Healthy Weight Loss For Diabetics


Are you a diabetic who wishes to lose weight? I’m guessing yes. Most diabetics want to drop the extra pounds and be healthier. Unfortunately, most approaches taken by diabetics leave them overly hungry and unsatisfied.

That’s where my book Healthy Weight Loss for Diabetics can help. I’ve created a system that will make you feel full as you shed unwanted fat and put it toward muscle mass instead.

Healthy Weight Loss For Diabetics

The best weight loss plan for diabetes is the one that you can follow long term.

This may be a low-carb diet for some people or a low-fat diet for others. Below are examples of each, with a daily intake of 1,600 calories. This may or may not be the right number for you. You can estimate your calorie needs here.

3-Day Low-Carb Diabetic Diet Plan

This low-carb plan limits foods like bread, pasta, rice and sweets, and caps carbs to no more than 30% of daily calories (120 grams per day). More low-carb meal ideas are available here.

Day 1 (1,590 calories, 89 g carbs)

  • Breakfast: 2 eggs topped with ¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese; 1 cup blueberries
  • Lunch: 3 cups salad greens topped with 4 oz skinless boneless chicken breast, 1 oz almonds, ½ medium avocado, 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Dinner: 2 cups cooked cauliflower rice topped with 4 oz (113g) grilled sirloin steak, 2 Tbsp salsa, 3 mini bell peppers
  • Snack: 1 cup raspberries

Day 2 (1,581 calories, 118 g carbs)

  • Breakfast: Smoothie made with 1 cup plain full-fat Greek yogurt, 1 cup milk, 1 cup strawberries, 2 cups spinach, 2 Tbsp peanut butter
  • Lunch: 6 oz (170g) of shrimp and 1 cup of broccoli with peanut sauce, over shirataki noodles (Pasta Zero or another brand)
  • Dinner: 8 oz (227g) zucchini noodles topped with 2 chicken Italian sausage links, ¾ cup red sauce, 1 Tbsp parmesan cheese
  • Snack 1: ½ cup pistachios (shelled); 1 cup blueberries
  • Snack 2: 1 medium avocado

Day 3 (1,596 calories, 56 g carbs)

  • Breakfast: 1 medium avocado plus 3 scrambled eggs, topped with hot sauce
  • Lunch: 6 oz (170g) turkey burger with 1 slice cheddar cheese in a lettuce wrap; 3 mini bell peppers and 2 Tbsp ranch dressing
  • Dinner: 4 oz (113g) of salmon with 4 oz (113g) of mashed cauliflower, topped with 1 oz (28g) cheddar; 1 cup green beans with 1 slice bacon, crumbled
  • Snack 1: 1 scoop whey protein mixed in water; 1 cup strawberries
  • Snack 2: 1 oz (28g) almonds

3-Day Low-Fat Diabetic Diet Plan

This low-fat plan includes roughly 50% of daily calories from carbs, with no more than 30% of daily calories from fat.

Small amounts of non-starchy vegetables (such as greens, peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers) aren’t included in the carb count. This strategy is in line with carbohydrate counting guidelines published by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Day 1 (1,627 calories, 49 g fat)

  • Breakfast: 2 slices whole wheat bread with 2 Tbsp peanut butter and 1 cup strawberries; 12 oz (355ml) skim milk
  • Lunch: 2 cups chicken noodle soup; 8 saltine crackers; 1 pat butter (1/2 inch tall by 1 inch square); 3 oz (85g) baby carrots
  • Dinner: 4 oz (113g) skinless boneless chicken breast with 1 cup cooked rice; 1 cup corn; 1 cup red and green bell pepper strips; ½ cup salsa; 2 Tbsp guacamole
  • Snack: ½ cup cucumber slices; ½ cup nonfat cottage cheese

Day 2 (1,619 calories, 55 g fat)

  • Breakfast: 1 bagel with 2 eggs and 1 slice of cheese
  • Lunch: 1 cup cooked lentils with ½ cup cooked quinoa; 2 oz feta cheese; 1 cup diced cucumbers and tomatoes
  • Dinner: 4 oz (113g) grilled shrimp with a 6 oz (170g) baked potato, topped with 2 Tbsp sour cream; ½ cup cooked broccoli
  • Snack: 23 cashews

Day 3 (1618 calories, 51 g fat)

