10 Tips for Managing Your Weight with Diabetes

by Allison Bush Editor

Managing your weight when you are living with diabetes is one of the most important lifestyle changes you can make. It can also be one of the most difficult changes, as you need to look at many factors, including your diet and physical activity. Here are some top tips to help manage your weight with diabetes.

Doctor weighing man at appointment.

Choose realistic goals

Start with realistic goals. When overweight people achieve even modest weight loss they can reap health benefits, like lower blood pressure and blood sugars. Remember that your goal is a lifestyle change by focusing on how to maintain healthy habits.

Couple running on treadmill at gym.

Establish a daily exercise program

A regular exercise program is essential for maintaining weight loss. But finding an exercise program that you can keep at? That’s a bit trickier. Talk with your doctor or a trainer to go through a list of exercise programs to try. Then, keep a journal of exercise programs you’ve tried like speed walking, swimming, or yoga and decide which exercises you enjoy most. Check out this fitness and meal plan to get started.

Hungry business man holding his stomach.

Recognize whether your hunger is genuine or not

Emotional or stress eating can be a real problem. So recognizing when you are truly hungry and getting in better touch with your appetite will help you control your relationship with food. The American Diabetes Association has a hunger rating scale that can help you. When you experience something other than real physical hunger, try drinking a large glass of water or taking a walk.

Nutrition facts labels.

Count your calories

Be honest about how much you eat, and track calories carefully. Studies on weight control that depend on self-reporting of food intake frequently reveal that subjects badly misjudge how much they eat (typically underestimating high-calorie foods and overestimating low-calorie foods).

Woman writing in journal.

Keep a diary

Studies have shown that keeping a food diary could significantly help shed pounds. If you’re a traditional pen to paper person, the NIH has a free diary you can download, and if you’re more tech-savvy, there are apps where you can log both your food intake and exercise.


Consider weight loss surgery

A procedure known as bariatric surgery has been very helpful in producing rapid weight loss and improving insulin and glucose levels in people with diabetes. A 2016 study has even shown that bariatric surgery may be more effective in reversing diabetes than intensive lifestyle or medication intervention in patients with only mild to moderate obesity.

Happy woman on scale showing weight loss.

Have realistic weight loss expectations

As a rough rule of thumb, 1 pound of fat equals about 3,500 calories, so you could lose a pound a week by reducing daily caloric intake by about 500 calories a day with diet changes alone. Very-low calorie diets have also been associated with better success, but extreme diets can have some serious health consequences. By adding exercise and burning more calories, you can relax your calorie restrictions, as well.

Putting sauce on dinner in a restaurant.

Portion control

Implement portion control to your everyday life. This is especially difficult to do when eating out since portions at many restaurants are oversized. Some ways you can combat this is by sharing one meal with a friend or asking for extra smaller plates so you can portion the meal yourself.

Family eating high fat meal at restaurant.

Watch your fat intake

Saturated fat intake should be no more than 10 percent of total calories. Most fats should be in the form of monounsaturated fats (such as olive oil). Saturated fats (found in animal products) should be avoided.

Woman stepping onto scale.

Maintain weight loss

Maintaining weight loss means that the eating habits and physical activity regimens you put in place need to be kept up with. If you’re in a food rut, try researching new and healthy recipes. If staying physically active is becoming too difficult to fit in your schedule, you can still work it in by doing things like taking the stairs everywhere or setting up a standing desk.

Allison Bush
Meet Our Writer
Allison Bush

Allison Bush is a former HealthCentral editor who covered a wide range of health topics.