Our Experts, Your Health

Type 2 Diabetes and Weight

Have you ever wondered about the connection between Type 2 diabetes and weight?

First, what do we know about type 2 diabetes?

With type 2 diabetes, people have insulin resistance which means their pancreas can still produce the hormone insulin, although not properly, and their body is unable to respond to the insulin effectively to move the glucose (sugar) into the cell for energy. More sugar stays in the blood which causes a higher blood sugar value. Think of insulin resistance like an airplane only letting on half of its passengers, people are still being taken out of the airport but there definitely would be an increase of unhappy people in the terminal – this would surely cause a variety of problems at the airport!

Now, back to the topic of weight: Does insulin resistance, which is found in type 2 diabetes, cause weight gain or does weight gain cause insulin resistance? 

What came first, the chicken or the egg? The former could be a topic in and of itself. We do know that being overweight (BMI 25-29.9) or obese (BMI 30-39.9) and above can increase a person’s risk for developing type 2 diabetes.  On the other hand, weight changes in people with type 2 diabetes can cause blood sugars to be even harder to control. Other factors that increases the risk of developing diabetes include a sedentary lifestyle, family history and genetics, unhealthy eating habits, increased age, high blood sugar and cholesterol.

 At this point, should we just throw in the towel and say it’s a no-win situation?

No! There is still SO MUCH still within our control. Did you know that even a 5-10% weight loss can improve your blood sugar values? If you have pre-diabetes and lose 7% of your body weight along with physical activity, you can prevent/delay the risk of developing diabetes by 58%! This has been proven via the Diabetes Prevention Program. This wonderful program is run across our state and country, with classes also being taught here at Billings Clinic. Check this out for more information:

Below are some action steps to help you start losing weight if you have diabetes or to help prevent it.  First off, ask your health care provider for a referral to a Registered Dietitian.  They can help you learn the necessary tools to accomplish your goals and guide you through this process. The following are some bullet points to consider, adapted from the Diabetes Prevention Program.

  • Set a realistic weight loss goal
  • Follow a healthy eating plan for weight loss (notice we do not say “diet”)
  • Move more- find ways to be active every day
  • Track your progress- Use a phone app or online program, such as MyFitnessPal, or pen and paper, to help keep you accountable.
  • Talk with your health care team- check into your health insurance to see if they cover services for weight loss or physical activity
  • Get support for changing your lifestyle- whether from friends/family/coworkers, get them involved

Learn more about services offered at the Billings Clinic Diabetes Center by visiting

Stephanie Welch, RD, CSP, LN

Stephanie Welch, RD, CSP, LN is a registered dietician with the Billings Clinic Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism Center

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