Healthcare provider explaining the best way for diabetics to lose weight

Best Way for Diabetics to Lose Weight

Written on June 28, 2023 by Theresa Vuskovich, DMD. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

Table of contents

Losing weight as a diabetic is especially challenging. If you are one of the 37.3 million individuals living with diabetes in the US, you know the importance of weight management to control your diabetes. [1] A weight loss of 5% can improve glycemic control, lipid levels, and blood pressure for people who are overweight or have obesity with type 2 diabetes. [2] While there is no single best way for diabetics to lose weight, you can choose from a variety of options and strategies.

Healthy Eating

The foundation of weight management is healthy eating. [1] The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recognizes there is no one best way of eating for diabetics to lose weight and that there is no ideal percentage of carbohydrates, protein, and fat calories. [2] The key to sustainable weight loss occurs through calorie deficits created through individualized eating plans. [2]

The ADA acknowledges the benefits of many eating plans, including vegan, Mediterranean, low-carbohydrate, and low-fat diets. [2] The most widely researched eating plans for diabetics are the low-carbohydrate, low-fat, and Mediterranean diets. [2] All three diets provide benefits for people with diabetes, including lowering A1C, blood pressure, and heart disease risk. [2]

Rather than a particular eating plan, the ADA recommends the following healthy eating practices for diabetics to lose weight [2]:

  • Focus on whole foods over processed foods (plant-based)
  • Reduce the amount of sugar and refined grains you consume
  • Eat carbohydrates high in fiber (14 grams per 1,000 calories) and minimally processed
  • Drink water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Eating unsaturated fats rather than saturated fats
  • Drink alcohol in moderation (one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men)

If you are confused about eating, nutritional counseling may help you achieve your weight loss goals. Nutritional counseling is recommended by the ADA throughout your journey with diabetes so that you feel confident in your ability to manage your weight. [2]

Physical Activity

Physical activity refers to your total activities throughout your day, and exercise refers to structured activities designed to improve fitness. [3] The ADA recommends increasing both your daily level of activity and weekly exercise. [3] Exercise should include the following [3]:

  • At least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise per week is recommended for diabetics. [3] Moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise includes brisk walking (4 mph), light cycling (10-12 mph), bicycling fast (14-16 mph), jogging, and hiking.
  • Perform resistance exercises two to three times per week on nonconsecutive days. Planks, squats, push-ups, and lunges are examples of resistance exercises.
  • Practice flexibility training and balance training two to three times per week, especially for older adults with diabetes. Examples include yoga and tai chi.

When starting an exercise program, consult your healthcare provider to determine if you have any limitations.


The ADA recommends nutrition, physical activity, and behavioral counseling for individuals with diabetes who are trying to lose weight. [3,4] With counseling, you can gain confidence in self-managing your weight and diabetes. [4] Counselors can develop a customized care plan for you while considering all factors affecting your weight management, including systemic, structural, and socioeconomic factors. [4]

Everlywell Weight Loss Support


Medications are available to assist you with weight loss if lifestyle changes are not leading to enough weight loss. [4] Medication is an adjunct to healthy eating and physical activity. [4] There are multiple types of medications, but most all aim to suppress your appetite. [4]

One medication for short-term weight management (less than 12 weeks) is phentermine. [4] Individuals taking 15 milligrams of phentermine each day lost approximately 6.1% of their baseline weight. [4] Phentermine works by reducing your appetite, although the exact mechanism is not known. [5]

Another appetite suppressant is Contrave®. [6] Individuals with diabetes taking Contrave® lost, on average, 3.7% of their baseline weight.[6] However, weight loss results will vary based on individual physiological characteristics and lifestyle choices.

Semaglutide is another medication option for diabetics to lose weight. [4] Semaglutde was originally studied to improve blood sugar levels for diabetics. During clinical trials, investigators noticed patients losing weight and further investigated the drug as a weight-loss medication. Semaglutide is available under multiple brand names, but the only semaglutide medication approved by the FDA for weight management is Wegovy®. [7]

Medications are considered a last resort for diabetics who need to lose weight and are not the first choice of treatment. [4] Other health tips for diabetics to help with weight management include [3]:

  • Sleep at least 7 hours per night. Sleep deprivation is associated with difficulties in managing diabetes and makes losing weight more difficult.
  • Stop smoking. If you are having trouble quitting, consider a smoking cessation program.

Weight Care+ with Everlywell

The Weight Care+ program is a weight management program designed to help you meet your weight loss goals. When you join the program, a licensed nurse practitioner will help you determine what tests, lifestyle changes, and medications you may need. Care is individualized and tailored to give you the tools to lose weight.

How to Lose Weight with Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 Diabetes Medication for Weight Loss: Key Points to Know

Ozempic® for Type 2 Diabetes: What You Need to Know


  1. Diabetes and prediabetes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published February 21, 2023. Accessed June 12, 2023.
  2. Evert AB, Dennison M, Gardner CD, et al. Nutrition therapy for adults with diabetes or prediabetes: A consensus report. Diabetes Care. 2019;42(5):731-754. doi:10.2337/dci19-0014.
  3. ElSayed NA, Aleppo G, Aroda VR, et al., American Diabetes Association. Facilitating positive health behaviors and well-being to improve health outcomes: Standards of Care in Diabetes—2023. Diabetes Care 2023;46(Suppl. 1):S68–S96.
  4. ElSayed NA, Aleppo G, Aroda VR, et al. 8. Obesity and weight management for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes: Standards of care in diabetes-2023. Diabetes Care. 2023;46(Suppl 1):S128-S139. doi:10.2337/dc23-S008.
  5. Lomaira ⟨™⟩. Phentermine Prescribing Information. Published December 26, 2016. Accessed June 12, 2023.
  6. Contrave® Prescribing Information. Accessed June 13, 2023.
  7. Wegovy® Prescribing Information. Accessed June 12, 2023
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