5 Ways to Jump Start Your Weight Loss

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There are many reasons to lose weight—reduce stress on joints, increase energy levels, reduce blood pressure and lipids, improve sleep and self-esteem. Losing weight is also extremely effective in improving blood glucose levels.

The American Diabetes Association recommends that people with Type 2 diabetes who are overweight aim to lose a minimum of about 7% of their body weight. Weight loss improves insulin sensitivity. Think of insulin as a "gatekeeper"—its job is to take sugar from the bloodstream to the cells to use for energy. Insulin opens the cell to let the glucose inside. When a person is overweight, fat acts like an obstacle course and interrupts insulin from doing its job. Instead of sugar going to the cells, it remains in the blood. That is why we often say, people who are overweight are insulin resistant. Their cells are unable to accept the sugar efficiently. By losing weight we can improve insulin sensitivity and hence lower blood sugars.

Slow and Steady

Rapid weight loss might seem like the way to go, but odds are losing weight at a rapid pace won't be long-lasting. The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends losing 1 to 2 pounds per week. To do this you need to yield a calorie deficit of 500 to 1000 calories per day. You can achieve this by a combination of diet and exercise.

How to Get Started

A registered dietitian or certified diabetes educator can create an individualized meal plan for you. Meal plans should be individualized based on past medical history, lifestyle, likes and dislikes, as well as reactions to certain carbohydrates. Ideally, persons with diabetes should follow a low to moderate carbohydrate diet, rich in fiber, lean protein, and heart-healthy fats. New research leads us to believe that the fat quality is more important than the total intake of fat. It's best to swap saturated fats for heart-healthy fats. Here are some quick tips.

Reduce saturated fat intake: Avoid or limit bacon, sausage, full-fat cheese, butter, and creamy dressings. Replace these foods with unsaturated fats like avocado, oil-based dressing, nuts, seeds, fatty fish like salmon and tuna, and low-fat cheese. You can adjust portions of fats with your registered dietitian or diabetes educator.

Eliminate Sugary Beverages and Added Sugars: People with Type 2 diabetes or at risk of should avoid all sweetened beverages and limit intake of added sugars (even natural ones) such as sugar, fructose, honey, maple syrup, and agave. By reducing intake of sugary beverages and snacks you will not only improve your blood sugars, but you will lose weight too.

Portion Control Your Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are the bodies main source of energy but, when eaten in excess, the body is unable to burn them as fuel. Instead, the excess carbohydrates are stored as fat. When choosing carbohydrates it's best to choose those that are low in added sugar and fat, rich in fiber, and minimally processed.

Good sources of carbohydrates include foods like:

  • Fruit: whole fruit - fresh, frozen or canned (without added sugar)
  • Low-fat dairy - 1% fat or skim milk, and plain yogurt (Low-fat plain Greek yogurt has fewer carbohydrates and more protein than regular yogurt)
  • Legumes: all bean varieties (preferably dried, but if canned, be sure to rinse them to eliminate most of the sodium)
  • Starchy vegetables: sweet potato, squash, peas
  • Whole grains: oatmeal, whole grain bread, quinoa, barley, bulgar, brown rice

It's important to portion control your carbohydrates to control your weight and blood sugars. Many people with diabetes benefit from eating a consistent carbohydrate diet. A consistent carbohydrate diet entails eating about the same amount of carbohydrates for meals daily. Counting carbohydrates can get a bit complicated, but a registered dietitian or certified diabetes educator can help guide you to find a meal plan that works best for you.

If you are not sure where to find a registered dietitian or certified diabetes educator , ask your primary physician for a referral. If they do not know of any you can always search for one at eatright.org. All persons with prediabetes and diabetes are entitled to meet with a Registered Dietitian or Certified Diabetes Educator.

Keep a Food Journal: A food diary helps to keep you accountable for what you put into your mouth. You can use a smartphone app to log your food or write it down manually. Logging your food can help you discover which foods impact your blood sugars the most and what types of food combinations work best for your body. It can be used to track calories, fat, carbohydrates and exercise. In addition, a food log can also help you discover and change food behaviors. If you are someone who eats emotionally this is a good tool to help re-direct your behavior and facilitate change. Weight loss goes well beyond the numbers on the scale—it's about making lifestyle changes that are long-lasting. 

Get Moving: Exercise can improve blood sugars, sleep patterns, weight, mood, and cholesterol levels. Aim to participate in physical activity that you find enjoyable and realistic. Start with a goal of 10 minutes per day and work your way up to 30 minutes daily (The American College of Sports Medicine recommendation of 150 minutes per week). Be sure to have medical clearance by your physician before starting any exercise regiment.

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Article Sources

  • American College of Sports Medicine. ACSM issues new recommendations on quality and quantity of exercise.
  • American Diabetes Association. Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes – 2014. Diabetes Care. 2014 Jan; 37 Suppl 1: S14-80.
  • American Dietetic Association Position Paper: Weight Management. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009; 109: 330-346.