WEIGHT MANAGEMENT AND DIABETES
Maintaining a healthy weight is important
Louisiana ranks fifth in the nation for diabetes prevalence and 18th in the nation for diabetes-related deaths. According to the American Diabetes Association, prediabetes and diabetes are estimated to cost $5.4 billion annually in our state. A majority of people with diabetes suffer from Type 2 Diabetes, which is preventable. There is a strong link between an unhealthy weight and Type 2 Diabetes. Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for developing Type 2 Diabetes. Fat distribution is also a factor, with abdominal fat accumulation increasing the risk of Type 2 Diabetes.
Effectively controlling blood sugar levels and maintaining a healthy weight are key in Type 2 Diabetes management. “Just a 5-10 percent weight loss has been shown to help manage diabetes more easily,” said Olivia Loewer, a local dietitian specializing in diabetes education. “Weight loss can help increase insulin sensitivity. Also, having diabetes puts a person at risk for heart disease, and weight loss can help prevent its progression.” Those with diabetes are twice as likely to develop heart disease than people without diabetes.
Maintaining a healthy weight is important even if you don’t have diabetes, as an unhealthy weight is one of the main risk factors for Type 2 Diabetes. For individuals who have prediabetes, moderate weight loss through diet and exercise can help prevent development of Type 2 Diabetes. In fact, weight loss through diet and exercise alone has been shown to result in a greater reduction in overall risk than weight loss efforts with medication.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and weight is even effective if diabetes runs in your family, as most cases of Type 2 Diabetes did not originate solely from genetics, but in combination with an unhealthy lifestyle or weight.
So where do we start in our weight loss journey? “Exercise and a healthy diet are the best things to start striving for,” said Loewer. “If your doctor has cleared you for exercise, find something you enjoy doing and start moving at least three times a week. If you’ve never exercised before, break your exercise up into 10-minute sessions throughout the day.” Physical activity may also help lower blood sugar levels.
When it comes to diet, it is also helpful to start with small, realistic changes. Avoid crash diets with drastic expectations, and focus on making your plate resemble the guidelines issued by the American Diabetes Association, which can be found on their website. For starters, try filling half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables, like greens, mushrooms, peppers, squash, asparagus and carrots, to name a few. Other small changes to your diet can help with weight loss efforts. Loewer explained, “Cut out sweetened beverages. Water is the gold standard, but if you don’t like the taste, feel free to flavor it with lemon or lime juice, mint leaves, cucumber slices, or whatever you like.” It is important to make small changes that still fit your unique tastes and preferences. For more individualized advice with weight loss and meal planning, Loewer said to “talk to a dietitian about creating a meal plan that fits your lifestyle and needs.” Find a dietitian who specializes in diabetes education and management for a more compatible experience.
For best results in managing your weight with Type 2 Diabetes, lifestyle changes are key. Diet and exercise are vital to weight loss and blood sugar management, and they promote better health overall. Always ask your doctor before beginning any weight-loss plan to ensure that it is right for you. For more information on diabetes management, diet and exercise, visit the American Diabetes Association’s website at diabetes.org.
Abigail Scallan is an assistant extension agent (general nutrition) for the LSU AgCenter. Her main focus is adult nutrition education and promotion in Caddo and Bossier parishes. She can be reached at ascallan@ agcenter.lsu.edu.