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Is There a Link Between Weight and Diabetes?
General Wellness

Is There a Link Between Weight and Diabetes?

By Matthew Davis, MD, Methodist Medical Group Weight Management & Wellness
Posted: November 29, 2022

Whether you’re at risk for or you’re living with diabetes, losing weight can make a big difference in your health. Eating nutritious foods, maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly are important for preventing and managing diabetes.  

Diabetes, Weight & Blood Sugar

People with diabetes have too much sugar in their blood due to a problem with the hormone insulin. After you eat, your pancreas releases insulin, which allows the sugar in your blood to enter your cells for energy. This lowers the sugar circulating in your bloodstream. If you have diabetes, your body isn’t able to lower blood sugar as it should.

There are different diabetes types:

  • Type 1 diabetes – Your body doesn’t make any or enough insulin, and you have to take insulin as a shot or through an insulin pump.

  • Type 2 diabetes – Your body doesn’t respond appropriately to insulin and you need to take medication to improve this response.

  • Prediabetes – Your blood sugar is high, but not high enough to be diabetes.

  • Gestational diabetes – You develop diabetes during pregnancy, which usually goes away soon after delivery.

Being overweight is a risk factor for all types of diabetes except type 1. However, losing weight can make a big difference in your health regardless of diabetes type.

When you lose weight, your body requires less insulin to manage blood sugar, which is beneficial for managing all types of diabetes. Losing weight before getting pregnant can reduce your risk of gestational diabetes when you become pregnant. Also, weight loss can help prevent prediabetes from developing into diabetes. It can make managing type 1 and type 2 easier — and lowers your risk of diabetes-related complications like heart and blood vessel diseases, kidney problems, wound healing issues, and eye and nerve damage.

Benefits of Weight Loss

If you have or are at risk for prediabetes or type 2 diabetes and you’re overweight, weight loss is an important part of your treatment. Losing weight helps you:

  • Protect against insulin resistance. Extra weight in your abdomen can lead to insulin resistance — your body doesn’t respond as it should to insulin, which causes blood sugar to rise inappropriately.

  • Stop diabetes progression. Losing just 5-10% of your weight can stop the disease from developing or advancing. Losing more weight can mean even greater health benefits. For those with type 2 diabetes who are obese, losing more than 10% of your body weight may even return your blood sugar levels to normal.

  • Reduce your medicine. You may be able to reduce your insulin dose or other medicines you’re taking for diabetes or prediabetes.

  • Improve your overall health. Losing weight can lower blood pressure, relieve stress on joints, prevent heart and blood vessel disease, lower your risk of cancer and stroke, stop sleep apnea and much more — not to mention a boost to self-esteem and confidence.


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Weight Loss Tips

You and your doctor can decide on your weight loss goals and develop a plan that helps you reach your goals safely. Your doctor can also talk to you about other ways to lower diabetes risk, such as lifestyle changes or taking diabetes medicines.

These weight loss tips can help you lose excess weight:

  • Be active. Regular exercise helps you lose weight, lower your blood sugar and improve your health in many ways. Aim to do 30 minutes of aerobic exercise most days and two or three days of resistance exercise, such as lifting weights. Some simple ways to infuse more activity into your day are by standing more, taking the stairs instead of the escalator or parking farther away when you go to the store.

  • Eat a healthy diet. Eat a plant-rich diet, which has plenty of fiber to help lower blood sugar, makes you feel full and reduces heart disease risks such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Choose whole grains, legumes and green leafy veggies, and avoid high-sugar, low-nutrient foods like white bread and processed foods.

  • Limit fat intake. Eat high-fat foods only in moderation. Choose monounsaturated and polyunsaturated cooking oils that boost “good cholesterol” (high-density lipoproteins or HDLs) and are heart-healthy, and avoid saturated fats and trans fats. Healthier fats include olive, sunflower and canola oils; fatty fish like salmon, tuna and cod; and seeds and nuts like almonds, pumpkin seeds and flaxseed.

  • Get support. Share your goal of losing weight with friends and family and explain why it’s important to you. It helps to have people who understand and can offer encouragement. And remember, change doesn’t happen overnight. New habits take time to develop, so be sure to celebrate every positive step, no matter how small.

  • Skip the fad diets. That fad diet you keep hearing about isn’t the answer — eating a healthy, balanced diet and making good nutritional and lifestyle choices is. You’ll lose weight and keep the weight off by following a healthy eating plan and leading a healthy lifestyle.

Losing weight can feel like an overwhelming challenge, but you can do it. And you don’t have to do it alone.

Talk to your doctor or another member of your healthcare team to learn about services that support your weight loss journey — whether it’s working with a dietitian for nutritional support, a fitness specialist to begin an exercise program or a mental health counselor to help you overcome emotional challenges that sabotage your weight loss efforts.

Want to learn more about surgical and non-surgical weight loss options?

The Methodist Medical Weight Management and Wellness Center provides expert guidance and a holistic, all-encompassing approach to weight loss.

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