It's one of the most common goals for folks with type two diabetes, and it's a question we get asked A LOT: what's the best way for a person with diabetes to lose weight?
In this article we'll explain the best way to go about achieving sustainable weight loss, as well as some of the common traps, pitfalls, and mistakes that can ruin your progress and sap your motivation.
Why Do You Want To Lose Weight?
It might seem like a silly question, but the first step in achieving a big goal is to clearly identify why you want to achieve it.
It could be to feel more confident.
It could be because you want to feel healthier.
Or live longer.
It might be because you want to get off of your medications.
Or avoid medical complications.
Any reason or set of reasons is fine, but you should have at least one clearly identified.
Take a moment now and think about why you want to lose the weight.
Got it? Good.
What Are You Willing To Do To Achieve It?
Or in other words - what are you willing to give up?
Gaining one thing means losing something else.
If you want to get a slimmer body, you may need to give up certain foods, or certain comforts.
Don't worry - there are plenty of ways to succeed at losing weight, so don't think you need to starve yourself or become a marathon runner. Just identify what it is that you're willing to do to achieve your goal.
It's really important that at this step you're honest with yourself. Don't say "I'm willing to run 10 miles every day" if you know that you won't do it. I personally wouldn't be willing to do that. No way. I hate running.
By identifying what you are willing to do, it will help you create a program that you can stick with for the long term.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Exercise x days per week
- Eat smaller portions
- Only drink alcohol on weekends or special occasions
- Stop eating certain foods
- Stop drinking soda or sugary drinks
- Eat more fiber
- Eat more leafy vegetables
- Eat slower
- Wake up earlier to exercise for 30 minutes in the mornings x days per week
- Go for a 15 minute walk after lunch
- Start doing a fitness class x days per week
There are literally thousands of different things you could write here.
The point is that you want to identify what you are willing to do or give up in exchange for achieving your goal.
That way you can come up with a plan that you personally will be able to stick with.
Make An Achievable Plan
At this point you should have a clear goal, you should know why you want to achieve it, and you should have identified what you're willing to do to get there.
Now it's time to make an achievable plan.
What will you do differently each week that will get you the results you want?
You should focus mostly on the foods you eat, as well as the exercise you do or will commit to doing.
When it comes to foods, think mostly about what you're willing to stop eating or drinking.
Soda, candy, and high-calorie snacks like trail mix, potato chips, and creamy dips are all great places to start.
But don't just think about what you are going to get rid of. You should also consider what you want to replace those things with.
You probably aren't addicted to drinking soda, or eating potato chips. What you're addicted to is drinking a flavorful bubbly drink, or eating a crunchy snack.
Can you drink a flavored sparkling water instead of soda? Or carrot sticks instead of chips?
Don't just get rid of certain foods, replace them with healthier alternatives. That will make these adjustments A LOT easier.
When it comes to exercise, start small.
Research has shown that as little as 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week is enough to create massive results in a diabetic person's health and weight. That's just 20 minutes a day. Or one hour 2-3 times per week.
Another tip: pick something fun.
Exercise shouldn't feel like a punishment. It should be fun.
(P.S. if you want some fun exercise ideas, click here)
This plan should look something like this:
I will stop drinking soda on the weekdays and replace it with flavored sparkling water.
I will stop eating chips and replace them with carrot sticks.
I will exercise 3 times a week for 45-60 minutes each time.
I will write down everything I eat.
I won't eat carb-based foods like pizza, pasta, or bread.
And so on and so on.
Create as many of these small but achievable steps as you'd like, and write them all down.
Create A Backup Plan
This might sound strange, but the reason most people quit on their diet is because they don't have a backup plan for when things go wrong.
Change is difficult, and it's not uncommon to mess things up when you are first trying to incorporate a new routine into your life.
Maybe you said you'd exercise 3 times per week, but you got sick and only were able to exercise once.
Or you said no sweets during the week, but your coworker brought donuts to the office for her birthday.
Whatever the case may be, you should be prepared for slip ups.
When you don't have a plan, these slip ups can kill your confidence and your determination.
One thing I like to do is called the "weekly reset."
Every Sunday I will evaluate how the previous week went, and set my expectations on how I'd like the coming week to go.
