Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes, affecting many people.
Many factors can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes, including having overweight or obesity.
Weight management is an important part of type 2 diabetes treatment, and in some cases, people with type 2 diabetes who lose weight are able to stop taking their medication.
Type 2 diabetes affects an estimated 415 million people around the world and about 30 million Americans. When left untreated, type 2 diabetes can lead to serious health risks, including an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and death.
There are several risk factors that can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, including if you have a family history of the disease. But being overweight or obese can also increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
In this article, I’ll explain the connection between type 2 diabetes and weight. I’ll also cover different strategies for safe and sustainable weight loss in people with diabetes.
The Link Between Diabetes and Weight Gain
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the way the body regulates and uses sugar. When a person has type 2 diabetes, their pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, and the cells in their body don’t respond correctly to insulin, which is called insulin resistance.
Over time, insulin resistance leads to high levels of sugar in the bloodstream, which can eventually damage blood vessels, impact blood circulation, and negatively impact organs throughout the body.
Several factors can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes, including genetics, activity level, and nutrition. But having excess body weight, particularly around the waist, is also a common risk factor for diabetes. Fat cells can make it harder for insulin to work on their receptors to lower blood sugar levels effectively. According to one systematic review, having excess abdominal fat can double a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes.
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Tips for Losing Weight with Diabetes
Losing weight can help manage type 2 diabetes and improve your metabolic health. However, losing weight safely and sustainably is important for your overall health. Crash and fad diets that result in short-term weight loss can be harmful to your health in the long run. Below are some recommendations that can support weight loss when you have type 2 diabetes.
Follow a Healthy Eating Plan
Following a customized healthy eating plan is an important component of most type 2 diabetes treatment strategies. In fact, your doctor or nurse may suggest that you talk to a registered dietician to make a plan for healthy eating that fits your needs and situation.
Eating plans for type 2 diabetes generally prioritize foods that help keep blood sugar levels low. Foods that can help you accomplish this include:
- Most fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Fiber-rich foods
- Fish and lean meats
It’s also a good idea to avoid or limit any foods with added sugars.
Get Regular Physical Activity
Regular physical exercise helps control blood sugar levels and lower your risk of heart disease and nerve damage. Also, staying active can help you manage your weight. A healthy goal to aim for is to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every week. This can include brisk walking, dancing, swimming, bicycling, or playing sports.
Lose Weight Slowly and Safely
Safe and sustainable weight loss can help manage type 2 diabetes and improve metabolic health. Research shows that even losing 5–10% of your body weight if you are overweight or obese can improve your health.
Avoid Fad Diets
Extreme weight-loss measures, including crash and fad diets, can negatively impact your heart and overall health. If you’re unsure how to safely and sustainably lose weight, reach out to your healthcare provider for guidance.
Try GLP-1 Agonists
Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists are a class of medication. Several GLP-1 medications are indicated for treating type 2 diabetes, including Victoza and Ozempic. They help to improve insulin production in the pancreas and slow down the emptying of the stomach. These medications are approved to treat type 2 diabetes, but they have also been shown to aid in weight loss.
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Manage your Stress Levels
Living with diabetes can be stressful, but chronic stress can cause additional harm to your physical and emotional health. Learning how to manage your stress effectively can benefit your mood, sleep, and weight loss goals.
Get Support from Others
Losing weight can be difficult and frustrating. It’s not uncommon to experience setbacks and periods of feeling overwhelmed or deflated. Gathering support from friends, family, or other people going through a similar journey can help you stay motivated and on track.
Monitor Your Blood Sugar Levels
Monitoring your blood sugar levels is an essential component of type 2 diabetes management, but it can also help support your weight loss goals. Talk with your healthcare provider about how best to monitor your blood sugar levels.
Take Your Medications as Prescribed
In some cases, your provider may also recommend taking medication. Medications used to treat type 2 diabetes include alpha-glucosidase inhibitors, biguanides, dopamine agonists, dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP-4) inhibitors, GLP-1s, meglitinides, sodium-glucose transporter (SGLT) 2 inhibitors, sulfonylureas, and thiazolidinediones. If you’re prescribed medication, be sure to take the medication exactly as recommended by your provider.
Get Support from Your Primary Care Provider
Losing weight when you have type 2 diabetes can significantly impact your overall health. But keeping your primary care provider in the loop is important to ensuring that you’re pursuing safe and sustainable weight loss. When in doubt, reach out to your primary care provider for help.
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Frequently Asked Questions
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
Diabetes, Hypertension, and Cardiovascular Disease: Clinical Insights and Vascular Mechanisms. (2018).
Get Active! (2021).
How strong is the association between abdominal obesity and the incidence of type 2 diabetes? (2008).
Losing Weight. (2022).
Persistent metabolic adaptation 6 years after The Biggest Loser competition. (2017).
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Yo-yo dieting may increase women’s heart disease risk. (2019).