Losing Weight With Diabetes: Why It’s Essential

Medically Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on October 23, 2022
3 min read

When you have type 2 diabetes, reaching and staying at a healthy weight is one of the most important things you can do to manage the disease and prevent its harmful effects on your body. Even losing a relatively small percentage of your body weight can lessen the chances that you’ll have complications. If you take insulin, taking off a few pounds will help it work better and may even reduce the amount that you have to take.

Many things affect your chances of developing type 2 diabetes, including: 

  • Your age
  • Your race or ethnicity
  • A family history of the disease 
  • How active you are
  • Your stress levels 

But studies have shown that most people who have type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese. You’re overweight if your body mass index (BMI) is between 25 and 30, and obese if it’s higher than 30. An analysis of studies from the United States and Europe found that compared to people in a healthy weight range, obese men are seven times more likely to have type 2 diabetes, and obese women are 12 times as likely. 


Obesity is closely related to developing type 2 diabetes and making its effects worse. This is because it directly impacts insulin. This is the hormone made by the pancreas to move sugar (glucose) through your body. Diabetes happens when your body’s cells don’t let the sugar in despite lots of insulin, so sugar stays in your bloodstream. This is called insulin resistance. 

If your blood sugar levels stay high, your pancreas keeps trying to make more insulin as it tries to lower them. Eventually, diabetes happens when it can no longer make enough insulin to manage your blood sugar. If you don’t treat it, this can damage the blood vessels in your major organs, including your heart, kidneys, eyes, and nerves. 

If you have extra belly fat, this can make the overload worse. This kind of fat, called visceral fat, increases inflammation more than excess fat stored elsewhere in your body. Inflammation is the driver of many complications of diabetes, including kidney failure, heart disease, and issues with your teeth and gums. Over time, insulin and resistance can fuel each other and become a vicious circle. If you’re a woman and your waist measures 35 inches or more, or a man and your waist measures 40 inches or more, your risk of these complications goes up. 

It’s true that not everyone who has extra weight gets type 2 diabetes. It’s possible that some people just don’t make enough insulin. And others may be able to make more insulin without damaging their pancreas. 

Your long-term outcomes and treatment plans can quickly change with weight loss. Just a 5% loss of body weight can improve your insulin resistance and possibly reduce or end your need for insulin or other diabetes medications. If you take more than one medication to control your diabetes, you may be able to reduce that number or even stop your medication.

You’ll see the results in your A1c numbers, too. One small study found that people who lost just under this percentage saw a drop in their A1c of half a point, while those who lost 10% lowered theirs by 1.5 points.

Getting to and staying at a healthy weight does more than help you manage your diabetes. It’s good for your general health and helps you feel your best. If you need to lose a few pounds, talk to your doctor. They can advise you on a healthy weight range and help you find a weight loss plan that will help you shed the extra pounds and keep them off.