5 Ways to Manage Diabetes Without Focusing on Weight Loss


Have you been told that you have diabetes or pre-diabetes? Did that news startle you? Scare you? Maybe you know someone who has diabetes with some uncomfortable complications and you are nervous about whether that will happen to you.

Given the standard protocols, it is likely that you have been told that weight loss is the first thing that you need to do to help control your diabetes. It is also likely that you have tried to lose weight in the past, and have been relatively unsuccessful at keeping it off over the years. This may leave you justifiably worried that you won’t be able to follow your doctor’s orders.

Guess what? You can control your diabetes without any focus on your weight!

In fact, it is more helpful  to do the proactive things I am going to talk about in this post than it is to just lose weight. Of course, it’s true that some people’s weight does change when they start doing things to help control their blood sugar. But, this is not always the case. Regardless, the point here is to take the focus of the weight as the primary factor. One last note before we start to dig into ACTION, if you are unsure what your diabetes related diagnosis means, please see my post about the basics of diabetes to get oriented. 

Here are five simple actions you can take to help manage your diabetes in a balanced way

1. Check your glucose levels regularly!

This can be a pain, literally. Most of us don’t like to poke ourselves several times a day, but doing so can give you a lot of information about your body and how you react to different foods, exercise, stress, etc. Knowing this information gives you a lot of control over your health. Ideally, particularly in the beginning, it is helpful to check your blood glucose in the morning, about an hour and/or two hours after meals (by two hours after a meal, you want to see that your glucose is going down) and before bed.

If you are a information oriented person, this will probably be easy and interested, but it is beneficial for everyone.

Ideal is not always achievable, but checking morning and evening should be bare minimum. Many of us eat similar things daily, so if you can persist for a month or so taking your glucose after meals, often you will start to see patterns around certain foods, or times of day when foods are more or less helpful for keeping your blood glucose lower and more steady.

Information is so powerful!

2. Move your body!

Movement and exercise is a very important component to blood glucose management. Exercise helps our cells become more sensitive to insulin, particularly our muscle cells. Even after we stop exercising, our cells are more able to accept glucose, thus lowering blood sugar levels.

3. Don’t fear food!

Often, an initial reaction to a diagnosis of diabetes is fear, particularly around food. Suddenly, you find yourself terrified to even look at a piece of bread or a pastry. There are a variety of things that will affect your glucose levels and food is only one of them. Eating a variety of foods, including fiber regularly, as well as fat and protein, will help your body slowly digest starches and more simple carbohydrates.

While it is important to be aware of how many carbohydrates (not including low carbohydrate vegetables) you are consuming at any given time, as they can cause peaks in glucose levels, it does not mean that you can never have another piece of cake at a birthday or enjoy some of your favorite foods. It may take some time, but finding peace with foods, and not being scared of them, will actually help your health in general and your diabetes specifically.

4. Focus on other healthy habits!

Stress, lack of sleep, dehydration, inactivity, and dieting can all affect your glucose levels. Now, none of us live in a utopia, but spending time to make sure we are getting enough sleep and water is important. Stress will always be there, but finding ways to manage it can help it not hurt your health. I mentioned how important movement is in the first point, but it is important enough to mention twice!!

Dieting is going to be the first thing that many people go to, because their doctor has told them to lose weight. Dieting, particularly calorie restrictive diets actually can cause more stress on our bodies, which can, in turn, make it more difficult to manage blood glucose levels.

I am going to repeat myself by saying that finding peace with food is incredibly healthful, and healing.

5. Take your medication!

If your doctor has prescribed a medication for you, take it as directed and follow up with your doctor regularly to determine if adjustments need to be made. Diabetic medications are often used to help maintain blood glucose, but to be effective, other behaviors need to be adapted to help them work best.

All of these things can be done regardless of size and regardless of whether or not you lose weight.

It is also important to remember that having diabetes is not your fault. Every one of our bodies have strengths, vulnerabilities, and challenges. This is a challenge for your particular body and you do have control over how you respond by taking care of your precious body. So, give yourself a hug or a pat on the back and remember that.

If you’d like a companion on your path to health, including support in managing diabetes in an realistic way, please visit my practitioner page to learn more about my practice and to schedule an appointment. I look forward to meeting you!

Written by DeAun Nelson

My philosophy is that we are all in this together. If you have compassion and care for yourself, that compassion and care will extend to those around you. Naturopathic medicine is all about treating the whole person. In my mind, this means treating not just individuals, but communities. We all have incredible bodies that do incredible things, even when we are suffering. We live, breath, laugh, and love. You are an important being who deserves respect and judgement-free care.