Many of us are stuck on a blood sugar rollercoaster and we don’t even know it. We find ourselves reaching for a muffin at 10 AM and can’t make it through the day without a mid-afternoon cup of coffee or energy drink. It’s so common, we’ve come to regard it as normal.
Today, an expert in nutritional science and kinesiology, Lindsea Willon, joins us to explain how we can make different choices to avoid blood sugar spikes and dips. She offers practical tips like reminding us not to take sugar into our bodies “unopposed” meaning vegetables and fruits should be eaten with some kind of fat to slow down their absorption into our blood stream.
By eating differently, we can avoid short-term issues, like headaches, sleeplessness, PMS, and getting “hangry.” Proper nutrition can also help us avoid more serious health concerns like diabetes, PCOS, joint pain, and injuries.
Lindsea understands, both intellectually and from life experience, the importance of a healthy diet. An athlete in college, her poor diet led to injury and fatigue. Now, she fuels herself with nutrient-dense foods and encourages others to do the same. Her goal is for everyone to experience the energy and vitality that is their birthright. This episode will certainly give you the tools needed to get on the right track and to get off the blood sugar rollercoaster for good!
To find out more about Lindsea’s practice, visit biodynamicwellness.com.
For the show notes for this episode, go to westonaprice.org.
Listen to the episode here:
NTP Lindsea Willon shows us how to avoid sugar crashes & insulin resistance.
Within the below transcript the bolded text is Hilda
This is episode 88 and my guest is Lindsea Willon. She studied Nutritional Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley. She graduated and got her Master’s in Kinesiology. In addition to her certification as a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, she’s on the staff of the Biodynamic Wellness group in San Diego. As you can guess, Lindsea understands the importance of a nutritionally complete diet.
In this episode, she helps us wrap our brains around what that means. Her own experience in college as an athlete helped her put two and two together. She says we don’t need to get hangry, suffer sleeplessness or PMS. We can do away with all those things. She gives us insight into how our bodies should be fueled to stay strong and avoid the sugar rollercoaster we often end up on.
Before we get into the conversation, we want to thank our sponsors. Low Carb USA, turning consensus on its head. Check them out LowCarbUSA.org. The Weston A. Price Foundation. Their Wise Traditions Conference is coming up in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Take your health to new heights at the Wise Traditions Conference. Early bird prices are still in effect, so go to WiseTraditions.org and register.
To find out more about Lindsea’s practice, visit BiodynamicWellness.com.
Welcome to the show, Lindsea.
Thank you so much for having me.
Tell us about how you got into this dietary thing. I understand you were an athlete in high school and college.
I was blessed enough to have a mom and neighbor in high school that fueled me with Wise Traditions’ food and the most wonderful diet a high school athlete could have. In college, though, eating dorm food, I quickly relapsed into the standard American diet and the injuries that I was so prone to on a less than optimal diet.
Feed your body well to improve your entire health and the health of your body’s cells.
In high school, I was a wonderfully healthy lacrosse player. I’m able to be on the field as a starter, play the whole game, no exhaustion, no injuries. I was great. Within the second year of eating on my own, not very well-informed, I quickly digressed. I tore my meniscus and my MCL. I was so exhausted after exercise. I had to nap between classes and after practices. I felt sick.
You could tell the contrast because you had been fed the Wise Traditions way and suddenly you’re at school not eating that way. You could tell the difference in your body.
It was one of the only things that had changed. College is a whole different environment, but the biggest change was the difference in the butter fed to me and the processed food in the dorms. The availability of food that I was used to was totally lacking.
You weren’t looking for that food that you were used to. Were you one of those typical teenagers like, “Mom, what does she know?”
I went to college to study and figure out what mom knew. My mom is a nutritional therapy practitioner and became one when I was in high school. I went to school to study nutrition, to figure out how that all worked but didn’t start practicing what I was preaching until later in my college years.
I feel for all those college athletes who have been raised, not even on your good diet. They’ve been eating badly all the time. I’m sure they were prone to injury, fatigue and all these things as well.
I saw the health of my entire team improve as soon as I started to follow what I was learning and what I had learned from my mom. Everyone around me on the team, all of a sudden, was elevated as athletes. It showed such a strong example of how important our diet is.
I only wish you had taken pictures like Dr. Price did.
