11 Steps to Effective Weight Loss

Most people with type 2 diabetes struggle with their weight. The best way to lighten your load? Steer clear of the hype and stick to proven strategies.

Most people with type 2 diabetes struggle with their weight. And chances are, your doctor has given you little or no guidance on how to shed those extra pounds. But doing it will likely make your blood sugar easier to control and can lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, too. In many cases, doctors will allow patients who lose a significant amount of weight to cut back on—or eliminate—some of their medications. The best way to lighten your load? Steer clear of the hype and stick to proven strategies.

Set moderate, achievable weight-loss goals.

Research from Indiana University in Indianapolis shows that most people think they have to drop 50 to 100 pounds to be “successful” at weight loss—a belief that sets them up for failure. Instead, start with a reasonable goal, like losing 10 pounds. Doctors say that kind of moderate weight loss still has a beneficial effect on diabetes—and if you reach that goal, you’ll have the drive to lose 10 more pounds!

Know your Body Mass Index (BMI)

To find out whether your body weight falls within the range of normal, overweight, or obese, consult a BMI table or an online BMI calculator. If you’re good with numbers, whip out a pencil and paper and run through the formula presented on page 254 (see Calculating Your Body Mass Index). If your BMI is less than 25, your weight is normal. If your BMI is at least 25 but less than 30, you’re overweight. If your BMI is 30 or above, you’re considered obese.

Find a weight-loss buddy

Dieting with a buddy provides more than support—it can help you lose more weight. That’s what a recent Brown University study of 109 people and their dieting partners found. Those with a motivated pal lost nearly twice as much weight as those who dieted solo. Having someone within walking distance can be an added bonus. Find three neighbors and announce your weight-loss intentions. Chances are they’ll have some weight to lose as well.

Join a weight-loss group

When researchers at Columbia University in New York assigned 413 overweight and obese men and women to either a self-help program in which they met twice with a nutritionist and then followed a program on their own or Weight Watchers, after two years those going to Weight Watchers lost more than those going it alone. You don’t have to join Weight Watchers or other commercial weight-loss programs; you can also check local community centers, churches, or hospitals for weight-control programs or support groups.

Pair calorie-cutting with exercise

People who exercise as well as cut calories have an easier time losing weight and keeping it off than people who just cut calories. Burning an extra 250 calories a day—about the amount used in a brisk 45-minute walk—lops off about 26 pounds a year, as long as you don’t replace those calories with food.

Eat breakfast

Fiber helps you stay full, and a good way to get a healthy dose is to eat a breakfast cereal that contains at least 5 grams of fiber per serving. Breakfast does more than provide fiber, though. Studies show that eating breakfast helps you eat less food later in the day—and consume fewer total calories.

Aim to lose weight slowly

You can shave off just one pound a week—or even two pounds a month—by making small adjustments in your eating and physical activity. Don’t let fad diet advertisements dazzle you with “miracle” plans in which you can lose 100 pounds in two months. Researchers say that people who achieve weight loss in such programs typically gain back most or all of the weight within five years. You’re far better off to learn how to make the lifestyle changes that will keep the weight off permanently, even if it means slower weight loss. What’s more, crash diets that deprive you of essential nutrients can be very dangerous. If you need guidance, enlist the assistance of your doctor, registered dietitian, or a reputable weight loss program such as Weight Watchers.

Ask a registered dietitian to design an eating plan for you

It may not even seem like a weight-loss plan if she integrates your favorite foods! A registered dietitian is trained to help you set reasonable calorie goals and make sure that you’re getting the vitamins and minerals you need to help you manage your diabetes.

Keep a food diary for five days

Log everything you eat and drink, even if it’s just water, a bite of ice cream, or a breath mint. Your entries should include the time of day, size and number of servings, calories (a calorie-counting paperback book will help), what emotions you were feeling at the time, or any other circumstances that happened just before you ate. Food diaries are eye-openers for many people because so many of us eat without thinking about it. Review your food diary with your registered dietitian; she’ll help you identify situations or emotions that may cause you to overeat. These diaries can also be great tools for managing diabetes because they’ll help you remember what you ate that sent your blood sugar soaring, and what keeps you on an even keel.

Supplement with calcium

Losing weight can trigger bone loss, so if you’re a woman, make sure you’re supplementing with 500 to 600 milligrams of calcium twice a day. Choose a calcium supplement that also contains vitamin D.

Consider bariatric surgery as a last resort

So-called “stomach-stapling” surgery can have dramatically positive effects on some people’s diabetes, practically reversing the condition. But don’t take gastric bypass lightly; it’s major surgery, so it’s not without risks, including a 1 percent risk of death from the surgery itself. Weight-loss surgery is recommended only for people who are severely obese (usually with a body mass index of 40 or more, but if you have diabetes, 35 or more) and can’t lose weight any other way. Those who have surgery have to commit to serious lifestyle changes: They will only be able to eat small meals, may need dietary supplements and perhaps medications, and will require frequent medical checkups. The cost of this surgery is substantial, too, and some insurance companies won’t cover it.

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