I know two women who weigh about 400 pounds. One is healthy as a horse, climbs stairs with no difficulty, feels and looks fine, no symptoms and no medications. The other is a diabetic with heart trouble, rides in a cart at the grocery store, can barely walk around. I also know a man no one would not call fat but has a bit of “pot belly ” hanging over his belt. He is diabetic and has a “fatty liver.” Obviously any one-size-fits-all definition of a healthy weight may be wrong. How can that be?
Strange as it may seem, everything that is or isn’t wrong with you may be the result of one important factor, your body’s genetic capacity to store fat. You don’t have to understand how all this works in detail. You don’t even have to know what your genes are. You just have to know that it is true and act accordingly.
So consider T2D, type 2 diabetes. I choose diabetes because nobody has diabetes that doesn’t also have a lot of other stuff wrong. Why is that? Because by the time you are diagnosed diabetic your internal operation is not working properly. Diagnosis always occurs late in the deterioration cycle. That mess inside is causing everything.
Depending on who you ask, you can find that there are perhaps hundreds of gene variations that contribute to the risk of T2 diabetes. Gene variations and mutations can indeed cause some illnesses. But with rare exception, no one of those gene variations “causes” diabetes. In fact, according to scientists and researcher, there seems to be no combination of gene variations that “cause” diabetes. Genes may be ammunition for diabetes but they don’t pull the trigger.
The really big, really big, factor in diabetes (and most of the other stuff that goes wrong) is the amount of subcutaneous body fat (beneath the skin) your body can store. Here is the irritating part. In my research I find no way to uncover what that capacity is. Most of us will discover our capacity when we exceed it and get sick.
Fat storage is your body’s way of handling excess dietary energy not required to keep you running every day. It is the source of back-up energy when you aren’t eating. You need it because who knows when you will be stranded on a desert island. The key is that you only have so much room in your fat cells and everyone’s (EVERYONE’S) capacity is different. This one is definitely in your genes. Some folks can really pack it on with little negative effect, others not.
When your capacity for subcutaneous fat is reached, energy is already not storing properly. Your hormones get messed up and you have lots of symptoms. One of those hormones is insulin which is supposed to keep your blood sugar normal. Blood sugar goes higher and higher. Your cholesterol and triglyceride levels get too high. You start to have heart trouble. Your blood pressure goes up. And your liver has to figure out where to put that excess energy that can’t be stored in your fat cells.
The only option open is to stuff the fat in and around your muscles and body organs like the liver, pancreas, kidneys, and heart. So you have non-alcoholic fatty liver and then the doctor gets really excited.
Somewhere in that evolution your doctor will say: “Oh, by the way, you are diabetic.” About 80% of diabetics are overtly obese; 20% are not. A major difference between the two is the capacity to store subcutaneous fat. Either one could be storing fat in all the wrong places.
Now, given that you don’t know your genes and don’t know your personal fat capacity (although the condition of your close relatives gives you a clue) what should you do? The answer is simple, stop gaining weight and lose the excess you have.
The excess weight is attached to the excess energy you are putting in your mouth; in other words, your diet.
I participate in six diabetes on-line Facebook groups. These are people who are just focused on blood sugar management. The majority of these people are significantly overweight or obese and desperate to lose weight. And there is tons of evidence, both anecdotal and research based, that miracles happen when weight is lost.
I am involved with other groups with the prefix “keto“ attached to their name. These are people who know that when the liver converts body fat into energy, that energy arrives in the form of “ketones. Sometimes these folks are diabetic but frequently they tend to be athletic and fitness aficionados searching for the perfect source of energy to improve their performance.
One group wants and needs to lose weight; the other group is trying to improve performance for athletic reasons. But they are all utilizing the same tool, ketones.
You cannot lose body fat (no matter where it is stored) if it isn’t converted to ketones. You cannot convert body fat into ketones if your diet continuously stuffs in too much energy. And the energy source to be minimized is carbohydrate sugar.
Maybe that doesn’t make sense to you because the problem is fat. But don’t be fooled! For most obese people, the majority of the fat tucked away in your fat cells was created by your liver from excess sugar.
Amazingly, when it is too late for you to avoid excess weight and perhaps the associated illnesses, you can still recover from a very bad situation with the same minimization strategy. The following was posted on one of my diabetes Facebook pages yesterday. The poster gave me permission to use her testimony outside the page.
The post refers to LCHF which means low carbohydrate, higher fat. Also know that essentially all the carbohydrates remaining in her diet are whole food vegetables including no starches.
“At my diagnosis nineteen months ago my blood sugar was 518, A1C 14.4, high blood pressure, cholesterol 777, triglycerides 4,088, LDL too high to measure, fatty non-alcoholic liver, and despite my daily gym workouts I was morbidly obese. After one year of eating a strict LCHF diet my fasting blood sugar was 82, A1C 4.9, blood pressure normal, cholesterol 121, triglycerides 69, LDL within normal range, liver normal, and I’d lost 100+ pounds. This was accomplished with no medication just LCHF diet and daily exercise. LCHF saved my life!”
Hopefully your situation isn’t that bad. I have a local friend who read my book, It’s All about the Food, and cured himself the same way. He was diabetic with high triglycerides, perhaps 10 extra pounds, and taking medications. His fat capacity was apparently quite low. Today he is 10 pounds lighter, taking no medications, and living the good life.
How much weight do you need to lose? Enough to start feeling good. When those nasty symptoms start disappearing you are on the road. For sure, manage your diet to avoid gaining weight. Dang few people need to gain weight. It really is all about the food.
Pat Smith is the author of “It’s All about the Food,” a book that guides nutritious food choices as the way to avoid illness and maintain a healthy weight. Pat is a resident of Montgomery County, AR, president of Ouachita Village, Inc. board of directors (Montgomery County Food Pantry); chairman of the Tasty Acre project; and member of the Mount Ida Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors. Her website is http://allaboutthefood.org/