I wish I could have documented our national championship win in the junior year once we were eating better. Maybe I can blame that on our diet, but I wished that I could have interviewed all the girls, asked them how they were feeling and how much better they were once they started eating what I was making for them or listening to me that butter was good for them.
I like that you can speak to the experience you had and the science because you truly have studied all this. As a matter of fact, you’re probably going to be a professor. Tell us a little bit about what you’ve studied and the impact that’s made on what you have to share with people.
My undergraduate degree was in Nutritional Sciences. I’m biochemistry-focused and then because of my experience both during lacrosse as a collegiate athlete and afterward in the world of CrossFit, I decided to focus more on the kinesiology aspect of health. My Master’s degree is in Exercise Physiology or Kinesiology. I’m very biochemistry-focused to understand the fuel utilization of the skeletal muscle cell, how we use sugar, how we use fat, what happens post-exercise as we’re trying to recover and how important it is to feed the body well to improve not only our entire health but the health of the cells of our body.
I’m glad you’re going to speak to this. I want us to go deep because I see a lot of people thinking, “I need to up my fruits and vegetables. That’s what my body needs best and going to function best.” What do you think of that, Lindsea?
I feel like in our political food history, many food groups have been villainized, but fruits and vegetables have been spared. They are widely considered fresh, vibrant, full of antioxidants and the best food for you. Everyone can agree that fruits and vegetables are part of a healthy diet, no matter what side of the political nutrition spectrum you come from. The problem is we start overeating fruits without regard for the fact that it’s just sugar in the body. When we are overeating fruits and starchy vegetables, we don’t have a separate biochemical energy pathway for fruit. It doesn’t go down a different shoot. Our body breaks it completely down into glucose. When you fill-up your plate with yams, potatoes, beets, carrots, apricots and bananas, to your body, that’s one big pile of sugar.
One thing that threw us off was the food pyramid because at the bottom were all these starchy grains, breads, pasta and then higher up, they had fruit and vegetable in separate categories. That might have added to our confusion.
They’re completely separated in everyone’s brain. They should be considered separate food groups but at the end of the day, how our body sees food is not in nine different food groups. It’s in, “Is this fat? Is this sugar? Is this a protein?” That’s what it breaks down to at the end of the day. We want to have a very holistic view of food. I don’t want to look at my plate and see macronutrients. I want to see where the food came from and what animal made it, but to our body, we need to be careful of overloading that plate with all sugar.
Let’s say we start our day with some bananas and berries. We’re going down this track. Help me understand what is happening inside my body when all that sugar comes down the pike.
Meat insulin, when you’re eating all of that sugar, especially when it’s unopposed. What I mean by that is that there’s not much fiber, protein, especially fat to come with it. Think of your fruit juices, even your fresh fruit juices.
Juicing is so popular here. We’re in California. Everywhere I turn, there’s another smoothie juice place.
It’s just the fruit sugar taken away from the fiber. If you want to go enjoy your Malibu fresh-pressed juice, make sure you’ve got some raw milk with you to put in there or a nice little dab of raw cream because the fat will help slow the absorption of that sugar into your bloodstream. The reason that it’s so important about the rate at which sugar hits the bloodstream is because that’s what determines how much insulin or if your body has to overproduce insulin in response to your sugar.
When you’re starting your day with fruit, you’re doing everything right. You’re listening to everyone who’s telling you how to eat, nutritionist or non. Everyone’s got an opinion. You’re doing the right thing, but at the end of the day or, unfortunately, at the beginning of your day, here’s what begins the blood sugar rollercoaster. Your blood sugar is going to increase very quickly. Your body is going to produce insulin to compensate and then here comes our sugar crash. In 10:00 AM, you’re reaching for your coffee because you’re tired or you’re reaching for a muffin to get you back up, to get you going until lunch. That is the sugar rollercoaster.
Your blood sugar increases. Most people are insulin resistant, so they have to overproduce insulin to get the proper effect of the blood sugar-lowering and then decrease. Imagine you’re in the desert. You’re living in Arizona. Your air conditioner is super sensitive. All of a sudden, the air inside the house gets to 80 degrees. The air conditioner kicks on, but instead of bringing it to a nice normal 70 degrees, it takes it down to 50 degrees. You went from being slightly uncomfortable, “It’s too hot in the house,” to, “Let me grab my blanket because the air conditioner is too effective.”
