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Diabetes & Nutrition

Weight and Diabetes

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Being at a healthy weight is a good idea for everyone, but it’s even more important for kids with diabetes. Why? Because carrying extra weight can make it harder to keep blood sugar levels under control.

When kids with diabetes are at a healthy weight, they may have fewer diabetes symptoms and problems. This is true for all people with diabetes — whether they have type 1 or type 2.

Diabetes and Your Weight

What Happens in Diabetes?

Being overweight is directly related to type 2 diabetes. Most people are overweight when they first find out they have it. The extra weight can make it harder for their bodies to use sugar, or glucose (say: GLOO-kose), the way it should.

That’s why people who have type 2 diabetes will be encouraged to get to a healthy weight by eating right and getting regular exercise. Exercise not only burns calories, but it can also help the body use insulin (say: IN-suh-lin) better. This makes it easier to keep blood sugar levels on track.

Being at a healthy weight makes it less likely that someone will get type 2 diabetes. And if someone already has type 2 diabetes, losing weight can make their diabetes easier to manage and can even reduce the amount of medicine they need.

With type 1, the person may have the opposite problem — weight loss. Before they know they have type 1 diabetes, kids may lose weight because their bodies can’t use glucose properly. Once someone knows they have type 1 diabetes and gets treatment, he or she usually gets back to a healthy weight.

Though weight loss is the more typical problem before diagnosis, it’s also possible a kid with type 1 diabetes might be overweight. If so, it can make it hard for the kid to keep his or her blood sugar levels under control.

Are You at a Healthy Weight?

Doctors use your weight and height to calculate your body mass index (BMI). The BMI is a number that helps doctors judge whether your weight is healthy.

Your doctor will tell you if you should lose weight to manage your diabetes. If it turns out you don’t need to lose weight, you can still help your health by eating good-for-you foods and getting a lot of play time.

If your doctor wants you to lose some weight, you might feel upset or sad. But try to focus your energy on getting healthy. You can do it — with some help from your family, doctor, and the rest of your health care team!

Your diabetes meal plan already helps you know what to eat, so you may just need to eat a little less and be more active. You don’t have to run on a treadmill — you can just do more fun stuff outside, like ride your bike and play outside with your friends.

Kids with diabetes should never try fad diets or skip meals or snacks to lose weight. These things aren’t good for anyone, and they’re especially bad for kids with diabetes. You need to keep your blood sugar levels on track, and extreme diets can mess them up. Also, never skip insulin injections to lose weight — it can make you get very sick in just a few hours!

If you follow your doctor’s advice about food and exercise, you can reach your weight-loss goal — safely and successfully.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: August 2013