Weight loss – for people with diabetes

If you’ve got Type 2 diabetes, there’s a good chance that you’re struggling with your weight.

There is a lot of scientific research which shows that losing weight helps to improve blood glucose levels and reduce the complications of diabetes (blindness, kidney damage, impotence, heart attacks and stroke). The good news is that you only need to lose 10% of your current weight to seriously improve your blood glucose levels. However, that’s easier said than done. We live in an “obesenogenic environment” which means that it’s easier to be overweight than it is to be a healthy weight. Everywhere we turn, there is easy access to high kilojoule foods (drive through restaurants and mouth-watering advertisements of chocolate) and devices to reduce our physical activity (escalators instead of stairs and TV controls so we don’t have to get up to change the channel). This obesenogenic environment is one of the main reasons why it’s so easy to gain weight, yet so hard to lose it.

To make matters more difficult, many people with Type 2 diabetes have insulin resistance and a genetic pre-disposition to weight gain. Insulin resistance is when the pancreas over-produces insulin because the insulin isn’t working efficiently. However, the excess insulin tends to encourage fat cells to store more fat.

Many people also complain that insulin injections also cause them to gain further weight. This is caused by two things, the first being that when you inject yourself with insulin, your body stores excess glucose more efficiently, whereas previously, you may have been eliminating the extra glucose when you pass urine. Secondly, many people tend to overeat when they’re taking insulin, as they are scared of having a hypoglycaemic episode.

So, with all of these things going against you, how do you lose weight? Well, the best way to lose weight is to lose it slowly! Quick weight loss diets just cause you to yoyo and break down muscle, which makes it harder to lose weight in the future.
So make sure that you don’t lolse more than 1 kg per week. And if it’s slower than that, don’t worry, as long as the scales are going down instead of up!

Weight loss is all about maths. If your energy intake (how many kilojoules you eat) is more than your energy expenditure (how many kilojoules your burn) then you’re going to gain weight. Alternatively, if your energy intake is less than your energy expenditure, you’ll lose weight.

If you don’t know how many kilojoules you’re eating and burning, I recommend keeping a food and exercise diary for a week than calculating your kilojoules using a kilojoule counting book, or computer software or seeking the expertise of an Accredited Practicing Dietician.

Next, if you don’t already, start reading your food labels. In general, you want to look for main meals that provide less than 1500 kJ per meal, and have less than 15 grams of fat, and snacks that provide less than 600 kJ and have less than 5 grams of fat.

And, remember, every little bit adds up. By substituting a regular cheese slice (with 35% fat), you can save 365 kJ per day, which adds up to 132,860 kJ, or 4.5 kg. per year! Not moltivated to exercise? A brisk 15 min walk to and from the train station each day will burn 840kJ per day, or 10 kg per year!

If you’re on medications or insulin for your diabetes, you also have to be careful not to have a hypoglycaemic episode. Make sure that you speak to your doctor about adjusting your medication/insulin levels if you’re planning to decrease your food intake or increase your physical activity, and make sure that you know what to do if your blood sugar levels get too low.

Overall, the best way to lose weight if you have diabetes is to make small, but life-long changes that help you to lose weight slowly, but permanently. You may not get back into your wedding dress, but you will live a longer, healthier life.

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