Why Is Everyone Talking About Blood Sugar Spikes? Ask The Glucose Goddess
People who are done with restrictive diets — but still want help deciding what to eat — turn to Jessie Inchauspé, a.k.a. the Glucose Goddess.
Jessie Inchauspé loves graphs. On a bright day in mid-March, while drinking tea in the courtyard of a hotel on the west side of Manhattan, the biochemist turned nutrition writer AirDropped me a chart tracking her Instagram follower count over the last three years. The line seemed to skim the ground, its growth so modest that it hardly registered on the graph until, in 2021, a breath of space appeared below one of the dots. Liftoff. Inchauspé’s account reached 321,721 followers one year ago, then started to climb a little faster, maintaining a smooth upward trajectory to her current 1.9 million followers.
Considering the striking number of people I follow on Instagram who also follow Inchauspé, better known as the Glucose Goddess on the platform, I had expected something much more dramatic. “Instagram is very slow and very steady,” she says. “There aren’t that many spikes.”
Not that many spikes happens to be the central aim of Inchauspé’s work. She has built a career talking about the importance of keeping one’s blood glucose levels relatively stable. Many people are aware that big spikes and dips can lead to insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes; Inchauspé tells her audience they can also cause or worsen constant hunger, fatigue, migraines, acne, heart disease, and polycystic ovary syndrome, among other health concerns. (Content warning: This article discusses diets and eating disorders.)
Inchauspé’s first book, Glucose Revolution, goes into great detail on the science of glucose in the body, with a 32-page appendix of scientific literature, and comes to deliberately simple conclusions. Eat your veggies before your carbs, for instance. Have dessert after a meal rather than a sweet snack on its own. Go for a walk after eating. Take a shot of apple cider vinegar before a carb-heavy meal. (That one sounds weird. The acetic acid in vinegar slows the process of starches’ breakdown into glucose and also helps our muscles absorb it more quickly, she explains.) A typical Glucose Goddess Instagram post shows the blood glucose levels of Inchauspé or another person on her team after eating two different meals: pasta by itself (bigger curve) versus pasta after eating an artichoke salad (smaller curve), for instance. It’s easy to grasp the difference.
“I’m not actually saying anything that’s super groundbreaking,” Inchauspé tells me. She believes that the specificity of her approach — the scientific studies, the graphs pulled from her own data, the actionable hacks — helps motivate change. Moreover, she offers a reason to eat artichokes that has nothing to do with their “cleanness” or their “caloric density,” or any other construct that has tormented dieters over the years, and a way to eat artichokes that’s not about denying oneself tastier foods. Inchauspé stresses that she eats chocolate cake, ice cream, and crepes — she’s French — and that her method often involves eating more food than before, not less.
Her fans tell me they like her method because its hacks are simple and achievable, because she cites peer-reviewed scientific papers, and because she doesn’t foreground weight loss in her messaging. In a health and food culture that tends toward extremes, Inchauspé appears to have found a sweet spot: Her dietary suggestions aren’t punishing, but she still offers clear guidelines. One person I know, who found Inchauspé’s hacks useful in managing gestational diabetes, expressed disillusionment with the popular notion of intuitive eating and wellness messaging about simply listening to one’s body. Not everyone is in tune with their body, for a variety of reasons, she told me. People want concrete tools to feel better than they do.
Inchauspé’s method appeals to those who recognize that as fraught as food can be, it affects their mood and health. They want a framework for talking about it, something that seems realistic, sustainable, and not too crazy. As one person put it to me: “She seems to have cornered the ‘rational’ market for ‘normal’ people.”
For some outspoken critics of diet culture, her approach is hitting the mark. The actor Jameela Jamil, who has spoken publicly about her history of disordered eating, hosted Inchauspé on her I Weigh podcast in January, after using her hacks to cope with hormonal imbalances and extreme fatigue. (It’s currently the podcast’s most-listened-to and most-shared episode of 2023.)
“She’s not about restriction,” Jamil wrote in an email, when I asked how Inchauspé’s work is different from others in the food, health, and wellness space. “If anything I now eat more, and haven’t given up dessert. I’m just more thoughtful about the order in which I eat what I want to eat, intuitively. She’s not dogmatic or fear mongering. She doesn’t use cult-like language. She’s just breaking down the realities of not living a life of balance. And that’s something that is very necessary given that the American diet is unlike any country I’ve ever been to. The amount of sugar in the food is unheard of anywhere else I’ve ever lived. Which leads to so many health issues down the line. She educates without punishing or demonizing and I think that’s great.”
Inchauspé, who is 30, has big ambitions, starting with a new book out in May, The Glucose Goddess Method, which functions as a four-week on-ramp to implementing her hacks, complete with recipes. The book is more playful than her last one. It includes, among other graphics, a fairy version of Inchauspé wearing kale-shaped wings. (She calls her visual aesthetic “the baby of Einstein and Kim Kardashian.”) She hopes to set up a video studio after the book is out, and she’s working on her first product, which is currently top-secret. She’s launching courses this summer, including a certification designed for nutritionists, doctors, nurses, coaches, and parents.
