Losing weight with Type 2 diabetes can be a bit tricky – partly because the amount of weight to lose might feel too unachievable, and partly because some of the medications used to treat diabetes, for example insulin and some tablets, actively promote weight gain. This makes any attempts to shed the pounds something of a vicious circle. However, there are tried and tested ways to lose weight with diabetes and following these few steps faithfully will get you there.
Step 1 – The key to losing weight is in your head!
You need to decide how much you really, really want to lose weight. Your strength of purpose is going to be the main driver of your success. If you can’t see a goal or a purpose in being thinner, such as wanting to look good at a future event, improving your diabetes control and long term health or generally having more confidence and self-esteem, you are less likely to be able to stick to your plans. So the first thing to do is to write down two lists: one reasons FOR losing weight and one reasons NOT to lose weight. Once you’ve done this, decide there and then whether or not you are going to go for it and why. If you decide you are going to lose weight, write down your commitment and how much weight you intend to lose and place this statement in a prominent place in your home, where you will see it everyday – you may need several copies, for different places!
Step 2 – A realistic plan is a plan that will work
The next step is to divide the total amount of weight you want to lose into manageable amounts, usually per week or per month. For example 0.5 to 1kg per week. Then you can work out how long it will take you to your goal weight, which gives you your long term goal. Being unrealistic (eg ‘I’m going to lose 15 kg in the next month’) is the path to feelings of despondency and failure, so the trick is to give yourself an achievable amount that you might even exceed some weeks, which will make you feel fantastic! Having a realistic plan also means that if you have a bad day or a bad week, you will soon get back on track.
Step 3 – Type 2 diabetes matters
Once you’ve got your determination sorted, and then done your sums, you need to factor in your diabetes. As you lose weight and your own insulin regulating system becomes more efficient, a number of things might happen. Your medication might need reducing, you may experience hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose levels) or your blood glucose levels may become more erratic. Knowing what’s going on with your diabetes is important and this means testing your blood glucose regularly. The best aspect of this is that as you lose weight, you will see your glucose levels improve (as will your blood pressure and cholesterol levels), but it does require effort and recording the results to see patterns. This will enable you – along with your health advisors if necessary – to decide which medications may need altering. If you aren’t used to adjusting your medications, or you don’t have experience with hypoglycaemia, you might need to talk with your health advisors, or use resources such as books or the Internet. The extra factor of diabetes can make it seem like much harder work – and in some ways it is – but the benefits in the longer term are immense.
Step 4 – Don’t be alone
Your own commitment and determination is vital, but you will also need support from time to time, especially from others who are also on the weight loss path. So work out where you are going to get your support from. Family? Friends? Other people with diabetes? A club, slimming group or activity class? Work out exactly what support you need, for example, someone who will give you a pep talk when you are feeling despondent, or someone who’ll give you a hug? Don’t forget the support you can offer others, too – knowing you’ve helped someone to keep going in their efforts can be a great feeling!
Step 5 – What are you going to eat and drink?
The all-important step – deciding what is going to be different about your eating plans. Losing weight involves eating fewer calories than you use up in energy. In turn this means having smaller portion sizes in general and having less of higher calorie items such as red meat, cheese, butter, confectionary and soft drinks or alcohol. There are lots of low calorie and low fat versions of these products available in supermarkets nowadays, and using these instead will instantly cut your calorie intake without you feeling you are missing out. Especially with diabetes and the risk of hypoglycaemia, trying to cut out whole food groups (eg bread or cheese) or even whole meals (eg breakfast) is unwise. Forbidding yourself certain foods is also a strategy likely to make you feel you want them even more. Building these foods in, but in modified or reduced amounts, is a much more successful strategy. Writing down the foods that you could replace with lower calorie versions will give you a great start to this step.
Step 6 – Getting out more
More activity will burn more calories, so anything you do that involves moving around will be helpful. Look at your day and decide where you could possibly do more. Everyday activities such as walking up and down the stairs, gardening, housework, a longer walk with the dog or parking your car further away from the place you are going all help enormously. Consider carefully how much more you can do in your daily life as well as if more formal activity such as the gym, exercise class or swimming is for you. Knowing about your diabetes is important in this step, as you will need to prevent your extra activity causing hypoglycaemia.
Step 7 – Being prepared
There will be times when you are not in control of what you eat, or when temptation is in front of you. There’s nothing wrong with giving in to this from time to time, for example on special occasions or parties, but if you’d rather not even have the occasional lapse, the key is to be prepared. For example, carry your own low calorie snacks, fruit or drinks wherever you go. Look ahead each week to times when you might not be able to access the foods that are helping you lose weight and this preparation will contribute to your success.
Step 8 – Over celebrate and under-criticise
This step is all about complimenting yourself when you’ve done well – whatever your success, whether it’s managing to say ‘no thank you’ to the cream cakes or chocolates being handed round, or losing your first 2kg. Feeling successful will spur you on and make you more successful. On the other hand, if you have a bad day, or week, don’t beat yourself up about it – it’s completely natural to have lapses and you can always remind yourself of your commitment and start again tomorrow. As already identified in step 1, weight loss really happens in your head and this includes the messages you give yourself at these times. Changing them from negative to positive ones can make a huge difference to your success.
Following these 8 steps will bring you success. Good luck!