12 Tips for Weight Loss

There's no doubt about it: Getting to and maintaining a healthy weight can help you feel better and stay healthy over time. Losing weight when you have prediabetes or soon after you find out you have type 2 diabetes can also help you reach target goals for blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure.
  • The Benefits of Weight Loss

    A body of scientific evidence suggests that even a modest amount of weight loss -- 10-15 pounds (5-7 percent of your starting body weight) -- can help people with prediabetes prevent or delay progression to type 2 diabetes. This amount of weight loss has also been shown to help people newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes slow the progression of the disease through control of glucose (blood sugar), lipids (cholesterol), and blood pressure. And the longer you can sustain the weight loss, the better. One key to long-term success is to go about losing weight healthfully.

    Weight loss can accomplish these health benefits:

    -- Lower blood glucose (blood sugar)

    -- Lower blood pressure

    -- Improved blood lipids (raise HDL [good] cholesterol; lower triglycerides; and decrease and improve LDL [bad] cholesterol)

    -- Lighten the stress and strain on your joints and feet

    -- Improve quality of sleep and/or minimize sleep apnea

    -- Easier movement and breathing

    -- Increased energy level

  • Start Your Day with Breakfast

    One surefire way to ruin your weight loss efforts is to skip breakfast. People who eat breakfast regularly tend to have a lower risk of weight gain compared with people who skip breakfast. In addition, starting your days with a healthy breakfast is associated with maintaining weight loss.

    "Breakfast skippers tend to make up for those saved calories by eating more calories later in the day. The net result isn't weight loss. In fact, it may be weight gain," says Jill Weisenberger, RD, CDE, and author of Diabetes Weight Loss (American Diabetes Association, 2012).

    When you eat a healthy breakfast, you may have more willpower to resist those midmorning vending-machine raids because your blood sugar levels are more stable and your metabolism responds more favorably.

    "Eating a balanced breakfast is a great way to start the day. It says right off the bat, 'Hey, I'm taking care of myself and I’m starting my day off right,'" Weisenberger says.

    For a diabetes-friendly breakfast, include servings of whole grains, dairy foods, and fruit, as well as lean protein.

  • Stay Active to See Results

    When you're trying to lose weight, it's easy to only focus on counting calories. Although your calorie count is what’s most important for losing weight, exercise is also a very important part of a healthy weight loss plan. Research shows that being physically active is even more crucial to keeping the weight off. When you get enough exercise regularly, you build muscle that burns more calories throughout the day.

    For the best health and weight loss benefits, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, plus muscle-strengthening resistance training activities two or three times per week.

  • Round Out Your Healthy Eating Plan

    Weight loss has a lot to do with math -- over time, if you consume fewer calories than your body needs for fuel, you end up with an energy shortfall and weight loss. But studies show that a winning weight loss strategy includes enjoying all food groups. The ADA’s nutrition recommendations for adults with diabetes say that a wide variety of eating patterns – from a lower carbohydrate intake to a vegan or vegetarian eating plan -- can help you successfully lose weight.  

    A healthy eating plan that contains sufficient calories from nutrient-dense foods can help you feel full and stay full, aiding your weight loss efforts. "It fuels your exercise, provides nutrients to fight disease, and is a whole lot more interesting, even if it does take more effort to eat a variety of foods," Weisenberger says. She suggests choosing at least three healthy foods from three food groups at each meal. 

  • Step on the Scale Regularly

    When trying to lose weight, the number on the scale may weigh heavy on your mind. Although it's not true for everyone, many people find that stepping on the scale every day can be discouraging, especially if the result doesn't match your expectation.

    Daily weigh-ins don't capture an accurate picture of your true weight, and it's easy to become obsessed over body fluctuations that can be caused by water retention. But that doesn't mean you should stop weighing yourself altogether.

    Studies show that people who weigh themselves regularly -- at least weekly -- have far greater success in weight loss. When you weigh yourself regularly, you make yourself accountable for those little splurges you might make from day to day. So what's the right frequency for weighing yourself? "Weekly is good," says Lisa Merrill, RD, CDE.

  • Customize Convenience Foods

    Lower-calorie frozen meals seem like the perfect weight loss prescription -- they’re quick, easy, and portion-controlled. Keep a few in the freezer if you think they will assist in your weight loss efforts. However, it’s important to note that eating them and not satisfying your hunger or calorie needs could work against you.

    Research conducted by The Volumetrics Eating Plan author Barbara Rolls, Ph.D., of Pennsylvania State University, points out that eating low-calorie, high-water foods -- such as fruits, vegetables, broth-base soups, and salads -- helps you feel more satisfied. Put this concept into action: If you're going to dine on a low-calorie frozen meal, add a large green salad or a serving of a veggie-packed, broth-base soup to help you feel full longer.

    Frozen diet dinners seem like the perfect weight loss prescription -- a preportioned, low-calorie meal ready to pop in the microwave. However, diet dinners frequently are too skimpy on important nutrients to keep you satisfied until the next meal. Many diet dinners contain around 300 calories and as little as 7 grams of protein (about 1 ounce of meat) per serving.

