June 26, 2020
“I always thought that I had a good intuition about the things that I would eat,” says Sarah Coffin, a Levels user, wellness advocate, Radiographer, and recent Bachelor Season 24 contestant. “Once I started using Levels, I began seeing how some foods affected me in ways I had no clue about. It’s amazing to me how some minor things you wouldn’t guess can be impacting your glucose so significantly.”
Sarah Coffin leads an adventure-filled lifestyle and works hard to make sure her diet and lifestyle choices give her the energy to stay active and balanced. With a penchant for personal optimization, she used Levels to run her own personal experiments to see how she can get more out of her nutrition. Throughout this journey, Sarah learned that controlling glucose is possible with minor tweaks in dietary and exercise choices, and can lead to a wide range of benefits, like clearer skin, better sleep, and more consistent energy. “I’m less fatigued, my workouts are better, I sleep better."
"In the first two weeks of using Levels I have been able to make changes that help with avoiding glucose spikes. I think that I'm getting more out of my workouts and I'm able to run longer.”
“I’m a very analytical person,” explains Sarah. “I love to wear my Apple watch, close all my rings, and track my calories every day. Levels has been awesome for me because I can just scan, look at the app, and see how my body is responding to what I just ate.”
Sarah breaks down her Levels experience in three steps, starting with becoming more intimately aware of how her current lifestyle habits impact her metabolism, and vice versa.
“My first week using Levels was primarily geared towards building an awareness of how my body responds to food,” explains Sarah. “I was eating everything I normally would to get an idea of what was spiking me. I started to challenge my assumptions and found some really interesting things.”
For example, many of Sarah’s favorite snacks, which are generally marketed as healthy, were actually spiking her glucose levels.
“Once I found the foods that spike me -- often foods I loved -- I started looking for ways to still eat them and not spike. I don’t like to restrict myself a lot. So, I started experimenting with eating smaller portions. Later on, I started to pair those foods with other foods to see if I could minimize the spike. It’s been amazing to see how I can stay within my target glucose ranges and eat what I want, as long as I take the right strategy.” Overtime, Sarah found that the closed-loop that CGM offers between daily choices and glucose responses helps refine personal intuition about food and lifestyle.
Building metabolic awareness, Sarah explains, has helped her become more mindful about her nutrition in a way that simply wasn’t possible without the data, and she’s already made notable shifts in her approach.
“The awareness is very important because it helps me get the most out of my diet without having the negative ramifications of spiking glucose levels,” says Sarah.
Once Sarah started noticing that she would feel more energized and focused by making small changes in her nutrition and minimizing her spikes, she started launching more experiments.
Sarah discovered that by introducing healthy fats into her otherwise carb-rich meals, she was able to mitigate her body’s glucose response.
“I experimented with having more balanced meals,” notes Sarah. “ I would eat a bowl of oatmeal, something that everybody says is healthy, and not a ton of calories either, and my spike was nearly pre-diabetic. It was crazy. So, I decided, I’m going to put some peanut butter in this, maybe have a little less oatmeal. My response ended up actually being drastically lower.”
Sarah experienced several notable improvements in her metabolic health by making small alterations, and it all started with gaining visibility into what was going on in her body with objective data.
“I discovered that if I eat something really carby, the spike would be generally less if I have it with a fat. Now, whenever I eat something carby or starchy, I pair it with a healthy fat.”
“Fruit really makes me spike,” says Sarah. “Why would a fruit make me feel super lethargic and fatigued? This was very counterintuitive, because fruits are packed with nutrients and are healthy, but there is collateral damage. But, if I have it with healthy fat, then I’m fine."
"I’m very mindful of when I eat things that make me spike because if I can just balance them out, I feel ten times better."
Sarah posits that by adding in healthy fats to her pre-workout meals, she’s able to maximize her energy levels for optimal performance.
“I used to eat half a banana before working out because I thought I needed that energy,” explains Sarah. “It turns out that I get a major spike from bananas, and sometimes I get better workouts on a fasted stomach and just eating afterwards. However, if I do have a pre-workout meal, I’ll have a banana with peanut butter and I’m able to get way more out of my workouts.”
Making minor changes to her macronutrient pairings had a noticeable effect, but Sarah also soon learned that low to moderate exercise after a meal helped minimize her glucose spikes.
“Another small change I’ve made is going on walks after a big meal, which made a huge difference for helping lower my glucose levels,” says Sarah.
Using Levels also helped Sarah confirm the positive benefits of some of her prior nutritional tendencies, such as drinking apple cider vinegar.
“I was drinking apple cider vinegar every morning because it made me feel kind of good,” comments Sarah. “I didn’t really know why it did. When I started tracking my glucose levels, I learned that this apple cider vinegar would actually minimize my meal spikes if I drank it before a meal as well, so that was really cool to see in a visualized graph.”
Many users are often surprised how many aspects of diet and lifestyle can affect glucose levels. Rather than just foods alone, everything including food combinations, exercise, sleep, and stress play a critical role in your metabolic regulation. Additionally, fixing metabolic dysfunction can have notable impacts on things that people wouldn’t often consider, such as skin health, exercise endurance, and sleep.
“One of the most significant changes I’ve noticed was improvements in my skin,” affirms Sarah. “I was getting pretty bad breakouts, and I know a lot of this is linked to my water intake, but that in combination with limiting glucose spikes has led to major improvements in my skin.”
In regards to sleep, Sarah has found that being able to tailor her evening food choices to minimize spikes has improved her sleep. “I've always had issues with sleep. And now I know that I sleep better when I haven't had a spike close to bedtime. I try not to have a lot of carby food around dinner time because I’ve noticed I sleep poorly. And it’s worse if I have a spike closer to bedtime.”
Bottom line: “I feel a lot better.”
By using Levels, Sarah has built up her own personal approach to metabolic fitness on her terms.
“Levels helped me visualize that one diet truly doesn’t fit all,” comments Sarah. “Everyone is different, and something that makes me spike isn't necessarily going to make someone spike, or vice versa. It’s really cool to see my own personal data."
"I had the CGM off for a few days and I started missing it. It helped me hold myself accountable for my dietary decisions.”
There are many tools in the healthy lifestyle toolbox. Instead of opting for caloric deprivation and nutritional restrictions, Levels allows users to build an intimate understanding of how their unique body responds to food, and work on creative modulation and designing a personal optimal diet using objective data.
“It’s about really listening to your body, whether you have a CGM or not.”
Today, Sarah is able to lean on her objective data to confirm her nutritional intuition, and by building an awareness of her metabolism, she has been able to make major positive changes with minimal tweaks.
Photo credit: ABC/Maarten de Boer
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