That’s what’s happening in the body. We have this overreactive pancreas that’s over-producing insulin. We got sugar coming in. If it’s coming in quickly, then our body gets nervous. There might be a lot behind it. Even if it’s just a banana, if it hits the blood sugar quickly, our body’s going to overreact. You went from 70 degrees to 80 degrees too quickly. The air conditioner kick on too strong. The insulin you produced was too much for what you ate and then you have low blood sugar.
The first step to change is admitting there’s a problem.
I don’t want to out my family, but I live with some people who are on this rollercoaster you’re describing. They will grab a banana for breakfast and then a couple of hours later, they’ll be hangry. That’s how they call it. I understand that something else had to have come with that banana because if they just have that banana, it’s going to cause something bad. I don’t understand all the science behind it like you do, but I could see what’s playing out in their lives isn’t good.
It’s common. It plays out in the entire day. You grab your sugar for breakfast, no matter what it looks like. You get some sugar in the mid-morning. By lunch, you’re craving carbohydrates that turn into sugar. I don’t even understand how people stay awake through 2:00 to 4:00 PM if they’re on this sugar rollercoaster because that’s when it hits the hardest. That’s when you see everyone in line at a coffee shop trying to get through to the rest of the workday because it hits them so hard. They expect to sleep through the night and have energy. It’s a terrible vicious cycle.
You said insulin resistance. When I think of insulin, I think of diabetics. Can you help us all get a better handle on what that means to be insulin resistant?
I like to describe it in an analogy to anything else that you become accustomed to. My favorite way to think about it is like a car alarm. You hear a car alarm. It’s annoying. Immediately, you’re going to get up, shut your windows, figure out where it’s coming from and try to make it stop. In our body, insulin is that alarming. It’s a signal that says, “There is too much sugar in the blood, muscle cells, liver cells, brain cells. Whoever you are, take up this sugar. Get it out of the blood. There’s too much in here.”
That’s alarming. All of our muscles, ourselves, everyone listens. Blood sugar is normal. Imagine you’re back to that person who’s eating fruit for breakfast, drinking a lot of coffee, eating a lot of carbs. You’re on this blood sugar rollercoaster. What that means is you’re hearing that car alarm all day long. It’s not alarming anymore. You’ve become accustomed to it. It’s slightly annoying, but it’s not causing you to get up and take action.
When your body sees the insulin, it’s like, “I don’t need to do anything.” Your cells stop listening and that’s what insulin resistance is. Where that usually leads is your body having to overproduce insulin. This form of insulin resistance is subclinical. Your doctor is not going to see this in labs. You are not diabetic. You’re not even pre-diabetic. You’re just insulin resistant on a sugar rollercoaster heading down the road of gaining some weight, impacting your cortisol, your adrenals and all of your hormones. Where we see this end up is high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Sometimes PCOS can be a result of this. Obesity and diabetes are the end game, but this can happen as this resistant state much before you’re ever diagnosed with anything.
I feel like next to these juicing stores, you should have a little sign out like, “Lindsea can help,” or something. We want to wake up and get off that rollercoaster, but until we have a physical condition or some crisis that the doctor can measure, we sometimes go on ignoring that car alarm.
It happens with so many aspects of health. We think that the symptoms we’re experiencing are normal because everyone gets tired at 2:00 PM. Everyone gets hangry before they’re going to eat. Hangry is a funny term. It’s normalized because everyone deals with it, but this is a symptom of dysfunction. The first step to change is admitting there’s a problem. We need to start viewing these symptoms as a sign of dysfunction and then we can start making a change.
Often I interview my guests and they say, “We think what is common is normal.” There’s a difference. In other words, just because everyone’s hangry doesn’t mean it’s normal or how things are supposed to be.
The hangriness is a symptom of that blood sugar dysregulation. We need to get out of the cycle of normalizing all of these health symptoms from headaches to PMS, to hangry, to not being able to sleep through the night. All of these are things that no one should be experiencing.
From what you’ve studied, these things are all interrelated.
Our body is so much more advanced than we give it credit for. Everything is so interconnected. When we’re talking about sugar, it’s our body’s energy source. It’s what feeds our hearts and our brain. This is so important to the body. Everything has its tie back to sugar because it’s a fuel source in the body. The sugar issue is going to impact all systems in the body in all aspects of health.
