Weight Management for People with Type 2 Diabetes

Dietary changes may greatly improve your management of type 2 diabetes. Learn more about how weight loss can help with blood sugar levels, mobility and reducing diabetes complications

by Hannef Esquander

Medically Reviewed by Dr Chua Zi Wei.

Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetes affects millions of people around the world. It can be divided into type 1, type 2, pre-diabetes and gestational. 80 to 90 per cent of all diabetes cases fall under type 2 diabetes. 

Insulin is a hormone made by your pancreas that acts like a key to let blood sugar into the cells in your body for use as energy

Type 1 diabetes: your pancreas doesn’t make insulin or makes very little insulin. Without insulin, blood sugar can’t get into cells and builds up in the bloodstream.

Type 2 diabetes: body cells don’t respond normally to insulin, which is known as insulin resistance. As a result, the pancreas will generate more insulin to try to get cells to respond. Eventually, the pancreas can’t keep up, there will be a rise in blood sugar, leading to prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. 

Insulin resistance is closely associated with obesity, family history of type 2 diabetes mellitus and inactivity. However, it is possible to be insulin resistant without being overweight or obese.

Initially, insulin resistance presents no symptoms. The symptoms only start to appear once it leads to secondary effects such as higher blood sugar levels. When this happens, the symptoms may include:

  1. Frequent urination (polyuria)
  2. Excessive thirstiness (polydipsia)
  3. Are very hungry (polyphagia)
  4. Lethargy
  5. Blurry vision
  6. Tingling sensation in both hands and feets

Other signs that often appear in people with insulin resistance include weight gain at the belly, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. 

Reversing insulin resistance is possible (If you have insulin resistance, you want to become the opposite, which is insulin sensitive so that cells are more effective at absorbing blood sugar). Two main cornerstones of reversing diabetes resistance would be physical activities (exercising) and weight loss.

Patients who have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes will require consistent monitoring and treatment to maintain optimal blood sugar levels. If combined, several different types of treatment can help lower the risk of complications, including lifestyle adjustments, self-care measures and medications.

Benefits of Weight Loss 

If you are overweight or obese, losing weight can improve blood sugar level and lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. A professional can help you set goals for losing weight. For a person who is overweight or obese, the typical goal is to lose five to 10 per cent of their body weight. For a person who weighs 100 pounds, this would mean losing 6 to 10kgs. Losing even more weight can sometimes reduce the blood sugars to a normal range. But even losing a little bit of weight can help improve your health. In fact, cutting back on the number of calories you eat each day can lower your blood sugar levels even before you lose weight. 

A combination of reduced-calorie diet, physical activity and behaviour modification can provide greater initial weight loss which is beneficial for preventing diabetes and managing existing diabetes mellitus. 

Tips for Weight Loss

Start a food journal

A study from Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research showed that people who kept track of their calorie intake lost twice as much weight as those who did not. List everything down in a basic journal or use a mobile phone app that can be downloaded and accessed easily. Try to also take note of how you feel to determine emotional triggers such as sadness or anger that lead to unconscious eating patterns. 

Never skip breakfast

Starting your day right with breakfast is key for successful weight loss and maintenance. It will help suppress mid-morning hunger, produces better blood glucose and elevates basal metabolic rate. Eating breakfast helps you avoid imbalanced, impulsive, or excessive eating later in the day.

Do frequent bodyweight check

Self-monitoring is associated with improved weight loss. Try to consistently weigh yourself once or twice a week at a similar time of day.

List down your snacks

Create a list of suitable snacks along with each of its carbohydrate and calorie contents. The list will help you choose the right snack when hunger strikes. You will know exactly what to eat yet still able to make a choice.

Plan before dining out

If you have no choice but to eat outside, choose restaurants that serve healthier options like salads, lettuce wraps or fruit bowls. If someone else is choosing the restaurant, look for the menu online and pick the item that has the least amount of carbs and calories. 

Eat regular small meals of up to six per day

Having meals in the same portion and at the same times of day will help you keep your portions in check. It will also help regulate blood sugar levels. Do not let yourself overeat one day or at one meal and then skim the next.

Stay active

On top of diet, physical activities can help you control your weight and improve your insulin sensitivity. Physical activity of 150 minutes per week (30 minutes five days or more per week) would be nice. One of the easiest ways to start exercising is brisk walking for 30 minutes a day. You can also try swimming, biking, or any other moderate-intensity activity that has you working up a light sweat and breathing harder.

Diabetic Diet for Weight Loss 

Just like any type of diet plan, a diabetic diet is more about your overall dietary pattern than obsessing over specific foods. The most important thing you can do is to lose a little weight. Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to give up all your ‘guilty pleasures. Instead, it is about trying to stick to a tasty, balanced diet that will also boost your energy and improve your mood. The goal is to eat more unprocessed, natural food and less ready-made meals and fast A reduced calorie diet. 

