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Diabetes: How to lose weight and keep it off

November may be the beginning of the holiday season but it is also National Diabetes Month. If you’re one of the nearly 26 million children and adults in the U.S. with diabetes, the holidays can especially stressful, since food is in abundance and weight gain is almost a given. You may even believe having diabetes makes weight loss impossible. Good news: You really can manage your weight — and even lose weight — with simple changes in your lifestyle. We turned to dietitian and diabetes specialist Molly Gee to learn how people with diabetes can best manage their weight.

Woman exercising at the gym

The weight and diabetes connection

Molly Gee, M.Ed., R.D., L.D., managing director at the Behavioral Medicine Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine and spokesperson for Glucerna, says there is an unquestionable connection between weight and diabetes but that this link doesn’t mean people with diabetes are sentenced to a lifetime of being overweight.

“We now know that being obese or overweight is a leading modifiable risk factor for type 2 diabetes. The good news is that with a few small changes, including moderate weight loss of 5 to 10 percent, you can significantly help improve your type 2 diabetes and reduce the risk of complications,” the diabetes expert explains.

Take small steps for weight loss success

Before you make changes in your diet and exercise, Gee stresses that you should check with your doctor to ensure the changes you make are right for you. She also encourages people with diabetes to confidently make changes and not be daunted by the belief that you have to drastically overhaul your lifestyle.

“Making positive changes to your overall health is not about big actions, but rather the small lifestyle changes that anyone can make,” she says.

Weight loss tips for people with diabetes

Be smart about nutrition

As a registered dietitian, nutrition smarts are always at the top of Gee’s recommendations. “Become familiar with the nutritious, healthy choices you should be incorporating into your daily diet,” she suggests. “Plan nutritious meals, which include lean proteins and high-fiber foods that are filling and low in fat, like beans, brown rice, fresh fruits and vegetables.”

Keep track of your diet

“It’s important to remember what you’ve already eaten throughout the day so that you can continue to plan meals accordingly and get the balance of nutrients you need,” Gee says. “Try writing down everything you eat in a food log, or in this digital age, take pictures with your smartphone so that you have a running nutrition log that you can access at any time.”

Make healthy eating easy

Gee knows that putting together balanced meals can be challenging, especially when people are on the go. “This is why I recommend substituting one or two meals or snacks a day with a meal replacement such as Glucerna Hunger Smart shakes or bars, [which are] made for people with diabetes and offer more protein to help manage hunger.”

Closely monitor blood glucose levels

Monitoring blood glucose levels is crucial for anyone with diabetes, but is especially important for those who are trying to lose weight. “Low blood sugar can occur with reducing calories, and it’s important to contact your doctor if symptoms such as a rapid heartbeat, confusion, sweating or trembling occur,” cautions Gee.

Get moving

“Incorporate exercise into your routine every day to manage your weight and improve your overall health,” suggests Gee. “Start gradually with 10 minute bouts of walking, and, as always, consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program.”

Make exercise a group activity

If you consider exercise the most challenging lifestyle change, partner with someone else to make exercise more enjoyable. “It’s hard to get started on any new routine alone, so try starting by taking daily walks at lunch with co-workers, or walking the dog an extra lap around the block,” Gee says. “Again, start slowly, and eventually you will be incorporating more and more exercise into your daily routine.”

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