Insulin Is Not A Scapegoat

*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.

 

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13 thoughts on “Insulin Is Not A Scapegoat”

  1. I know a few type 1’s and they are all thin to well built, but I would not say I know any that were obese! Yes, I was obese when diagnosed with type 2, but a ch​ange in diet and more exercise turned that around. It is a shame the way the feedback loops between your physical self and psychological self can do more harm than good, especially when beliefs come into play.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Great post but I’m a little confused. If a person is obese doesn’t he have to be insulin resistant? Is it possible to lose weight while having a high amount of insulin? The reason I ask is because when some people try to lose weight they find that insulin sensitivity is the first thing they test for and then they may suggest I.F. for others than type 1 obviously. But they suggest I.F. so that their bodies become more Insulin resistant so doesn’t that mean that insulin is the root cause of obesity? I’ve been trying to get a better understanding of this because my son is type 1 and he is great shape but the main reason he is that way is because he eats foods that don’t spike his blood sugar too high and his doctor told him thats why he doesn’t have to take as much insulin. It’s a very interesting topic you have brought up and any clarity you could bring to my questions would be appreciated thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am no professional as I stated, that said, in my studies and also in my personal life (Many years with both type 1 diabetes and insulin resistance) I have learned that often times obesity is coupled with insulin resistance, but this isn’t always the case, and it is not the insulin that is solely to blame for the obesity, yes, it plays a part, but my point is it is not the ONLY part. This goes with the point I was trying to make in the blog post, yes insulin is a fat-storing hormone, but insulin is not the only thing to blame for weight-gain. I have been struggling with my weight for a long time and for a long time I blamed the massive amounts of insulin I had to take, but when learning and making lifestyle changes it became abundantly clear that it is NOT the high amounts of insulin that caused my difficulty in losing weight. I still have to take a ton of insulin, but I am now losing weight at a very healthy rate (about 2lbs a week). Why? How am I able to lose weight with tons of insulin being pumped into my body? Because insulin doesn’t cause nearly as much fat storage as we have been taught it does in the past. It is a complex group of many different things going on in the body that, as I stated before, I am not well versed enough in to explain. I’m sorry, I wish I could be all technical and scientific, but this is only a personal blog, not a professional one. All I was trying to say in the blog post is that people tend to want to blame insulin and only insulin for their weight problems and it just doesn’t work that way. The good news is that diabetics do not have to struggle more than ‘normal’ people to get and stay at a healthy weight. 🙂 And, yes, a LCHF diet is great for BG control and reducing insulin needs and often results in weight-loss, but it is not only the less insulin that causes the weight-loss, often times people following a Keto or LCHF diet also end up eating less food altogether and often make a point to do more exercise because they are trying to be more healthy all around. Yes, the lesser amount of insulin is resulting in some fat loss (or less fat storage), but it is not ONLY the lesser insulin, it is also the healthier lifestyle. That is my point. Your question is is the insulin the root cause? I would say no (based on my experiences and also my studies), it is just a piece in the greater puzzle.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Thank you very much and just because your not a professional certainly doesn’t disqualify you from having done great research. I do truly appreciate your opinions on the topic. I hope that I didn’t sound as if I thought you were wrong or right about your post because that certainly isn’t the case. I honestly and sincerely want to know what the root cause of obesity is and I thought it was insulin. However you brought up some very interesting reasons for why it’s more than that. Causation states that if you eliminate that factor does the reverse happen so given that I was wondering if it’s possible to not be insulin sensitive and still be obese if the person had no other biological abnormalities. If I made you feel attacked it certainly wasn’t my intention. The answer to causation is very important because the cure is somewhere within it.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes! Finally someone posts about this. I’ve been meaning to blog my two cents about this topic too, particularly to my experience with Fiasp. So many people blame Fiasp to cause weight gain. I too gained weight with Fiasp, BUT I am willing to recognize that I was eating too much and using Fiasp as an excuse (less spikes).

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I have lost 130+ pounds while suing insulin. It took a doctor who understood the issue and lots of time. What he did was immediately cut my insulin in half and my food intake to 40%. It was scary but when he kept reducing it I finally caught on. Such a blessing.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Alexx, It has been a long time getting here. The weight loss has been over 3 years, but my the good news is that my insulin consumption is less than half its peak and I am still losing. Slow and steady wins this race.

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  5. I’ve been a diabetic for just over 40 years and had never heard the insulin makes you fat comments. I learned way back in high school that insulin is an anabolic hormone (relax not steroid but along the same lines as). I was an avid weight lifter back then and continued until money issues caused me to forfeit my YMCA membership. Years after high school I worked with a former high school friend and she made a comment that truly shocked me. While talking with other co-workers she said “Bob was huge back then.” She as not talking about my waistline but arms and especially my legs. I had never though of or seen myself as big or muscular but I guess looking back I was. I have never been into the you must weigh this much if you are this tall group. Following the BMI charts I am morbidly obese. I stand 5 foot 10 inches and currently tip the scales at 245 lbs. I do have a spare tire at this time but as you alluded to in your blog it is from diet and exercise choices not insulin. I am also still very strong and solid. I do not have insulin resistance of any kind even 40 years in. How do I know? Doctor questioned my type 1 diagnosis after finding a pump was not able to deliver small enough doses for me. She started me at 25 unit of Tujeo and before I tried the pump it was down to only 4 units a day. She could not believe I was alive on that small a dose. Using Novolog in the pump it would shut down for up to 4 hours at work due to low sugar levels. Novolog was supposed to be out of my system in 5 hours. We stopped using the pump at that point. My big push for losing weight to anyone, diabetic or norm is to exercise more. It is as simple as taking the stairs next time vs. using the elevator. Walking to the movies vs. driving. Those kinds of choices that let people slide through life getting less exercise. As you said resistance weight training is a very good way to combat insulin resistance. Is it why I am so sensitive to my insulins currently? Not sure nor do I really care. I love the exercise and will keep doing it as long as I can. Small changes make small improvements but when you add them up over months or years they become huge benefits.

    Liked by 1 person

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