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How can I control my diabetes and still lose weight?

Weight loss can be hard because it means making changes in the way you eat and in your physical activity. Losing weight also takes time—and that can be frustrating. The good news is that you can lose weight and keep it off, even if you've never done it before.

Here's what works for people who have lost weight and kept it off:

  • They cut back on calories and fat.
  • They're physically active most days of the week.
  • They eat breakfast every day.
  • They keep a record of their weight, what they eat and drink and what they do for physical activity.
  • It's much easier to lose weight when you change the way you eat and also increase your activity.
Laura Russell
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

My simple answer is to eat more non starchy vegetables and make sure you are exercising. Half of your plate should be filled with vegetables, a quarter with starch and a quarter with protein. If you are decreasing carbohydrate/starch intake and replacing it with vegetables (so that you still are full at the meal), you will lose weight. Vegetables have very little calories and are mostly fiber, water and vitamins. They are the one food you can eat as much as you want. You also want to begin increasing exercise until you reach 45 minutes most days of the week. 30 minutes is good for general health and weight maintenance, but 45 is almost necessary in order to lose weight.

Stacy Wiegman, PharmD
Pharmacy Specialist

Eating a low-fat, high-fiber diet and exercising daily will not only help you control your diabetes, it may help you lose weight. The National Diabetes Education Program recommends getting 30 to 60 minutes of exercise, such as brisk walking, most days of the week. The program also suggests eating a diet centered around fresh fruits and vegetables; low-fat dairy products; whole grain cereals, breads and pastas; and lean meat, chicken and fish. It's best to broil, bake or grill these protein sources, in portion sizes of about 3 ounces (the size of a deck of cards). Talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise program.

Dr. Elif E. Oker, MD
Medical Toxicologist

Obesity has been linked to diabetes, particularly type II diabetes. Many type 2 diabetics have been able to decrease or eliminate their reliance on insulin and oral hypoglycemic medications by losing weight. However, exercise and weight loss can also make it a challenge to control blood glucose, the hallmark of managing diabetes.

The best and safest way to lose weight for everyone, but especially diabetics, is to work closely with your doctor. Together you should come up with a diabetes action plan, diet and exercise regimen that is specific to your body, your health and your lifestyle and allows for a slow and steady loss in weight.

William Lee Dubois
Endocrinologist

We’re gonna have to have some potty talk, as this all starts in the bathroom. Your body knows that sugar is poison, and it does everything it can to get excess sugar out of your system. When blood sugar is very high, your body dumps sugar into your urine to get it the heck out. That’s why people with high blood sugars pee a lot.

As a side note, this frantic urine dump on the part of your body dehydrates you, making you very, very thirsty. This combination of thirst and excessive urination are often the symptoms that lead people to the doctor’s visit that results in a diagnosis of diabetes.

In the old days, diabetes was diagnosed by tasting urine to see if it was sweet. (Thank goodness I wasn’t practicing back then!) In fact, in some third world countries, a diagnosis is still made by having a patient pee on an ant hill. If the ants swarm to the urine, the doc knows that it's full of sugar.

When the body is dumping a lot of sugar it’s actually possible for you to lose weight while eating like a pig. Even if you are not losing weight, however, you are eating more than you need to. You have to. Your body is like a jet airplane with a leaking fuel tank, you need fuel to feed both the engines and the leak.

Once everyone figures out what is going on, and you make changes in your diet and exercise and start taking medications to lower your blood sugar, the process of dumping sugar into the urine stops and instead of going down the toilet, extra calories are stored in fat cells.

If you keep eating the same amount you were eating when you were peeing away half your calories, you’ll now put on weight. Maybe a lot of weight.

But it's not the medications that are causing you to add weight. It’s simply a result of plugging the leak. To lose weight you have to take in fewer calories than you burn. The problem is you are used to taking on way more calories than you need because you’ve been peeing half of them away. And the second problem is we are creatures of habit when it comes to eating. If you always eat four tacos at Taco Bell, you are likely to keep doing that, out of habit.

What you now need to do is to eat slowly, and listen to your body. Try to tune in to the signals it gives you. Your body will tell you when you’ve have enough to eat.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.