5 lifestyle changes that help manage insulin resistance

5 lifestyle changes that help manage insulin resistance

5 lifestyle changes that help manage insulin resistance

Here are lifestyle changes you can make to decrease your risk for developing insulin resistance or, once diagnosed, manage it.

Morgan Pavon, MS, RD, LD
Last updated:
November 22, 2022
5 min read
Table of Contents
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You know how your mobile phone can have bad cell reception? Human bodies can, too. Specifically, insulin resistance is when the cells in your body can’t respond properly to insulin. When cells are resistant to insulin, the body isn’t using glucose properly. This leads to a higher circulating blood glucose that may not be high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes, but puts increases the risk of developing it further down the road. An increase in circulating glucose can also lead to weight gain and other cardiometabolic risk factors such as high triglycerides and cholesterol, which can make a weight care journey difficult and frustrating. 

Some risk factors for insulin resistance can’t be treated or avoided—such as age, genetic predisposition, or hormonal imbalances. On the flip side, there are some lifestyle changes you can make to decrease your risk for developing insulin resistance or, once diagnosed, manage it.

1. Eating a well balanced diet

Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains is a good idea for anyone wanting to live a healthier lifestyle. It’s especially important for those watching their blood sugar and managing insulin resistance. Make sure to not completely eliminate foods outside of this category that you like—it’ll help prevent the cycle of restriction and binging (something that’s common when people follow restrictive or extreme diets). Most importantly, be mindful of how often you eat and drink highly processed foods.

2. Know your carbohydrates

Many diets throughout the years have encouraged eliminating sweet, treats and all things carbohydrates. That’s no fun! And it can lead many to think they have to completely cut carbs out in order to be successful in their weight care journeys. Good news: No restrictions necessary! Knowledge is power and it can help you navigate what carbohydrates to choose more often and how they can help you rather than hinder your weight care journey.

a. Fast Carbohydrates

Fast, or simple carbohydrates are fast-acting carbohydrates that raise blood sugar quickly (think fast food). These carbs are found naturally in foods such as milk and fruit but can also be found in processed foods such as candy, table sugar, soft drinks, pastries, many breakfast cereals. Be sure to notice the difference between fruit and candy, however, as fruit provides us with many necessary nutrients and a good amount fiber which is important during a weight care journey. b. Slow Carbohydrates

Slow carbs, also called complex carbohydrates, are absorbed at a slower rate as it takes our body longer to digest, like beans and lentils. This in turn keeps the blood sugar stable and reduces the chance for blood sugar spikes. Examples of complex carbohydrates include most vegetables and unprocessed grains such as oats, whole wheat, and quinoa. 

3. Engaging in regular physical activity

Did you know that exercise alone can improve insulin sensitivity? When you exercise, you are helping your body regulate its blood sugar more efficiently. (Win, win!) In fact, one review found that a single exercise session improves insulin sensitivity for at least 16 hours post exercise. Now think about how beneficial this would be if you made time for daily exercise? Better start walking!

4. Managing stress

While stress does not have a direct impact on the risk for pre-diabetes and insulin resistance, there is newer research on how perceived stress may be another risk factor for insulin resistance. Participating in daily stress management such as deep breathing, prayer, meditation, exercising, journaling, chatting with a friend, walking, and yoga may help. 

5. Getting adequate rest

Sleep disorders such as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and general sleep deprivation are associated with an increased risk of insulin resistance and the development of type 2 Diabetes.  Try aiming for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, even on the weekends, to maintain consistency. Don’t forget to prepare your body for sleep by avoiding television or screen time 30 minutes before hitting the pillow (so, no more binge-watching Netflix).

While insulin resistance can bring up some scary feelings and uneasiness, the good news is there are some actionable steps you can take to reduce your risk. Along with these lifestyle changes and medication (if you are a candidate), Found can help you stay accountable and provide you with the support and ideas you need to feel and be successful.

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Published date:
November 22, 2022
Meet the author
Morgan Pavon, MS, RD, LD
Health writer


  • Borghouts, L. B., & Keizer, H. A. (2000). Exercise and insulin sensitivity: a review. Int J Sports Med., 21(1), 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1055/s-2000-8847
  • Harris, M. L., Oldmeadow, C., Hure, A., Luu, J., Loxton, D., & Attia, J. (2017). Stress increases the risk of type 2 diabetes onset in women: A 12-year longitudinal study using causal modeling. PLOS ONE, 12(2), e0172126. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0172126
  • Insulin Resistance: What It Is, Causes, Symptoms & Treatment. (2021). Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/22206-insulin-resistance
  • Mesarwi, O., Polak, J., Jun, J., & Polotsky, V. Y. (2013). Sleep Disorders and the Development of Insulin Resistance and Obesity. Endocrinology and Metabolism Clinics of North America, 42(3), 617–634. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecl.2013.05.001
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