If you took a poll asking people with type 2 diabetes what goal(s) they would like to achieve, many would respond that they would like to lose weight.
Sadly, countless people struggle with weight loss.
And in many parts of the world, it doesn’t help that there are endless options for cheap and easily accessible fast food, which honestly seems more appealing than grilling veggies.
Every individual trying to lose weight has his/her fair share of challenges, whether in the form of time constraints, a lack of intrinsic motivation, or an inability to become energized at the end of the day to exercise or eat sensibly. For people who are obese and have type 2 diabetes, weight loss can benefit them tremendously by achieving better glucose control, decreasing or eliminating diabetes medications, and resulting in a healthy, happier life.
Some people with type 2 are undiagnosed for years; for others, there is an unwillingness to accept that they may have this illness. In the latter group, Kathy O’Keeffe, MS, RD/LD, CDE, CHWC, of KOK Consulting and Coaching, says people are in denial.
“They have the intellectual information,” explains O’Keeffe, “but they are not ready to deal with it emotionally.”
Denial, as many of us know, is a slippery slope. Not accepting the diagnosis can lead people to continue to make bad choices.
O’Keeffe emphasizes the importance of diabetes education combined with weight loss action. “You have to deal with it head on,” says Ms. O’Keeffe.
Another problem O’Keeffe sees is that some primary care physicians do not advise their patients to seek diabetes education counseling because the physicians do not deem the diabetes as serious. While a person may be able to survive with type 2 for years without treatment, individuals have the power to mitigate the effects of the disease, especially for those patients who need to lose weight.
Handing patients a pamphlet, and then waiting until their health worsens is not an effective way to combat this growing problem. Primary care physicians need to send their patients to diabetes educators right away in order for patients to get medical advice on weight loss and diabetes management plans. Too often, patients believe primary care physicians are the experts in diabetes when they may not specialize in caring for people with the disease.
“People need to go to [diabetes education] classes because you can’t do what you don’t know,” explains O’Keeffe.
If patients don’t know what constitutes a low calorie diet, how can they possibly develop a strategic weight loss plan? There are countless theories circulating about what the best diet is and how you should try this or that for weight loss. The truth is what works for person A doesn’t always work for person B. The only people who are able to truly help those with type 2 diabetes develop a realistic weight loss plan are diabetes educators.
Education is key, but it’s only the first step. Follow through on diet and a diabetes management plan, as well as staying consistent by making realistic lifestyle changes are equally as important steps in the process. An individual can lose weight, but they can easily go back to their unhealthy lifestyle habits. Unfortunately, going back to old habits is the reality many people face. O’Keeffe also says that a person who is internally motivated is much more likely to maintain a healthy lifestyle than someone who is externally motivated. This is not to say that a physician’s recommendation won’t lead an individual down the right path, but a person must also develop intrinsic motivation for the best chance of long-term success.
Weight loss on a basic level is relatively simple: don’t ingest more calories than you exert. However, there are so many other factors that may impede a person’s progress pertaining to weight loss.
Overweight and obese patients need to take the first step and educate themselves on diabetes and the benefits of weight loss, but then they need to act: today!
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