Managing your weight

Type 2 diabetes results from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Although there is a strong genetic predisposition, the risk is greatly increased when associated with lifestyle factors such as high blood pressure, being overweight or obese, insufficient physical activity, poor diet and the classic ‘apple shape’ body where extra weight is carried around the waist.

Type 2 diabetes can often initially be managed with healthy eating and regular physical activity. Choosing healthy foods and being active will help manage your blood glucose levels and your body weight. Healthy eating for people with diabetes is similar to recommendations for everyone so there is no need to prepare separate meals or buy special foods. Healthy eating can be enjoyed by the whole family.

Type 2 diabetes can often initially be managed
with healthy eating and regular physical activity

Managing Your Weight – Men

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In Australia over two thirds of all men are overweight. Being overweight is strongly associated with the development of type 2 diabetes; however losing weight can significantly help with the management of type 2 diabetes. If you are overweight the best way to lose weight and keep it off is through eating healthy, balanced meals with sensible portion sizes and being physically active every day.

Healthy eating for diabetes includes selecting high fibre, lower Glycemic Index (GI) carbohydrate foods and reducing fat, especially saturated fat. Food intake should be balanced with exercise to maintain a healthy body weight.

Guidelines and advice

The Dietary Guidelines for all Australians, produced by the National Health and Medical Research Council, is an excellent guide to help you eat healthy. In addition to following the Dietary Guidelines, there are a few extra considerations for people with diabetes:

  • Eat regular meals and snacks spread evenly over the day. This provides your body with a regular supply of energy and can help to control blood glucose levels (BGLs). If you need to lose some weight eat nutritious lower energy snacks, like fruit or diet yoghurt, or limit how often you snack.
  • Include carbohydrate foods at each meal and snack Carbohydrate foods are the best source of energy for your body. Carbohydrate foods have a direct affect on your BGLs. They include breads and cereals, pasta, rice, starchy vegetables (potato, sweet potato and corn), fruit, legumes and some dairy products (milk, yoghurt and dairy desserts). The type, as well as the amount, of carbohydrate eaten at a meal is important for people with diabetes. The amount of carbohydrate you need depends on many factors including your body weight and how active you are.
  • The Glycemic Index, or GI, is a ranking of carbohydrates in foods according to how they affect blood glucose levels. Foods with a low GI raise BGLs more slowly and steadily than foods with a high GI. People with diabetes can benefit from eating low GI foods throughout the day, ideally one at each meal. Low GI foods include heavy grain breads & fruit loafs, rolled oats and muesli, pasta, corn, sweet potato, low fat milk, yoghurt and ice-cream as well as most fruits.
  • Choose foods lower in total fat and in particular low in saturated fats. Eating too much fat in general, and saturated fat in particular, can lead to weight gain, which may lead to increased blood glucose and cholesterol levels. Saturated fat is found mainly in animal foods, like meat, cheese, butter and full cream dairy products as well as in takeaway and many pre-packaged foods (e.g. biscuits and chips). To reduce your saturated fat intake try to choose low fat dairy foods, lean meats, skinless chicken, margarine instead of butter, and limit fried take away foods, processed meats, pies, pre-packaged biscuits, cakes and other high fat packaged foods.
  • Include small amounts of the healthier fats. Some fat in the diet is important for good health. Using a variety of healthier fats will achieve a good balance. Healthier fats include poly and monounsaturated margarines and oils such as canola or olive, fish, avocado, nuts and seeds. All dietary fat in excess can contribute to weight gain, so consume an amount that is suitable for you.
  • Choose high fibre foods. Fibre has many benefits for the body including keeping your bowels healthy, protecting against bowel cancer and lowering your BGLs and cholesterol levels. A high fibre meal also leaves you feeling fuller which can assist with weight loss. To improve your fibre intake choose wholegrain or high fibre breads and cereals, and plenty of vegetables, legumes and fruit.
  • A word on sugar. A myth that continues to surround diabetes is that the diet must be low-sugar or sugar-free. We now know that this is not the case as the GI has shown that some types of sugar, such as those found in fruit or milk, convert to glucose more slowly in the body. While it is still important to limit foods which are concentrated sources of sugar, or high in added refined sugar, (e.g. soft drinks, lollies and syrups), small amounts of sugar can be included as part of a lower fat, high fibre meal for people with diabetes. You can download a copy of the following information sheet – The Facts about Sugar 
  • Shopping tours. If you are finding the information on selecting healthy food options overwhelming you may want to attend one of our Healthy Shopping Tours. The tours (in the Sydney metropolitan and some regional areas) teach you how to read food labels and help make selecting healthy foods easier. For more information call Diabetes NSW on 1300 136 588

With so much emphasis on making the right food choices it is not uncommon for some people to start feeling anxious about what they eat. Be kind to yourself – it is a struggle to continually make the right choices and you are allowed to slip up occasionally. Please read our Food and eating information sheet if you are becoming stressed over your eating habits. It also contains a food and mood diary that will help you track how your mood influences your food choices. You can then work with your health care team to reduce unhelpful or harmful food triggers.