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Let’s talk about some solutions. What are some ways of attack to avoid this insulin resistance and this blood sugar rollercoaster?
The easiest one is eat more fat. When we pair sugar with fat, we slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, thus letting the body see the sugar in a more reasonable way so we don’t overproduce insulin. You eat the banana with some soaked almonds. It’s great. The sugar is time-released into the bloodstream and not as much insulin needs to be produced. Dietary changes. Most people following your show understand where we’re coming from a dietary piece, but a lot of people don’t understand how important exercise is to the insulin and sugar discussion.
I’m glad you’re bringing that up because with the Wise Traditions diet and the Weston Price principles, we’re focused a lot on the food we take in, but movement is critical too, from what you’re telling me.
Most people don’t know even when they’re diabetic and have blood sugar regulation issues. If they were to have to test themselves and have high blood sugar higher than normal, you could exercise instead of using insulin at that moment. What that does is it tells all of the skeletal muscle cells that they need food. Their food is the sugar in the blood and so they’re going to start to take up that sugar in a way that it’s not related to insulin. We’re bypassing diabetics’ problem with insulin by exercising and we’re still getting sugar out of the blood.
Do conventional doctors give this advice? I’m not trying to throw them under the bus. I’m just trying to think, “That sounds great.” Instead of injecting yourself with something, you could move. That sounds awesome.
I wish more people did it. I don’t think that it’s a conventional treatment plan. A lot of what we studied in kinesiology is how we can use exercise prescription as a support for health and how important it is for doctors to talk about diet and exercise as a prescription and recommendation to better their overall health.
I like prescription better than recommendation because I feel like doctors are already recommending movement and everyone’s like, “Not today.”
Exercise prescription is a big thing in the kinesiology world. We’re hoping to make a change with that and improve the amount that it’s recommended because people are just saying, “You move a couple times a day for twenty minutes and you’ll be great.” If people would understand the importance of aerobic exercise and how important resistance training can be long-term on the body and on this insulin situation, more people would be doing it.
Not just cardio but some strengthening and toning with the resistance weights.
When most people talk about improving insulin in the next five minutes, we’re looking at cardiovascular type of exercise. That’s the type of fuel that your body needs in those movements, but when we’re looking at the effects of training long-term, instead of working out for an hour, you’ve worked out for twelve weeks. There are significant changes at a cellular level that can improve how your skeletal muscle cells listen to that car alarm. They start to listen to the car alarm again. It becomes alarming again. Part of my graduate student research was on how both squatting, resistance training and running or aerobic training can have long-term positive effects on how your body manages sugar in the blood.
Adding fat to our diet can help slow down that absorption of sugar and shock to our body and then movement. Are there any other tips you can give us on how to address this issue?
Eat less sugar. It’s helping your body manage your blood sugar in a way that it’s used to. Our bodies have not evolved to deal with the 200 pounds of sugar per person per year that we’re consuming. Our bodies are very well-adapted to go without sugar. Our bodies evolved to withstand starvation and the lack of fruit like berries in the diet. We have not evolved to deal with too much sugar into the bloodstream. This is so new to our body. You look around at the health statistics. We’re paying for it. When we start treating our body like it should be treated, giving it the food that it is used to evolutionarily, we’re going to be a lot better off long-term.
Lindsea, there are people or even dieticians who say, “Eat your fruits and vegetables.” They’re giving a different message than you are. What do we do with these conflicting messages?
Most practitioners like myself encounter this all the time. We spend so much time educating our clients and then at the end of the talk, “Who do I listen to? Who do I trust?” We live in this information age where you can Google this and the other in a second and come out with fifteen different opinions on anything related to health. Usually, what I’ll say to those people is, “Don’t listen to me and to the science we don’t even know who’s funded by. Listen to great-grandma, the cultures, your ancestors and to the traditions. They had wisdom for a reason.”
It was life or death for them. If they were not eating properly, they were not growing up pretty. They weren’t finding mates. They were not growing up healthy enough to fend for themselves. They weren’t growing up healthy enough to feed their families. They weren’t living long enough to have babies. When they found something that worked, they put it in their songs, religious texts, and writing. They told it to everyone they knew. That’s the type of wisdom that we’ve lost. We say, “This has six grams of sugar. Therefore, my dietitian thinks that it’s okay for me to eat.” We’ve come so far from listening to what is good food. We’re so misinformed and gullible into walking down a grocery store aisle. All of the things that say natural, organic and healthy, we fill our carts with total disregard for what they even look like, where they came from or if they’re even real food.
