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Tackling obesity

Nearly two-thirds of all Americans are overweight or obese. That means just one-third of the nation fall into the healthy weight range.

Losing just 5 percent of your total body weight over six months can prevent type 2 diabetes or reduce the amount of medications you need if you have diabetes. Exercise and a healthy diet can also prevent major health problems in the future.

Which group are you in?

If you have type 2 diabetes, chances are that you are overweight or obese. The majority of all people with type 2 diabetes struggle to maintain a healthy weight.

Curious about your weight?

You can determine if you are at a healthy weight by calculating your body mass index, or BMI. BMI is a way of looking at weight in relation to body size to determine if a person is underweight, healthy or overweight.

A free BMI calculator is available from Johns Hopkins.

What do the numbers mean?

  • Healthy weight: BMI less than 25 kg/m2

  • Overweight: BMI greater than 25 kg/m2

  • Obese: BMI greater than 30 kg/m2

Weight loss options: Where to begin?

  • Exercise and a healthy diet: Regardless of which diet makes the most headlines, the key to losing weight will always be regular exercise and a healthy diet. Ask your doctor to recommend a nutritionist, who can help you design an individualized meal plan. Eating a healthy, balanced diet doesn’t have to be a chore.

  • Weight-loss (bariatric) surgery: Some people who are severely overweight opt for surgery to help them lose weight. Please see the bariatric surgery section for more information on these weight-loss options.

  • Medications for weight loss: Weight-loss drugs have been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These drugs offer very mild weight loss, and most people eventually gain the weight back once they stop taking the drug.

    • Orlistat works by preventing the body from absorbing fats. The undigested fat travels through the colon and comes out with the person’s bowel movements. Orlistat offers minimal weight loss (about 6 pounds a year), but it has side effects, such as oily diarrhea, gas and stomach cramping.
    • Phentermine works in the brain to reduce appetite. This drug causes a number of side effects, including heart palpitations, high blood pressure, a racing heartbeat, dizziness, euphoria and difficulty sleeping. On average, people lose about 7 to 8 pounds after six months on phentermine.
    • Lorcaserin works in the brain to reduce appetite, leading to weight loss. Lorcaserin leads to a minimal weight loss (about 6 to 8 pounds) with side effects that may include headaches, respiratory infections and nausea.

Important warning

Be wary of over-the-counter weight-loss drugs. These drugs have not been approved by the FDA. Always consult your doctor before trying any new medication or supplement.

What it all means

Most people with diabetes struggle with their body weight. With regular exercise and a healthy, portion-controlled diet, weight loss will occur, though it’s not always easy. Keeping the weight off is equally as important as losing the weight in the first place, so commit to a healthy lifestyle.

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