Troubleshooting [DDF FAQ Part 8]

This section of the DDF FAQs addresses the questions that often arise around troubleshooting the journey towards optimised weight and metabolic health guided when you are using your blood sugar as a fuel gauge. 

8.1  Does insulin resistance make it harder for me to lose weight?

There is a common misconception that being insulin resistant or having Type 2 Diabetes makes it harder to lose weight.  However, the opposite is true.  We become insulin resistant because we are obese, not obese because we are insulin resistant.   This distinction is critical. 

People who can gain a massive amount of weight are often highly insulin-sensitive, with normal blood glucose, even with much higher body fat levels,  before they develop diabetes.  Lean people are typically much more insulin sensitive, meaning that they can quickly gain weight (both muscle and fat) when they eat.  Weight loss generally slows as someone becomes leaner, and hunger increases to prevent starvation. 

It takes a massive amount of discipline and self-restraint for bodybuilders to diet down for a bodybuilding show, and many of them regain it extremely quickly afterwards due to a massive upregulation of appetite.

As a general rule, someone who is obese is more likely to be insulin resistant and have elevated blood glucose, with excess energy overflowing into their bloodstream.  It’s hard for them to gain more body fat because their adipose tissue is already full. 

However, once they drain the excess energy from their bloodstream, they will be able to lose body fat.  It’s more than likely that their pancreas is struggling to continue to produce enough insulin to keep their excess energy in storage.  As they lose body fat, their insulin levels will reduce, and they will become more sensitive to the effects of insulin.  

8.2  Would Data-Driven Fasting be appropriate if I’m active? 

One of the biggest challenges for active people is getting enough fuel to recover and grow without eating so much that they add excess body fat.  Our hunger and energy requirements vary from day to day based on the amount and type of activity we do. 

Intermittent fasting can be a valuable tool for active people to manage their body composition, and we have seen many people who are already lean get have great results with Data-Driven Fasting to reach their goals.  Data-Driven Fasting is not just for people who are overweight or who have Type 2 Diabetes.  We have seen the process be incredibly effective for people at either extreme of the spectrum of age or metabolic health.

It’s valuable to refuel if your blood glucose is low so you don’t get too hungry and will be more susceptible to binge later.  However, given that your blood glucose is closely tied to body fat levels, using your blood glucose as a fuel gauge also enables you to curb your appetite rather than feeling entitled to eat unlimited amounts of energy that will leave you gaining fat despite all your hard work.

When you are active, your body will crave more energy for recovery and build muscle.  Your blood glucose will be affected for a while after intense exercise.  After a heavy workout, your muscles can become more inflamed and demand more glucose to help with the recovery process, so don’t be too concerned if you see elevated blood glucose after a heavy workout.  Your Personalised Trigger will adapt to your routine, including exercise, which can raise your blood glucose levels.  However, if your blood glucose is trending up rather than down when you’re well-rested and recovered, it’s a sign you are over-fuelling.  

8.3  Can I reset my trigger?

During Hunger Training, Your Personalised Trigger will progressively ratchet down (not up). 

If you have a party or a big weekend where you overeat, you will likely need to fast longer or more often to catch up and reach Your Personalised Trigger.  But Before long, you will learn to think twice before overfilling your fuel tank again. 

Similarly, if you try too hard and wait longer than your need to, you may find it is hard to keep up with Your Personalised Trigger later on.  So, don’t try too hard to ‘be good’ by waiting longer than you need to eat in the first few weeks of Hunger Training. 

Rather than pushing through hunger, you should eat when you are hungry and below Your Personalised Trigger.  Learning to recognise (rather than ignore) your true hunger signals is a crucial goal of Data-Driven Fasting.  

The Data-Driven Fasting 30-Day Challenge schedule has been structured to allow people to take a few weeks off Hunger Training between each challenge to practice maintaining their weight.  Learning to eat normally and maintain your weight is an important phase in your weight loss journey.  The Maintenance Phase will allow you to track less frequently.  The DDF app will give you a higher premeal trigger that you can use if you want to check whether you need to refuel. 

At the end of each Data-Driven Fasting 30-Day Challenge, you can switch to Maintenance Mode and then restart baselining at the start of each challenge to find your new baseline.     

8.4  What if my waking blood glucose is not dropping?

Your waking blood glucose is a key marker of metabolic health and an indication of whether you are holding excess energy in storage. 

We have found that, especially during the baselining phase, before you start losing weight, lower pre-meal blood glucose is highly correlated with lower waking blood glucose. 

If you are achieving a negative energy balance, draining your excess glucose stores from your bloodstream and losing body fat, you should also see your waking blood glucose trending down. 

However, there are several reasons that your waking glucose may not be dropping, even if you are doing everything else right. 

