Guest Post by Taylor Proffitt
There is a common misconception in the diabetes community that taking insulin causes weight gain or can prevent weight loss. Unfortunately, some misinformed individuals even turn to purposefully restricting insulin in order to lose weight - also known as Diabulimia (Diabulimia. (2018, February 21). Retrieved from (https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/diabulimia-5) Withholding insulin in order to lose weight can cause detrimental complications and I am here to tell you that insulin DOES NOT prohibit weight loss.
In today’s blog post I will discuss how anyone, including those with Type 1 Diabetes, can successfully lose weight.
The hormone insulin whether naturally produced or synthetically injected regulates the absorption of glucose by your body’s cells. This is a necessary mechanism for survival as your cells need glucose to function. However, when weight gain comes into play, it has little to do with the insulin and everything to do with the glucose.
Whether diabetic or not, if you take in more calories than you need to maintain a healthy weight, your cells will absorb the excess glucose. These extra calories, not used by the body, are then stored which leads to weight gain. So yes, insulin is responsible for transporting glucose from the blood to the cells, however, if you take in an appropriate amount of calories on a daily basis then your cells will use the available glucose and there will be little to no extra to accumulate into fat stores.
Weight loss is best achieved through a combination of a caloric restricted diet and an increase in physical activity. So if you are having trouble with unwanted weight gain or trouble losing weight as a Type 1 Diabetic, I would encourage you to reassess your diet and exercise regimen!
There are numerous “Fad Diets” all over social media like the Keto Diet, Flexible Dieting/Counting Macros, Intermittent Fasting, Plant-Based Diet, etc. People have success with any of these diets because at the end of the day, they are all-consuming fewer calories than they are burning. No matter what “diet” you follow, ANYONE will be successful in losing weight as long as you are in a CALORIE DEFICIT! It should also be noted that dropping calories drastically will result in a quick weight loss but most likely one that cannot be maintained on such little calories. Even a small deficit of 100-200 calories below your maintenance calories (the number of calories you eat on a daily basis to maintain your current weight) can result in weight loss.
As Simple As The Concept May Seem →
Calorie Surplus = Weight Gain
Calorie Deficit = Weight Loss
Remember, a calorie deficit can be created by diet as well as a combination of diet and exercise and is neither promoted nor prohibited by the amount of insulin you are taking.
The most optimal way to ensure you are in a calorie deficit is to track/count your calories using a countless number of free apps like MyFitnessPal. However, I am well aware that the thought of counting calories or tracking food may be daunting for some individuals. So below I have listed 5 simple actions you can take to work towards a caloric deficit and help promote weight loss.
1. Get Up And Move!
Increasing your activity level will naturally place you in more of a caloric deficit since you are burning more calories through exercise and activity. Even just taking the dog for a walk will burn more calories than if you stayed home on the couch. Try to reach 10,000 steps in a day, take the stairs instead of the elevator, etc. and see what a dramatic effect even these small actions can have!
2. Incorporate More High Volume, Low-Calorie Food Choices!
Vegetables are a great example of a food choice with a lot of volume and very minimal calories. So you can eat much more, feeling full and satisfied without taking in an exuberant amount of calories. On the contrary, try to stray away from eating foods that are very calorically dense like nuts, dried fruit, granola, etc. which may seem “healthy” but are most times overeaten and account for a large number of calories for only a small portion. Obviously, these foods can be enjoyed while still achieving your goals but should be enjoyed in moderation.
3. Avoid Drinking Your Calories!
Juice, soda, sweetened coffee, you name it… QUIT COLD TURKEY! Drinking your calories is a sure way to prevent any weight loss. Although the topic of diet beverages is quite controversial in today’s society, if you are dieting or trying to lose weight and drinking diet tea or diet soda here and there as a way to prevent you from ingesting empty calories, I say go for it!
4. Make Your Meals In The Kitchen!
There is always a time and a place where eating out is appropriate and can be incorporated into any healthy weight loss journey. However, if you are eating out (or ordering in) more than you are consuming home-cooked meals, you are most likely nowhere near the caloric deficit you are striving to reach in order to lose weight.
5. Stay Consistent!
Consistency is key in any weight loss venture. Of course, balance is also super important however if you are super strict with your diet and exercise regimen for three days, followed by three days of eating everything in sight then you will most likely not find success in the goals you have set for yourself. Weight loss does NOT happen overnight. It takes discipline and hard work! You did not gain those extra 10 pounds overnight, so don’t expect to lose it overnight either. In making attainable and sustainable goals for yourself, you are setting yourself up for success!
(BONUS) Control Your Blood Sugars!
Diabetics often experience weight gain due to unstable blood sugars and more specifically the vicious low blood glucose cycle. When there are changes in an individual’s diet and exercise regimen, insulin dose changes are also almost always required. However, the trouble occurs when people start dieting and do not change their insulin doses which can cause low blood sugars and in turn require you to consume numerous calories to treat these lows!
Having a juice box once in a while to correct a low blood sugar will not hinder your weight loss goals whatsoever, however, if you are experiencing multiple lows in a week or even in a day, you may be consuming hundreds of extra calories that could be eliminated if you had better control of your blood sugars. As I always say strive for progress, not perfection!
For any individual with Type 1 Diabetes that sets a goal to lose weight, changes to diet and exercise should be gradual and will require monitoring your blood glucose carefully and making insulin dose changes appropriately. It is important that you discuss your weight loss goals with your Endocrinology care team as well so they can help in managing your blood glucose levels and insulin doses.