Type 2 Diabetes: Tips to Lose Weight Successfully

The benefits of weight loss, especially if you were recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, may actually be able to reverse the disease; for others, it will reduce the risks of common but serious complications.

Written by Lisa M. Leontis RN, ANP-C
Reviewed by Amy Hess-Fischl MS, RD, LDN, BC-ADM, CDE

Since nearly 9 in 10 people who are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are overweight or have obesity,  it is likely that your doctor will discuss the benefits—and they are signficant—to achieving weight loss.

There is some urgency to this recommendation since added adipose tissue increases your insulin resistance (which occurs when your body can’t properly use the hormone insulin to metabolize sugar), and leads to further weight gain.

Weight Loss Can Protect Your Health In Many Ways

It's more important that you focus on reducing the weight around your middle (waist circumference) since the evidence points to central adiposity as the greatest risk for heart disease and other adverse side effects of diabetes.
 
If you have been told you have prediabetes, or you are newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, by decreasing your weight by about 10%—which is no more than 10-15 lbs for many people—you may be able to reverse your diabetes, putting it into remission, or putting off developing it at all.
 
By losing weight, people with type 2 diabetes can improve glucose tolerance which is important to be able to use insulin better. (To learn more about how the hormone insulin works, read our article on how insulin regulates blood glucose levels.)
 
Even more compelling, weight loss will likely protect you from developing common diabetes-related complications like eye diseases (retinopathy), neuropathy (nerve damage especially to your feet, which may lead to amputation), kidney failure, liver damage, high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease.
 
 

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and have been advised to lose weight,  you're probably saying to yourself: "easier said then done," or more likely, "don't you think I've tried everything to do that already?!"

Understanding how to achieve lasting weight loss starts with a focused assessment of how you are currently eating so you can pinpoint habits that may be holding you back from succeeding.

For many, the best way to do this may be to work with a registered dietitian or certified diabetes educator to help you design a plan that will work for you—a healthy meal plan, physical activity, and to set realistic goals to help you reach a healthy weight.

Eating to beat diabetes is much more about making wise food adjustments than it is about denial and deprivation. A better way to look at a diet when you have diabetes is one that helps you establish a new normal when it comes to your eating habits and food choices. 

There are many advantages to losing weight (even beyond the benefits related to diabetes):

While losing weight can be a challenge, even a struggle, you can't let that stop you. Rather, realize that you can do it because you want to, then make sure you have the right support to stay motivated.
 
For a little fun, take our carb counting quiz to see how well you know the carb content of certain foods; this can help you make healthier choices.
 

There are 3 food-related factors that lead to weight gain:

There are 3 other important behaviors that have a major influence on weight gain as increasing your physical activity, getting sufficient quality sleep, and finding ways to reduce daily stress.

Tricks that Improve Long-Term Successful Weight Loss

Find cookbooks or search the web for recipes that will inspire you to make-over your favorite dishes. 

Work with a registered dietitian who specializes in diabetes to help you set reasonable goals, and to develop an eating plan that fits your schedule, makes sense for your family, recognizes your likes and dislikes, and feels right. 

And remember, weight loss is a temporary process; the real challenge, as you likely know from past experience, is keeping off the lost weight. To achieve this goal, you must embrace a new way of eating, one that is agreeable but meets the healthy view of the new you. 

Physical activity is probably the best strategy to help keep you from regaining the lost weight, and in the article on exercising when you have type 2 diabetes, you can learn about how to start an exercise plan.

Committing to Weight  Management is for Life

For some people, losing weight may not be enough to control blood glucose levels at target levels, and that’s all right. It may mean that your doctor will prescribe medication to help regulate your blood glucose level to keep it in the normal range.
 
Even so, by eating healthier foods and increasing your physical activity, eventually, you may be able to stop taking the medication so keep up your efforts and focus on reducing the fat around your middle so you are better able to regulate your blood sugar on your own.
 
Of course, whether you have diabetes or not, everyone should strive for a healthy weight (as based on your body type—we have an article that talks about how to calculate your "ideal" weight). 
 
Losing weight can help improve your body’s ability to effectively respond to insulin resistance, but if it doesn’t help you achieve better blood glucose control, that doesn’t mean you should give up. Losing and then maintaining a healthy weight are important choices for life—whether you have type 2 diabetes, or not. This is a life-long commitment that each and every one of us must strive for.
 

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