It gives you time to recommit to the commitments you created, without getting bogged down by the slip-ups of the previous week.
If you told yourself you'd exercise 3 times a week, but last week you only exercised once, that's okay. Take time during your weekly reset to figure out what went wrong, and make adjustments so you can meet your expectations in the coming week.
Don't be too hard on yourself either! Change takes time and you should expect some goof-ups along the way. That's perfectly nature.
Forgive yourself, make any necessary changes or adjustments, and do your best the next week.
Pitfalls To Avoid
We've already covered some classic pitfalls above, but I'm going to recap them here and add some others.
These are things you'll want to avoid, as they can really mess up your progress and motivation.
1. Focusing on the result instead of the work
The result you get is exactly that: a result. It's the result of the work you put in. If the result you want is to lose 25lbs, it doesn't help to focus on losing 25lbs. It doesn't help to weigh yourself every day.
It can be useful to check your progress (i.e. weigh yourself) every few weeks to see if your program is working for you, but you shouldn't get too caught up trying to "achieve the desired result."
You can't achieve the result anymore than you can eat an entire elephant.
What you can do is sit down and have a few bites and get on with your day. And over time, you'll be able to eat that whole elephant.
The same is true with weight loss. You can't lose 25lbs. You can eat healthy and exercise more often. Those are things you can control. Focus on those, do them diligently, and eventually you will lose the weight.
2. Trying to do too much in the beginning
You wouldn't walk into a gym and put 500lbs on a barbell and try to lift it. That would cause serious injury.
But yet many people try to do the mental equivalent of this all the time.
You need to think of your willpower as a muscle. The more you exercise it, the stronger it gets.
If you haven't been exercising it lately, don't expect that you'll be able to make 10 different changes all at once. That's a recipe for failure and disappointment.
Instead, set small and attainable goals.
Drinking sparkling water instead of soda is a great example. Eating carrot sticks instead of chips is another one.
Make it easy on yourself to make changes. It's hard enough as it is, don't make it any harder.
If you're used to drinking 4 sodas a day and you decide you're going to quit cold turkey... good luck.
Can you cut down to 2 sodas a day and drink 2 sparkling waters? That sounds doable. After a week of that, could you cut down to just 1 soda a day and 3 sparkling waters? Probably. After another week or two, could you do just 4 sparkling waters? I think so.
Don't expect yourself to be able to change every bad habit all at once. Start small, pick one or two, and go from there.
3. No plan when things go wrong
Despite your best efforts, things will go wrong and you won't be able to stick with your program.
Maybe you go on vacation, or it's a friends birthday, or you get sick, or your running shoes get stolen.
Whatever the case may be, life will inevitably get in the way of your plans, and that's OKAY.
What isn't okay is letting these things throw you off track for good.
Let's imagine you were sick and couldn't exercise all week, but now you're feeling better.
No problem. You missed a week. It isn't a big deal.
Get back on schedule this week. If you're still under the weather and all you can do is two workouts, do two workouts. Get back to three next week.
Don't let one bad day or bad week make you give up on your commitments.
Remember, it isn't any one particular workout, meal, or activity that is going to get you to achieve your desired result.
It's your routine.
4. Doing things the hard way
This is all too common. People think that a diet or exercise should feel like punishment.
If you hate running on a treadmill, don't do it! Find something that you enjoy doing.
If you hate eating salad, that's fine. There's other ways to be on a diet.
Pick healthy activities that you enjoy doing to replace the unhealthy activities you used to do.
You'll be far more likely to stick to a program if it is full of stuff you genuinely enjoy.
Losing weight is just like any other big goal or project. It takes time, and you can't always see progress right away.
This can feel demoralizing, and it leads a lot of people to quit.
What you have to understand if you're going to succeed is that you aren't trying to lose weight, you're trying to create a lifestyle of a fit healthy person.
If you can do that, the weight loss will happen naturally.
You can go to the gym and find a person who looks fit and healthy and ask them what they do each week. Then you can go and find somebody on the street who looks overweight and unhealthy, and ask them what they do each week. What you'll find is that they have two very different lifestyles.
It's the lifestyle that you're trying to develop. If you can do that, the weight loss will be the inevitable result.