My name is Justin Burns; as a strength and conditioning coach, I own and operate Grit Over Gift Strength Systems In Toronto, Ontario Canada.
Here's a quick story about my family and the occurrence of diabetes within it. Growing up in a standard Canadian household, hockey on the tube, making snowmen in the winter, and going to the cottage in the summer. The problem was that a majority of my aunts and uncles enjoyed eating the more decadent things in life.
You know chocolate, high-fat foods like fried chicken, and the more than occasional fast food dinner. This lead to some of them becoming type 2 diabetics. I will go into detail as to what this means later. Nonetheless, they had to start taking insulin in some cases. The issue (other than being diagnosed with diabetes that is) was that they looked healthy before their diagnosis, they did not look like they typical diabetic (overweight, unhealthy, etc.). They were healthy looking individuals.
Once they started taking insulin, however, they began to gain weight. If this story resonates with you and you choose to read it, we thank you for your time. Let's dig in a little bit!
What Is Insulin?
I am a big believer that before you can change the problem, you got to understand it a little bit further. Insulin is an anabolic hormone secreted by the pancreas to single a cell to uptake glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream. Insulin is what allows the cells of the body to use glucose (sugar) for energy. Without insulin, the cells would have a very hard time absorbing the glucose from the bloodstream.
However, when a person has type 1 diabetes, their pancreas will remain no secret its insulin in which the person must use external insulin to increase the uptake of the glucose.
In the case of type 2 diabetic insulin is either no longer useful in getting the cells to absorb glucose (insulin resistant) Or the pancreas will no longer produce enough insulin (insulin deficient). I will possibly go in depth for these two illnesses in a different article.
The Reason Insulin May Be Causing Your Weight Gain
Okay, now you understand what insulin is and what it does inside your body you want to know how it can be causing you to gain weight. Well, the answer is not as complicated as you may think.
Unmanaged diabetes tends to cause an increase in hunger. It is one of the symptoms of those with diabetes. This increased hunger likely turns to you eating more food this food is more calories than you are burning which leads to your body storing it as fat.
Another issue that may occur is when you start taking insulin it will force said glucose to be absorbed by the cells and if it is not used it will then be stored thus causing an increase in weight.
There is good news. However, weight gain caused by insulin can be managed. Lifestyle changes will help get you back on the path to health as well as getting ahold of this downright mental kick of weight gain.
Let's take a look at what we can do!
Contact The Pros
We know that we have gained some weight, whether it is insulins fault or not is not the problem. We know that it is possible, but we are not 100%, so the first thing we need to do is remain on our insulin. Do not go off of it because of this weight gain. It is the best way to manage your diabetes.
Pros who can help:
- General Practitioner
- Personal trainers (with some nutrition background)
- Exercise physiologist
- Strength and Conditioning coach
To be honest, the list of people who can help you is rather extensive, and you do not want to read a list of people who can help you get back on track. You want real helpful information.
Increase Your Physical Exercise
It is pretty simple. An increase in your physical activity will help mitigate any insulin weight gain. Now, I understand that it can be challenging to get started if you are someone who lives a somewhat sedentary lifestyle. I am here to tell you that it is ok. Any amount of increase in your activity is going to help. If you haven't walked around the block in a while, do that. If you haven't done push-ups in years, why not give them a shot? Want to give sit up another try? Do it! The important thing is that you get started. How you get started is not the issue at this point.
This concept rings true for anyone who is a little bit more used to physical activity. Just increase it. Up your game, if you will. You go around the block once? Make it twice today. You go to the gym and lift weights? Great add another set or two.
The point is this if you are cleared by all your doctors to participate in physical activity there is no reason to get after it. The only thing stopping you is well, you. Start small and remember do the things you enjoy doing. That is a critical factor to staying committed. Having fun.
Insulin and Your Diet
Some camps believe the types of food are not necessary but rather the many factors is the amount of food. I understand where that is coming from because they merely think of a calories/ calories out mindset. They believe it is ok to eat a big mac meal as long as it fits inside there daily caloric amounts.
However, I am going to argue that those that are in need of external medicine such as insulin are not in any boat to be eating nutrient barren meals. It is more important, that the meals be made up of foods that are going to arm your body not only with the right amount of calories but also with the micronutrients.
Meal Planning for a Healthy Diet
A nutritionist or dietician is going to be able to dig into your meal planning and break it down for you but let me give those out there reading this a simple guide to follow.
Take a regular dinner plate and imagine a line going down the center. Then take one of those halves and cut it down the center also. Now you have one large section and two smaller sections.
In your big section all your vegetables, salads, dark leafy greens are going to live.
In one of the smaller sections will go your starches such as rice, sweet potatoes, etc.
And finally, in the last small section, you can put your lean proteins like fish, chicken, and the odd time red meat. Another aspect to mention is to make sure you are using proper fats such as avocado oil, olive oil, and coconut oil. This is important because they contain other health benefits.
Okay, now that you are armed by some tools that will help you manage your weight gain you can move forward with your insulin therapy with confidence that you are moving towards a life filled with health and happiness. Insulin may be the cause of your weight gain or it may not, but the facts are you can mitigate at least some of the effects by making significant lifestyle changes such as physical activity and improving your food intake.
The Writer: Justin Burns