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Diabetes and Weight Loss: Finding the Right Path

If you've got diabetes, losing weight can get you off insulin and other medications. Create a safe diabetes weight loss plan with the help of experts.

Special Challenges When Following a Diabetes Weight Loss Plan continued...

Indeed, both low and high blood sugar levels are the two big concerns for people with diabetes.

Low Blood Sugar (hypoglycemia) occurs when the amount of insulin in the body is higher than your body needs. In its earliest stages, low blood sugar causes confusion, dizziness, and shakiness. In its later stages, it can be very dangerous -- possibly causing fainting, even coma.

Low blood sugar is common when people lose weight because cutting calories and weight loss itself affect blood sugar levels. If you don't reduce your insulin dosage or pills to match new blood sugar levels, you'll be risking high blood sugar.

High Blood Sugar (hyperglycemia) can develop when your body's insulin level is too low to control blood sugar. This happens when people on insulin or sugar-lowering medications don't take the correct dose or follow their diet.

The Effects of Exercise on Diabetes

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.

"Walk an extra 20 minutes a day, and you can eat a little bit more," Gerbstadt explains, and instead of cutting 500 calories, "you can cut back just 200 or 300 calories, and still get excellent results in weight loss. You'll also control your blood sugar. And the weight will be more likely to stay off if you lose it slowly, safely."

Keep in mind: Each type of exercise affects blood sugar differently.

Aerobic exercise -- running or a treadmill workout -- can lower your blood sugar immediately.

Weight lifting or prolonged strenuous exercise may affect your blood sugar level many hours later. This can be a problem, especially when you're driving a car. It is one of the many reasons that you should check your blood sugar before driving. It's also a good idea to carry snacks such as fruit, crackers, juice, and soda in the car.

"With physical activity, you burn blood sugar as well as sugar stored in muscle and in the liver," explains Meneghini. "People using insulin or medications to simulate release of insulin should closely monitor blood sugar levels when they begin exercising more. Over time, as you exercise regularly, you can reduce doses of medications and insulin."

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