Discovering My Body’s Secrets: Personalized Insights from My Continuous Glucose Monitor Experience

In our quest for better health, longevity, and weight management, particularly as we step into our 40s and beyond, understanding our body’s unique responses to food and exercise becomes even more paramount. One revolutionary tool that’s changing the game in this respect is the Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM). Designed to provide real-time insights into your blood sugar levels, CGMs are not just for individuals with diabetes—they are invaluable for anyone looking to optimize their health, shed excess weight, and make informed lifestyle choices.

I decided to test my body’s response to different types of food and exercise by using a continuous Glucose Monitor.   There were a few eye opening moments over the few weeks when I was tracking my glucose patterns. Before I share some of my personal insights, let me explain why tracking blood glucose matters.

Why a CGM?

As we age, our metabolic efficiency tends to decline, making it easier to gain weight and harder to lose it. Many of my clients had noticed that their usual efforts to lose weight were no longer effective and often this is attributed to elevated blood glucose and insulin.  Often these changes were not to the point that regular blood glucose tests would pick them up. 

By using a CGM one can see some of the patterns and learn what is contributing to the elevated blood sugar levels and most importantly make the necessary changes so the situation does not become a clinical issue such as the  risk of developing insulin resistance—a precursor to type 2 diabetes and other health issues. This can also help to explain why a person is struggling more with their weight loss or struggling to maintain their weight after losing it.  

A CGM offers a window into how our bodies metabolize the foods we eat, revealing which items spike our blood sugar and, consequently, our insulin levels. Insulin is a key hormone for controlling blood sugar, but its constant elevation can lead to weight gain and insulin resistance.  Increases in insulin block fat cells releasing fat and results in more fat storage.  This is one of the main reasons why intermittent fasting is a key pillar in my weight loss program because of its impact on lowering insulin.  

Insights into Dietary Choices

With a CGM, you might discover that what you considered a “healthy” diet isn’t so for your unique metabolic makeup. For instance, some people experience significant glucose spikes after consuming certain fruits, whole grains, or even dairy products, which they might not have been aware of without a CGM. This real-time feedback allows for dietary adjustments that can lead to better weight management and overall health. By choosing foods that lead to more stable blood glucose levels, you’re not only avoiding unnecessary insulin spikes but also making strides toward longevity and better health.

A few things that I ate such as a peameal bacon roast, plain greek yogurt did result in an unusually large increase in my blood sugar levels and it happened quickly.  This led me to look at the packaging on the bacon only to see that sugar was added to the brine.  Starting my day with a meal where greek yogurt is my source of protein is not a good option for me despite it being considered a healthy choice,  but for others it may not have that impact..

Detecting Patterns of Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance doesn’t happen overnight, and its subtle onset makes it hard to detect without the insights provided by a CGM. Consistent patterns of high blood glucose levels that last for a longer period of time, , especially after meals, can be a red flag of insulin resistance. Similarly, if your glucose levels remain elevated for extended periods or if you observe frequent spikes, it might indicate that your body is struggling with insulin sensitivity.  I experienced this after a brunch that included some baked scones along with eggs, good quality bacon and some berries.  I was not surprised to see the blood sugar increase but I was surprised that my average blood glucose stayed higher than normal for the rest of the day and did not come back down to my usual fasting levels until the next day.  Recognizing these patterns early can lead to significant lifestyle changes and interventions, potentially reversing the course toward better metabolic health.

Exercise: A Critical Component

Incorporating exercise into your routine is crucial, but not all forms of exercise impact glucose levels the same way. Here’s how different types can affect your readings:

  • High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): HIIT can initially raise blood glucose levels due to the stress response it triggers, releasing glucose for quick energy. However, over time, HIIT improves insulin sensitivity and helps lower baseline glucose levels, making it a powerful tool for managing weight and improving metabolic health.
  • Resistance Training: Like HIIT, resistance training can improve muscle mass, which is beneficial for glucose regulation. Muscles consume glucose for energy, so increasing muscle mass can help in lowering blood glucose levels and improving insulin sensitivity. Regular resistance training may result in more stable CGM readings and a healthier metabolic profile.

