When it comes to weight loss, the desire to look good is a powerful motivator, and there’s no doubt that losing weight has positive effects on confidence and self-esteem.
But the benefits of weight loss programs for diabetics far exceed fitting into a smaller size dress or being able to notch your belt tighter, especially for people with Type 2 diabetes.
For Type 2 diabetics, losing just 5 percent of your body weight can be life changing.
According to the American Diabetes Association, “Losing just a few pounds through exercise and eating well can help with your diabetes control and can reduce your risk for other health problems. You will also have more energy and feel better in general!”
A 2011 Study published in the journal Diabetes Care showed that diabetics who lost at least 5 percent of their body weight were more successful reducing their hemoglobin A1C levels. The impact of weight loss on blood sugar was comparable to the effect of anti-diabetes pills.
As we will discuss later in this post, a clinical trial on our own weight loss program, The LOVIDIA Way, showed dramatic improvement in A1C levels for nearly half of the participants with prediabetes, and the sole participant with Type 2 diabetes saw her diabetes resolved during the course of the study.
What’s more, by losing weight, people with Type 2 diabetes can become less insulin resistant. And because their bodies are better able to use insulin, they find it easier to lose weight.
In many ways, you can think of weight loss programs for diabetics as creating a circuit that works like this:
Losing weight → better glucose control + less insulin resistance → easier weight loss → better glucose control + less insulin resistance → continued weight loss
And so on, and so on.
That’s why doctors typically recommend that overweight patients who’ve been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes begin a weight loss program as soon as possible. The earlier you can start the cycle of weight loss described above, the better your chances of reversing the effects diabetes.
To understand how weight loss programs for diabetics can help reverse the effects of Type 2 diabetes, it’s important to review what causes the disease.
Type 2 diabetes starts in your pancreas.
When you eat, your blood sugar (glucose) rises, especially in response to sugary foods and other carbohydrates.
In healthy individuals, the pancreas produces the hormone insulin, which helps move sugar from the blood into cells where it can be used as energy. As blood sugar decreases, the pancreas stops releasing insulin.
But in people with Type 2 diabetes, your body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin. As a result, sugar or glucose builds up in the blood, causing a range of symptoms, including excessive thirst and urination, fatigue and increased hunger.
There are clear links between body weight and Type 2 diabetes:
According to the World Health Organization, 90 percent of Type 2 diabetics are overweight or obese.
Being overweight increases insulin resistance, making blood glucose management more difficult.
Insulin resistance also causes the pancreas to secrete extra insulin in an attempt to compensate.
Insulin is a fat-storage hormone, so having extra insulin makes weight loss more difficult for diabetics than for people without diabetes.
While some diabetes-management medications aid in weight loss, weight gain is a common side effect of prescription insulin used to treat Type 2 diabetes.
In short, being overweight contributes to the onset of Type 2 diabetes, and having Type 2 diabetes makes weight loss more difficult.
There is ample evidence that with a healthy eating weight loss program, Type 2 diabetes can be managed and even reversed. What’s more, the beneficial effects on blood glucose control often can be observed before weight loss occurs.
A British study that aimed to assess the effects of a physician-directed weight loss program for diabetics found that nearly half of participants who stopped taking medications to control their diabetes and instead followed a structured diet under a doctor’s supervision “achieved remission to a non-diabetic state” ― meaning they no longer had diabetes.
The American Diabetes Association likewise says, “Normal blood glucose control is possible after weight loss in some individuals. This happens most commonly after bariatric surgery, but it can also happen when eating dramatically fewer calories. This return to normal can happen when following a very-low-calorie diet.”
The ADA cited another British study in which “a robust and sustainable weight loss program reversed diabetes for at least 6 months in 40% of subjects (and in 60% of subjects with short-duration diabetes).”
The ADA concluded, “According to these findings, Type 2 diabetes is a potentially reversible condition.”
This assessment was verified in our own clinical trial on The LOVIDIA Way, where seven of the 17 participants (41 percent) with prediabetes saw their A1C levels return to the normal range after just 13 weeks of following the program. Likewise, while there was only one participant with Type 2 diabetes, that individual’s diabetes resolved during the course of the study, with A1C levels returning to prediabetes levels.
When considering a diabetic-friendly weight loss diet program, make sure the program takes your nutritional needs as a diabetic into account.
All of the studies cited in this post involved reduced-calorie weight loss diets. But it’s not just a simple matter of calories consumed and calories burned. A weight loss program for diabetics should also help give you better control over blood sugar levels.
In general, your best choice for keeping blood glucose levels balanced ― preventing spikes and dips in blood sugar ― is a healthy eating program that gets 40-50 percent of total calories from protein, 20-25 percent from healthy fats, and 30-35 percent from complex carbohydrates such as vegetables, whole grains and fiber.
Finally, a weight loss program for diabetics shouldn’t be only about diet. Your weight loss program should combine the nutritional requirements of a diabetic diet with daily exercise.
There is extensive research to shows that people who incorporate regular exercise along with a reduced-calorie diet lose more weight and more fat than people who diet alone.
This is especially important for diabetics because fat plays such a critical role in insulin resistance and the body’s ability to use insulin correctly.
These findings are supported by the National Weight Control Registry, which maintains a database of 10,000 men and women who have lost at least 65 pounds and kept it off. The Registry compiles information on how these people achieved and maintained weight loss and has found that 90 percent exercise regularly.
Talk to your doctor before beginning a weight loss program for diabetics
Diabetes is a complex disease, and we always recommend that everyone consult with their doctor or health care provider before beginning a weight loss program. This is especially true of anyone with a serious medical condition like Type 2 diabetes.
But don’t wait to have the conversation.
A healthy eating weight loss program may be the diabetic solution you need, and the sooner you get started on a weight loss program for diabetics, the more likely you are to have success in freeing yourself from diabetes and its complications.
When you start eating healthier, get more exercise and lose weight, you can at least reduce your diabetes symptoms, and a commitment to exercise and dietary changes may be all you need to significantly improve the quality of your life.