About 80% to 90% of people with type 2 diabetes are also overweight or obese. These two diseases go hand in hand, as excess body fat can contribute to the cause of diabetes: insulin resistance, a situation where the body makes insulin but the tissues cannot use it properly to help take in blood sugar.
The good news is that if you are overweight or obese, even a modest weight loss (5–10% of your body weight) can improve your control of type 2 diabetes. Weight loss can have a positive influence on blood sugar levels, delay the progression of the disease, and even reduce the risk of complications.
To find out if you are overweight or obese, you need to know your body mass index (BMI), a measurement of your weight in proportion to your height. For most adults, if your BMI is between 25 kg/m² and 29.9 kg/m², you are overweight; if your BMI is over 30 kg/m², you are considered obese. You may use another measurement called waist circumference (WC), a measurement around your waist just above the hip bone, to assess if you are overweight or obese. Your WC goal may vary depending on your ethnic background, but in general, a healthy WC is less than 88 cm (35 inches) for women and less than 102 cm (40 inches) for men. Visit the Heart and Stroke Foundation website for tips on how to measure your WC accurately.
When it comes to losing weight, slow and steady wins the race! Your plan should include elements of a healthy diet as well as increased physical activity that you will stick with. Aim for a gradual loss of no more than about 500 grams to 1 kilogram (1 to 2 pounds) per week. Achieving a healthy weight through a healthy diet and an active lifestyle decreases the risk of complications and promotes a general feeling of well-being.
If you are not sure where to start, there are many health care providers who can help you. Ask your doctor, pharmacist, registered dietitian, or diabetes educator for help and support.
Here are some helpful tips to manage your weight.
- Incorporate exercise into your day. Burning energy through exercise means you can achieve weight loss without having to cut your calorie consumption as drastically. Regular exercise can also help you to control your diabetes and improve your heart and lung function. There are two main exercise types you should focus on: aerobic and resistance.
- Aerobic exercise is rhythmic, repeated, continuous movement of large muscle groups, and should be done for at least 10 minutes at a time. Things like biking, swimming, dancing, walking, and jogging are all considered aerobic exercises. Gradually increase the intensity and the amount of time you exercise until you reach the goal of at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise per week.
- Resistance exercises involve the use of weights, resistance bands, or your own body weight to increase muscle strength. Gradually increase the weight and amount of time you do resistance training to 2 or more sessions per week. Choose exercises you enjoy and keep the weight off!
Remember, before beginning any exercise program more vigorous than walking, you should talk to your doctor to see if that exercise program is safe for you.
- Eat regular meals and choose appropriate portions. It's important to make sure you are getting all the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals you need. Pay attention to ensure you include each food group, and remember to check your portion size. When in doubt, refer to Canada’s Food Guide. Remember, consuming 500 calories less than you burn per day will result in a 0.5 kg (1 pound) weight loss per week.
- Choose healthy beverages. Avoid pop, sweetened juice, or alcohol that can add unwanted sugars (and calories). Instead, drink plenty of water to satisfy your thirst and keep hydrated.
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