Q: Is there a way to lose weight if you take insulin? I’ve heard that insulin causes weight gain, but I need it to control my blood sugar. This really has me confused!
A: I can feel your frustration. Take the insulin needed to control your blood sugar, and the weight is stubborn to come off. Reduce the insulin, and the weight comes off, but blood sugars may go way up. For many people, reducing insulin doses can aid weight-loss efforts, but how can you do so without sacrificing blood sugar control? There are several ways to accomplish this, but it is VERY important to work closely with your healthcare team when doing so. Otherwise, you could wind up with dangerously high or low blood sugar levels.
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Many of the things you can do to reduce your insulin requirements are the same things anyone — including those without diabetes — can do to lose weight: Reduce calorie intake, particularly from carbohydrates but also from fat. Increase calorie expenditure through aerobic exercise, strength training and an overall active lifestyle. Reducing stress levels and getting enough sleep can also help.
When you have diabetes, it is important to minimize hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) when trying to lose weight, as the extra calories used to treat the lows will work against weight loss. There are also blood-sugar-lowering medications that can support weight loss. These include amylin, GLP-1 receptor agonists and SGLT-2 inhibitors. Ask your physician if any of these medications may be appropriate for you.
Want to learn more about insulin? Read “What Does Insulin Do?” “Insulin” What You Need to Know” and “Insulin Basics.”