Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Diabetes and weight loss: It is the yin and yang of optimal health. There's no question about it. If you're overweight and have type 2 diabetes, dropping pounds lowers your blood sugar, improves your health, and helps you feel better.

But before you start a weight loss plan, it's important to work closely with your doctor or diabetes educator -- because while you're losing weight, your blood sugar, insulin, and medications need special attention.

Make no mistake -- No matter how heavy you are, losing weight will significantly lower your blood sugar.

A National Institutes of Health study found that a combination of diet and exercise cuts the risk of developing diabetes by 58%. The study involved people who were overweight (average body mass index of 34) and who had high -- but not yet diabetic -- blood sugar levels.

Even losing 10 or 15 pounds has health benefits, according to the American Diabetes Association. It can:

  • Lower blood sugar
  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Improve cholesterol levels
  • Lighten the stress on hips, knees, ankles, and feet

Plus, you'll probably have more energy, get around easier, and breathe easier.

Weight Loss and Changes in Blood Sugar

Cutting back on just one meal can affect the delicate balance of blood sugar, insulin, and medication in a body with diabetes. So it's important to work with an expert when you diet to lose weight.

Check with your doctor before starting a weight loss plan, then talk with a diabetes educator or nutritionist. You shouldn't try to lose weight on your own. Working with a doctor and nutritionist will help you lose weight safely, especially if you are taking insulin or medications.

The Right Balance for Diabetes and Weight Loss

It's important to keep tight glucose control while you lose weight. You don't want to run the risk of high or low blood sugar while you change your eating habits.

Cutting 500 calories a day is generally safe for someone with diabetes. When you're choosing which calories to cut, cut them across the board -- from protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Maintain a healthy ratio of carbs, fat, and protein. Ideally your calories should come from:

  • 50% to 55% carbs
  • 30% fat
  • 10% to 15% protein

Watch the Carbs

It's also a good idea to consider taking a refresher course on carbs . Since they are broken down into sugar early in digestion, carbs have the biggest effect on blood sugar. Eating complex carbs (whole-grain bread and vegetables, for example) is better because they are absorbed more slowly into the bloodstream, cutting your risk of blood sugar spikes.

Exercise, Diabetes, and Weight Loss

One of the benefits of exercise is that it helps keep your blood sugar in balance, so you won't have to cut as many calories. Walking an extra 20 minutes a day lets you eat a little bit more. Instead of cutting 500 calories, depending on your level of exercise, you can cut back just 200 or 300 calories and still lose weight while controlling your blood sugar. And the pounds will be more likely to stay off if you lose them slowly and safely.

Control Your Blood Sugars

These symptoms can signal that your blood sugars may be too high.
View slideshow