Pillar 1: Weight Management

Why it’s important

Maintaining a healthy body weight throughout life can significantly reduce your risk of developing diabetes. But what is “healthy” weight and why is it important in the prevention and management of diabetes?

A healthy body weight can help prevent or delay diabetes progression by:

  • Enhancing the body’s response to insulin
  • Improving blood sugar balance and control
  • Optimizing cholesterol and triglycerides
  • Supporting healthy blood pressure

Healthy weight management also reduces your risk of diabetes complications like heart disease and stroke, while improving your energy levels, general sense of well-being and quality of life. Amazingly, all of these improvements can be achieved by just a 5–10% reduction in your initial body weight.

How little should you lose?

A healthy rate of weight loss is considered to be 2–4 lbs (1–2 kg) per month if you are overweight; 5–10% of body weight works out to 10–20 lbs (4.5–9 kg) if you weigh 200 lbs (90 kg).

The Obesity-Diabetes Connection

An estimated 80–90% of those with diabetes are overweight. The connection between obesity and diabetes is clear, but the exact mechanism isn’t. Evidence suggests the primary culprit is insulin resistance. Insulin normally tells your cells (mainly in the liver and muscle) to either absorb glucose for energy or store it for later use (often converted to fat).  When your diet is full of empty calories, an abundance of quickly absorbed sugars and carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, etc.), the body slowly becomes unresponsive to the effects of insulin, causing elevated blood sugar levels.

Measuring Weight Loss

There are several measurements you might encounter when your weight is being assessed. These can include Body Mass Index (BMI), which compares your weight to your height and waist circumference. BMI is often thought to be a crude measure of weight, as it doesn’t account for factors like increased muscle mass, but as a general guideline, it can provide important insight. Waist circumference has a strong connection to diabetes and its risk factors. If you have a high BMI and/or waist circumference, these numbers may give you the nudge you need to make changes to your lifestyle.

Tip:  A BMI greater than 25, and a waist circumference greater than 40 in (102 cm) for men or 35 in (88 cm)  for women is generally considered overweight and is associated with an increased risk of diabetes and other chronic health issues.

Getting Started

Starting a weight loss regime can be a scary endeavour, but a couple of simple steps can help start you on your journey:

  1. Get professional help: Consider meeting with a health care practitioner (e.g., your family doctor, a dietician or nutritionist, Certified Diabetes Educator, Naturopathic Doctor, etc.) to establish an individualized plan if you don’t know where to start.
  2. Set realistic goals:  Make 1–2 small changes at a time. This will lead to greater success, avoiding the risk of “failure”.  When these are part of your daily routine, add a couple of new ones.
  3. Get moving: Build physical activity into your day.
  4. Eat right: Start with basic nutritional goals
  5. Chill out: Manage your stress. It’s a major contributor to weight gain, insulin resistance, and blood sugar imbalances.
  6. Implement some of these additional Weight Loss Goals and Tips.

Whether you have 5 lbs or 50 lbs to lose, understanding the basics is key to your success. Check out our articles about nutrition, exercise, and stress management to continue building your strong foundation for taking control of your weight, your diabetes, and your life.