Weight Loss and Diabetes: A Balancing Act

Weight Loss and Diabetes: A Balancing Act

Susan B. Sloane, BS, RPh, CDE

I know from my own personal journey that weight loss is difficult at best. And for those with diabetes, taking off weight becomes a bit more complicated. But it’s still doable.

Let’s take a closer look at the challenges people with diabetes face when trying to shed pounds. Besides calories in and calories out (from exercise for example), there are a number of factors that can affect your weight.

  1. First, above all, make sure you are starting your weight-loss program with a goal weight in mind, which will come from your healthcare team. Going with your body mass index or BMI is a good starting point, but it is not the complete picture for a variety of reasons. Some people have large frames and some have small frames; there are hundreds of body types. Striving to be a size two for women is not always the healthy way to live, although magazines tell us otherwise from the photos we see. Remember that models are not always the healthiest people or may have a frame suited to that weight. Comparing yourself to others will only make weight loss that much harder.
  2. Frequent episodes of hypoglycemia can contribute to weight gain because when blood sugars are low, you need to eat. Keep your blood sugars in balance to help negate this.
  3. You also need to get plenty of sleep to avoid weight gain. Many studies have shown that people who don’t get sufficient sleep (six hours or less) tend to gain more weight than those that sleep longer and more restfully. Sleep apnea and alcohol can cause interrupted sleep. If sleep is a problem, keep your bedroom cool and dark, and forgo electronics while in bed. You may also want to cut back on any frequent alcohol use.
  4. Stress also adds to lack of sleep and overeating. Try to get regular exercise and perhaps enroll in yoga or meditation classes where applicable. This may help you relax more.
  5. As a pharmacist, I understand that many medications can contribute to weight gain. Antidepressants in certain classes can cause some weight gain. Check with your pharmacist to go over your medications and help you find out what medications, if any, may be hampering your weight loss efforts. Remember: NEVER stop taking a medication because you think it is causing you to gain weight. Stopping any medication without physician approval is very dangerous to your health. Communicate with your healthcare team, and you can make the best decisions together.
  6. Menopause and an underactive thyroid can also make it difficult to lose weight due to hormonal shifts in your body. You know your body best, so make sure to report sudden weight gain or weight loss to your doctor. Swollen feet and ankles can signify a circulation or heart issue that needs to be addressed.
  7. An important factor to remember is that when you are first treated for diabetes, you may experience weight gain. This is because your body is able to absorb nutrients that you were not able to absorb without insulin working properly. This weight gain means your diabetes is stabilizing generally.


Susan B. Sloane, BS, RPh, CDE, has been a registered pharmacist for more than 20 years and a Certified Diabetes Educator for more than 15 years. Her two sons were diagnosed with diabetes, and since then, she has been dedicated to promoting wellness and optimal outcomes as a patient advocate, information expert, educator, and corporate partner.