There's no doubt about it: Getting and keeping your weight under control can help you reach your target goals for blood glucose, blood lipids, and blood pressure. Plus, maintaining these targets over time is what will keep you healthy. A body of scientific evidence suggests that even a modest amount of weight loss -- 10 to 15 pounds -- can make a big difference in managing diabetes. Weight loss can yield sweet successes, including:
Lowering your blood glucose
Improving your blood fats (cholesterol)
Lightening the load on your joints and feet
Allowing easier movement and breathing
Increasing your energy level
Watch out for the following pitfalls on your way to weight loss success. The key is to go about losing weight healthfully.
Don't: Skip 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 it, according to a 2007 British study of the dietary habits of more than 6,700 adults. "Breakfast skippers tend to make up for those saved calories by eating more later in the day. The net result isn't weight loss. In fact, it's frequently weight gain," says Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D., CDE, a Virginia-based dietitian and certified diabetes educator. When you eat breakfast, you can resist those midmorning vending-machine raids because your blood glucose levels stay 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,'" Weisenberger says.
Don't: Ignore Exercise
When you're trying to lose weight, it's easy to focus only on counting calories. But it's important to put down the calculator -- at least long enough to exercise. Exercise should be a major part of every weight loss and health maintenance plan. When you exercise regularly, you build muscle that burns more calories throughout the day. For the best health and weight loss benefits, including improved blood sugar control and A1C levels, the American Diabetes Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week plus muscle-strengthening resistance training activities three times per week. "After 3-1/2 weeks of weight loss, we lose 75 percent from fat and 25 percent from muscle, if you aren't doing weight training," says Lisa Merrill, M.S., R.D., CDE, a dietitian, exercise physiologist, and certified diabetes educator in Michigan.
Don't: Restrict Certain Food Groups
Sure, weight loss is all about math -- if you take in 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. For example, a 2009 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that when you add protein to breakfast while carefully counting calories, it results in increased feelings of fullness. "A balanced diet helps you feel full and stay full, aiding your weight loss efforts," says Weisenberger. "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." She suggests choosing from at least three food groups at each meal, including at least one good food source of fiber and one of protein.