Scenario 1 – Eating too late

We can push our last meal back so late using Hunger Training that we end up overly hungry late at night.  It should not be surprising that your waking blood glucose is still elevated if you are still digesting the meal from the night before.  While many people find it easier to eat later in the day, you should work to personalise your fasting approach to suit your lifestyle and preferences. 

Plenty of studies (such as this one) show that people who eat more later in the day tend to have worse metabolic outcomes.  So, while it’s useful to make sure you wait until your blood glucose decrease to below baseline before eating, the best way to manage this may be to finish eating earlier and perhaps have a nutrient and protein-focused meal earlier in the day regardless of your blood glucose.  You can then treat your other meals as discretionary based on your blood glucose. 

Scenario 2 – Stress and poor sleep

Stress and poor sleep will have an impact on your waking blood glucose.  High stress levels can also lead to comfort eating.  Higher waking blood glucose may be an indication that you need to focus on managing your stress levels. 

Scenario 3 – Low protein percentage 

People who have body fat to lose but eat a lower protein percentage may see a minimal variation in their blood glucose after meals.  However, their body is still able to release plenty of stored energy into their bloodstream overnight, which means their blood glucose is still elevated in the morning. 

Prioritising a higher protein percentage (i.e. by reducing dietary fat and carbs) will provide greater satiety which will help with fat loss and, in time, lower waking blood glucose. 

Scenario 4 – Your weight is in freefall!

As you wait for your pre-meal blood glucose to drop below Your Personal Trigger, your insulin levels will plummet to allow your stored energy to flow into your bloodstream (i.e. as glucose, ketones and free fatty acids).  This is a good thing if you have fat to lose.  You are using up our stored energy and have plenty of fuel in the bloodstream even though you are eating less. 

So, if your waking blood glucose is higher but your premeal blood glucose, weight, waist and body fat are all heading down, you just need to be patient. 

Insulin levels tend to drop, and ketones rise over the first couple of weeks of weight loss and but stabilise and find a new normal from there. 

If all your other markers (e.g. waist, weight, body fat, etc.) are moving in the right direction, then you should expect to see lower waking glucose once your weight stabilises and your body has less energy to hold in storage. 

If everything else is moving in the right direction, we recommend you stop testing your waking blood glucose and just focus on premeal blood glucose until you transition to maintenance.

8.5  What if my blood glucose doesn’t drop below my trigger for the whole day? 

As you start to make progress and burn through the excess glucose stored in your liver and your muscle, your body will start to find a new normal.  Once you have lost your initial water weight (stored with the higher glucose levels in your body), the initial progress may slow.  Some days you may not see your blood glucose fall below Your Personalised Trigger, and wonder if you’re allowed to eat at all today? 

This is where you can fall back to your Main Meal and Discretionary Meals.  If your blood glucose is above Your Personalised Trigger, but you are still hungry, you can choose to eat one less meal than usual today. 

  • If you usually have three meals, you can choose to have two. 
  • If you usually have two meals, you can drop back to only Your Main Meal. 
  • We don’t recommend you try to skip full days of eating as you may risk becoming overly hungry and binging on less optimal foods when you refeed.

If your blood glucose is slightly above Your Current Trigger, the DDF app will guide you, if you are hungry and choose to eat, to focus on nutrient-dense, higher protein percentage foods (with less energy from carbs and fat).  You should continue to see your body weight, body fat, and waist measurements continue to trend down as you do this.  In time your waking glucose (which can vary due to a range of other factors) should catch up.

8.6  Should I fast when I’m sick?

Sickness, infection and inflammation can affect your blood glucose.  You may need more food for recovery, or you may lose your appetite while your body takes some downtime to heal while you are unwell. 

When you’re sick, you can take a break from testing your blood glucose and follow your regular eating routine or just listen to your healthy appetite signals and eat when hungry.  You can always pick back up where you left off with Data-Driven Fasting once you recover. 

8.7  Is my blood glucose meter really accurate?

Some people take multiple tests and find that they are slightly different and wonder how accurate their meter is.  Others take multiple tests with multiple meters and get confused when they get different readings. 

If the number you see on your meter isn’t what you expected, there’s no harm in taking another measurement, particularly if you didn’t get enough blood initially and had to add more to get a result.  But keep in mind that no measurement is perfectly accurate.  We recommend that you don’t continue to take multiple measurements and second guess the numbers – this leads to counterproductive stress.

While there will always be variability with any measurement, you can still use the data to force the trend in the direction you want.   If you feel particularly hungry, you are free to override the blood glucose trigger.  But make sure you record the value that you see on your meter, even when it’s above your trigger.  If you only record the ‘good’ values, your trigger will continue to drop, and you will never catch it. 

8.8  How will fasting affect my sleep?

Many people find their sleep improves when their blood glucose starts to stabilise.  

Not eating too much or too late enables your body to rest, repair and recover rather than working all night to store all the food you ate just before you head off to bed. 

