The Importance of Managing Your Weight

The importance of managing your weight when you have diabetes cannot be overstated. If you have weight issues – if you are overweight or even obese – you will experience more complications with your disease than a person who has their weight under control.

Obesity is also a key factor in developing diabetes. Several studies identify obesity as a major risk factor making it more important than ever to manage your weight.  One of the same studies that found obesity was a major risk factor for diabetes also discovered that weight management may be the most important therapeutic task for type 2 diabetics.[1]

There are many reasons to keep your weight under control. In addition to making it easier to self manage diabetes, a healthy weight is good for your heart health, it will give you more energy, it reduces the risk for many general health problems, and it will give you a better self-image.

Beginning your Journey to a Healthy Weight

“You did not gain all those extra pounds overnight and they will not come off overnight!”

This saying, though often overused, is very true. As a diabetic beginning to self manage your disease you will face many roadblocks in your journey to reach a healthy weight and remain at a healthy weight.  However, the important thing is that you are ready to begin the journey!

Once you make the decision to get to a healthy weight you must take a good, hard look at the way you live your life. Let’s see how it applies to your weight management:[2]

  • Your current physical condition – look at your current weight and how much weight you need to lose to reach a healthy weight.
  • Look around your environment – are your surroundings making a difference in how you eat or what you eat? Consider your home, where you work, where you go with friends…take an inventory of what you eat, when you eat, and where you eat.

Let’s Get Physical

If you are ready to make the commitment, ready to start the journey, it is time to get physical. In order to self manage your weight to control your diabetes you have to be active.

Getting active is important for both your physical health and your emotional health, (both of which play a part of managing diabetes). Being active helps you keep your weight down by burning up calories that would be stored in your body as fat if not used during exercise.

It is a balancing act:[3]

Calories from Food > Calories Utilized = Weight Gain
Calories from Food < Calories Utilized = Weight Loss
Calories from Food = Calories Utilized = Weight Control

Why Lose Weight?

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes weight loss will help you manage your blood glucose level. Exercise and weight loss can help you come off diabetic medicines and lessen your dependence on insulin.

The National Institutes of Health conducted a study that discovered a combination of diet management and exercise can lessen the risk of a person developing diabetes by up to 58 percent.[4] The study participants were overweight and considered pre-diabetic at the beginning of the study.

If a diabetic can lose just 5 percent of his or her weight there will be a big reduction in blood glucose levels. According to one study losing up to 15 pounds:[5]

  • Lowered blood glucose levels
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Improved cholesterol
  • Improved stress levels

As a diabetic it is important to not try to lose weight by skipping meals. You must find the correct balance between food and weight management. When people skip meals in the hope of losing weight they often mess with their blood glucose levels. They can go too high or go too low.

Experts recommend cutting about 500 calories out of your diet for diabetics who want to lose weight. This will equate to about one pound lost per week. But, be careful where you cut the calories. Approximately 55 percent of the calories should come from carbs. Cut 30 percent of the calories from fat, and 10 to 15 percent of the calories from proteins.

Cutting Carbs

You may automatically think that cutting back on carbs will help you drop pounds and manage your weight. Diabetics have to be especially careful when it comes to cutting carbs from their diet. Again, it is a delicate balancing act.

Of all the foods you eat, carbs have the most effect on your blood glucose. During digestion carbohydrates break down into sugar. For a diabetic, complex carbs are good carbs because they break down over a longer amount of time and don’t cause that dreaded spike in blood sugar. Complex carbs include whole grains, veggies, and fruits.

Insulin and Weight Loss

If you inject insulin you have special concerns when it comes to weight loss and dieting. When your blood glucose levels fall too low you have to eat. You must be very careful to avoid creating a cycle of developing low blood sugar, eating to level out your blood sugar, and the cycle repeating itself.

It All Adds Up

Managing your weight as a diabetic takes determination. You must be diligent with your meals and what you eat. Exercise is another major part of managing your weight as a diabetic.

Exercise is an excellent method of keeping your blood glucose levels in balance. As you begin your weight loss journey you can combine exercise and weight loss. For example, if it is difficult for you to cut your diet by 500 calories at the beginning of your journey, do some low impact cardio exercises for about one-half of an hour and you can cut your calories by 200  instead of 500.

Exercise is a major component of self managing your diabetes. It is also about more than ‘covering’ for calories. Exercise improves your heart health, it helps you reduce stress, and has many other great benefits for diabetics.

As you begin your self management program for diabetes and learn to manage your weight you will have successes and failures. Celebrate your successes. See every failure as a learning experience. The most important part is that you are making the effort to manage your diabetes by managing your weight.

References

[1]  Anderson, J. (2003). Importance of Weight Management in Type 2 Diabetes. Journal of American College of Nutrition , 331-339.

[2]  Physical Activity and Weight Control. (n.d.). Retrieved from Weight Control Information Network NIH: http://win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/physical.htm

[3] Ibid

[4]  Diabetes Prevention Program. (n.d.). Retrieved from NDIC: http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/preventionprogram/

[5]  Small Steps. Big rewards. (n.d.). Retrieved from National Diabetes Educational Program: http://ndep.nih.gov/partners-community-organization/campaigns/SmallStepsBigRewards.aspx

This article was originally published July 12, 2012 and last revision and update of it was 9/10/2015.