Historically, both diabetes prevention and diabetes treatment have been rooted in the notion that weight gain leads to insulin resistance, perpetuating a medical model for diabetes grounded in pursuing intentional weight loss. But what if insulin resistance causes weight gain, and not the other way around?

Photo by Sam X on Unsplash

In Laurie Klipfel’s presentation, Insulin Resistance: Signs, Symptoms, and Causes, she dives deep into the pathophysiology of insulin resistance, articulating compelling research that found health behaviors to be paramount to weight loss itself. It is critical that medical professionals stop promising weight loss as a way to prevent or cure diabetes.

Viewing diabetes through a weight-neutral lens, we know that weight is not a behavior. Instead, health behaviors like enjoyable physical activity, minimizing stress, and prioritizing sleep have been shown to improve chronic disease risk regardless of weight loss.

Laurie, a nurse practitioner and CDE with over 30 years of experience, notes that improved physical fitness improves insulin resistance even in the absence of a weight change. In her own words, “Fitness makes much more difference than fatness.”

Below you’ll find several health benefits associated with physical activity:

  • Improved cardiovascular function
  • Decreased LDL
  • Increased HDL
  • Improved strength and flexibility
  • Reduced stress
  • Increased energy

We all have unique medical, personal, and family histories that put us at more or less risk for developing diabetes; by blaming weight, not only are we oversimplifying the incredibly complex pathogenesis of diabetes development, but we are perpetuating weight stigma and contributing to a medical system where those in larger bodies are all too often marginalized.

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Jessica Long is a graduate student at Meredith College in Raleigh, NC. She is an avid reader of research, and her interests include eating disorders, intuitive eating, and approaching medical nutrition therapy (MNT) from a weight-neutral lens. She is especially intrigued by the intersection of diabetes and weight neutral care, having experience working with patients with diabetes in a primary care setting. She is currently spearheading a research project investigating intuitive eating in minority undergraduate populations. Jessica can be reached via email at [email protected]