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The Real Reason You're Not Losing Weight

not losing weight sugar You probably know that weight gain ups your risk of diseases like diabetes. But you might not realize how complicated that link really is, says Osama Hamdy, MD, medical director of the obesity clinical program at Joslin diabetes center in Boston and author of The Diabetes Breakthrough.

“The cycle starts when you gain weight,” Dr. Hamdy says. The kicker is that once you have blood sugar problems, it’s much harder to do the one thing that can really help: slim down. That may be why the majority of people with type 2 diabetes—about 80 percent—are overweight or obese. The good news: dropping pounds is not impossible if you understand the complex dance between blood sugar, belly fat and insulin—and how to interrupt it.

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The Vicious Cycle, Explained

Every time you eat, your pancreas produces insulin. This hormone helps your body harness the energy provided by food by “unlocking” your cells, helping to move sugar (aka glucose) inside each one, where it’s used for fuel.

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The problem starts with insulin resistance, in which your cells no longer respond to the hormone. Weight gain can bring it on, especially if you add visceral fat (the kind around your abdominal organs) because it churns out inflammatory chemicals that harm cells’ response to insulin.

Think of your body as a car, says David G. Marrero, PhD, president of health care and education at the American diabetes association. “Fill the trunk with 500 pounds of gravel and it’s harder to run. It needs more gas and it wears out the engine to get the same level of performance.” That’s obesity. “Now think of insulin as the gas line between the fuel tank and the engine. Insulin resistance squeezes it, so when you need more fuel, it’s harder to get.”

Since it’s tough for insulin-resistant cells to take glucose from your blood, sugar levels build up. Over time, this may lead to diabetes, which can damage your blood vessels and yield more weight gain. That’s because extra blood glucose signals to your pancreas: “Make more insulin!” But the more you churn out, the easier weight piles on because insulin also encourages your body to store the extra sugar as fat.

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Shedding pounds can slow down the disease. “You gain more efficiency with every pound of gravel you take out of the trunk,” Marrero says.