For a guide on losing weight and getting in shape read our guide for men with diabetes Less weight, healthier shape

Managing your weight – women

In Australia at least half of all women are overweight. Being overweight is strongly associated with the development of type 2 diabetes; however losing weight can significantly help with the management of type 2 diabetes.

If you are overweight the best way to lose weight and keep it off is through eating healthy, balanced meals with sensible portion sizes and being physically active every day. Healthy eating for diabetes includes selecting high fibre, lower Glycemic Index (GI) carbohydrate foods and reducing fat, especially saturated fat. Food intake should be balanced with exercise to maintain a healthy body weight.

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Guidelines and advice

The Dietary Guidelines for all Australians, produced by the National Health and Medical Research Council, is an excellent guide to help you eat healthy. In addition to following the Dietary Guidelines, there are a few extra considerations for people with diabetes:

  • Eat regular meals and snacks spread evenly over the day. This provides your body with a regular supply of energy and can help to control blood glucose levels (BGLs). If you need to lose some weight eat nutritious lower energy snacks, like fruit or diet yoghurt, or limit how often you snack.
  • Include carbohydrate foods at each meal and snack Carbohydrate foods are the best source of energy for your body. Carbohydrate foods have a direct affect on your BGLs. They include breads and cereals, pasta, rice, starchy vegetables (potato, sweet potato and corn), fruit, legumes and some dairy products (milk, yoghurt and dairy desserts). The type, as well as the amount, of carbohydrate eaten at a meal is important for people with diabetes. The amount of carbohydrate you need depends on many factors including your body weight and how active you are.
  • The Glycemic Index, or GI, is a ranking of carbohydrates in foods according to how they affect blood glucose levels. Foods with a low GI raise BGLs more slowly and steadily than foods with a high GI. People with diabetes can benefit from eating low GI foods throughout the day, ideally one at each meal. Low GI foods include heavy grain breads & fruit loafs, rolled oats and muesli, pasta, corn, sweet potato, low fat milk, yoghurt and ice-cream as well as most fruits.
  • Choose foods lower in total fat and in particular low in saturated fats Eating too much fat in general, and saturated fat in particular, can lead to weight gain, which may lead to increased blood glucose and cholesterol levels. Saturated fat is found mainly in animal foods, like meat, cheese, butter and full cream dairy products as well as in takeaway and many pre-packaged foods (e.g. biscuits and chips). To reduce your saturated fat intake try to choose low fat dairy foods, lean meats, skinless chicken, margarine instead of butter, and limit fried take away foods, processed meats, pies, pre-packaged biscuits, cakes and other high fat packaged foods.
  • Include small amounts of the healthier fats. Some fat in the diet is important for good health. Using a variety of healthier fats will achieve a good balance. Healthier fats include poly and monounsaturated margarines and oils such as canola or olive, fish, avocado, nuts and seeds. All dietary fat in excess can contribute to weight gain, so consume an amount that is suitable for you.
  • Choose high fibre foods. Fibre has many benefits for the body including keeping your bowels healthy, protecting against bowel cancer and lowering your BGLs and cholesterol levels. A high fibre meal also leaves you feeling fuller which can assist with weight loss. To improve your fibre intake choose wholegrain or high fibre breads and cereals, and plenty of vegetables, legumes and fruit.
  • A word on sugar. A myth that continues to surround diabetes is that the diet must be low-sugar or sugar-free. We now know that this is not the case as the GI has shown that some types of sugar, such as those found in fruit or milk, convert to glucose more slowly in the body. While it is still important to limit foods which are concentrated sources of sugar, or high in added refined sugar, (e.g. soft drinks, lollies and syrups), small amounts of sugar can be included as part of a lower fat, high fibre meal for people with diabetes. You can download a copy of the following information sheet – The Facts about Sugar 
  • Shopping tours. If you are finding the information on selecting healthy food options overwhelming you may want to attend one of our Healthy Shopping Tours. The tours (in the Sydney metropolitan and some regional areas) teach you how to read food labels and help make selecting healthy foods easier. For more information call Diabetes NSW on 1300 136 588
  • Being mindful of food. With so much emphasis on making the right food choices it is not uncommon for some people to start feeling anxious about what they eat. Be kind to yourself – it is a struggle to continually make the right choices and you are allowed to slip up occasionally. Please read our fact sheet on food and eating if you are becoming stressed over your eating habits. It also contains a food and mood diary that will help you track how your mood influences your food choices. You can then work with your health care team to reduce unhelpful or harmful food triggers. For a guide on losing weight and getting in shape read our less weight, healthier shape fact sheet.