Obesity and diabetes are intimately linked. In particular, abdominal obesity can be a major culprit in the development of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Research shows that if you are overweight and have been diagnosed with Diabetes Type 2, losing weight will significantly lower your blood sugar levels and also improve your overall health. So, yes. Diabetes and weight loss makes immense sense. But, could there be a “right” and a “wrong” way to achieve your weight loss goals?
Diabetes And Weight Loss Dilemma
The most important thing to understand is this – any weight loss is good. According to Cathy Nonas, MS, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association and a professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, “No matter how heavy you are, you will significantly lower your blood sugar if you lose some weight.” The Finnish Prevention Study and a study by Diabetes Prevention Program (see References at the end of the article for details) both prove that lifestyle changes that instigate a weight reduction of 5% (or more) decrease the overall risk of diabetes by as much as 58% in high-risk patients.
For those living with diabetes, studies have shown that a loss of 5–10% of body weight can improve fitness levels, reduce HbA1c levels, improve cardiovascular health, and decrease use of diabetes, hypertension, and lipid-lowering medications. That’s not all; diabetics who successfully lose weight also lower their risk of depression and sleep apnea.
People diagnosed with diabetes get a bundle of advice when it comes to weight loss. From magazines to TV shows to friends and family and even health professionals, everyone will point you towards the latest break-through diet and exercise regime that will help you lose weight quickly and maybe even reverse your diabetes! But the question is – do all these methods work? Or is one better than others?
Will Weight Loss Reverse Type 2 Diabetes?
This may sound too good to be true, but yes. Losing weight can reverse diabetes type 2.
Losing weight drains excess fat out of the pancreas and allows its function to return to normal. The trick? It’s important to lose fat from the pancreas. However, you don’t really have to undergo gastric band surgery to achieve this! You can lose weight by following a diet especially created to help burn more stored fat – like the LCHF or Low-Carb-High-Fat Diet coupled with Intermittent Fasting.
Understanding Weight Loss Diet For Type 2 Diabetics
As the name suggests, the LCHF diet focuses on restricting sugary foods and starches like pasta or bread. Instead, it focuses on eating REAL foods (and not diabetic weight loss pills!)– healthy proteins and natural fats, and vegetables as a source of carbs. In fact, this diet encourages you to eat more healthy fats , including butter and cream. There’s no calorie counting required! You can eat till you feel satisfied. The trick is that once you get used to the LCHF diet, your hunger and urge to eat will decrease a lot, especially if you have excess weight to lose.
Why does the LCHF diet work? For one, you are eliminating all sugar and refined starches from your diet. Simple carbohydrates break down into sugars. These are readily absorbed into the blood stream and raise blood glucose levels. By eating little to no refined carbohydrates, you prevent this from happening altogether. Also, too much dietary protein is readily converted into glucose by the body. Therefore, LCHF diet focuses on a low carbohydrate-moderate protein-high fat combination. The focus of the simplest diabetic diet plan is on eating lots of vegetables and natural healthy fats.
While dietary fats have long been shunned for their purported effect of causing heart diseases, natural fats are heart-healthy and also beneficial for diabetics. Think avocado, nuts, olive oil and oily fish, for example.
Intermittent Fasting: The Perfect Treatment For Diabetes And Weight Loss
We are big fans of Canadian nephrologist, Dr. Jason Fung, and his amazing work when it comes to diabetes and weight loss. According to him, LCHF diet is only the starting point for reversing diabetes. He believes that Intermittent Fasting for diabetes, coupled with LCHF diet, is the perfect treatment and also an effective method for weight loss, even for those who don’t have diabetes. Fasting is the fastest and simplest method to force your body to burn sugar for energy. Glucose in the blood becomes the accessible source of energy for the body. Result – you burn off the stored sugars in your body.
The intermittent fasting diet takes advantage of, and expands upon, the 10–12 hours you normally fast while sleeping. In fact, research shows that by simply skipping breakfast and only breaking your fast at lunch with an LCHF meal, you can reap the many benefits of Intermittent Fasting and start burning accumulated fat. You can continue to eat normally throughout the rest of the day, as long as you follow the guidelines of LCHF diet.
Dr. Jason Fung implements intermittent fasting for diabetes in his practice, and as a result, his patients start to lose weight and several have already gone off all medication. Unlike what many believe, Dr. Fung ensures his patients that losing muscle mass while intermittent fasting is nothing but a myth.
The Difference Between Calorie Restriction And Fasting
Most health experts will tell you that calorie restriction is the easiest way to achieve weight loss. In fact, the American Diabetes Association’s main dietary recommendation suggests “focusing on diet, physical activity, and behavioral strategies to achieve a 500–750 kcal/day energy deficit.” Many dieticians advocate eating five to six small meals a day. There are charts, apps and books to learn how to calorie count. And yet, calorie counting is rarely a successful method when it comes to successfully losing weight.
Why does calorie restriction rarely work? The answer lies in understanding a simple principle – The secret to long-term weight loss is to maintain your basal metabolism. Studies have directly compared daily caloric restriction with intermittent fasting, while keeping weekly calorie intake similar. Controlled fasting triggers numerous hormonal adaptations that do NOT happen with simple caloric reduction. It causes insulin levels to drop precipitously, helping prevent insulin resistance. The rise in the hormone noradrenaline keeps metabolism high, while increased growth hormones help maintain lean mass.
During a fast, the body first burns off glycogen stored in the liver. Since this is not an unlimited source of energy, it next starts to burn accumulated body fat to fuel the body. And since an overweight person who is diabetic has plenty of fat to burn, there is no reason for basal metabolism to drop.
And this is the secret to long-term weight loss. Not counting calories or trying (rather unsuccessfully) to control portion sizes.