Keeping the weight off to help your Diabetes Treatment

Gretchen Becker Health Guide
  • Almost everyone can lose weight with a very strict eating plan, although some of us are able to lose weight more easily than others, and the first time you try to lose weight it's usually a lot easier than after you've yo-yo dieted for years.

    The big problem -- in my opinion -- is keeping it off.

    Some studies have shown that although exercise doesn't help a lot with the weight loss, it seems to help with keeping it off. The reasons for this are not clear. And some people say that the rules for keeping the weight off are simple: just eat less and exercise more.

    I think there's more to it than that. I think the most important factor in keeping weight off once you've lost it is a fundamental change in your way of thinking about yourself. It's accepting that no matter how much you want to, no matter what you do, you'll never be a thin person.

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    Yes, you might look thin. But you'll never be a naturally thin person who can eat all he or she wants without gaining weight. Instead, you'll be a formerly overweight person who will have to pay attention to food consumption forever. This attitude toward our situation is difficult to accept.


    Naturally thin people seem to have a different metabolism that simply turns extra calories into heat. Naturally fat people turn extra calories into fat. Studies have shown, for example, that when a naturally thin person eats extra carbohydrate, unless the extra carbohydrate is a huge amount like 5000 calories, that carbohydrate is simply burned off. Naturally fat people, on the other hand, are especially gifted in converting that extra carbohydrate into fat and then storing that fat in the fat cells.

    There's nothing more annoying than having a naturally thin carbohydrate burner snarf down mounds of mashed potatoes while trying to convince you that they're not fattening. They're not, for him. But they are for you.

    This is one reason low-carb diets often work well for people who have always had weight problems. The low insulin levels that result from low-carb diets put the brakes on fat storage.

    Many moons ago, when I was young and thought I was overweight when I hit 110 pounds, I had the same attitude toward diets and weight that many people do. I wanted to get down to 100 or 105 pounds so I would be a thin person. Then I could go off the diet and eat all I wanted, I thought.


    I once carefully followed a version of the Weight Watchers diet, which in those days was a low-carb diet, and managed to lose 5 pounds in preparation for a trip to Puerto Rico. At dinner the first night in Puerto Rico, I didn't think I could eat all the food they served, but I hate to waste, so I forced myself. By the next day, the portions no longer looked large. And after 3 or 4 days, when I returned home, I'd regained the 5 pounds it had taken a month or so to lose.

    After that, I kept trying to lose weight, and I just succeeded in putting more on. The diabetes diagnosis was the key. It was no longer a question of wanting to fit into those 1960s bell-bottom trousers. Now I knew that my overall health depended on it, and I lost 30 pounds.

  • Since then, I've gone up a little and down a little, but I've never approached my former weight. But I've also never reverted to my pre-Dx habits, when I couldn't stand to see food wasted.

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    If I went to a restaurant and my dining companion didn't finish the meal, I'd finish mine and then I'd finish theirs as well. Can't waste food. If dinner came with rolls and butter and dessert. I'd eat them all. Gotta get my money's worth.

    One time my brother went to a Chinese restaurant and the waiter came over and asked him how his sister was doing. He was stunned. He and I had eaten there about 3 years before. He asked why they remembered me. They said they'd never seen anyone so small eat so much, and they'd been talking about it ever since. (I'd finished my dinner and then finished what he couldn't eat. Those were the days before doggy bags were common.)

    But those days are gone forever. If I go to a restaurant and my dining companion can't finish the meal, that's their problem, not mine. If dinner comes with rolls and butter and dessert, I'll ask them not to bring those things. I'm losing a little value, but it's better than losing my toes. Sometimes I ask for extra low-carb vegetable instead of dessert.

    Yes, it might be nice to be a thin person, but I'm not a thin person, and my situation is certainly better than that of a lot of other people in the world who are thin because they can't afford enough food, or who are thin because there's a famine in their area.

    So I think keeping the weight off requires first, acceptance of reality and second, acting on that acceptance. There are a lot of delicious foods I can still eat. I just eat a lot less of them.

    I sometimes think the exercise habits of those who keep the weight off are a result, not a cause, of the weight loss. When you're thinner, it's easier to exercise, so you do more of it. If you manage to stay thin, you'll keep on exercising.

    When I was at my maximal weight, I had difficulty climbing my steep pastures to check the fence at the top. I thought I was just getting old. But when I lost the weight, I could go up there effortlessly, and I wondered why I'd had so much trouble before. The view at the top is spectacular, and this inspires me to climb that hill when it's easy to do.

    Even if the exercise doesn't burn a lot of calories, it has other benefits. It's good for the heart. If you're out hiking or playing tennis or biking or whatever you enjoy, you're not standing in front of the refrigerator. And if you get pleasure from the exercise, you can reward yourself by taking time for the activity instead of wanting to reward yourself with a banana split.

    So I think that in order to keep that weight off one needs to (1) Accept the reality that you'll never be a naturally thin person, (2) Act on that acceptance in your dietary habits, and (3) be Active for the pleasure you get from moving your healthier body. AAA. I wonder if we could get free towing services while we're at it.



Published On: January 20, 2009