How do you lose weight with diabetes?

Something I don’t like to talk about much, is that I gained about 30+ lbs in the months following when I was first diagnosed. Some of this was really positive since I had lost so much weight prior to being diagnosed. Unfortunately, a lot of what I had lost was muscle because my body was so starved for sugar that it was breaking down anything it could for fuel. Looking like a skeleton is not anyone’s idea of healthy or attractive*.

Once I was diagnosed and began injecting insulin, I quickly gained all of the weight back and then some. Some of it was because I was re-hydrating, after weeks of chronic dehydration. Some of it was just because my body could process food properly again but some of it was also because I was having multiple lows per day. I was treating my lows and eating a bunch of extra calories in emergency food every day. It was awful. Looking back, I know that this was just because my doctor and I were trying to figure out my correct dosage. But at the time, I was scared that this disease would make me fat and there was nothing I could do about it. As usual, I was wrong but I know many diabetics who feel this way, especially early on in their T1 journey.

The first step to getting back to a healthy weight for me was getting better blood sugar control.

Let me repeat that; it isn’t about a specific diet or workout, to get to and maintain a healthy weight, getting good control over blood sugar is priority number one!

Once blood sugar is well controlled**, T1 diabetics gain and lose weight the same way people without diabetes do. We also gain and lose strength, speed and power the way they do. Now I’m going to remind you all that I’m not a doctor, nutritionist, personal trainer or any other type of formal expert. I’m just someone who does a lot of research and experimentation to find what works for me and while I’m happy to share my own findings, I’m not suggesting anyone do what I do or that what works for me will work for anyone else.

For me, once my blood sugar control improved, I started working out and running again.  It was a big help to get my weight back to where I felt healthy and I’ve been slowly working on building my strength and speed back ever since. Progress isn’t a straight line. It’s full of ups and downs but if you’re consistent, you’ll begin to see results!

“But what do you eat?!?!”

I get asked this all of the time. Most days, I eat pretty low carb but this is mostly to make blood sugar control easier. I try to eat as many whole, unprocessed foods as possible. When it comes to macros, I often do high protein but will have some high fat days and some low fat days. However, I don’t have any real hard and fast rules. I usually even do a high carb day once per week or so. I treat myself on occasion and sometimes this means making a low carb substitute*** for something I love. Sometimes I eat normal pizza, ice cream, cereal, nachos or whatever other junk food I’m craving. If I know, I’m going to have a “cheat day” or “cheat meal”, I try to do it on a hard workout day. Other than that, there isn’t anything special about what I do to lose/maintain a healthy weight but I’ll list some of my favorite resources below. These guys are the true experts in T1 nutrition, fitness and blood sugar control. Feel free to check them out if you want to learn more about this topic. 

*I mean, I was in my friend’s wedding a bit over a month before and I was afraid my size 0 strapless bridesmaid dress was going to fall off. Not a good look!

**No one is perfect so don’t beat yourself up but I mean in range most of the time.

***See my recipes page for examples of my favorite treats.

  • The Juicebox Podcast– For learning how to control blood sugar, the Pro Tips are life changing.
  • Chris Ruden & Ben Tzeel– T1 trainer/nutritionist. Periodically, they pair up and do a weight loss/strength building coaching program specifically for people with T1D
  • FTF Warrior– Another T1 trainer/nutritionist who shares a lot of great content and works with people with T1D
  • Dr. Bernstein– His book “Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution” was the first thing that helped me gain control over my blood sugar. I don’t follow his low carb diet to the letter but sticking close to it has really helped me immensely! The law of small numbers was life changing for me.
  • Mastering Diabetes– I tried their recommended diet and it didn’t work well for me. What I liked about this book was the section on intermittent fasting but I have heard other diabetics say their diet works for them.

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The content on this site is not intended to be medical advice. Always consult your doctor before beginning a fitness regimen or adjusting your diabetes management strategy.

Published by Jenny Nat

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