This is a question that comes up time and time again about living with Type 1 Diabetes. And when I talk about T1 I am also talking T1.5 or LADA.  

‘Is it harder to loose weight with Type 1 diabetes?’, Do people with Type 1 gain or lose weight? ‘I’m sick and tired of the weight gain, even though I am low carb’, ‘I have gained so much weight since starting insulin’.

Now before we take a dive into the how’s and why’s I would like to remind you that everyone is different, and that weight issues are caused by so many factors, that’s why some people put on weight and others lose weight, and others just stay the same weight. But for sure the strongest factor with diabetes and weight gain is insulin. 

Many people before their diagnosis would have lost a lot of weight, and after diagnosis when they started insulin therapy put the weight back on,  and then more. This is because before diagnosis they were not producing much insulin, one of insulin’s many jobs is to store excess energy (calories) from glucose (carbs) into glycogen (fat). So that’s why if we look at people with type 2 diabetes, they are usually overweight because they have been producing too much insulin, to the point that their fat cells are too full, and their body decides to close the doors to their fat storage (insulin resistance). So when you take a newly diagnosed Type 1 and you tell them to eat a high carb diet, and inject enough insulin to cover the carbs in their diet eventually they start to put on weight, and then they become overweight, and then can also end up with insulin resistance. And why if you take a newly diagnosed Type 2 and put them on a low carb diet they lose weight and eventually produce less insulin. 

Now there are some variances in this, because as I mentioned before we are all different, so some people have fat cells that have a far greater capacity for storage the others. This means some people can become overweight, and not get insulin resistance/Type 2, and how some people can be insulin resistant /Type 2 and be not so overweight, or overweight at all. 

So if you are feeling like your weight sucks, the first thing you need to do go low carb. If you have been high carb for a long time and usually have an A1c over 6%, I strongly suggest going slow. It’s likely you are insulin resistant, plus your body will take more time to adjust to a very low carb diet. If you reduce your carbs you must also reduce your insulin, and you must initially check your blood glucose more frequently. 

If you are already eating low carb, and your weight is still an issue then it’s time to look at some other factors.  Stress, sleep, hormones, gut, toxins & chronic inflammation.

Chronic Stress

Will make you more likely to gain weight because when stressed you produce loads of stress hormones. These hormones are called cortisol, adrenalin, & norepinephrine. And they are great, we need them, they give us our get up and go in the morning,  they give us our oomph when doing exercise, they help us to keep going, and god forbid if we need to run for our lives they make us superhuman. 

If you didn’t make these hormones you’d be flat, no energy, no fight. However these hormones are not great when we are producing them all the time, and if you have a stressful job/life, you don’t sleep enough, you work shifts, have unresolved infections, you don’t eat healthily, you don’t exercise or over-exercise,  have emotional stress, and then you don’t work on reducing this stress in your life, you will likely be producing a constant flow of stress hormones. We all have stressors in our lives, we cannot escape them, but we can manage them. Cortisol in particular when chronically elevated will reduce insulin sensitivity and increase blood sugar, which as we know are not helpful for weight loss. [1] In fact chronically elevated cortisol will also eventually affect many other systems in our bodies, but this an issue for another post. 

Poor Sleep

Now I’m not just talking about not enough sleep, but also not enough quality sleep. We need 7-9 hours a night as adults, more as teens or younger children. And the quality of slept matters too. If you have interfering factors that mean you don’t get good amounts of deep and REM sleep then you need to take actions to ensure you do. Practising good sleep hygiene such as keeping a regular sleeping schedule, sleeping in a cool dark room, no screens before bed, no phones/electronics in the room, or if they are they are off or in flight mode, no eating before bed will all do wonders for ensuring you get the quality sleep you need. When we don’t get enough quality sleep it puts the body under stress, go back and read the paragraph above to be reminded of how that will negatively impact weight. Additionally, the hormones that regulate appetite and hunger get disrupted, meaning you are more likely to not only eat more but eating more of the wrong foods. That’s because when you are tired your body is looking for quick energy and so you will have cravings for sugary foods, crips and processed foods/drinks. The more weight you gain, the less likely you will have good quality sleep and the cycle continues. [2], [3]