Inchauspé looks like someone who could make it as a wellness influencer: She’s tall, thin, and great on camera, with a dimpled smile and a stylish bleached mullet. But, she says, “I don’t see myself as an influencer. I see myself as a teacher, and Instagram is one of my channels.” She avoids sharing her personal life online and turns down the brand partnerships and collaborations that come her way. She doesn’t trust scientific papers funded by corporations, after all. “If one of my graphs is sponsored, how do you trust it?” she says.
Still, blood glucose management is of undeniable interest to the wellness community at the moment. Gwyneth Paltrow instigated a feverish media cycle when she detailed following a diet, designed in part to avoid blood glucose spikes, that seemed to include little more than coffee, celery juice, and bone broth before dinner. (She later explained that her diet, which includes more than bone broth, is intended to manage chronic illness.) Although Inchauspé believes most people would benefit from flattening their glucose curves, she is particularly impassioned about reaching those facing health outcomes much worse than an afternoon energy slump.
“People are dying. [Close to] 1 billion people in the world have Type 2 diabetes or prediabetes. That’s a lot of f*cking people who are going to live shorter lives, not feel good, not be able to play with their grandkids, feel depressed, feel sad, feel lonely,” she says, citing numbers from the International Diabetes Federation. “I want to help those people, you know?”
The glucose business began for Inchauspé in 2018, while she was working as a product manager at the Bay Area-based genetics company 23andMe. Born in the French surf town of Biarritz, Inchauspé grew up in Paris, where she had what she describes as an easy, simple childhood. She was good in school, a perfect parent-pleaser until she moved to London for her undergraduate degree at King’s College. There, she began to rebel in all the classic ways: black clothing, her first tattoo, nights out at the club. “I thought I was so cool,” Inchauspé says.
That freewheeling period came to a swift end on a vacation in Hawaii, when, at 19, Inchauspé broke her spine jumping into the water from the top of a waterfall, requiring major surgery. The trauma left her with what was later diagnosed as depersonalization-derealization disorder, a persistent feeling of detachment from oneself and one’s surroundings. The desire to reconnect with her body is what drove Inchauspé to 23andMe in 2015, armed with an undergraduate degree in mathematics and a master’s in biochemistry from Georgetown.
Three years into her time at the company, Inchauspé volunteered to be a guinea pig for an internal project looking at continuous glucose monitors (CGMs), devices designed for people with diabetes that remain in a person’s arm to constantly track their blood sugar levels. She became her own guinea pig, too. Using data from her CGM, Inchauspé started figuring out how different foods affected her glucose levels, how her glucose levels affected her energy and mental state, and how she could flatten her glucose curve in order to feel better. “I cured my brain fog and curbed my cravings. When I woke up, I felt amazing. For the first time since my accident, I began to feel truly well again,” Inchauspé writes in Glucose Revolution.
Inchauspé started the Glucose Goddess Instagram account in April 2019. By the end of the year, she had left her day job to pursue the project full time. She lived on her savings while she hustled, running tests on herself to create the graphs that appeared on her Instagram and sending DMs to the biggest accounts that followed her to see if they wanted her to test certain foods for them.
After a year and a half, though, Inchauspé was nearly out of money and ready to quit. That’s when her stepfather got coffee with a friend of his, and that friend, a book agent, reached out to tell Inchauspé that they were going to work together. Glucose Revolution came out in April 2022 and, according to Simon & Schuster, has sold more than 1 million copies globally.
If the comments on Inchauspé’s Instagram are any indication, her fans are eager to understand the finest details of how glucose affects a person’s body. Almost every post elicits a flurry of hyperspecific questions about her glucose hacks. Can you drink apple cider vinegar during pregnancy? Does balsamic count? How long should you wait to move after eating? What’s the difference between coconut sugar and white sugar? What about artificial sweeteners? Does the ripeness of a mango matter? Is orange juice OK?
Not all of these questions are answerable, at least not to the satisfaction of Inchauspé’s followers. To a certain extent, the ways that different foods affect blood glucose levels are generalizable. Highly refined carbs tend to affect people more than less refined carbs, says Dalia Perelman, a research dietitian at Stanford University, just as walking after eating will prove useful for pretty much everyone. But on a nitty-gritty level, blood glucose tends to be highly personal. “Maybe for you, bread is more of a problem than potatoes,” she says. “We do see different people reacting to carbs differently.”
‘How can I make this as positive and nonrestrictive as possible, while still giving people information that might save their life?’
Inchauspé makes this exact point in Glucose Revolution, explaining that while people may react differently to specific foods, her hacks will help minimize glucose spikes across the board. Though Perelman doubts that every single one of Inchauspé’s recommendations would, on their own, significantly improve every single person’s blood sugar levels, she’s not at all opposed to the idea of eating vegetables before pasta or pairing carbs with a protein. “They’re absolutely not damaging to anyone. The worst case scenario is that it won’t help, but it won’t make it worse,” she says.
