Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes

Hassan Javed

Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes: 4 Lifestyle Strategies That Can Help You Manage These Conditions

Healthy Lifestyle, weight loss diet

While obesity is a chronic condition in itself, it can also trigger other diseases, including type 2 diabetes. The risk for type 2 diabetes is said to increase linearly with body mass index (BMI), and many pathways explain the link between the two conditions. The main one is insulin resistance.

When a person’s body fat accumulates, it signals the pancreatic beta (β) cells to secrete more insulin. Higher insulin levels and secretion rates make the body resistant to insulin and unable to regulate blood sugar, thereby increasing the risk for prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. Conversely, weight gain is caused by excess blood sugar being stored as fat. Insulin resistance is characteristic of obesity when you compare an obese vs overweight person. Once the BMI reaches 30 or above (the obesity range), this chronic issue changes how our body functions typically, leading to abnormalities in how we process our insulin.

Although the relationship between obesity and diabetes is complex, lifestyle changes can still be made to manage weight, increase insulin sensitivity, and improve overall health. Here are some of them:

1. Quit or avoid smoking

Although many of smoking’s adverse health effects are well-documented, not everyone knows it can lead to, or even worsen, type 2 diabetes. The chemicals in cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products can mess with your blood sugar and make it harder to keep closer to target levels.

Additionally, smoking can increase belly fat by stimulating the stress-level hormones known as cortisol, which is why it’s crucial for diabetic patients who are overweight or obese to kick the habit altogether. Otherwise, they risk developing comorbidities or worsening both conditions.

Aside from identifying which smoking triggers to avoid, you can also talk to your doctor about possible cessation aids like quit medication or nicotine replacement products.

2. Personalize your weight-loss diet

Of course, losing weight is crucial to managing obesity and its associated health risks. A modest weight loss of around 7% to 10% of your body weight is also recommended to help slow or stop diabetes progression. However, you need to be wary of fad diets that only lead to initial weight loss but can eventually cause you to regain weight.

Instead, look into weight loss programs with tailored meal plans that lower your blood sugar, meet your dietary needs, and help you attain your weight goals. Some programs offer apps that display food items’ specific nutritional value to help you identify healthier choices and more suitable portion sizes that you can maintain for long-term disease management. At the same time, these apps have built-in blood sugar trackers that help you monitor which foods are best for your blood sugar levels and overall nutrition.

3. Exercise regularly

A tailored diet must complement an exercise routine to manage blood sugar and body weight better. If you have diabetes and are obese/overweight, you can start with moderate-to-vigorous activities like brisk walking, biking, or running. When you meet the recommended physical activity level of 150 minutes per week, you can burn calories while making your body more sensitive to insulin.

Once you’ve gotten used to exercising regularly, you can try meditative exercises like yoga and tai-chi to lower your stress and A1C levels, or weight training to preserve muscle mass even as you’re losing weight.

Fitness research also tells us that exercise doesn’t have to be boring; dance and music can be incorporated into your routine to boost your performance. If these activities consistently get you on your feet, you stand a higher chance of fighting off both type 2 diabetes and obesity, as regular physical activities can enhance blood glucose management.

4. Support gut health

Lastly, gut health must also be considered. Research published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology has found that chronic inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract can contribute to insulin resistance and the progression of type 2 diabetes. You can support your gut health by consuming fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, and kimchi, as these contain probiotics that help restore the natural balance of bacteria in your gut.

Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about probiotic-rich foods sabotaging your weight loss efforts. Keeping your gut microbiome healthy can improve your appetite, energy absorption, and fat storage, helping you achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

Despite obesity and type 2 diabetes affecting your health and overall quality of life, the good news is that these strategies target both conditions at once and help you prevent severe complications in the future. As with any lifestyle change, support from family, friends, and health professionals can make this critical step more sustainable and less daunting.

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