You already know that weight control for people with type 2 diabetes is super-important. But did you know that excess body fat actually increases the body’s resistance to insulin?
Insulin is like a key that allows sugar, or glucose, enter cells. With insulin resistance, our cells don't respond to insulin the way they should, so glucose can't get into the cells as easily and builds up in the blood.
This makes managing your glucose so much more difficult. And what makes metabolic health even more difficult is that most people with diabetes are overweight.
In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over 90 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are either overweight or obese. And for people who don’t have diabetes yet, being overweight increases the chances that they will develop it at some point in their lives.
Research shows that a high body mass index (BMI) for a long period of time increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. To calculate your BMI, enter your height and weight information using the calculator on this page. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight and a BMI of 30 and above is considered obese.
People who fall into the BMI range of 25 to 34.9, and have a waist size of over 40 inches for men and over 35 inches for women, are believed to be at especially high risk for diabetes and other health problems.
So what are the two key elements of losing weight for people with diabetes? Science and nutrition.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Keep Track of Your Numbers
A major component of weight loss success is determined by how good you are at paying attention to your “numbers,” your HbA1c and your blood-sugar levels. Uncontrolled diabetes can be at the root of excess weight, so it’s important to have a 24-hour commitment to keeping your “numbers” in check. It may seem annoying at first, but keeping track of how your blood sugar levels are behaving in response to the food you eat is important. This will help you make better choices at your next meals.
2. Be Mindful of Your Habits
The lifestyle choices we make every day, and over the years, matter. Food and activity can either decrease or increase our risk for obesity and diabetes. We have to not react to every food or beverage craving we have. We can develop the ability to judge if that pang is really hunger or is it just being triggered by seeing a commercial or seeing someone chowing down on that sugary and fatty feast? Think about how you feel. Are you really hungry? If not, drink a glass of water, have a quick healthy snack bite and move away from the table.
3. Trick Yourself Into Better Eating
Since so much about hunger, feeling full (satiety) and weight loss has to do with “psychology,” it stands to reason that we can use “Jedi mind tricks” to essentially “trick” ourselves into not overeating. For example:
- At mealtime, fill up on low-calorie, low-glycemic foods first. This will help you feel full quickly enough to prevent you from reaching for the high-calorie items on your plate.
- When eating salads, pour salad dressing in a separate cup and dip your fork into the dressing before each salad bit. Do not pour the high-calorie dressing over your salad before you eat. This technique will help reduce the number of calories from condiments added to your foods.
- Eat generous amounts of fiber and add fiber-rich items into salads and soups. Fiber helps lower blood sugar levels; it also speeds weight loss.
- Carry a toothbrush and toothpaste with you. When cravings occur, brush your teeth with a peppermint-flavored toothpaste. It will curb your desire to eat.
The Low-Glycemic Diet
What is involved to help plan the best diet for a low glycemic diet? Why is it important? Being aware of the glycemic index of the foods you consume can encourage weight loss and help reduce blood sugar levels and lower the risks of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
The glycemic index is a measurement that ranks food according to their effect on blood sugar levels. The rates at which different foods raise blood sugar levels are slotted in comparison to the absorption of 50 grams of pure glucose, which is used as a reference food and has a glycemic index value of 100.
Foods are only assigned a glycemic index value if they have carbohydrates or “carbs.” Food containing no carbs—such as beef, chicken, fish, eggs, herbs, and spices—won’t be found on glycemic index lists.
Sources of Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are found in bread, cereals, fruits, vegetables and dairy products. Although carbohydrates are essential for a healthy diet, not all carbohydrates are the same and have very different effects on blood sugar.
When you eat carbohydrates, your digestive system breaks down carbohydrates into simple sugars that enter the bloodstream.
More on The Glycemic Index
Keep in mind, though, all sugars do not have the same glycemic index. The different types of sugar can have a glycemic index as low as 19 (fructose) up to 105 (maltose). Starch is a carbohydrate made up of amylose and amylopectin; foods with a higher amylose content will have a lower glycemic index.
Processing methods for foods containing these molecules can raise the glycemic index, too. The more processed a food is, the higher its glycemic index. Even a cooking method can change the glycemic index.
The longer the food is cooked and more breakdown of the food occurs, the faster the sugars will be digested and absorbed raising the glycemic index. For example, al dente pasta has a lower glycemic index than soft (more cooked) pasta.
And yes, as you might have guessed, the riper the fruit the higher the glycemic index. An unripe banana has a glycemic index of 30 while the soft and ripe banana has a glycemic index of 48. It tastes sweeter.
Glycemic index ratings are established as Low (55 or less), Medium (56-69) and High (70 or more). Actually, glycemic index ratings of 40 or less for foods we eat are more supportive of diabetic diets.
Certain dietary supplement meal replacements have even lower glycemic indices. Almased is a popular diabetic-friendly dietary supplement for weight loss that has a low glycemic index of 27.
Getting Familiar with Low-Glycemic Foods
Many low-glycemic and nutritious foods exist and can be used to plan out your menus for weight loss. Healthy eating can not only be nutritious but fun, too.
Breakfast foods can include cereals such as All-Bran, Fiber One, Oat Bran, Oatmeal (no instant) and fruits and juices once or twice daily such as apple, apricots, blueberry, cranberry, peach, tangerine, raspberry, strawberry, and others.
Most have a low glycemic index of 20-49. And for your daytime and evening meals, make sure to include beans and legumes, such as black beans or hummus.
Non-starchy vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, avocado, cauliflower, celery, lettuce, tomatoes, spinach, zucchini, squash, and onions have a low glycemic index.
Grains (barley, rye), wild rice, nuts, olives and oils like olive, almond, pecans or walnuts are excellent salad additives.
Dairy, fish, meat, soy, and eggs such as skim milk, soy milk, almond milk, low-fat cheeses, lean red meat, fish, skinless chicken or turkey, shellfish, egg whites and egg yolks (no more than 3/week) are options for a low-glycemic food list with an index below 49.
If you are looking for an alternative protein source, Almased diabetic-friendly shakes containing 27 grams of protein with a low-glycemic index of 27. They are also excellent in providing the body with nutrients, as well as, supporting weight loss and healthy blood sugar levels.
We know that diet and exercise are our best approach to losing weight. We know the importance of tracking all of our numbers, our BMI, our HbA1c and our blood-sugar stats. We realize that that it's good to be more mindful of our food choices and about hunger. We also now know some of the tools we can use to essentially trick ourselves into not overeating. Plus, we have a better sense of how the glycemic index can help us make those better food choices: each meal and each day. To achieve long-lasting weight-loss success, especially if we have diabetes, requires commitment, but “the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” A new you is waiting for you!