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Diabetes and Weight Loss: The Right Path

If you've got diabetes, weight loss can get you off insulin and other medications. But diet safely, with the help of experts.

Special Challenges for Diabetes Weight Loss Diets

"For anyone, losing weight is challenging enough," Meneghini tells WebMD. "For people who inject insulin, it's even more difficult because they have to eat when they have low blood sugar. When you have to reduce calorie intake, prevent overmedication, and eat to correct your low blood sugar, it's very challenging."

Indeed, low and high blood sugar levels are the two big concerns with diabetes and weight loss.

Low Blood Sugar (hypoglycemia) occurs when the amount of insulin in the body is higher than your body needs. In its earliest stages, it 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 diets.

Diabetes and Weight Loss: Getting Started

Losing weight is never easy. That's where a diabetes educator or a nutritionist can help, advises Deeb, president-elect of the American Diabetes Association. A diabetes educator or nutritionist can develop a program that fits you and your lifestyle -- a program with realistic goals, he says.

"You will need a meal plan, one that you can follow every day. You'll need to know how to alter your insulin and medication based on what you're eating and whether you're exercising more," Deeb tells WebMD. "That's the safest way to lose weight."

A consultation with a diabetes educator or dietitian/nutritionist can cost from $60-$70. Typically, insurance covers the first two visits, but may not additional ones, says Meneghini.

Reasonably priced support groups and classes are available, frequently through hospitals, to help with diabetes and weight loss. Ask your doctor or physician assistant for recommendations.

There are also web sites with in-depth information on diabetes and weight loss, including:

  • American Diabetes Association at www.diabetes.org
  • National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) diabetes.niddk.nih.gov

"Information is power, and the better informed you are, the better decisions you can make," says Meneghini.

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Reviewed on October 23, 2009

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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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