    According to Merrill, there is plenty of carbohydrate in most diet dinners, but many do not contain enough protein, which can increase your feelings of fullness. In addition, research conducted by Barbara Rolls, Ph.D., of The Pennsylvania State University, points out that eating low-calorie, high-water foods -- such as fruits, vegetables, broth-base soups, and salads -- helps you feel more satisfied. If you're going to dine on a diet dinner, add one serving of very lean protein and a side salad to round out the meal.

  • Understand Weight Loss Claims

    If weight loss were as easy as popping pills or drinking a magic potion, we'd all be slim. Unfortunately, losing weight and maintaining that weight loss takes a lot of hard work -- making healthy food choices, monitoring calorie counts, and being physically active on a regular basis are critical components of a successful plan. While many dietary supplements claim miraculous weight loss benefits, the science doesn't seem to support these claims.

    A recent review of popular weight loss dietary supplements conducted by, an organization that conducts independent reviews of dietary supplements, found little evidence that dietary supplements claiming to foster weight loss actually work.

    Keep in mind that dietary supplements are not regulated as stringently by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as drugs or food additives. They are not required to prove their effectiveness or safety before they are marketed. Talk to your health care provider before taking supplements for weight loss.

  • Eat Moderate Amounts of Carbs

    Carbs have been getting a bad rap for years. Not all foods that contain carbohydrate deserve a bad rap, such as whole grains, legumes (beans), fruits, nonstarchy vegetables, starchy vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods. However, some carb-containing foods should be minimized, like sugary foods, sweets, and desserts. These foods provide a lot of calories with little nutrition.

    Focus on nutrient-rich sources of carbohydrate that have minimal added sugars or fats or are prepared with small amounts of added sugars or unhealthy fats. You will not only get to eat delicious foods that help you feel satisfied, but your body will benefit from an array of important nutrients, such as fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.

    See how many carbs you should be eating each day.

  • Steer Clear of Fads

    Detox diets: Celebrities swear by them as fast, "cleansing" ways to shed pounds. But how much evidence exists for this weight loss strategy? Dozens of detox diets that promote fasting, juicing, restrictive meal plans, or herbal supplements are making the fad-diet circuit, usually proclaiming benefits such as ridding the body of toxins and promoting weight loss. But most health experts remain skeptical about such detox diets.

    "The body is a self-healing organism and self-cleansing organism. We just need to put the right foods in," says Lisa Merrill, RD, CDE.

    Currently, Natural Standard, an organization that studies integrative medicine, does not support the idea that the body needs help cleansing itself. More important, many detox diets are inadequate in important nutrients that your body needs to function normally.

  • Stay Hydrated

    Drinking adequate fluids is important for body functions such as transporting nutrients, maintaining blood volume, and removing waste products -- but that's not all.

    Fluid-containing foods -- such as fruits, vegetables, and broth-base soups -- can help you feel fuller so you eat less at meals. How much fluid is enough? A little more than 11 cups a day for women and 15 cups a day for men, including the fluids you get in foods and beverages, according to the Institute of Medicine's Dietary Reference Intake.

  • Choose Healthy Snacks

    There are many low-calorie snacks awaiting your selection on supermarket shelves, poised to help your weight loss campaign. But some snacks may not be as helpful as they appear.

    If you chomp down on a 100-calorie pack of cookies, what are you getting back for that 100-calorie investment? Not much! When you're cutting calories, it's important to make every calorie count by choosing nutrient-rich foods -- foods that contain important vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that your body needs to stay healthy. Instead, choose a handful of almonds (about 14), a banana, or a 6-ounce yogurt.


  • Indulge Your Sweet Tooth

    Every successful weight loss program offers opportunities to enjoy some of your favorite foods. After all, a healthful eating plan should be for life, not something you go "on" or "off."

    But if you splurge on special treats every day, you can sabotage your best intentions for weight loss. Lisa Merrill, RD, CDE, suggests creating a "bank" of extra calories to make room for something you really crave -- whether it's a small slice of birthday cake or a glass of wine at dinner.

    By cutting back on calories earlier in the day and making sure to squeeze in exercise, you can usually fit in a special treat of 100-200 calories. This is where individually portioned servings of cookies, chocolate, ice cream bars, and chips can come in handy so you don't overdo it.


  • Practice Portion Control

    Portion control is a powerful tool for losing weight and keeping it off. If you're doubling up on portions, you're doubling up on calories.

    America's portion sizes have grown over the years. In fact, researchers have identified that the increase in portion sizes for some of our favorite foods, such as salty snacks, fries, burgers, soft drinks, and Mexican dishes, is directly responsible for an increase in calories consumed and weight gain.

    Merrill suggests keeping an eye on how much you're dishing up at mealtime. Here's a simple rule of thumb: Fill half of your plate with fruits and nonstarchy vegetables, one-fourth of your plate with whole grains, and one-fourth of your plate with lean meat or other protein.


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