Getting adequate protein is critical to provide the amino acids that form the precursors to melatonin which promotes healthy sleep cycles (e.g. tyrosine, tryptophan, etc.).

However, as you get leaner at the other end of the spectrum, your sleep may also become worse.  Your body sees starvation as a threat to survival and releases cortisol and ketones to keep you alert so you can go out to hunt rather than lay down and starve.

Most people who have dieted down to very lean levels find their sleep deteriorates.  Not sleeping well is not sustainable, and your cravings for energy-dense food will increase as your body does whatever it can to get to a more comfortable body fat level.

If you find you are not sleeping well, it might be wise to back off for a little while and be more gracious with yourself.  Try switching to Maintenance Mode until you feel OK.  You can always come back to Hunger Training when you are ready.

While we may have dreams of being super lean and looking like fitness models, it’s difficult to achieve and even harder to sustain.  So, if you are approaching healthy blood glucose levels, BMI, body fat or waist to height and your sleep is in the toilet, it might be a sign that it’s time to practice maintenance for a few weeks or months.

8.9  What if my waking blood glucose isn’t dropping?

While we find most people see their waking blood glucose drop over time, they don’t always fall in line, and sometimes they increase despite weight loss, reduction in waist measurements and a falling Personalised Trigger. 

As your insulin levels start to drop and your weight is in free fall, your liver releases more stored energy into your system for use as fuel.  This is a good thing.  You don’t need to be concerned about rising waking glucose if all the other metrics are moving in the right direction.  

One method of testing insulin resistance is the HOMA-IR which is a function of your fasting glucose and fasting insulin levels.  If both your glucose and your insulin is high, you’re in trouble.  But if your waking glucose is moderate and your insulin is low, then you’re fine.  Best of all, if your fasting glucose and insulin are low, then you are definitely insulin sensitive and very metabolically healthy.  

8.10  Why am I gaining weight when I eat more protein?

Some people are perplexed when they see the weight on the scale increase when they start eating more protein.  But if they look at the trend in their body fat or waist, it is decreasing.  

If you currently don’t eat a significant amount of protein (e.g. on a high fat keto diet or some form of extended fasting), your body may be starving for adequate protein.  When you give it more protein, your appetite may temporarily increase for these high protein foods as your body uses it to rebuild your muscles and organs. 

While this may result in a temporary increase in scale weight, you can rest assured that your body finds it very hard to convert protein to body fat.  Before long, once your body has obtained enough protein, your appetite will settle down, and you can get on with losing body fat.

8.11  Is my thyroid stopping me from losing weight?  

Many people who have excess stored fat and have metabolic syndrome have some level of thyroid dysfunction.  However, similar to insulin, this is often a result of obesity rather than the cause. 

If you are taking medication for your thyroid, you should continue to have your thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) monitored by your health care team and adjust your medications as required. 

Your thyroid is a central governor of your metabolism.  Like insulin, your pituitary gland will ramp up its thyroid-stimulating hormone production to rev up your metabolic rate if you have more energy to burn off.  As you lose weight and reduce your blood glucose, your body won’t need as much thyroid-stimulating hormone to keep your metabolism elevated, and your TSH levels may decrease.  Many people have noticed that they need to decrease their TSH supplementation as they make progress with Data-Driven Fasting.

It’s also worth noting that nutrient density is critical to healthy thyroid function (particularly selenium, iodine, niacin, histidine and tyrosine).  So prioritising whole-food, nutrient-dense meals is also a crucial part of the equation. 

Later in your Data-Driven Fasting journey, if you find your blood sugars are extremely low and stable and your weight loss is slowing, an occasional bolus of carbs (e.g. rice, potato etc.) can help to boost your thyroid function and metabolic rate to kickstart weight loss again. 

8.12  Don’t try too hard… just eat to your meter!

Don’t try to push your blood glucose too far beyond Your Personalised Trigger.  You want to feel a little hungry, not STARVING, before you eat.  Otherwise, you will be more likely to overeat at your next meal, and you will need to delay the next meal even further to bring your blood glucose back below Your Personalised Trigger. 

Data-Driven Fasting is a tool to ensure you are achieving an energy deficit over the long term.  Not surprisingly, it will become more challenging if you force a more significant energy deficit as your lizard brain fights back to ensure you survive.

Your mission with Data-Driven Fasting is to find a sustainable routine that allows you to move towards your goal (e.g. weight loss, fat loss, lowered blood glucose or insulin sensitivity) over the coming weeks and months.

Hunger Training helps fine-tune your eating schedule, retrain your appetite and hunger signals, and build long term habits.  If you push too hard, your body will always find a way to compensate to avoid starvation. 

You only need the minimum effective dose of fasting to move toward your goals at a sustainable rate.  Not only will this be easier to do, but it will also give you a better chance of success over the long term.

Data Driven Fasting Index