    • Breakfast: ½ cup rolled oats (measured dry, cooked in water) with ½ medium banana and 1 oz (28g) walnuts; 1 cup skim milk
    • Lunch: 2 slices wheat bread with 4 oz (113g) deli turkey and mustard; 1 cup cherry tomatoes; 2 cups popcorn; 1 cup cantaloupe
    • Dinner: 1.5 cups cooked pasta with 1 cup red sauce and 4 oz (113g) lean beef, topped with 1 oz parmesan cheese; 1 cup steamed green beans
    • Snack: 1 medium apple; 1 light string cheese

Weight Loss And Diabetes

Weight is a sensitive issue for many people and getting to an ideal, healthy weight is easier said than done. But when you have diabetes, there are huge benefits to losing weight if you’re carrying extra weight.

You’ll have more energy and you’ll reduce your risk of serious complications like heart disease and stroke. Losing weight can help with your diabetes control too. And if you have type 2 diabetes, losing weight could even mean going into diabetes remission.

But millions of people with diabetes find keeping to a healthy weight a huge struggle. You’re not alone in this, there’s support out there to help – a good first step is to ask your healthcare team for help and advice.

Benefits Of Losing Extra Weight

There are so many benefits to losing extra weight – both physically and emotionally.

Extra weight around your waist means fat can build up around your organs, like your liver and pancreas. This can cause something called insulin resistance. So losing this weight could help the insulin you produce or the insulin you inject work properly.

And as you start to lose weight and get more active, you and your healthcare team may need to look at your medication, especially if you treat your diabetes with insulin or sulphonylurea. This might mean reducing the dose or making other adjustments, but talk to your healthcare team about it. For some people, needing fewer diabetes medications is a great motivation for losing weight.

Although getting type 1 diabetes has nothing to do with weight, losing any extra weight will help you reduce your risk of complications and could mean injecting less insulin.

And if you have type 2 diabetes, losing around 5% of your body weight can have real benefits for your health. If you have obesity, you are more likely to put your diabetes into remission if you lose a larger amount of weight,15kg (or 2 stone 5lbs), as quickly and safely as possible following your diagnosis. This could mean coming off your diabetes medication completely – a life-changing possibility. This is even more likely if you lose the weight nearer to your diagnosis and quickly. It’s a myth that losing weight slowly is better for you.

Most people say they also feel better in their mood, have more energy and sleep better.

We’ve got lots of information to help you maintain a healthy weight too, to help keep you on track and prevent putting weight back on.

“We know that losing even 5% of your weight helps improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels. This can have a big impact on your overall health and go a long way to reducing your risk of serious complications, like heart disease and stroke.”

What’s a healthy weight to aim for?

Before you get started, you need to know what a healthy weight is and what numbers you’re aiming for. This is about working out your Body Mass Index (BMI) and your waist size.

Know your weight

Research shows that the more weight you lose, the greater the health benefits, but even losing just 5% of extra weight will improve your health.

BMI uses your height and weight to work out if you’re a healthy weight. It doesn’t look at how much fat you have around the middle, so that’s why you need to measure your waist too. You can work your BMI out for yourself using this NHS tool  – it will show you your target range.

For many people living with obesity, aiming for a healthy BMI may not be realistic.

Can diabetes cause weight gain?

If you have type 1 diabetes, when you start taking insulin, you might start to put on weight. There are lots of reasons for this, like how much insulin you take, your diet and the type of insulin you’re taking.

Insulin is a growth hormone, and any growth hormone you take will mean putting on more weight. When you’re diagnosed with diabetes it’s also likely that you lost a lot of weight in a short space of time, as this is one of the symptoms, and the weight gain is part of the recovery.

The type of insulin you take can affect your weight in different ways. We’ve got more information about the different types and how they can affect your weight.

If you’re worried about putting on weight, or you’d like some help losing weight, then we’re here to help.

Diabetes diet plans to lose weight

You may have heard that diabetes can be controlled by diet. There is no such thing as a special diet exclusively for people with diabetes. There are a lot of different ways to lose weight – but there’s no one-size-fits-all diet.

It starts with finding a way to eat fewer calories than you need.

A calorie (or kcal) is a unit of energy, which is in the food and drink we consume. Your body uses energy for everything we do – from breathing and sleeping to exercising. When you eat, you’re replacing the energy you’ve used, which helps you to maintain a healthy weight.

