Type 2 diabetes and weight management

Maintaining a healthy weight is one way you can stay healthy while living with type 2 diabetes. There are many factors associated with weight management such as: nutrition, physical activity, stress levels, mental health, low income levels, medical conditions, and medication. Weight management can help prevent or manage diabetes, improve your blood glucose levels/blood pressure/blood lipids, reduce the risk of complications such as heart disease and help improve your overall well-being and energy levels.

What is a healthy weight?

The following may be used to determine if you are a healthy weight:

Body Mass Index (BMI): determines if you are a healthy weight for your height. On average, adults aged 18-64 may be considered overweight with a BMI equal to or greater than 25 kg/m2.

Waist circumference (WC): uses the measurement of your waist to determine if there may be excessive fat which may be linked to health risks. A waist circumference goal will vary based on gender and ethnic background. However, generally, a healthy WC for men is less than 40 inches and for women it is less than 35 inches.

** A reduction of 5-10% of current body weight in an overweight individual (~2-4 lbs/month) is a healthy weight loss goal. This does not include pregnant or lactating women, very muscular adults or adults with a very lean build.

Goals for a healthy weight

1. Eat mindfully, when you are hungry or during your planned meal time. Avoid excessive and mindless eating. If you have difficulty understanding hunger cues or proper meal timing for your body and lifestyle, speak to a registered dietitian who can help prepare the right plan for you.

2. Eat regular and balanced meals. Avoid skipping meals. Regular and balanced meals can help reduce overeating, help you curb your cravings and maintain a healthy weight.

3. Portion control your meals. Too much or too little food will not allow you to manage your weight in a healthy way. You can speak to a registered dietitian to help you determine the right amount of food for you.

4. Eat high fibre foods. Foods that are high in fibre may help you feel full for a longer period of time, thus preventing overeating. Examples of high fibre foods include: whole grains, vegetables, fruit and legumes.

5. Choose healthy beverages. High calorie beverages make managing/losing weight more difficult. Try to avoid drinking your calories and eat them instead! Quench your thirst with water.

6. Choose healthy snacks. You may or may not require additional snacks throughout the day. If you do, choose small and healthy snacks that can help control your hunger while providing you with important nutrients. Examples of healthy snacks may include vegetables with hummus or fruit with nuts. Avoid fried, salty and sugar snacks. Choose more whole foods!

7. Incorporate physical activity in your daily routine. If you have any limitations, check with your doctor and/or exercise specialist to determine the right exercises for you.

** The above recommendations are general and not customized specifically for you. To help you better understand the nutrition/exercise interventions that will help you manage/lose weight while staying within your healthy blood glucose range, it is important to speak to the professionals part of your health-care team that are trained to help you create the program that is right for you.

Understanding blood glucose levels

It is important to try and keep your blood glucose (sugar) levels within a healthy range (as set by your health-care provider), however, this can be a challenge.

Low blood glucose (sugar)

A low blood glucose reading indicates a drop in your glucose (sugar) levels (< 4 mmol/L). Low blood glucose is also referred to as hypoglycemia.

Signs of low blood glucose (sugar)

The following may be signs you experience when your blood glucose levels drop:

  • Shaky, light-headed, nauseated
  • Nervous, irritable, anxious
  • Confused and/or unable to concentrate
  • Hungry
  • Fast heart rate
  • Sweaty
  • Weak
  • Numbness/tingling on tongue or lips

If your blood glucose levels are very low you may feel:

  • Confused/disoriented
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizure

**Please make sure you have a MedicAlert identification on you at all times.

Cause of low blood glucose level

Low blood glucose levels may be caused by the following:

  • Increased physical activity
  • Skipping meals or not eating on time
  • Eating less than you should
  • Taking too much medication
  • Effects of drinking alcohol

How to treat low blood glucose

If you experience signs of low blood glucose levels, check your glucose levels immediately. If you don’t have a meter with you, treat the symptoms regardless.

Step 1: Treat your low blood glucose immediately by: eating or drinking a fast-acting carbohydrate (15 grams). Examples include:

  • 15 grams of glucose (glucose tablet)
  • 1 tbsp or 3 packets of table sugar dissolved in water
  • ¾ cup juice
  • 6 LifeSavers (1= 2.5 grams carbohydrates)
  • 1 tbsp honey

Step 2: Wait 10-15 minutes after treating your symptoms. Check your blood glucose again. If it is still low, TREAT AGAIN. Once your glucose levels are within normal range and your next meal is more than 1 hour away, eat a snack with 15 grams of carbohydrates and a protein source (e.g. half sandwich, cheese and crackers).

** Make note of your low blood sugar and think about why it could have happened. Make necessary changes so you avoid a low blood glucose again. If you are unsure, speak to your health-care provider.

** Wait 45-60 minutes before driving.

High blood glucose (sugar)

A high blood glucose level indicates a rise in your glucose levels (equal or > 11 mmol/L). A high blood glucose level is also referred to as hyperglycemia.

Signs of high blood glucose

The following may be signs you experience with high blood glucose levels:

  • Thirsty
  • Increased frequency of urination (especially during the night)
  • Tired

Cause of high blood glucose levels

You may experience high blood glucose levels as a result of food, physical activity, unbalanced medication, stress or when you are sick.

How to treat high blood glucose

Speak to your health-care team to better understand a plan that is right for you. You may be asked to adjust your meal plan, physical activity regimen and/or medication.

Type 2 Diabetes

What is type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is when there is excess glucose or sugar that builds up in your blood instead of being used by your body as energy. This disease occurs when the pancreas, an organ in your body, does not produce enough insulin OR when your body does not properly use the insulin that the pancreas makes.

What is insulin?

Insulin is a hormone that helps your body control the level of glucose in your blood. It is produced by the pancreas.

Where does glucose come from?

Glucose is a simple sugar, an important energy source that comes from food such as: bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, milk and fruit. In order for our body to use glucose for energy, insulin is required.

Living with type 2 diabetes

It is possible to live a healthy life while living with type 2 diabetes. The key is to keep your blood sugar levels within the target range set by you and your health-care provider. In order to keep your blood sugars within target you can:

  • Learn to eat healthy meals and snacks.
  • Enjoy regular physical activity.
  • Monitor your blood glucose levels.
  • Aim for a healthy body weight.
  • Take necessary medication prescribed by your physician.
  • Manage your stress.

Your diabetes team

Your health-care team may consist of the following professionals that are available to help you manage your diabetes and live a long and healthy life. Team members may include: family doctor, diabetes educators which may include a nurse and/or dietitian, endocrinologist, pharmacist, social worker, exercise physiologist, psychologist, eye care specialist, and/or foot care specialist.