Losing weight is at the top of many people’s to-do lists. But for those with type 2 diabetes, weight control is especially important. “Carrying excess weight makes managing blood sugars more difficult, and 80 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight,” says dietitian Sue McLaughlin, RD, CDE, diabetes educator and president of health care and education for the American Diabetic Association. In fact, a study published in theArchives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine found that the longer someone has a high body mass index or BMI (a common measure of being overweight or obese), the greater their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
It’s no secret that losing weight — and keeping it off — isn’t easy. But it is possible, and the benefits for those with diabetes are great. So how do you get started? Experts say the right way to lose weight is to incorporate a healthful diet into your overall diabetes management plan.
Diabetes Diet Control: Steps to Success
Here’s how to get started on the path to weight-loss success:
Get physical. Exercise keeps off the weight. “Research shows that people who increase physical activity along with reducing calorie intake will lose more body fat that people who only diet,” says McLaughlin. For confirmation, look at the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), a database of 4,000 men and women who have lost 30 or more pounds and kept it off. Only 9 percent reached and maintained their weight-loss goal without exercise. Most people in the register chose walking as their form of exercise.
Eat breakfast. The most effective diabetes diet includes breakfast. Skipping breakfast can lead to overeating later in the day when you become ravenous. This can sabotage weight-loss plans and cause blood sugar levels to surge. Studies show that eating breakfast, especially if it’s cereal, is associated with better weight loss. A common characteristic among the NWCR participants is that most of them ate breakfast.
Cut calories. The exact number of calories that people on a diabetes diet should consume depends on a number of factors, including age, gender, current weight, activity level, and body type. A reasonable goal for people with type 2 diabetes is between 1,200 and 1,800 calories per day for women and between 1,400 and 2,000 calories per day for men. Your diabetes educator can help you fine-tune the ideal calorie range to achieve weight loss while managing your blood sugar levels.
Feast on fiber. Does your diabetes diet include lots of fiber? If so, you’re doing your type 2 diabetes a favor. Generous amounts of fiber help lower blood sugar levels and speed weight loss. In one study, adults who consumed the most fiber-rich foods had the least amount of body fat. Aim for three servings per day of fiber-loaded fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. Toss fiber-rich legumes, like chickpeas and black beans, into salads, chili, and soups.
Eat mini-meals. A diabetes diet structured with three or more small meals daily is better than a diet plan that includes only one or two big meals. Large meals can cause blood sugar levels to surge, while eating smaller meals more frequently will keep glucose levels lower after eating. Plus, a diabetes diet consisting of mini-meals spread through the day will help control hunger and calorie intake, leader to faster weight loss.
Set small goals. “Don’t try to transform your body all at once,” advises McLaughlin. “That can be a recipe for failure.” Instead set small, realistic goals, such as walking around the block four times a week and decreasing desserts from daily to only on weekends. After these goals become habits, move on to your next objective. You’ll gain a feeling of accomplishment, while inching towards your ultimate weight loss goal.
Get support. Staying motivated to stick with a weight-loss plan can be difficult when you’re going it alone. Connecting with others can provide the emotional support you need to avoid giving up. Weight-loss programs such as Weight Watchers are founded on the concept that support networks aid motivation. Keep in mind that support comes in many different forms. “For some people, online support groups can be just as effective, as well as more convenient and less costly,” says McLaughlin.
- Fill up on low-calorie foods first. “Start every meal with the foods on your plate that are lowest in calories,” suggests McLaughlin. By the time you get to the other foods, you won’t be so hungry.
- Change your salad dressing system. Instead of sprinkling or pouring dressing over your salad, dip your fork into a side dish of dressing and then your salad before each bite.
- Take up a busy-hands hobby. If you’re idle, you’ll be more prone to eating. Keep busy with knitting, scrapbooking, crossword puzzles, or gardening.
- Carry a toothbrush and toothpaste. Keep them in your purse or briefcase. When cravings hit, brushing your teeth with peppermint-flavored toothpaste will dampen your desire to eat.
- Arrive fashionably late to parties. Without as much time near the buffet table, you’ll eat less.
It’s important to continue healthy eating and regular exercise even after reaching your weight-loss goal. Weight control should last a lifetime.
(Source: Everyday Health)