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Weight and Diabetes: Lose Pounds to Lower Your Risk

(continued)

The Importance of Diet

It’s easy to talk about losing weight. But doing it and keeping it off can be tough.

“This is not something that has a beginning and an end, like you have an infection and you take an antibiotic,” says Lorena Drago, a dietitian and a spokesperson for the American Association of Diabetes Educators. “Imagine making changes every single day for the rest of your life.”

It can be hard to diet if you have diabetes. You have to inject insulin and check your blood sugar several times a day while you’re watching what you eat.

When it comes to food, too many people have no idea what’s good, what’s bad, and what’s too much, Marrero says. He tells the story of a woman at a diabetes seminar who complained she had nothing for breakfast but coffee and a muffin. Those two items came to 1,600 calories. “She wiped out seven-eighths of her dietary intake needs just with a simple cup of joe and a muffin,” he says.

“The thing that predicts weight loss the best is monitoring intake.We’ve seen several studies that have shown that if you become aware of how much you eat, you have a much better chance of regulating that in a way that makes sense.”

What to Eat

Both Drago and Marrero favor low-fat diets. Drago likes the more Mediterranean-type diet that includes healthy fats from oils and cutting back on carbohydrates.

“Look at your carbohydrates. Look at the source of the food with carbohydrates in your daily diet. And then start reducing the portions,” she says. “By doing that, then, immediately you’re also reducing the calories.”

The American Diabetes Association has some suggestions for “best food choices” that are good for everybody, diabetic or not:

  • More vegetables, especially non-starchy ones (no potatoes, corn, or peas). And watch the salt.
  • Whole-grain foods. (Think whole wheat bread) over refined grains and flour. Half the grains you eat should be whole grains.
  • Lean proteins. Fish at least twice a week, and bean or soy instead of meat, when you can. When you do eat meat, go lean (pork loin or sirloin). And remove the skin from your chicken.
  • Fruit. Fresh is best. If you choose canned or frozen, make sure it has no added sugar.
  • Fats. They’re OK in small amounts if you’re eating healthy fats, like those from avocados, olives, nuts, or seeds. Avoid the full-fat cheeses and full-fat milk. No regular butter or creamy sauces. And put back those potato chips and fatty snacks!

Drago says portion control important, too. For example, avocados are healthy -- unless you eat three of them in a sitting.

"But much of whether a diet works or not is up to the person trying to lose weight,” Drago says. “My personal view on this -- and I think it’s substantiated by a lot of practical clinical experience -- is that the best diet is the one that you can stay on.”

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