I went to a foodie conference and every single meal was served in a plastic container. I expected to get some pictures and some good food in my body. I was so disappointed. It wasn’t real food, even though the conference was supposedly focused on nourishing food for our bodies.
We go into these grocery stores that their whole brand is about healthy food and yet when we start reading the list of ingredients that are a mile long, we very quickly realized that this was not made on a farm. This was made in a lab and that is not what we should be eating.
We need to pay attention to what we’re putting in our bodies and to the wisdom from the past, but also we need to pay attention to how our own bodies are responding because that told you as a young person when you were in your second year playing lacrosse in college that something’s not right.
I had the benefit of knowing how my healthy body felt. Not a lot of people know that. They just know how their bodies felt their whole life and therefore, they think that that’s normal. You’re always told your temperature is different. We’re all biochemically individual people. Your temperature runs a little hot but no. You don’t just have cramps and don’t get injured easily. These are things that we take as temperatures for ourselves. We say, “It’s been like that forever.” We totally disregard the fact that that means you’ve been sick forever. I had the benefit of going into college knowing what my healthy body felt like. When it broke down, I was very aware and I knew that this was not a normal thing despite the fact that trainers or whoever was thinking like, “People tear their MCLs and meniscus all the time. No problem. No big deal.” People get injured but why? That’s what we need to figure out.
At the end of the day, our body is fit for survival. If our lungs, our brain and our heart are working, we survive. It doesn’t care about your meniscus. As an athlete, all you care about is your musculoskeletal system but your body doesn’t get that memo. Unless you have perfect nutrition, your body is taking all of the nutrition that you’re eating. Let’s say you’re getting 50% of the nutrients you need. That’s going 100% to the organs that your body is prioritizing and 0% to the organs you care about as an athlete. As soon as your nutrition falters, it’s your musculoskeletal system that takes the biggest hit because it seems superfluous to the body’s survival despite the big huge checks that our NFL players are bringing in would like to argue.
I never thought about that before.
It’s not something we think about. We think about, “You’re an athlete. You’re a high-performance machine. You need high-performance fuel.” We don’t talk about why that’s important. I hate to be so blunt about the biology of the body, but it doesn’t care that you need your knees.
It’s going to save what’s most important. The internal organs, the heart, the liver, what have you and then the other stuff is gravy, but that wouldn’t happen if you had your gravy.
Our body is so much more advanced than we give it credit for. Everything is so interconnected.
If you have your gravy, then that’s the difference between a season in which you’re injured and a season in which you play the entire season. You’re brought up to the next level of your sport or you get the accolades. You score the touchdown and the winning goal. That’s the difference. It’s that 95% to 100%. Those are the inches in which professional athletes function, fight over and fight for. It’s that last bit of nutrition that is going to make that difference.
What’s cool about this conversation is that it’s going to appeal and be helpful for those who are trying to improve their athletic performance and the everyday Joe who’s stuck on this sugar rollercoaster and having insulin resistance. I feel like it’s going to give them a clue about what to do next. I often end my interview by asking a very simple question. Please tell me if the reader could only do one thing to improve their health, what would you recommend that they do?
If I can budge and say two things, it’s pair. Eat more fat. Pair your sugars with fats always. That is going to get you off of the blood sugar rollercoaster and move. If you don’t like to run, go lift weights. If lifting weights intimidates you, go walk, go yoga, go surf, go do something. Move your body like it’s meant to move and eat your food in proper combinations.
Thank you so much for your time, Lindsea.
Thank you so much. It’s a pleasure to be here.
My guest was Lindsea Willon. To find out more about Lindsea, go to BiodynamicWellness.com or come to our conference to meet her personally. Short of that, go to the WestonAPrice.org website. A big thank you to my friends here at Podcast Village. They keep the show on track. They help train podcasters, produce shows and promote them as well. Check them out PodcastVillage.com. Finally, don’t forget to follow me on social media, @HolisticHilda on Twitter, @Holistic_Hilda on Instagram and Holistic Hilda on Facebook. You can check out my website, HolisticHilda.com. I offer simple tips for your wellness journey. Thanks.
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