By Diana Rodriguez Reviewed by Farrokh Sohrabi, MD
Small Changes Add Up to Big Results :
Excess weight isn't just a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes — those extra pounds also make controlling diabetes more difficult once it develops. "Weight management affects diabetes management in many ways," says Vandana Sheth, RDN, CDE, a diabetes educator, registered dietitian nutritionist, and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "The additional weight adds to the insulin resistance, making it hard for your body's natural insulin to do its job." On the other hand, losing even a few pounds offers big benefits. For instance, A1C is an important indicator of blood sugar control, and weight loss helps keep A1C levels below 7 — a common target number, according to a study published in the July 2014 issue of the Journal of Managed Care & Specialty Pharmacy. Making the following changes in the way you eat and move can get you to your diabetes weight-loss goal.
Downsize Your Dinnerware:
According to research published in the Journal of Consumer Research in August 2012, study participants who ate from larger plates often perceived portion sizes as being smaller than they really were, while a smaller plate that was filled up could make people think they were actually eating more than they were. For diabetes weight loss, opt for smaller plates and bowls to help you eat less and feel more satisfied, Sheth says. If you haven't already, it's also good to speak with a diabetes educator or nutritionist who can teach you about portion sizes — a healthy amount of food to eat may be a smaller portion than you realize.
Drink Up Before You Eat Up:
Before you pick up your fork, pick up your water glass. Drinking water before a meal can help with diabetes weight loss by keeping you from overeating. The water will help you feel full more quickly, plus you're hydrating. "This is an easy strategy," Sheth says, "and it also makes you more mindful." Want to feel even more satiated on only a few calories? Start lunch or dinner with a nutritious salad or a bowl of low-sodium, low-fat soup.
Keep a Food Journal :
Writing down what you eat makes it easier to track and control what you're putting into your body. Keeping a food log is especially good for assessing the amount of carbohydrates you're eating, says Jessica Crandall, RDN, CDE, director of Denver Wellness & Nutrition and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. While carbohydrate goals vary from person to person, Crandall says most women should aim for 30 to 45 grams of carbs per meal. For men, it's 45 to 60 grams of carbs. Snacks should have about 15 grams. A nutritionist or diabetes educator can help you understand the number of carbs in different types of food you eat.
Stand Up for Your Health :
You know you need to exercise to lose weight, but keep in mind that finding small ways to be active throughout the day helps burn calories too. Start by simply standing up. A 150-pound person who stands to do one hour of light office work instead of sitting can burn 240 calories, according to the University of Maryland Medical System calorie calculator. "Having a timer set to go off every 30 minutes provides a simple reminder to get up and move," Sheth says. Walk around, do some stretches or crunches, or lift some free weights — every 30 minutes, give your body an activity break.
Skip the TV Dinners :
Grabbing a bite in front of the TV or at your computer may be thwarting your diabetes weight-loss efforts. Eating in front of the tube or with other distractions makes people eat more, while those who eat without distractions eat less later in the day, according to a study published in the April 2013 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The study also found that attentive eating may be a good way to attain a healthy weight without the need for strict calorie counting. Eat every meal at a table, and focus on eating. "This allows you to savor the food in front of you," Sheth says.
It's all too easy to let the day get away from you without finding time to exercise, so try tacking a little activity on to the end of each meal. "Add a 10-minute walk after a meal — or all meals — to help incorporate exercise, which is very important for blood sugar control as well as weight loss," Crandall suggests. A study published in the October 2013 issue of Diabetes Care found that people at risk for high blood sugar who walked for 15 minutes after each meal saw greater blood sugar control — more than those who took a 45-minute morning or afternoon stroll.
Don't Deprive Yourself :
The road to diabetes weight loss is not paved with starvation. Sure, you need to watch your calories, but you also shouldn't deprive or starve yourself; that will only make you overeat later on, Crandall says. Strive to eat regular, balanced meals and snacks. "It is important to have carbs, protein, and fats in your diet," Sheth says. "Avoiding a complete food group can cause an imbalance and be counterproductive." Eating too few calories is also problematic. Again, a nutritionist or diabetes educator can help you understand what a good balance of fats, carbs, and proteins in your diet looks like.