Are you at risk for or do you live with type 2 diabetes? Has your care team nudged you to shed a few pounds, perhaps more than once? As you may know from personal experience, it can seem difficult to lose weight, no matter how much you may want to. If you’ve struggled, I can tell you, you’re not alone. Here are some weight loss strategies that you might try.
Why lose weight?
For some, even a modest reduction in weight may improve blood sugar and other health metrics. Weight loss, particularly if you are at risk for type 2 or in the first few years after diagnosis of type 2, may improve insulin sensitivity – the body’s ability to make better use of the insulin that the pancreas still makes. Ratcheting up physical activity may further improve insulin sensitivity.
Health effects are likely to be seen shortly after weight loss, says Catherine M. Champagne, PhD, RDN, and Professor at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a site for the NIH-funded Look AHEAD study in overweight and obese people with type 2 diabetes. The Look AHEAD study showed that the sooner a person diagnosed with type 2 diabetes takes weight off (and keeps it off) the healthier they’ll be over time. “People think they have time to wait before they take action [but] they don’t,” adds Champagne.
Making it happen
So what’s the best way to take action? After all, there is no magic wand that will help us lose weight (unfortunately!) Here are some of the lessons learned from the Look AHEAD study, which I’ve seen work in my experience as well. Always work with your healthcare team before making changes to your diet and activity level.
- Show up! This sounds simple, but once you have found a support program, showing up, whether in person, by phone or online, is what often helps. Whichever program you choose to help you lose weight, make it a priority.
- Double down on your efforts at the start; this may help you lose weight early on, which may inspire you to keep going when that commitment gets harder.
- Choose behaviors you are able and want to change. Don’t try to change in ways others want you to change. Set your behavior change goals in baby steps. Narrowly focus on them. Be realistic about what you’re able to do within your life and lifestyle.
- Commit to living a healthier lifestyle. Don’t consider this “another diet.” Find an eating plan that can fit your wants, needs and lifestyle for a long time.
- Simplify food choices and meals. Some people, including me, find that limiting choices actually helps them stay on track. Put some meals, particularly breakfast and lunch, on autopilot by creating a standing list of a few quick-to-fix meals. (Find some of my favorite ideas for quicker, healthier dinners here.)
- Track it. Tracking increases awareness of how much, what and when you eat, exercise and more. It keeps you accountable for your actions. (I’ve reviewed a few different tracker options here.)
Seek and find support
I believe in frequent and continual support to help you lose weight; having the support of others is more effective than doing it alone. Seek out support from a local diabetes or weight control program sponsored by your employer, healthcare system, community center, YMCA or faith community.
If you’re especially crunched for time, consider a support program that doesn’t require in-person meetings. “Today people can access phone or Internet-based weight control programs from their desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone,” says Susan Burke March, MS, RD, CDE©, author of Making Weight Control Second Nature: Living Thin Naturally and an expert in online weight control counseling. Choose from programs delivered in groups or individually, or with or without a healthcare provider coach. Whatever strategy you choose, remember to check with your healthcare professional or diabetes care team before making any changes to your meal plan or exercise routine.
Seek and find a lifestyle change program that can work for you, with the support you need delivered the way you want it. I have seen many people do this!
Hope Warshaw, MMSc, RD, CDE*, is the author of several best-selling books published by the American Diabetes Association, including Diabetes Meal Planning Made Easy and ADA Guide to Healthy Restaurant Eating. She’s a frequent contributor to Diabetic Living. Warshaw is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.
*“Certified Diabetes Educator” and “CDE” are certification marks owned and registered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). NCBDE is not affiliated in any way with Sanofi US. NCBDE does not sponsor or endorse any diabetes-related products or services.
© 2014 The DX: The Diabetes Experience