How to Lose Weight If You Have Diabetes

Posted May 12, 2009 in Your Questions 10 Comments »
Your Questions
Your Questions

I get plenty of questions in various comments throughout the website, but I also get comments and questions via the Project Swole Contact Form.

Generally I address those questions through e-mail, but often I do not have the time to reply to each and every question personally.

From now on I want to take a more proactive approach to answering Your Health Questions by posting them separately in the blog. This way we can be sure that everyone benefits from the Q & A.

Cherie wrote:

“Hi, I am a 44 year old female just diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I am 5’10 and I weigh 250 pounds. I want to get down to 180 pounds. How many calories a day should I be consuming to lose weight?

Also what kind of exercises do you recommend for weight loss and how many days a week should I do them to lose weight and keep it off?

My doctor told me if I lose weight I might be able to come off the diabetes medicine. Any help is greatly appreciated.




Firstly, let me state that I am not a dietitian, a doctor, or a diabetes specialist. Take my advice with a grain of salt and speak to your dietitian for a real meal plan. That being said, you can probably use my tips to get yourself started on a diabetes diet.


Ultimately we need to address calories. Both the number of calories and the source of calories. Excess calories result in excess body fat and excess body weight. In people with type 2 diabetes, excess body fat means less sensitivity to insulin.

Weight loss in overweight and obese people with type 2 diabetes helps improve blood sugars and reduces the risk factors that lead to heart disease. A dietitian can help you determine the appropriate serving sizes you need to lose weight.

Control Your Calories

Since you are diabetic I do not advise trying to lose more than 2-3 pounds a week. Of course during your first week or two you might lose 5 or more pounds, this is to be expected. Otherwise, please consult your doctor if you plan to go on a crash diet and lose fat rapidly.

As stated in your question, you want to get down to 180 lbs, so start by limiting your calories each day to 180 lbs x 12 calories/lb = 2160 calories. That might seem high, but I am assuming you typically eat way more.

If you don’t lose at least 1 lb of fat the first week, bring it down to 2060, and subtract 100 calories each week until you start losing at least 2 lbs. If you lose more than 3% of your total bodyweight in any given week after the first month, you might be eating too few calories.

You should break those calories up into 3 small meals and 3 snacks each day, eating just about every 2-3 hours. It is very important that you don’t skip meals. If you think you are going to be busy, grab a piece of fruit to eat at your scheduled snack time.

What to Eat

You will need to eat a wide variety of healthy food in order to get all your nutrients and control your blood sugar. Your plate should be very colorful at each meal.


I advocate eating about 25-30% of your total calories in protein. For your desired bodyweight, make sure you are getting around 150 grams of protein each day. In 3 meals and 3 snacks you should average around 20-25 grams of protein per meal/snack. You can find protein in lean meat, nuts, beans, peas, and low fat dairy products. High fat dairy products are loaded with saturated fat, which you should avoid as a diabetic.

Avoid eggs because they are high in cholesterol, but choose eggs whites or egg substitute for a high protein, low carb, low fat meal. Fill with low fat meats, cheeses, and vegetables to make it taste good. Also try boiled eggs with salt and pepper, but throw away the yolk.


Although carbohydrates get the most attention when discussing nutrition for diabetics, dietary fat is arguably just as important if not more so.

Your fat intake should be no more than about 30% of your total calories. For fats, be sure to stay away from fried food and trans fats like margarine. Keep your fats healthy, from sources like lean meat, fish, olive oil, and legumes. Eating healthy fats will help control your blood sugar, appetite, and cravings.

People with diabetes have higher than normal risk for heart disease, stroke, and disease of the small blood vessels in the body. Controlling blood pressure and limiting the amount of bad fats and cholesterol in the diet will help reduce the risk of these complications.

Lowering your LDL (bad) cholesterol has repeatedly shown in medical studies to help people with diabetes reduce their risk of heart disease and reduce the risk of death if a diabetic does suffer a heart attack.

Remember to keep an eye on cholesterol intake, which should total less than 200 milligrams per day.

Fish is a good alternative to high fat meat such as pork, beef, and lamb. For example, cod, tuna and halibut, have less total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol than most meat and poultry. Salmon, mackerel and herring are full of omega-3 fatty acids, which promote a healthy heart by lowering blood fats called triglycerides.


