Healthy Approach to Weight Loss
Weight goes up when we eat more calories than we burn off, with the excess being stored as fat, resulting in weight gain. When we want to lose weight, we need to adopt strategies that allow us to eat fewer calories than we burn off, which leads to weight loss. This can be achieved by eating fewer calories, doing more activity, or ideally a combination of both.
A safe and achievable rate of weight loss rate is 1 – 2 lbs (0.5 – 1.0kg) each week. To help you achieve this, eat around 600 calories less each day (4200 calories per week) than your body needs to maintain weight. This is a sensible and achievable weight loss target that is more likely to help with weight loss in the longer term.
Be aware of over restriction to your calorie intake, without medical supervision this can lead to the development nutritional deficiencies which can put your long term health at risk.
Strategies to Get Started
- Be clear about your goal, write down a personalised plan, and make it SMART
- Complete a food diary which can help you identify areas for change
- Don’t skip meals, as this can often lead to over eating or snacking later on
- Have a healthy breakfast, those who include it generally find it easier to control their weight and are slimmer than those who don’t
- Eat three balanced meals each day
- Half fill your plate with salad or vegetables, dividing the remaining equally between meat / fish / egg / pulses and starchy carbohydrate high in wholegrains and fibre
- Be aware of your portion sizes, waiting at least 30 minutes before a second helping
- Only snack if you are hungry, choose healthy options
- Aim to eat at least 5 x 80g portions of fruit and vegetables each day
- Aim to drink two litres of fluids per day, choosing low calorie, non-caffeinated drinks
- Don’t eat when you are doing something else, as you are more likely to overeat
- Be more active in your daily routine
Remember that small changes can make a big difference
Different Eating Plans for Weight Loss
Today there are many different dietary approaches to weight loss, making it hard to know which the right one for you is. The simple answer, different approaches to weight loss suit different individuals. So, find a plan that you enjoy and fits in with your lifestyle, meaning that you are more likely to stick with it. The key, no matter which approach you adopt, is always to make small and realistic changes.
Although there are various different 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 management, based around the 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 lots of evidence which demonstrates that this approach can help to reduce weight, improve blood glucose control and reduce cardiovascular risk factors
Very Low Calorie
- This involves eating less than 800 calories per day
- Achieved through usual foods, liquid meal replacements or a combination of both.
- Only advised for up to 12 weeks
- Should only be followed under medical supervision and monitoring
- Evidence from a small scale study where this approach improved HbA1c and resulted in weight loss for 12 out of 30 participants
- Bigger, longer term studies required to find out how feasible this is a treatment approach for the general population with Type 2 Diabetes
- This is when daily carbohydrate intake is less than 130 grams
- Foods high in protein can help you to feel fuller for longer, so reducing the amount of carbohydrate and replacing with protein can help to reduce overall calories
- On average people using this approach eat 1500 – 1600 calories each day
- Evidence suggests that this approach can help people with diabetes lose weight and improve blood glucose control, but no more so than more conventional approaches to weight management
- When considering a low-carbohydrate diet as an option, it is important to consider the risk of low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia).
- It is advised that all people with diabetes discuss the amount of carbohydrate to be restricted with their healthcare team, but this is especially relevant to those treated with insulin or hypoglycaemia causing medications such as sulphonylureas or glinides
- This approach is based largely on plant foods and includes fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, pulses and better types of fat, with intake of red meats and processed foods being avoided
- Evidence demonstrates that the Mediterranean approach to eating can also help to reduce weight, improve blood glucose control and reduce cardiovascular risk factors
Intermittent Fasting / 5 : 2 Diet
- This approach is based on a plan where on five days a week you maintain a healthy, balanced approach to eating
- For the remaining two days, the plan advises that you have only 25% of your daily calorie requirements, which is equal to 600 calories for males and 500 calories for females
- The fasting days cannot be taken consecutively
- Evidence for the general population suggests that the 5 : 2 approach to eating can also help to reduce weight, improve blood glucose control and reduce cardiovascular risk factors
- Whilst shorter term studies have displayed promise for intermittent fasting diets in diabetes, long-term safety of the 5:2 diet is yet to be determined
- When considering this approach, it is important to consider the risk of low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia) on fasting days
- It is advised that all people with diabetes discuss the suitability of this approach with their healthcare team, but this is especially relevant to those treated with insulin or hypoglycaemia causing medications such as sulphonylureas or glinides
Some people find that calorie controlled menu plans can be a useful tool when planning and preparing for weight loss. Diabetes UK has developed a variety of different options which you may find helpful in your weight loss journey:
As already discussed, increasing your physical activity levels will also help you to lose weight. Increasing your daily activity will help to burn calories that would have otherwise been stored as fat. It also builds muscle; the more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn off, even when you are not exercising.
Remember that increasing your activity levels without adjusting medication such as insulin, sulphonylureas or glinides, could result in low blood glucose (hypoglycaemia). Think how annoying it would be if you go to the gym and burn off 300 calories, only to have a low blood glucose and need to treat this with a high glucose snack. Frustrations like this may jeopardise your weight loss. To prevent this, it is advisable to discuss your plans to increase your activity levels with your diabetes team, who will be able to give you advice on how to adjust your medication to reduce the risk of this happening.
More information and support to help with weight management can be found below:
The NHS has developed a free, twelve week guide which combines advice on healthy eating and physical activity:
The British Heart Foundation has produced a detailed information leaflet to support weight loss: