Weight loss advice

A healthy approach to weight loss

While at home there is a risk that we might put on a few pounds as our activity levels might be lower than normal and we might be eating a few more calories than we are burning. We need to adopt strategies that allow us to eat fewer calories than we burn off. Weight loss can, therefore, be achieved through eating fewer calories, doing more activity or, ideally, a combination of both.

You should be aware of the foods that can contribute to weight gain, and eat more of those foods which will improve your blood glucose. It is important not to restrict calories too much without medical supervision, as depriving yourself in this way can mean that your body does not receive all the nutrients that it needs, which can put your long-term health at risk.

Strategies to get off to a good start

Once you have thought about the above question and decided on what changes you are going to make to your diet, it is important to set yourself a clear weight-loss goal and to draw up a plan. When you are setting yourself any goals, it is important to make sure they are SMART. This means that your goal should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-specific

Different eating plans for weight loss

Today there are many different approaches to weight loss, which makes it hard to know which is the right one for you. The simple answer is that different approaches to weight loss suit different people. It may be a matter of trial and error until you find a plan that you enjoy and that fits in with your lifestyle, which in turn means that you are more likely to stick with it. The key, no matter which approach you adopt, is to make small realistic changes that you can sustain over the long term.

It is important to note however that although there are various eating plans for weight loss, not all have proven to be safe and effective for people with diabetes.

Low-calorie/Low-fat

  • This is the traditional approach to weight loss. It is based on general principles of healthy eating, with a focus on reducing total fat content.
  • Fat contains more calories than any other nutrient, so by reducing your fat intake, you will reduce your calorie intake too.
  • There is a lot of evidence which demonstrates that this approach can help to reduce weight, improve blood glucose control and reduce your risk of heart disease.

Very low-calorie

  • This involves eating less than 800 calories per day, through eating normal food, liquid meal replacements or a combination of both.
  • This diet should not be followed for more than 12 weeks.
  • You should not attempt this kind of weight-loss programme unless you are under medical supervision and monitoring.
  • Evidence from a small-scale study suggested that this approach improved HbA1c levels and resulted in weight loss in the majority of participants.
  • Larger-scale studies are needed to find out how effective this approach might be for people with type 2 diabetes.

Low-carbohydrate

  • This approach involves eating less than 130g of carbohydrate a day.
  • Foods that are high in protein can help you to feel fuller for longer, so reducing the amount of carbohydrate you eat and replacing it with protein can help to reduce the overall number of calories you eat each day.
  • Evidence suggests that this approach can help people with diabetes lose weight and improve their blood glucose control, however no more so than standard low-calorie or low-fat approaches to weight management.
  • If you are considering a low-carbohydrate diet as an option, you must consider the risk of low blood glucose (hypoglycaemia). Do not embark on this kind of weight-loss regime before discussing it with your diabetes care team, especially if you manage your diabetes with insulin or medication that can cause hypoglycaemia.

Mediterranean

  • This approach is based largely on eating plant-derived foods and includes fruit, vegetables, whole grains, pulses and healthier types of fat, with little or no red meat and processed foods.
  • Evidence shows that the Mediterranean approach to eating can help to reduce weight, improve blood glucose control and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Intermittent fasting/5:2 diet

  • This approach is based on a plan where for five days a week you maintain a healthy, balanced approach to eating and for the other two days, you have only 25% of your daily calorie requirements, i.e. 600 calories for men and 500 calories for women.
  • You cannot have two ‘fasting’ days in a row but should spread them out over the week.
  • Evidence suggests that intermittent fasting can also help to reduce weight, improve blood glucose control and reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Whilst shorter-term studies have shown promising results for intermittent fasting diets in people with diabetes, long-term safety is yet to be determined.
  • If you are considering this type of diet, it is important to consider the risk of low blood glucose (hypoglycaemia) on fasting days.
  • Do not embark on this kind of weight-loss regime before discussing it with your diabetes care team, especially if you manage your diabetes with insulin or medication that can cause hypoglycaemia.

Menu plans

Some people find that calorie-controlled menu plans can be useful tools when they are trying to lose weight. Diabetes UK has developed a variety of different options which you may find helpful in your weight-loss journey.

Also have a look at our free resources page which gives different meal plans, activity and weight trackers.

Exercise

It is really important to keep active and fit during these times. Increasing your levels of physical activity will also help you to lose weight as you will burn calories that would have otherwise been stored as fat. Exercise also builds muscle and the more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn off, even when you are not exercising. Exercise can also have a positive impact on your mental health and well-being.

There are lots of exercise and meditation techniques you can do at home or in the garden. You could walk in the garden, do some yoga or start some gardening, which is a great way to get fit and get some fresh air as well as that much needed Vitamin D. We would encourage a minimum of 30 minutes of gentle exercise per day.

We are inviting people with diabetes and those at risk of type 2 to sign up for the Know Diabetes service