Hormones 

For the most part when we say hormones most people think about our sex hormones, and about man vs woman. It’s usually associated with testosterone in men and being too emotional, and our menstrual cycle in women. We have many other hormones though and they play a role in most of your days to day functioning.  Some other hormones in our body are growth hormone, stress hormones thyroid hormones, insulin, & serotonin. Hormones are basically communication molecules in our body, they send messages to your body telling it how it should work. But when these hormones get out of balance things can go haywire.  Many of the factors in this article can affect hormone regulation and Visa Versa. And all the hormones in our body’s work in symphony with each other, so when one gets out of whack they can all get out of whack. 

Gut Health

Did you know that certain strains of gut bacteria are found in higher concentrations in obese people, than that of lean people? Although it is a bit of a chicken and egg thing as we don’t know which causes which, does the obesity result in more of a certain strain of bacteria, or does having the certain strain of bacteria result in weight gain, it’s still an interesting find. The bacteria in your gut plays a huge role in many aspects of our health, from how we absorb and break down foods, to making certain vitamins, to how our immune system works, and more. They can even make you feel more hungry or more full.  An imbalance in gut batters can promote inflammation, and inflammation is a stressor to our bodies, here we see the role of stress again, it is all so interlinked! So poor gut health equals increased likelihood of weight gain. [4] You can have an unhealthy gut due to poor diet high in sugary processed foods, or due to using a lot of antibiotics, or chronic stress, food intolerances, parasites, poor sleep. You getting how connected everything is with our health, and how one little unbalance in one area can have a wide-reaching effect on so many aspects of your wellbeing? And so how powerful it can be to make positive little changes to reap great benefits?

Toxins

Environmental toxins play a huge role in health, we have toxins in plastics that disrupt hormone communication, toxins in the environment like mould, pollution, toxins in our food like pesticides and heavy metals. We additionally produce our own toxins, either from the normal biochemical process in the body as a result of infections. Our bodies have a great capacity to eliminate toxins, but often our own system becomes overwhelmed, and unable to deal with the load. We are exposed to so many toxins. So what is a body supposed to do with all these toxins? One of the ways it copes is to store it away somewhere safe, in our fat cells. If our body burden of toxins is higher than what we can cope with the body will store it away somewhere safer than in the bloodstream where it can damage organs, and it will not be very willing to release excess fat until it is safer to do so. The result is you may struggle to lose weight, and this is why some people can feel unwell with initially when losing weight.  We can minimise this by taking care of what we put in and on our bodies, in our homes and what we come into contact with in our environments. We can support our bodies own process by eating a healthy nutrient-dense diet, and by making sure our elimination channels (think healthy working gut) are functioning optimally.

Chronic Inflammation

Last by most certainly not least is chronic inflammation. Everything we have discussed above when not in balance will result in inflammation, and inflammation will impact everything from working properly. [5]Chronic inflammation is a stressor to the body. It is often a vicious cycle. It is one of the biggest drivers of chronic disease. The cycle can be broken through by making positive changes to your diet and the way you live, and by getting down to the root cause of what’s causing the inflammation. Some top causes of chronic inflammation can be poor diet or food intolerances, obesity, stress, toxic burden, lack of sleep, chronic infections (you don’t always know you have an infection).

I hope by now you can see how interconnected everything is in our bodies, and how making one positive change here can have a compounding impact on your entire health, not just on weight. Many people experience significant improvements in weight, energy and wellness by eating healthy, sleeping well, working on stress management, reducing environmental toxins, & improving gut health. 

Like what you read and want to learn more? I post lots of info on health and diabetes on my FB page https://www.facebook.com/upgradeddiabetic/, and I also run a dedicated community for people who have diabetes, a place to share and learn, and feel supported, https://www.facebook.com/groups/upgradeddiabetic/

If you would like help with anything we have covered in this article, or feel you are struggling to uncover the underlying cause of weight issues, you can contact me for a free 15 min discovery call.

References

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27345309

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3632337/

[3]https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/molecular-ties-between-lack-sleep-weight-gain

[4]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22191449

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2913796/