Joslin Answers Your Questions

Joslin Diabetes Center experts answer commonly asked questions about diabetes monitoring, treatment, self-care, meal planning, and more.
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Topic: Weight Control
Question: My doctor said my diabetes control would be better if I lost 20 pounds, but I can't seem to lose. Any suggestions?

Answer: Weight loss can definitely help improve diabetes control by helping the body use insulin better. Not only that, weight loss also can improve blood pressure and blood lipid levels, along with many other health issues. However, losing weight can be challenging for anyone, especially when it comes to maintaining that weight loss.

Fortunately, losing between 5 percent to 10 percent of one's weight is enough for people to see a benefit. This is important to think about, since many people set themselves unrealistic weight-loss goals they can't achieve. Then, they often become discouraged and stop trying to lose weight al-together.

Folks who are the most successful at losing weight—and keeping it off—are those who participate in a program or action plan that combines healthy eating, regular physical activity, and behavior change. Other factors that may help you succeed, according to the National Weight Control Registry, include weighing yourself on a regular basis, exercising just about every day, keeping food and activity records, and eating breakfast every day.

Some people are able to "go it alone" when it comes to weight loss. Most people do best if they seek guidance from a registered dietitian, a commercial weight-loss program, or an online program. The regular "check-ins" and group support that such programs typically provide are important factors that often help people reach their weight goals, especially during difficult times.

A few important things to keep in mind:
  • In general, it's best to avoid diet plans that promise quick weight loss or that encourage eating only a limited type of foods. While you may be able to lose weight on plans such as these, they aren't realistic or even safe to follow long term, and you are likely to end up gaining back all the weight you lost. Instead, opt for a slower, more gradual weight loss of one to two pounds per week.
  • Focus on choosing lower-fat, healthier foods that the whole family will eat.
  • Make physical activity a key part of your lifestyle.
  • Consider meeting with a dietitian to develop a meal plan that both is realistic for you to follow and fits in your favorite foods so that you don't feel deprived.
  • Enlist the support of your family and friends to help you stay on track.
  • If you have more than 100 pounds to lose or have other health issues, talk with your doctor to see if prescription medication or even stomach surgery is an option for you.

A lot of medical research suggests that it's not the loss of weight that improves a person's health, but rather the lifestyle changes used to lose weight. Making healthier food choices and increasing your fitness can improve your diabetes and lower your risk for heart disease, even if your weight only changes slightly.

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