Ways to Manage Weight When Movement Is Limited




People with type 2 diabetes (T2D) often hear from medical professionals that they need to lose weight for a variety of reasons—from the ability to have better blood glucose levels (BGLs) to being able to qualify for surgery. Often the tips for weight loss are simply to move more and eat less. But how can you do that when you can’t move easily? And what about lifestyle or behavior change? It turns out that the focus should be on more than just the scale when it comes to weight management.

Even though there’s more to health than weight, the reason why so many medical professionals prescribe weight loss is because it has been found to impact health, affecting measures like BGLs and decreasing the risk of cardiovascular events. 

However, it’s a well-known fact that weight loss is hard to achieve. There are a couple theories about what our bodies do that makes losing weight challenging. 

Why weight management is difficult

It goes without saying that losing weight isn’t easy, and there’s a good reason for that. According to the set point theory, our bodies have a predetermined weight in our DNA, affecting how much it changes from baseline. The theory also states that bodies have a regulatory system that maintains our weight. Even if weight goes up or down, it will eventually return to baseline. Some researchers believe that weight increases despite having a set point because the system stops working as effectively while leptin and insulin resistance develop. 

When people do try to lose weight, bodies fight it by putting measures in place, such as slowing down metabolism and increasing cravings. 

Another weight-related theory exists called the “settling point” model. This idea states that weight is impacted by more than one factor—it’s a mix of environmental and biological elements. 

Ultimately, these are theories and more research needs to be done. However, whether or not movement is limited, taking a big-picture approach and focusing on behavior change can impact weight and other areas of health, including better BGLs and gastrointestinal function.

Focus on behavior change

Behavior change means you are implementing actions that take the focus solely off the scale while also benefiting your health. It’s important to make changes that are sustainable, so try not to do too much at once or implement behaviors that you won’t continue long-term. 

Get better sleep

Sleep impacts weight for several reasons. Lack of sleep affects hormone levels associated with hunger by increasing ghrelin, which brings about feelings of hunger, and decreasing leptin, which makes you feel full. Having low energy also makes it more likely to eat foods higher in calories, sugar and fat in order to increase energy levels. 

Pay attention to nutrients

Making sure to include protein, fat and fiber in your eating pattern can impact your weight. Protein-containing foods, fat-containing options and fiber-containing foods all lead to increased satiety. 

Foods with protein include:

Fat-containing options include:

Foods with fiber include:

  • Fruits
  • Veggies
  • Whole grains

Plus, these nutrients take longer to digest, which decreases the likelihood of having spikes in BGLs. This means you’re less likely to feel hungry or low on energy due to hyperglycemia or high BGLs.

Drink enough water

We know that water plays a role in overall health, from increasing energy to preventing constipation. But, it also impacts weight by increasing satiety and metabolism. 

So how much water should you be drinking? How much water you need is individualized. Drinking water throughout the day, especially when you’re thirsty or experiencing other symptoms of dehydration like headache or difficulty concentrating, can ensure you meet your body’s needs.

Practice mindful eating

This is a way of eating that involves mindfulness so you can pay full attention to your cravings and physical cues when eating. Mindful eating includes eating slowly without distractions, listening to and honoring hunger and fullness cues, practicing gratitude for your food and noticing how food impacts your feelings and body. Studies have shown that eating mindfully can help with weight loss by changing eating behaviors and decreasing stress. 

While weight loss isn’t easy, especially when movement is limited, there are different areas to focus on for health. Getting quality sleep, eating a variety of foods that provide different nutrients, staying hydrated and eating mindfully can benefit blood glucose levels, stress levels and the number on the scale. 

If you are looking for support as you navigate managing type 2 diabetes and weight, consider joining the Beyond Type 2 Community!

Editor’s Note: This content was made possible with support from Lilly, an active partner of Beyond Type 2 at the time of publication.

WRITTEN BY Kourtney Johnson, POSTED 09/01/23, UPDATED 09/05/23

Kourtney is a registered dietitian living with type 1 diabetes. She was inspired to study nutrition after learning about the role food plays in managing this condition. When she’s not writing about all things food and diabetes-related, she enjoys reading, cooking, traveling, going to the beach and spending time with loved ones.


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