Do you know how your body regulates fat storage and weight?
Did your doctor ever tell you how your body works so you could understand how you gain weight and/or why you have some health issues like diabetes?
Yet, how could we possibly know what’s good or bad for us if we don’t know in the first place how our bodies work?
I have talked in previous emails this summer about coffee, portion control, menstrual hormones, underactive thyroid, busy woman syndrome, the nervous system, and emotional eating. All these can create situations where we gain weight.
But there is also a very important hormone that plays a role in how we store or burn fat, and how we gain and lose weight.
This hormone is Insulin.
Here’s how it works.
Most adults have about 1 gallon (5 liters) of blood in their bodies, and in that gallon, there is only 1 teaspoon of sugar!
Our body only needs 1 single teaspoon of sugar (at most) at all times.
If our blood sugar level were to rise to 3 teaspoons of sugar, we would quickly go into a hyperglycemic coma and die.
So, our body works very hard to prevent this from happening by producing the hormone insulin.
Insulin keeps your blood sugar at the appropriate level.
Any meal, snack or drink high in grain and sugar carbohydrates typically generates a rapid rise in blood glucose. In order to compensate for this the pancreas secretes insulin into the bloodstream, which lowers our blood sugar to keep us from dying.
What happens when you eat foods that contain sugar?
Here is the sugar content of some very common sugary foods and drinks:
If you eat 1 medium muffin with 1 cup commercial orange juice, your body has to get rid of the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar in your blood!
Insulin is released and does a good job of getting all this sugar out of your bloodstream.
Now, if you consume a diet consistently high in sugar and grains, over time your body becomes “sensitized” to insulin and requires more and more of it to get the job done.
Eventually, you can become insulin resistant, and then diabetic.
If you have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or are overweight, it may well be (note: it may be; I’m not saying it is) that you are eating (or drinking) too much sugar and too many grains as these are the most common culprits causing your insulin level to become abnormal.
Now, what does the body do with all this sugar?
If you are an athlete, it will most probably use it for energy.
If you are highly active, say, 2 hours of exercise per day, plus some walking and standing for a few hours, your body may also use this sugar for energy.
But if you are like most people, chances are you are only lightly active. Long hours at the office, a commute in your car, seating on the sofa at home, and maybe half an hour walk or housework here and there.
In this case, here is what happens: all the sugar that insulin is taking out from your bloodstream will not be used as energy, but it will be stored as fat.
When your insulin level rises due to high blood sugar, it sends your body a hormonal message telling it to store fat while holding on to the fat that is already there.
So not only will excess carbohydrates make you gain weight, they will effectively hinder your weight loss efforts, too.
Now, it’s not about going cold turkey and depriving ourselves; it’s about keeping it reasonable.
Food for thought: in the 19th century in the U.S., people would consume the equivalent of 2 teaspoons of sugar per day. And there was no obesity at all. Now, it’s 33 teaspoons of sugar per day…
This is #10 of these nutrition and weight loss series. Here are the other articles:
#1 – When Coffee Makes You Gain Weight (or Have High Blood Pressure)
#2 – Your scale is lying to you
#3 – Busy Woman Syndrome
#4 – Portion sizes matter more than calories
#5 – Cholesterol, Hormones and the Liver
#6 – Body fat and your nervous system – Stress, sleep & exercise
#7 – When Food Is Your Best Friend
#8 – 20 signs your digestive system needs support
#9 – Is your thyroid underactive?