*I am no doctor or professional. I am simply a type 1 diabetic who does my best to do my homework and understand my disease and treatments.*
I want to talk about the common misconceptions of insulin causing weight-gain. It does result in weight-gain, it is a fat-storing hormone after all. I want to talk about the misunderstandings of how it works regarding weight.
I grew up with type 1 diabetes and from a young age I was constantly told in one way or another from many different sources that the more insulin you take the fatter you get. You know what this did to me? It made me frightened to take insulin, even the amounts I needed! I was repulsed every time I had to take my shot. It didn’t encourage me to exercise more or eat less, all it did was keep me from wanting to take any insulin at all!
The only truly life saving treatment for my disease was now the one thing I wanted nothing to do with.
Many people think that the more insulin you take the more weight you’ll gain and this is solely because of the insulin. This is not true. If it were true then every type 1 diabetic out there would be morbidly obese.
Yes, insulin can cause weight-gain, but it’s not just the insulin, your body has many ways to store fat, it’s a combination of many factors. So if you have extra pounds it isn’t just because of your insulin.
“If I take more insulin then I’ll get fat.” No, it’s just not that simple.
If you were first taking too little insulin… If you were not getting enough insulin then your body was not processing sugar properly and this results in weight-loss (fat and water). If you then begin to take more (the proper amount your body needs to function), then your body can properly process sugar and this often results in weight-gain. Point of reference: when people first become type 1 diabetic one of the major symptoms is sudden weight-loss (both fat and water loss). And when they are diagnosed and put on insulin that weight is restored because the body is now functioning properly.
The only way you will become overweight on insulin is if 1. you are taking too much insulin and having to eat more to treat lows. 2. You are taking lots of insulin to counter the fact that you are eating too much. Therefore you are overweight because you are eating more than your body needs, not necessarily because you are taking more insulin. 3. You are insulin resistant. In this case you’re not necessarily taking more than your body needs, but your cells are resisting the insulin and not processing sugar, resulting in more fat storage.
One reason exercise (especially weight-lifting) is so important for all types of diabetes (and non-diabetics as well) is because it helps improve insulin sensitivity resulting in less need for higher amounts of insulin and better metabolism. This does, on many levels, help in weight-loss and to keep from weight-gain. But it’s obviously not just because of less insulin… there’s so much more going on.
Obviously the amount of food you eat directly results in how much insulin you need as well as in how much fat is going to be stored from unused energy. The more you eat the more fat is going to be stored, especially when you are eating more than you need for energy.
There are also other factors such as other illnesses and some medications that can make it easier to gain and harder to lose.
You see, everything in our lives and lifestyle affects everything else, and so many things work together. It’s never just one thing. Things work together to make us gain weight and things work together to make us lose.
Unfortunately we diabetics tend to want to use insulin as our scapegoat to explain away our weight-gain. Especially those of us who have been diabetic for many years and probably grew up hearing the “insulin makes you fat” line until it was scorched on our brains. I am most certainly one of those who have in the past. It may be partially true, but it’s certainly not the whole truth.
It is easy to use as an excuse because of it’s fat storing attribute and because it is so easy (but very detrimental) to lose weight by cutting back on insulin usage. I am very guilty of this in my past. But it’s not healthy weight-loss (your high BGs will prove that) and it is not healthy to think of insulin in these terms or use it these ways. “I want to lose weight so I’ll cut my insulin.” or “I want to eat more so I’ll take more insulin so I can.” Neither of these are healthy, in fact, they can kill you!
Balance, balance is key!
In the end, all I’m saying is that if you live a healthy lifestyle you will not be overweight because of your insulin. The only way that’s going to happen is if something is terribly awry.
It’s not easy, I know. Nothing ever is. But it’s doable, good health is doable.