Diabetes and weight loss

Maintaining a healthy body weight’even losing just 5 or 10 pounds’can make a huge difference in diabetes management. Here are some strategies that will help

Diabetes and weight loss

Source: Adapted from Eat to Beat Diabetes, Reader’s Digest

One part of that doctor conversation that hasn’t changed much over the years is the need to keep your weight down if you have diabetes. The reason is simple and direct: The more fat you carry, the more insulin resistant your cells become. Even losing a small amount of weight can improve insulin resistance. For many people with diabetes, a 10-lb (5-kg) change is enough to have measurable results in your blood sugar.

A history of weight loss

Weight loss can be extremely complicated, or it can be extremely simple. If you are the type to follow fads and research announcements, then you know that an overflow of weight-loss theories have risen and fallen in the past 15 years. For much of the ’80s and ’90s, the message was low-fat eating: By reducing the most calorie-dense foods from your diet, you’d naturally lose weight. Most of us tried. Most of us failed. As it turned out, fat helps us feel satiated; many people on low-fat diets ended up consuming far more calories than when they allowed themselves some steak.

When this phase passed, high-protein, low-carb diets became all the rage. The idea was: When you cut out all or most of the carbs from your diet, your body no longer has glucose to burn as energy. So instead, it burns body fat. However, this is an inefficient way to generate fuel, leading to weight loss.

Trouble is, protein foods are often rich with saturated fats. The debate continues over whether high-protein diets are safe either in the short or long term.

A thousand theories, a thousand diets. You can easily get lost in all the conflicting science (and pseudo-science). And millions of people have. Which is why obesity remains such a problem.

The simple theory of weight loss

Then there’s the simple theory of weight loss: Just burn more calories in a day than you consume, and you’ll lose weight! To do that, you exercise a little more, and eat a little less. You find ways other than eating to relieve stress or cure boredom or show love, and instead eat only when you’re hungry. In this simpler approach, you eat a well-balanced, diverse array of food. Lots of complex carbs, healthy oils, lean meats and fish cooked with pizzazz and served in sensible portions. Interestingly, not only does it work for a lifetime of healthy weight, it also matches almost perfectly the new thinking about healthy eating for diabetes. Go figure!

In fact, you do need to do a little figuring. If healthy eating really is about calories, just how many should you eat in a day? Calorie requirements vary from person to person, depending on body size, physical activity and basal metabolic rate. One thing is for sure, any food program that is set below 1,200 calories a day will make it extra hard to get all the vitamins and minerals you need. Eating too little can lead to fatigue and deprivation, which in turn only lead to more overeating.

To maintain your current weight, multiply your weight (in pounds) by 10. This is about the number of calories your body needs per day to function while at complete rest. To adjust your daily calorie needs for physical activity, do the following:

‘ If you’re totally sedentary, add 300 calories.
‘ If you’re moderately active, add 500 calories.
‘ If you’re very active, add 700 calories.

And there you have a very rough estimate of your daily calorie needs. If you want to keep your weight stable, that’s how many calories you should eat. Want to lose weight? Essentially, 1 lb (500 g) equals 3,500 calories. So to lose 1 lb (500 g) per week, burn an extra 500 calories a day through exercise, or cut 500 calories from your diet, or come up with some combination. And whereas most diet schemes make losing weight harder than it has to be, this is a simple formula that won’t leave you scratching your head in confusion.

We’re not making light of all diets and weight-loss programs. Many are outstanding at addressing not only harmful eating patterns but lifestyle issues as well. By all means, develop a walking habit, find a few food tricks that work for you, and do what it takes to lose weight! It is probably the single most important thing you can do to help your diabetes.

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