As a general guide, government recommendations are that men need around 2,500kcal a day to maintain a healthy weight, and women need around 2,000kcal a day. But most people need different amounts of calories based on how their bodies work, how active they are and any weight management goals.

Evidence shows that the best approach is the one that you’re likely to stick to. So the key is to find a plan that you enjoy and fits in with the rest of your life. Everyone’s different and what works for some may not for others.

Low-calorie and very low-calorie diets

A low-calorie diet is made up of between 800 to 1200 calories a day – our DiRECT study used a low-calorie diet of around 850 calories a day. But DiRECT is not a diet. It’s testing a weight-management programme, delivered in GP practices.

Then there’s a very low-calorie diet, which means having less than 800 calories a day.

We haven’t created low or very-low calorie meal plans as these could be challenging for most people to make themselves at home. Most people who follow these diets use special meal replacement products, likes soups and shakes, which are nutritionally complete. If you chose to try a low-calorie diet like the one in DiRECT, speak to your GP or nurse first, especially if you use medications like insulin.

Other diets

A low GI diet can help you manage your blood sugar levels, but the evidence for people with diabetes losing weight is not very strong.

There are other popular diets, like intermittent fasting (such as the 5:2 diet) and the Paleo diet. Unfortunately there isn’t enough strong evidence to say these are effective for weight loss in people with diabetes either.

Commercial weight-loss programmes

Some people feel that they need more support and choose to join a commercial weight-loss programme. These usually involve calorie-controlled eating plans or meal replacements, like milkshakes or bars.

It’s really important to ask lots of questions about these programmes, so you’ve got all the evidence and information you need to make an informed decision. Here are some ideas:

  • Has a healthcare professional been involved?
  • Does the programme offer advice on your diabetes (especially if you’re at risk of hypos)?
  • Are you getting all the nutrition you need from this programme?
  • Does the programme give support and education?

Whether you choose to try one of our meal plans, or another type of diet, it’s really important that you talk it through with your diabetes team first. Starting a new diet will affect your medication or blood sugar levels, so you need their knowledge and support.

Weight-loss planner

“I keep a daily diary and log my weight and activity. It keeps me accountable and focused.”

Your feelings about food

The emotional part of trying to lose weight is important and can often be overlooked.

Do you feel guilty when you eat a treat? Do you eat more when you’re upset? Do you feel dejected if you can’t see progress straight away?
These are really common feelings and tackling them can help you on the road to a healthier lifestyle and a healthy weight.

Find out more about your feelings about food and diabetes.

Connect with others and share tips in our online forum – we’ve made a board especially for people who are looking to lose weight.

Exercise and being active for weight loss

Regular exercise or physical activity has many health benefits and will help you in your weight loss journey. We’ve got more information about how much activity you should be doing and different ways to get active.

But before you start any new physical activity, speak to your diabetes team. They can make sure you have all the information you need about how your diabetes might be affected. Especially if you treat your diabetes with insulin  or certain diabetes medications like sulphonylureas, as being more active may increase your risk of hypos.

Your diabetes team will support you to make the right adjustments to your medications to reduce your risk of hypos.

Weight loss surgery

If you have a lot of weight to lose, ask your healthcare team if weight loss surgery is a possibility. There are different types of weight loss surgery, also called bariatric surgery. They aim to make you feel fuller sooner and eat less. Weight loss surgery can be a very effective way of losing weight, keeping your HbA1c in the target range and putting type 2 diabetes into remission for some people.

For people with diabetes, weight loss surgery isn’t just about weight loss. It is now seen as an actual treatment for type 2 diabetes, and the weight loss is a bonus.

Weight loss surgery changes the way the digestive system works, in ways that are helpful for people with type 2 diabetes. It can:

  • change how the hormones in your gut work, which in turn affects how your body makes insulin
  • increase the amount of bile acids that your body makes, these make your body more sensitive to insulin
  • improve the way your body uses insulin, leading to lower blood sugar levels.

Diabetes weight loss medication

Your healthcare team may be able to prescribe some medications which can help with weight loss. One of these is Orlistat. Some diabetes medications, such as GLP-1 analogues, can also help with weight loss

Your healthcare team can give you advice about whether these medications are right for you. Avoid buying medications online and always get advice from a healthcare professional

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