I was dressing for work this morning when I realized, with dismay, that I forgot to transfer my work clothes from the washer to the dryer. I wear jeans and a white t-shirt to my part-time job at a large retail outlet, and currently I only fit in one pair of jeans. They are size 12. They won’t be dry for an hour.
I dig through my drawer and try on a pair of size 10s. A few deep knee bends and I figured they’d work. A little spandex in the fabric got me through the day.
I weigh something north of 160 lbs. From the middle of 2021 to April of this year, I weighed about 144. And then I ballooned up over a very short time. It had nothing to do with a change in diet. I’ve been eating low carb vegan (plus bacon). I found a stir fry mixture I liked, and varied the veggie mix to keep it interesting. I was amazed to find that my weight remained steady, in the low 140s, for the first time ever. Up until April, I wore size 6 jeans and felt great about my body.
What changed everything was an appointment with an endocrinologist on April 21. He looked at my lab results, which I detail in this post. The lab numbers were great except for high glucose in my blood and urine. He urged me to take a second insulin, Lantus, to even things out.
I resisted. While I had this stuff in my fridge, I didn’t like how it made me fat. I told him I’d tried it a few months earlier for a few days, just to see what dosage I’d need to awake with a healthy glucose. I told him that over the seven days I took this stuff, I put on a pound a day.
“Oh, that’s just water plumping up your cells,” he said.
I had my doubts, but went back onto Lantus. It brought the glucose down but, as I’d feared, made me pack on pounds — and fast. How does this happen?
What insulin does is remove the glucose from the bloodstream and “store” it as fat. I’ve had other doctors acknowledge that insulins like Lantus are notorious for weight gain. This endo wouldn’t go there. He insisted I’d be fine.
Even after I quit taking the Lantus, its residual effect had me still packing on the pounds. It was so infuriating. Obviously, diabetic patients do poorly with excess weight. If you’re a type 1, your body doesn’t make its own insulin and you must inject insulin to stay alive. If you gain enough weight, you can also get type 2, and become a double diabetic.
Type 2 diabetics tend to be overweight and inactive anyway, so adding pounds just worsens their situation. The amount of insulin required to bring glucose into line increases with increased weight. So there’s a paradox — insulin can make you more diabetic.
I don’t identify with either type of diabetes, but I know that increased weight will surely give me issues with high blood-pressure, cholesterol and heart problems. No matter how much exercise I get (and I walk 10,000-15,000 steps a day) I cannot bring my glucose down. I’m missing that component.
In his book The Obesity Code, Canadian nephrologist Jason Fung draws on research when he says that insulin causes obesity. “Patients who use insulin regularly and physicians who prescribe it already know the awful truth: the more insulin you give, the more obese you get.”
He cites a 1993 study where high-dose insulin brought the glucose levels back to normal. The study participants reduced their caloric intake by more than 300 calories a day.
“Despite eating less than ever, patients gained weight like crazy. It wasn’t calories that drove their weight gain. It was insulin.”
Good to know I’m not crazy. So what am I to do? I don’t eat processed foods. I don’t eat fruit or dairy. I don’t eat meat (except bacon). I don’t drink sugary drinks or sodas. I don’t drink alcohol. My diet consists of leafy greens, plant-based simulated meats and black coffee.
There’s nothing else I can cut out, except food itself..
A few years ago, I discovered Fung’s books and YouTube videos on intermittent and extended fasting. The first fast I did was three-days long. I lost weight but, man, was it tough. I dove back in and did a week-long fast, and found things got much easier after the first two or three days. I did a few seven-day fasts and found my glucose levels became manageable. And because I took less insulin, I lost weight.
I’ve continued to fast off and on, but I realize now I have to stick to a schedule to keep weight off. Our bodies have set-points, and it can be super hard to move off that spot. But it can be done. I’ve done it before, and lost 30 pounds.
I did a seven-day fast a couple months ago, and I wanted to push on beyond a week but I hit a wall. The first rule is to listen to your body, and that’s what I did. I broke the fast.
I know what you’re thinking — I must be crazy.
You’re saying “Fasting is unhealthy! It’s dangerous! You need three meals a day!”
My response: How do you think your great-great-grandparents got their food? They probably grew it themselves or bought it from farmers. There was no McDonald’s, no grocery stores or freezers full of ready-to-serve meals. Our brains evolved over many years to be the amazing organs they are. I hate to think what we’re doing to them on today’s fare.
You’re saying: “I could never fast.”
My response: Yes, you can. The average body holds 60,000 calories in storage. You need water but you don’t need to eat every day. How many times do you find yourself eating when you’re not hungry? Are treats and snacks an occasional or everyday thing? Do you believe you can heal your body through good food? I do.
You’re saying: “Sandra, you’re going to faint or pass out!”
Ha. Not with my glucose levels. I still use insulin while fasting, but not as much as when I eat meals. I have good energy while fasting, but have to watch for low electrolytes.
Fung says the first rule of fasting is to avoid talking about it. People will just give you grief. But that just falls into the blame-and-shame game that surrounds people with diabetes. So I’m talking about it.
Why do patients get such a hard time from doctors, and the general public? All we’ve got to work with is insulin, a synthetic hormone that makes us fat. There are no other pharmaceutical options.
Thanks to Dr. Fung, there are ways to deal with the weight gain, but it’s no piece of cake.