Safe Diabetes Weight Loss: How to Lose Weight with Diabetes?
For many of us, weight is a sensitive issue, and reaching an ideal, healthy weight is much easier said than done. But if you are carrying extra weight and living with diabetes, there are huge benefits to losing the excess weight.
Not only will you have more energy and feel better in yourself, but you’ll also reduce your risk of serious complications like heart disease and stroke. And, for some people with recently diagnosed type 2 diabetes, losing excess weight could even mean going into diabetes remission.
But there’s no doubt that millions of people with diabetes (and without) find reaching and keeping to a healthy weight a huge struggle. You need to remember that you’re not alone in this, there’s support out there to help you achieve your goal – a good first step is to ask your healthcare team for help and advice.
How does Losing Weight Help Diabetes?
There are many physical and emotional benefits to losing weight if you have diabetes.
- Excess weight around your waist (often called ‘belly fat’) means fat can build up around your internal organs, particularly your liver and pancreas. This may cause insulin resistance. Losing this weight may help the insulin your body produces, or the insulin you inject, to work properly.
- Losing weight may result in you reducing your diabetes medications, which is a great motivation for losing weight.
- If you have type 1 diabetes, losing extra weight can help reduce your risk of diabetes complications and could result in injecting less insulin.
- If you have type 2 diabetes, losing enough weight could even put you into diabetes remission – a life-changing possibility. This is more likely if you lose the weight shortly after diagnosis.
- Most people also feel better in their mood, have more energy, and sleep better when they reach a healthier weight.
What is a Healthy Weight for Someone with Diabetes?
Losing just 5% – 10% of extra weight will improve your health, and research shows that the more weight you lose, the greater the health benefits. So how do you know how much weight you need to lose? Generally, we use two simple tools to measure how much weight we carry:
BMI (body mass index) calculates your height and weight to work out if you’re in your target weight range. But it doesn’t look at how much fat you have around your middle, so that’s why you need to measure your waist too. There are lots of online tools you can use to calculate your BMI like this one from the US Department of health & Human Services
Losing excess belly fat improves your insulin sensitivity, glucose control, and reduces the risk of diabetes complications in the long term. A healthy waist size depends on your gender. It should be:
less than 80cm (31.5in) for all women
less than 94cm (37in) for most men
How to Lose Weight with type 1 or type 2 Diabetes – is there a Special Diabetes Diet?
No matter what you read on the internet or see on YouTube, there is no magic diet to lose excess weight quickly and keep it off in the long term. Everyone is different and will react differently to different types of foods and diets. Healthy and sustainable weight loss programs for diabetes should be seen as part of a journey to a healthier you and will work best through a combination of diet and lifestyle changes.
So, what should you eat to lose weight and keep it off successfully when you are living with diabetes? According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA) the key to weight loss in most people is simply finding the right combination of healthy foods, portion control, and exercise. No fad diets and no extreme fasting regimes.
Let’s look at the basics.
The first step is to talk with your doctor or registered dietician about a sensible diet plan that suits you and your lifestyle and treatment goals.
Now look at your food options. You have many choices from Mediterranean, low–carb, or vegetarian diets to name a few, at least one or a combination of them will suit you and your lifestyle.
Make sure to minimize sugars and refined and processed foods and bump up your non-starchy vegetables and whole grains.
Practice portion control. The ADA recommends a useful technique called the Diabetes Plate Method to create portioned meals with a healthy balance of protein, carbs, and vegetables – without the need to measure, calculate or weigh! The idea is to divide your dinner plate (no bigger than 9 inches across) in half down the middle and then to divide the right-hand side horizontally into two again. Now you have three sections. The largest section is filled with non-starchy vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, green beans, peppers, and salad greens. One quarter of the second section is filled with lean protein foods such as lean beef, chicken, soy products, and fish. The second section is filled with carbohydrate foods like whole grains, starchy veg, fruits, yogurt, and beans.
The key to losing weight is to find a diet plan you feel most comfortable with and will be able to stick to.
Tips for Diabetes Weight Loss
- Check your emotions
Emotions play a huge part in how we view and experience food. Some of us eat to relieve stress, others eat through boredom, or for comfort. Recognizing triggers that prompt cravings is important to understanding and keeping them in check.
- Set realistic goals
Look at losing weight and keeping it off is a lifetime journey – not a life sentence! It’s not a punishment, but a present. Don’t set yourself up to fail by setting unrealistic goals, and don’t beat yourself up when you slip – just take stock and get back on track the next day. Setting goals that are achievable will mean you are more likely to succeed in them. For example, an eating goal could be eating a piece of fruit instead of ice cream four days a week. Or walking to work instead of taking the bus three days a week.
- Practice mindful eating
Mindful eating is a technique that helps control your eating habits by paying full attention to your experience. It teaches you to really enjoy your food and your relationship with it in a positive, healthy manner.
The technique involves:
- Eating slowly and without distraction
- Distinguishing between real hunger and trigger hunger
- Appreciating the colors, smells, textures, and flavors of food
- Eating to maintain physical and emotional health
How can you Lose Belly Fat when you have Diabetes?
Losing excess belly fat can have a significant impact on your diabetes management – it improves insulin sensitivity, regulates glucose levels, and reduces the risk for diabetes related complications like heart attack and stroke. While cutting calories will help reduce belly fat, recent research has shown that exercise is one of the best ways to combat it, particularly high-intensity strength training.
Combining Activity and Weight Loss for a Healthy Life Living with Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes
What you eat is obviously one of the key factors for living a healthy life with diabetes, but to get the best benefits, you need to combine nutrition and physical activity as part of your healthy lifestyle. Exercise offers many benefits for people living with diabetes. It not only helps lose extra weight and belly fat, it also reduces stress, can help in lowering and maintaining your blood sugars, and may even reduce insulin requirements. Current recommendations for people with diabetes are 150 minutes of aerobic exercise a week. Think about it, 150 minutes, that’s just 30 minutes a day over five days. And we’re not talking high-intensity navy seal type activity! Activity is anything that gets your heart rate up – it could be a brisk walk, swimming, dancing, cycling or Tai Chi. And if you can’t manage 30 minutes in one go, you can break it down into two 15-minute sessions a day – that’s a brisk walk to and from the shops rather than taking the car or a bus.
The articles provided on this website are for informational purposes only. In addition, it is written for a generic audience and not a specific case; therefore, this information should not be used for diagnostic or medical treatment. This site does not attempt to replace the patient-physician relationship and fully recommends the reader to seek out the best care from his/her physician and/or diabetes educator.