Standard weight-loss diets reduce daily energy by 500–1,000 kcal to achieve an initial weight loss of 0.5–1.0 kg per week. A balanced diet consisting of 45–60% energy from carbohydrate, 15–20% energy from protein and 25–35% energy from fat are recommended. 

Carbohydrates have a significant impact on your blood sugar levels. You need to be selective about the types of carbs you eat. Limit refined carbohydrates like white rice and bread, pasta, soda, candy, ready-made meals, and snack foods. Focus on high-fibre complex carbohydrates (slow-release carbs). Your body will not be producing too much insulin as they are digested more slowly.

  • Eat less rice or pasta and bread if you are planning to have dessert. Having sweet desserts like ice cream or cake will add extra carbohydrates to the meal so cut back on the other carb-heavy foods to balance it out.
  • Never replace saturated fat with sugar. Many of us, for instance, replace full cream milk in our coffee with sugar syrup instead. Low-fat does not mean healthy when the fat has been replaced by added sugar.

Moreover, eating a diabetic diet does not mean eliminating sugar. If you have diabetes, you can still enjoy a small serving of your favourite dessert and sweets now and then. The key is moderation. 

  • Start with half of the dessert you normally eat and replace the other half with fruit.
  • Have your favourite cakes or ice-creams as desserts instead of snacks. When eaten on their own, sweets cause your blood sugar to spike but if you eat them along with other healthy food, your blood sugar will not rise as rapidly.
  • Reduce soft drinks, soda, and juice. Your risk for diabetes increases by about 15 per cent for each 12 oz. serving of a sugar-sweetened beverage you drink a day. Try sparkling water with a twist of lemon or lime instead. Cut down on creamers and sweeteners .
  • Sweeten your own food. Buy unsweetened iced tea, plain yoghurt or unflavored oatmeal, for example, and add the sweetener (or fruit) yourself. You will likely add far less sugar than the manufacturer.
  • Always check labels, opt for low sugar or unsweetened products, and use fresh or frozen ingredients instead of canned goods. Pay attention to the sugar content of cereals and sugary drinks.
  • Avoid processed foods or ready-made meals like canned soups, frozen dinners or low-fat meals that may contain ‘hidden’ sugar. Cook your own meals at home.
  • Find healthy alternatives to satisfy your sweet tooth. Instead of ice cream, blend up frozen bananas for a creamy, frozen treat. Or enjoy a small chunk of dark chocolate, rather than a milk chocolate bar.

Read this article for more healthy ways to curb sugar cravings.

Be careful about alcohol

We often overlook the calories and carbs in alcoholic drinks, even beer and wine. Cocktails that contain soda and juice are usually loaded with sugar. Choose calorie-free mixers, drink only with food and monitor your blood glucose as alcohol can interfere with diabetes medication and insulin.

Choose fats wisely

Not all fats are unhealthy. Some fats actually have great health benefits. Fat slows down the digestive process which means blood sugar levels will not spike as quickly. Opt for healthy fats such as peanut butter, ricotta cheese, yoghurt or nuts. It is important to choose fats wisely. 

  • Unhealthy (saturated) fats. Found mainly in tropical oils, red meat, and dairy. You can still keep saturated fat as part of your diet in moderation. The American Diabetes Association recommends consuming 10 per cent or less of your daily calories from saturated fat.
  • Healthy (unsaturated) fats. The healthiest fats are unsaturated fats, which come from fish and plant sources such as olive oil, nuts, and avocados.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids fight inflammation and support brain and heart health. Good sources include salmon, tuna, and flaxseeds.

If your last diet attempt was not a success or life events have caused you to gain weight, do not be discouraged. The key is to find a plan that works with your body’s individual needs so that you can avoid common diet mistakes and find long-term, weight loss success.

Remember that most cases of type 2 diabetes are preventable and some can even be reversed. Even if you have already developed diabetes, it is not too late to make a positive change. By eating healthier, being more physically active, and losing weight, you can reduce your symptoms. 

If you need support in caring for a loved one with diabetes, we can help. From diabetes prevention to wound care, reach out to our Care Advisors at 016-2992188  to find out more.

Managing Diabetes At Home

We have walked the journey with numerous families and their loved one with diabetes. Our Care Professionals are experienced with caring for individuals with diabetes and undergo training to better understand, support and care for you and your loved one.

We understand that for different individuals, different forms of care support may be required. From medical administration to monitoring

For more information or to schedule a call, fill up this form.

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About the Writer
Hannef Esquander
With more than a decade of experience writing about all different aspects of lifestyle; from entertainment and fashion to art and travels, Hannef now finds himself gaining interest towards health, well-being and spirituality.
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