Perelman has seen the rise of public interest in blood glucose data firsthand. In 2018, she co-authored a paper showing that eating cornflakes and milk caused glucose elevation in the prediabetic range in 80% of study participants, none of whom had a previous diabetes diagnosis. (In her first book, Inchauspé calls the research “groundbreaking.”) Everyday people were desperate to be a part of the study, which gave participants continuous glucose monitors. “You normally have a really hard time enrolling people in clinical studies, but for this one, we almost had to do a waiting list,” says Perelman. Tantalizing is the word she uses to describe data from a CGM: “I think that’s why [Inchauspé’s] work is so sticky. It’s a little window into one part of my body, and I can do something about it.”
Inchauspé’s popularity has dovetailed with a wider and growing interest in blood glucose management among people who don’t have diabetes, from biohackers to athletes to people seeking answers for chronic conditions. It has coincided, too, with the rise of Ozempic, a prescription medication developed for adults with Type 2 diabetes that causes weight loss, as a get-skinny-quick tool for those without diabetes, including celebrities and Hollywood types.
In the last few years, a number of “metabolic health” startups with names like Levels, Veri, and Signos have begun marketing CGMs to the general public, raising millions of dollars in venture capital funding in the process. Kara Collier, vice president of health at the CGM startup Nutrisense, says that roughly 50,000 customers have passed through its program since it launched in 2019. Some 5 to 10% of Nutrisense members have diabetes, another 10 to 15% have prediabetes, and a third don’t have any condition at all; the largest group have a chronic health condition other than diabetes.
“We get a lot of people who maybe traditional health care is not helping that well,” says Collier. “A ton of hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s, [polycystic ovary syndrome], chronic fatigue syndrome, anxiety, or a history of gestational diabetes.”
Public awareness of blood glucose management outside of the diabetes community may be relatively new, but this story — of people feeling let down by the medical system and turning to other channels — is the backbone of the wellness industry. “It’s so appealing because the conventional system lets so many people down or doesn’t serve us in the way we need, especially when it comes to unexplained symptoms or chronic illness,” says Christy Harrison, a dietitian and author of The Wellness Trap. “Women’s pain especially is minimized, and Black women’s pain especially. There are a lot of preexisting issues with the health care system that wellness culture is now capitalizing on.”
Harrison sees Inchauspé’s work as part of a wave of food-related protocols that bill themselves as lifestyles, not diets. Still, she says, any method that has dietary guidelines, no matter how gentle its language, will for some people become an unhealthy framework of fear and anxiety around food. “Inevitably that kind of messaging will be filtered through the lens of diet culture, and people are going to turn it into rules,” Harrison says.
After we had tea in Manhattan, I got on Zoom with Inchauspé to ask her about this thorny problem. She was back in Paris, where she lives when she’s not in New York. I told Inchauspé that I’d tested out her glucose hacks and had noticed some old patterns of thinking about “good foods” and “bad foods” creeping into my head, even though I knew that wasn’t her message at all. I didn’t blame her for this — I’ve got more beef with the women’s magazines I inhaled as a tween in the early 2000s — but I also couldn’t be the only one who’d had this experience.
Inchauspé wasn’t defensive; this is something she’s thought about a lot. “This is a question I face every day. When I’m writing every single post, I’m always thinking about ‘How can I make this as positive and nonrestrictive as possible, while still giving people information that might save their life?’” she says. “It’s a fine line, and I don’t have the perfect answer. What I also say is if you have a history of eating disorders, and you don’t want to know anything about food, then my stuff is not for you, and that’s totally fine.”
She writes about weight loss less than she did when she started her Instagram account, after critical comments made her realize how ingrained diet culture was in her own psyche. (The original printing of Glucose Revolution had the phrase “lose weight” on the cover, which she and her publisher agreed to remove from later editions.) Inchauspé steers clear of bikini selfies on her Instagram and leaves exact numbers off of the glucose graphs that she posts, lest anyone become obsessed with comparing their stats.
She also stopped posting selfies of herself wearing a CGM after she received criticism from people in the Type 1 diabetes community. They felt that the photos she posted of herself wearing a CGM were making an essential health care tool look like a fashion accessory. (Inchauspé doesn’t regularly wear a CGM anymore and doesn’t feel that most people should wear them, since they’re very expensive and, in many cases, medically unnecessary.)
“I’ve come to realize that the things that affect me usually point to a weak spot,” she says of the negative feedback she receives. “When something affects me, that’s a place where I need to mature my thinking and figure out what I think about that, and either change or know what my position is.” The accusation that she was causing eating disorders used to send her into a tailspin. Now she knows where she stands on that and why.
Even as she works to make her writing as nontriggering as possible, Inchauspé takes a wider view of her work. “I’m serving people who have Type 2 diabetes and are about to get their foot amputated,” she says. “That’s my mission. I do acknowledge that I’m talking about food, and that I’m giving guidelines that can be construed as rules. But it’s not enough to make me rethink everything.”
Photographs by Flaminia Fanale
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Photo Director: Alex Pollack
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