Weight management is important for everyone, but even more so for men and women with diabetes. Excess weight is an independent risk factor for high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, a major cause of death in diabetic individuals. Therefore, weight loss stands as the key management strategy in type 2 diabetes. There is clear-cut evidence weight loss improves glycemic control and other parameters associated with this serious condition (1).
Weight loss and its maintenance are tricky to achieve in persons with diabetes, but not impossible. Below, you can take a look at the best weight management tips for diabetics.
1. Learn how many calories to cut each day
Losing as little as 10% of body weight can reduce the risk of diabetes, aid its management, or in some cases even reverse it. Weight loss requires a little bit of math. Cutting calories is a significant component of healthy weight loss and keeping it off. The whole idea of cutting calories may seem complex, but it’s possible to simplify it.
Persons with type 2 diabetes are often put on a diet where they consume 1500 to 1800 calories a day to lose weight and maintain it. However, the precise number of calories to cut is not the same for everyone. Various factors play a role in caloric needs such as current weight, age, gender, body type, and physical activity levels.
Probably the easiest approach to calorie counting is to add up the number of calories per serving of all foods you eat throughout the day. Then, strive to decrease that number by 250 to 500 calories on a daily basis (2).
Generally speaking, carbohydrates should account for 50% of daily calorie intake, but the accepted range is 40% to 60%. Keeping an eye on carbohydrate intake is an integral component of calorie counting. Why so? Carbs increase blood glucose levels. When you know how much carbs you’ve consumed enables you to understand what to expect. For example, if you’ve eaten more carbs you can expect a bigger spike in blood glucose.
Each gram of carbs contains four calories. Let’s say a person on a 1600-calorie-diet gets 50% of calories from carbs. That means they eat a total of 800 calories of carbs spread out evenly during the day (3). Reducing carbs intake promotes weight loss because it allows the body to use stored fat as energy. On the flip side, high-carb intake leads to spikes in glucose levels. Extra blood sugar is stored in the liver and muscles and some of it is converted into body fat.
To sum up this important part – keeping track of calorie intake (especially carbs) is important. You may want to calculate your average calorie intake a day then work your way to decrease it. Other tips from this post can help you out.
2. Control portion size
The term portion control refers to choosing a healthy amount of a certain food. This practice allows for obtaining benefits from nutrients in different foods, but without overeating. Increased portion sizes contribute to overeating and subsequent weight gain (4). A person with diabetes needs to control portion size for two main reasons. One reason is to maintain weight (or slim down) and the other is to manage blood glucose levels.
You can control portion size in several ways and one of them is to use smaller plates. Large plates make food appear smaller and often lead to overeating. Food looks bigger on a smaller plate. Our brain is tricky and makes us eat everything on the plate making us think we’re hungry even when we’re not. Smaller plates can deceive your brain and suppress your appetite. Some studies have shown, though, the strategy of using smaller plates is more effective in normal-weight rather than overweight people (5).
You can also use your plate/bowl as a portion control guide. Vegetables or salads should take up half of the plate. A quarter of the plate accounts for high-quality protein, carbs also take up a quarter of a plate, and healthy fats account for half a tablespoon.
Another option is to use hands as a serving guide. Protein intake for women should be about the size of the palm and two for men. A portion of vegetables/salads is a fist-size for women. Men need two fist-sized portions. The one-cupped hand portion is enough for carbs intake in women, two for men. The best way to measure healthy fat intake is to use one thumb-size if you’re a woman and two thumb-sized portions if you’re a man.
When eating out you should ask for half a portion. Why? Portion sizes in restaurants tend to be on a bigger side.
For many people measuring and weighing food is the easiest way to reduce portion sizes (6). There is no specific rule here. Opt for the method that you find the easiest.
3. Drink a glass of water before you eat
Before you start eating you may want to drink a glass of water. Drinking water can promote weight loss by making you eat less and thereby preventing overeating. Basically, you are reducing the number of calories you take and also controlling your appetite. Evidence shows this practice can contribute to weight loss thanks to a faster metabolism due to hydration expanding cell volume (7).
4. Set realistic goals
Weight management success depends on the goals you set. You see, goals keep you on the right track and boost motivation levels. Although goal-setting seems easy many people make mistakes. As a result, they choose unrealistic and vague goals. Since these goals are almost impossible to achieve, the motivation levels go down. You need to have a wise approach to the process of losing weight and keep the lost pounds off.
Don’t strive to achieve a dramatic transformation within a short time frame. This can be a recipe for failure. Instead, you need to set goals that are realistic and easier to achieve. Determine how much weight you need to lose (or ask a physician to help you out) and divide that big goal into smaller milestones.
Every time you complete a milestone you’ll be motivated to achieve the new one. These smaller goals could be losing a pound or two per week or simply increasing activity levels, changing diet.
When you set goals that can easily become a part of your lifestyle, the process of losing weight and maintaining it gets a whole new dimension. It sets you up for success (8).
5. Keep a food journal
The reality is that sometimes we aren’t even aware of how much we eat or how unhealthy our diet can be. The cornerstone of weight management in diabetes is about portion control and reduced calorie intake. One of the best ways to make it happen is through a food journal.
