5 minutes reading time (987 words)

But I don't take insulin


When I speak with clients about metabolic health and insulin resistance, I so often hear, "But I don't take insulin so what you're saying Tisha can't apply to me. After all, if I'm not taking insulin, I obviously don't have a problem with insulin, so none of this stuff matters and insulin is not why I'm gaining weight or feeling sicker."  Unfortunately, this train of thought is well ... wrong. So, I thought I'd take a little bit of time today and help clear up some confusion.  Let's start off with the most complicated part of this discussion.  The medical definition of what insulin is.

MEDICAL DEFINITION: Insulin is a peptide hormone produced by beta cells of the pancreatic islets; it is considered to be the main anabolic hormone of the body. It regulates the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and protein by promoting the absorption of glucose from the blood into the liver, fat, and skeletal muscle cells.

If you got through that definition and are still reading ... give yourself a pat on the back or a big hug.  JOB WELL DONE!  

 ***Let's take a quick break and enjoy a little metabolic health humor***

and now I'm back ...

For those of you who felt like that medical definition was a bunch of words that didn't really seem to make up any comprehendible sentences, let me explain what that medical definition should have said.

What is insulin?

Insulin is a growth hormone.  More simply, it's a fat-storage hormone. One of its many jobs is to remove excess glucose (sugar) from your bloodstream. Why? Because in high amounts, glucose is toxic! Yep, too much glucose in your bloodstream will kill you. That is why, when we discuss metabolic health (how your body converts food into fuel), we discuss insulin.

When insulin is doing its job, it removes glucose from your blood and puts it into your body's cells for energy. If you have more glucose in your blood than your body needs for fuel/energy, the excess glucose will be stored in your liver or muscle cells (as glycogen to be used at a later date, which leads to NAFLD or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease) or into your fat cells where it is stored as fat (lipid), causing you to gain weight/fat and eventually develop obesity.

When your cells are full, or won't accept any more glucose (because they've become resistant), your pancreas produces more insulin to try and force the glucose into your cells. As your cells become more and more resistant, the glucose that is supposed to be removed from your blood isn't removed and you see higher and higher glucose levels. This is known as insulin resistance which leads to pre-diabetes, and quickly thereafter Type 2 diabetes, as well as many other chronic diseases. At this point, your body is unable to use glucose as energy. Insulin is constantly being produced in larger and larger amounts, never really leaving the bloodstream because it's trying so hard to remove the glucose. Remember, too much glucose in your body is toxic.

Now here is one of the most important points I'll make today, so if someone or something has grabbed your attention, come back to me here - this is important and I don't want you to miss it.  

Whenever insulin is in your bloodstream, your body is in "storage" mode. That means that as long as insulin is present, your body is storing fat.  It is NOT POSSIBLE to burn fat as fuel if insulin is present.  The more insulin in your blood & the longer it's there, the more your body stores what you eat as fat. Remember, if what you're eating is being converted to glucose, insulin will be produced to remove it.  What happens next?  You gain weight.  It doesn't happen overnight.  It's a slow process but once it starts, it gains momentum, and the weight packs on. 

Other than dealing with weight gain, is high glucose or insulin resistance, something to worry about?  Great question with an easy answer.  YES! 100% YES! When glucose is no longer being removed from your bloodstream, your blood sugar levels go up. The sugar left in your blood then starts to destroy the cells all over your body, leading to a long list of chronic diseases including those pictured below: 

Photo Credit: Insulin IQ

Chances are if you are suffering from one or more of these disorders, you are insulin resistant.  If you are insulin resistant, restoring your metabolic health is the most important decision you can make.  Not only will it help to reverse the conditions above, but you'll also experience increased energy, improved mental clarity and focus, reduced inflammation, reduced pain, improved mood, regulated menstrual cycles, and more.  

Before I sign off, I want to add one more nugget of knowledge.  Insulin resistance does not automatically mean you will become or are obese.  Obesity is one of the many diseases caused by insulin resistance, but the number on the scale does not always mean you are sicker than a lighter friend.  There are many people who only have 5-10 lbs that they want to lose, or maybe have some belly fat they don't like.  Needing to lose a small amount of weight however does not mean you are not at risk for diabetes, fatty liver, PCOS, or any of the other diseases shown above.  As I mentioned in my article last week, 93% of American Adults are Unhealthy, meaning they have metabolic dysfunction but less than 32% of the population is obese.  

So what do you think about what you just read?  Have questions?  Does it make sense?  Is there another topic you'd like me to cover?  Send me an email, comment below, or reach out via social media. 

Til next time!


When insulin can no longer do its job
Making Time