The only way to know the impact of exercise is to wear a CGM while doing various forms of exercise.  This is my next experiment that I will be conducting on myself.  

The Role of Sleep and Stress on Glucose Levels

Sleep: The Unseen Regulator

Lack of sleep is a silent contributor to elevated glucose levels and insulin resistance. When we cut short our rest, the body’s stress response system gets activated, releasing cortisol, which increases blood sugar. This is something I would often ask clients about when they experienced a temporary plateau in their weight loss pattern.  Inevitably if they had a few nights of poor sleep, their weight loss would stall and they would also notice they were hungrier the next morning.  This is a result of the elevated blood sugar levels in the night despite eating on plan.  A CGM can reveal the effects of poor sleep habits by showing higher morning glucose levels than usual. I saw this first hand for myself which was another interesting result.  For a few nights I woke up around 3 am and was awake for a period of time. I decided to check my blood glucose levels and sure enough it was elevated as though I had eaten some type of high glycemic food.  So either I had been sleep walking and decided to indulge in a snack or this was due to a spike in cortisol.  🙂 Consistently ensuring 7-9 hours of quality sleep can help in maintaining stable glucose readings, underscoring sleep’s role in metabolic health and weight management strategies for those over 40.

Stress: The Silent Spike

Stress, much like lack of sleep, triggers the release of cortisol and adrenaline—hormones that raise blood glucose levels to provide energy for the ‘fight or flight’ response. Chronic stress can lead to persistently elevated glucose levels, visible through CGM data, and may increase the risk of developing insulin resistance. I also saw this while I wore my CGM.  I had a phone call that I had to make one morning that I was feeling a bit anxious about.  I would not have labeled it as feeling very stressed but sure enough as the time approached for this call I could see my blood glucose levels rising and I was in a fasting state when normally my glucose levels would be much lower and stable.  This is why I always check in with my clients to discuss their stress levels because elevated stress and cortisol will absolutely impact weight loss.   Managing stress through mindfulness practices, meditation, or engaging in hobbies can thus directly benefit your CGM readings and, by extension, your overall health.

Practical Steps Forward

For individuals over 40 looking to leverage the benefits of a CGM for weight loss or optimal health, here are some actionable tips:

  • Start Monitoring: Invest in a CGM and begin tracking your blood glucose levels in response to different foods and activities.
  • Identify Triggers: Pinpoint which foods cause undesirable spikes and replace them with those that promote stable blood glucose levels.
  • Diversify Your Exercise Routine: Combine HIIT, resistance training, and steady-state aerobic exercises throughout the week to enhance insulin sensitivity and improve glucose metabolism.
  • Prioritize Sleep: Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night. Use your CGM data to observe how improved sleep patterns can positively affect your glucose levels.
  • Manage Stress: Incorporate stress-reduction techniques such as yoga, meditation, or simply spending time in nature. Observe how lowering stress levels can lead to more stable glucose readings on your CGM.
  • Continuous Learning: Use the data from your CGM to understand how lifestyle choices affect your glucose levels. 
  • Consult Professionals: Work with a healthcare provider familiar with CGMs to interpret your data and make informed and adjust your personalized strategies for diet, exercise, sleep, and stress management accordingly that are the best ones for you. 

Embracing a CGM as part of your health toolkit can transform the way you approach weight loss and health after 40. By providing insights into your unique metabolic responses, it empowers you to make the best choices for your body, leading to a healthier, more vibrant life.  

You do not need to wear the CGM forever but just until you have a better understanding of your body and what diet, exercise and stress strategies work best to manage your insulin and glucose levels.  Once you have this understanding then you will have created a lifestyle that is the best for you so you are on the path to achieving  your optimal health and likely preventing metabolic health issues as your age.