How much you weigh directly influences many health conditions. For men and women with diabetes, keeping those pounds under control can be even more important. In some cases of type 2 diabetes, losing weight and getting in shape may reduce or eliminate your need for insulin or other prescriptions that control blood sugar. Those with type 1 diabetes will still need insulin therapy, but exercise is still one key to increasing insulin sensitivity (so you can take less) and reducing your risk for other serious health complications.
1. Talk to your doctor
This may seem obvious, but never take on a new weight loss plan without your healthcare team’s guidance. Let your doctor or diabetes educator know that you plan to lose weight, and share your diet and exercise plans with them. Ask if there are changes that might need to be made to your basal insulin, or if you need to adjust bolus doses on your insulin pump to prevent hypoglycemia. Newer insulin pumps have touch screen capabilities so making insulin delivery adjustments is simple – check your device’s instruction manual for specific directions on how to program any changes.
2. Avoid fad diets—do it the old fashioned way
There are plenty of trendy diets out there today—but the best (and safest) way to lose weight is to make good health choices, eat balanced meals and remember to take in fewer calories than you burn each day. Eat low-fat meals with a balance of protein and complex carbohydrates.
3. Don’t forget to move
Exercise is an essential part of weight loss. Try to get 30 minutes of moderate physical activity in at least three times per week. This means a brisk walk (not a stroll—push yourself a bit!), swimming, or just running with your kids.
4. Keep a close eye on your blood sugar
Increased exercise and changes in your diet can cause fluctuations in your blood sugar levels and put you at risk for hypoglycemia. In addition to your normal routine, check your sugar before, during and after exercise if you are moving for more than an hour, and before bed. Treat any lows promptly and talk to your doctor if they are persistent.
5. Stay hydrated with water
Hydration is essential for everyone, but especially those with diabetes. It’s easy to become dehydrated even when you aren’t exercising vigorously if your sugar is high and you forget to drink enough during the day. Be mindful of how much water you are taking in and avoid juices, sports drinks and other sources of hidden sugar that may cause fluctuations in your blood glucose. Add a little lemon or lime to your water if you feel like you need more flavor.
Losing weight with diabetes isn’t an impossible task. With a little bit of planning and effort you can take steps to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, boost your energy and improve your mindset. Consider joining a weight loss support group in your area or online and feel encouraged to take control of your health.