10 Weight-Loss Tips for People With Type 2 Diabetes
Losing weight with diabetes
When you have type 2 diabetes, losing just 5% of your weight can improve blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol. However, as if dropping pounds isn't tough enough, diabetes can make it even more difficult. Many people who begin taking insulin to control their blood sugar see the scale tick up, and other diabetes drugs, including sulfonylureas, thiazolidinediones, and meglitinides, have also been associated with weight gain. (Although some, like metformin, may help you lose weight.) What's more, hormonal changes that occur in your late 30s and early 40s add to insulin resistance, which is when your body fails to use insulin efficiently, says Betul Hatipoglu, MD, an endocrinologist at Cleveland Clinic. "Metabolism slows down and the risk of gaining weight increases, especially around the midsection," she says. Here, top experts give their best advice to make losing weight with diabetes a little easier.
Taste the Mediterranean
Complex carbs like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains speed up weight loss, while a diet high in processed simple carbs such as white bread, pasta, rice, and sweets will do the opposite, says Dr. Hatipoglu. Since people with diabetes have twice the risk of heart disease and stroke as those without, your best road to weight loss may be a Mediterranean-style diet, which has been linked to better heart health in numerous studies (and fits with American Diabetes Association recommendations). Try to eat more veggies, omega-3 rich foods (salmon, oatmeal, nuts) and healthy fats (olive oil, avocado), but keep in mind that even healthy fats can be high in calories; keep saturated fat and simple carbs to a minimum.
All that said, there is no one-size-fits-all diet for diabetes, so talk to your doc or diabetes educator about what may be the best plan for you.
Related:22 Mediterranean Diet Recipes
Move as much as you can
The best way to overcome insulin resistance is with exercise, says Dr. Hatipoglu. "Exercise improves the body's insulin resistance and helps get rid of the fat," she says. In fact, exercise can be as powerful as medication at lowering your blood sugar. Take every opportunity to get up and walk around during the day and avoid sitting for long periods of time. Some simple lifestyle tweaks: take the stairs instead of the elevator; get off one stop early if you use public transportation or park at the back of the lot if you drive; and walk over to your coworker's desk to ask a question instead of shooting an email or instant message. Aim for a total of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a day.
Related:9 Easy Ways to Sneak in Exercise
Build more muscle
Cardio is just one piece of the exercise puzzle when you have diabetes. Resistance training—using dumbbells, exercise bands, or even your own body weight—lowers blood sugar by making your body more sensitive to insulin. Plus, strength training helps build muscle, which helps you burn more calories all day long even when you're at rest. Include some form of resistance training two to three times a week in addition to aerobic exercise. Plan your own customized five-move workout or check out our workout library.
Write down your calorie intake
If you have type 2 diabetes, you need to watch all calories, but especially carbohydrates and sugar, says Etie Moghissi, MD, associate clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. A study from Kaiser Permanente showed people who kept a daily food journal lost twice as much weight as those who did not. In addition to recording what you eat, track how you feel. This helps uncover emotional triggers such as boredom or anger that bring on unconscious eating patterns. Record your intake in a simple notebook or use an app like MyFitnessPal. By cutting back on refined grains and added sugars, you can lose weight and better manage your hemoglobin A1C (a blood sugar average over two to three months), says Dr. Moghissi.
Including breakfast in the daily routine is a common denominator for successful weight loss and maintenance, says Rene Ficek, RD, lead nutrition expert at Seattle Sutton's Healthy Eating and a Certified Diabetes Educator. "This may work because breakfast suppresses midmorning hunger, produces better blood glucose and elevates basal metabolic rate," she explains. An Israeli study showed one-third of people with diabetes who ate a big breakfast that included protein and fat were able to reduce their diabetes medication and lower their blood sugar levels compared with only 17% of those eating a smaller breakfast. Eating breakfast also typically results in fewer episodes of imbalanced, impulsive, or excessive eating later in the day increases fiber intake from veggies and whole grains; reduces dietary fat intake; and encourages improved health consciousness.
Check body weight frequently
In addition to a reduced-calorie diet, frequent weighing is an integral part of successful weight loss, says Ficek. "Monitoring weight on a regular basis is a form of accountability and self-monitoring, and consistent self-monitoring is associated with improved weight loss." Ficek recommends weighing yourself one to two times a week. Be consistent with the time of day and weigh yourself with the same clothes—don't wear your shoes one day and leave them off the next.
Create a snack list
There will be times when following the meal plan provided by your diabetes educator to a tee will be more difficult, like when you're on the road or you are away from your home (and well-stocked pantry) for a full day or more. Keep yourself in check by creating a written list of suitable snacks, says Jill Weisenberger, author,Â Diabetes Weight Loss: Week by Week. "Write down the snack as well as the carbohydrate and calorie contents. This way, when hunger strikes, you'll less likely be tempted to eat snacks that work against you instead of for you." You will know exactly what to eat and still have the flexibility of making a choice.
Related: 5 Snacks for People With Diabetes
Flip meal proportions
Reverse your typical portions to save calories and carbs and boost nutrition, suggests Jill Weisenberger, RD, a diabetes educator and the author ofÂ Diabetes Weight Loss: Week by Week. When making a sandwich, for example, make vegetables the main event rather than just a garnish, and use just a slice or two of meat in between your thin-sliced whole-grain bread. For dessert, instead of sprinkling berries on top of a bowl of frozen yogurt, have a bowl of berries with just a dollop of froyo. Try this with pasta salads, too, by doubling up on vegetables and cutting the pasta portion in half (and use whole-grain instead of refined pasta).
Plan before dining out
It happens: A big project keeps you at the office late, and you have nothing to eat waiting for you at home. Instead of pulling into a drive-thru and asking for the first thing that looks good to you, have a list of healthy options saved in a note on your smartphone so you know exactly what to order, suggests Weisenberger. All major fast food chains have nutrition information available on their websites. Find out which options have an amount of carbs and calories that your nutritionist could give a thumbs up. Good bets: healthy salads with nuts (skip sugary dressings!), half sandwiches or breadless options with vegetables, lettuce wraps, asking for mustard instead of mayo, and fruit parfaits.
Make your own flavored water
Slashing empty calories from sugary sodas and juices is a no-brainer when you have type 2 diabetes. But if you can't stand the idea of drinking plain water, skip diet drinks (they aren't any better for you than the sugary stuff) and make your own flavored H2O, says Weisenberger. "Flavor your water with fruit, vegetables, and herbs." Try cucumber and mint, peach and basil, lemon slices, and strawberry, lime and rosemary. Before adding the herbs, crush them lightly in your hand to release their flavors, she suggests.