencies. 

Any approach that requires a complete nutritional overhaul of a diet or lifestyle can be too hard to follow, complicated or overwhelming.

Changing only nutrition is not enough for the management of insulin resistance. Regular exercise is a must to help manage blood sugar levels and lower body fat. You don’t need to spend hours in the gym or on a treadmill. 30 min per day of any activity that raises your heart rate and works your muscles will work.

Creating lifestyle changes that can be sustained for life is the best approach to achieving better health and well-being. So my advice is to start slow, take one day at a time, go for a power walk one day, maybe do yoga the next day, do a gym class or hire a PT for the following day etc.


Insulin resistance can be hereditary, or a result of poor lifestyle choices. It can further progress into diabetes if left unmanaged. It’s a condition in which our cells can not uptake glucose to produce energy resulting in increased production of insulin by the pancreas and elevated blood sugar levels. To better manage or reverse insulin resistance and improve insulin sensitivity nutritional and lifestyle changes are necessary.


Mirela Simic, Nutritionist and PT