The American Diabetes Association recommends eating around 50-60% of your calories in carbohydrates. For the type of diet I am outlining here, I recommend around 45-50%of calories from carbs. I think to lose weight, especially since you will be exercising, that you will be better off increasing your protein and decreasing your carbs.

Primarily be sure to stay away from sugary and starchy carbs, but you will need 25 to 35 grams of fiber per day. Choose foods high in fiber such as vegetables, fruits, whole grain breads and cereals, oats, barley, psyllium, legumes (beans, peas and lentils), and sweet potatoes, which also contain important vitamins and minerals. Studies suggest that people with type 2 diabetes who eat a high fiber diet can improve their blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

You are looking for carbohydrates that have the lowest possible glycemic index. These are the foods that will have minimal impact on your blood sugar. Most vegetables have a low glycemic index.

You are going to need to accept that table sugar is a no-no. Of course you can have a little sugar in your diet, but the overall number of grams of sugar in a food is very important. Learn to read your nutrition labels and keep your simple sugar intake to a minimum. Try using Splenda instead of sugar in most recipes and as a sweetener.

Alcohol and Diabetes

As a type 2 diabetic, use strict moderation when drinking alcohol. The body processes alcohol in similar manner to that which it processes fat, and alcohol provides almost as many calories as fat.

If you do choose to drink alcohol, you should only drink it occasionally when your blood sugar level is under control. It might be a better idea to check with your doctor to be sure drinking alcohol is OK for you.

Resistance Training

It is important to get adequate exercise as a diabetic, as exercise can help to control your blood sugar. Furthermore, since you are actively trying to lose weight, exercise is much more important.

I recommend you try working in 3 full body resistance training workouts each week. This can be free weights, machine circuit training, or a combination of the two.

You should be working at higher rep ranges, doing for example 3 sets of 12-15 reps per exercise. You should also try to superset, comboset, or giantset your exercises together.

Those crazy terms just mean that you should be doing two exercises for unrelated muscle groups (for example legs and chest) back-to-back with minimal rest between the two sets. Then take 60 seconds rest and repeat.

Example: 15 reps on bench press, no rest, 15 reps on stiff leg deadlifts, rest 60 seconds, repeat two more times.

Make sure you hit these major muscle groups at each session:

  • Quadriceps (front of the leg)
  • Hamstrings (back of the leg)
  • Chest
  • Shoulders
  • Vertical back (chin ups, pull ups, pull downs)
  • Horizontal back (rowing)
  • Triceps
  • Abdominals

You can add in bicep and calf training if you feel necessary or just follow the full body program linked below.

Try my generic full body workout routine or ask a personal trainer at your local gym to write you a program.

Cardiovascular Training

Try to get an additional 2 cardio sessions in on your off days. At first I recommend 2, 45 minute endurance cardio sessions at first.

When you feel comfortable with your fitness level, I highly recommend looking into high intensity interval training, or at least stagger your cardio sessions so that you train with low intensity for a minute, full intensity (sprint) for 30 seconds, low intensity for a minute, sprint for 30 seconds, repeat. Once you reach this high intensity training level, you can cut your cardio workouts down to 20-25 minutes.

Post Workout Nutrition

Note: DO NOT take the advice for post workout nutrition that I have posted all around this website. It would be a horrible idea for you to consume a super high glucose or dextrose beverage immediately after your workout.

I suggest you treat any post workout shakes or meals with the same care and caution that you would treat any meal designed for your diabetic meal plan. I would only add that you should minimize fat intake in favor of carbs and protein during the first 2 hours post-workout.

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10 Responses to “How to Lose Weight If You Have Diabetes”

  1. i have a question. i am 13 and i am 110 pounds and i hate it when my frineds call me fat. how can i possibley loose some weight with out getting my sugar count down?

    • Just decrease your overall calorie intake by 10% or increase your weekly exercise by 10%. Either way, you should be able to lose a couple pounds in a month or two.

  2. i’m a 2nd type diabetes every time i gain up my weight my blood sugar will i’m taking an exercise weigh lifting at gym so i just bought a dietery supplement that call xtand it mean for energy recovery enhancer its a drink that we take while we work out at gym so is it safe for me to use for a person that have diabetes??

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  5. Greetings,

    Very well informative posted article and thanks for giving your insights and tips on losing weight. By the way, did you know eating your breakfast also helps to avoid saturated fat and calories more. Because when you eat your breakfast you also lessen to eat saturated fat and more calories which usually from the lunch we eat.

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