Controlling what and how much you eat is easier when you write everything down. Studies show food journals can promote weight loss too. Persons who track food intake at least five days a week experience significant and sustained weight loss over time compared to those who log food consumption inconsistently (9).
Keeping a food journal is particularly useful for evaluating the consumption of carbohydrates. If you don’t like writing things down in a notebook, you can always use notes on your phone or download the food journal app.
6. Exercise regularly
Weight loss and its management in diabetes aren’t just about dietary changes only. Physical activity is equally important. Evidence confirms people who increase physical activity levels in addition to decreasing calorie intake lose more body fat than men and women who focus on diet only (10).
Besides weight loss/management, exercise is also beneficial for diabetes management. You see, exercise improves blood sugar control, lipid profile, blood pressure, enhances lean mass, and reduces cardiovascular risk factors (11).
Ideally, you should aim for 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week. Or 30 minutes a day at least five days a week! Fitness options are numerous. Besides the gym, it can also include home workouts, jogs, walks, playing sports, and other activities. Choose an activity you like so that you can stick to it.
7. Don’t skip meals
In an attempt to slim down many people decide to skip meals. The logic here is that if you reduce the number of meals a day you will also eat fewer calories and lose weight or keep it off. Breakfast is the most commonly skipped meal, which may not be the best decision. While some studies claim skipping meals, primarily breakfast, doesn’t have an impact on weight (12), it could create a problem in the long run. You see, skipping breakfast increases hunger later on and you end up eating excess calories. Evidence confirms breakfast consumption is associated with weight maintenance (13).
Your breakfast should include fiber-rich, healthy carbohydrates, low-fat dairy, or high-quality protein. It will be easier for you to control your food intake if you eat several meals throughout the day. In fact, this can keep you from overeating. Ideally, your meals should be at the same time every day so you may want to schedule them.
8. Walk after meals
We’ve already discussed the importance of exercise. The physical activity incorporates more than workouts, they extend to daily habits. One habit you may want to adopt is to take a walk after a meal. Even a 15-minute walk can help control blood sugar (14) and contribute to weight loss and its maintenance.
Short walks also prove to be useful when you don’t have enough time to exercise, but still want to be active. It’s a nice habit to incorporate into your lifestyle.
9. Consider DASH diet
Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) is an eating plan originally developed to prevent or manage high blood pressure. However, it is also considered an acceptable eating pattern for people with diabetes (15). Not only does DASH promote blood pressure control, but it also improves insulin resistance and supports weight loss.
The biggest advantage of DASH is that it promotes a balanced diet that focuses on the consumption of a variety of foods. People are encouraged to reduce portion sizes and eat nutritious foods when they’re following the DASH diet.
A typical DASH eating plan includes the following:
- Lean protein (poultry, fish)
- Healthy fats
- Grains (whole grains)
- Dairy (fat-free or low fat)
- Plant-based foods (vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits)
DASH also lowers sodium intake and limits consumption of sweets, red meats, sugary beverages, and other unhealthy foods.
10. Try Mediterranean diet
Mediterranean diet is not a fad diet or a program that you need to follow for a while. Instead, it’s a typical traditional diet in nations from the Mediterranean region. The central role in this eating pattern belongs to olive oil and other healthy foods your body needs to function properly. Mediterranean diet improves blood sugar control, manages cholesterol levels, supports weight loss, and improves cardiovascular health (16).
The best thing about the Mediterranean diet is its versatility. This eating pattern doesn’t promote avoidance of certain foods such as red meat. Instead, it involves reducing their intake. So you end up eating healthier foods while significantly lowering the intake of foods that aren’t that good for you. This also means you don’t develop cravings which could lead to overeating.
Foods that play a big role in the Mediterranean diet include protein sources (salmon and other fatty fish, poultry), vegetables, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats such as olive oil.
Mediterranean diet is relatively easy to adhere to and you can incorporate it into your lifestyle without too much hassle. To make the most of this eating pattern you need to change your relationship with food. Don’t think of a well-balanced/healthy diet as a punishment. Instead, consider it an integral component of a healthy lifestyle, the kind of life you deserve.
11. Consult your doctor
Diabetes is tricky to manage. You need to modify your lifestyle for the most effective management of blood glucose and your weight. While you may decide to adopt a certain diet or follow some eating pattern, you shouldn’t do it without consultation with your doctor.
Your healthcare provider can inform you whether a certain diet could be beneficial for weight loss management or whether it could jeopardize your health. This is particularly the case with fad diets and commercial weight loss programs. In these cases consulting your doctor is the safest thing to do, especially if you’re taking medications too.
Millions of people have diabetes. Proper management of this condition may reduce the risk of complications it carries. The most prominent aspect of diabetes control is weight loss and its management. While challenging, weight loss is achievable. In this post, we focused on 11 useful tips and methods that could help you lose weight and keep it off. As you can see, it’s all about making small, but meaningful changes in your diet and daily life. Make sure your lifestyle revolves around a well-balanced diet with reduced portion sizes. A healthy diet should be accompanied by regular exercise. And remember, weight loss/maintenance is a journey so it’s also useful to have realistic goals.