Losing weight can be difficult and suffering from Type 1 diabetes can make it even more challenging. The prevalence of obesity has increased in people with Type 1 diabetes in the last 20 years. Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition where the pancreas cannot produce insulin, which is a hormone responsible for managing blood sugar levels. In the absence of insulin, the body cells cannot use glucose, increasing its level in blood.

Certain factors, such as carbohydrate intake and lifestyle, can increase the risk of weight gain with Type 1 diabetes. But the good news is, with lifestyle and dietary modifications, you can lose weight. Moreover, losing even 5% – 10% of the initial weight aids in better glycemic control.

Type 1 Diabetes and Weight Gain

Various factors may influence weight when you have Type 1 diabetes. Some of them are:

  • Insulin types and units
  • Meal timings
  • Activity level
  • Total calorie and fat intake
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Sugar intake
  • Sleep quality
  • Stress levels

Type 1 Diabetes and Exercise

Staying active when you have Type 1 diabetes aids in losing weight as well as lowers the chance of complications, such as high blood pressure and vision loss. Regular exercise can also improve the quality of your life.

Types of Exercises

However, strenuous activities can drop your sugar levels, resulting in hypoglycemia. So, it is essential to consult your doctor before starting to exercise. Individuals with Type 1 diabetes are generally recommended to carry out moderate- to high-intensity aerobic exercises for at least 150 minutes per week. Some examples include: 

  • Swimming
  • Jogging
  • Dancing
  • Cycling
  • Walking
  • Playing soccer or basketball

In addition, two to three sessions of resistance exercises are also recommended. Some examples include:

  • Resistance band exercises
  • Body-weight exercises
  • Weight lifting 
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Precautions While Working Out

Various workouts can influence your blood sugar levels in unique ways, based on intensity, type, and duration for which they are carried out. Although exercising may increase your sugar levels, hypoglycemia is a more common consequence.

Here are some tips to prevent low blood sugar levels while working out:

  • Check your sugar levels before starting and every 30 minutes of exercising
  • Monitor your blood sugar levels hours after exercising
  • Stop exercising if you feel dizzy or uncomfortable
  • Finish workout at least two hours before going to bed
  • Have a fast acting-carbohydrate, such as fruit juice or carbohydrate tablets, handy while exercising

Your doctor may also advise reducing insulin dose on days when you exercise.

Type 1 Diabetes and Diet 

Diet can be a significant contributor to your weight. For instance, high carbohydrate intake results in the fluctuation of sugar levels, which requires more insulin to manage them. Higher doses of insulin results in building muscles as well as fat accumulation, increasing your weight. Being watchful of what you eat helps in losing weight. But, this doesn’t mean going overboard with dietary restriction as nutritional balance is equally important. Following are a few things that can help to lose weight with Type 1 diabetes.

Knowing Glycemic Load and Index of Foods 

Glycemic load and glycemic index are terms that aid in understanding the impact of food on blood sugar levels. Glycemic index (GI) indicates how quickly food can increase sugar levels. While glycemic load (GL) takes into consideration the quantity of carbohydrate in a portion of food in addition to how rapidly it increases blood glucose levels. The glycemic index helps in making food choices, and glycemic load aids in comparing portions of various food items. Food that ranks lower on GI and GL scale are better choices for people with Type 1 diabetes. 


Carbohydrates are the prime food category that influences blood sugar. However, they provide energy and other nutrients and thus cannot be eliminated entirely from the diet. The key is to take the right carbohydrate in adequate quantities. There are two main types of carbohydrates, simple and complex.

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Complex Carbohydrates

They include fiber and other nutrients, which slows down their absorption and aid in keeping blood glucose levels more stable.

Some common examples include:

  • Brown rice
  • Whole wheat
  • Oatmeal
  • Quinoa
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Lentils
  • Beans

Simple Carbohydrates

They are devoid of nutrients and thus results in a sudden blood sugar spike. Foods high in simple carbohydrates should, therefore, be avoided if you have Type 1 diabetes.

Some of them are:

  • White bread
  • Pasta
  • Sugar
  • Cookies
  • Flour
  • Pastries


Fats do not contribute much to blood sugar levels, but aid by slowing down the absorption of carbohydrates. However, types of fats may play an essential role in maintaining general health.

Some common fat sources to be consumed are:

  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Avocado
  • Olive oil

Some common fat sources to be avoided are:

  • Animal meat, such as lamb and beef
  • Palm and coconut oils
  • Chicken and pork products
  • Dairy products such as cheese and butter


Protein provides steady energy and has relatively little effect on blood sugar. Healthy proteins that can be consumed with Type 1 diabetes come from a plant source, some of them are:

  • Lentils
  • Beans
  • Seeds
  • Nuts
  • Soy
  • Peas

Some protein sources to avoid are:

  • Red meats
  • Ultra-pasteurized and non-organic milk 
  • Cheese

Tips for a Healthy Meal

A healthy meal plan for Type 1 diabetes is like any other diet that helps in preventing long-term disorders. However, those who have Type 1 diabetes should be more aware of the carbohydrate intake so that insulin can be appropriately dosed. For instance, 15 grams of carbohydrate requires one unit of insulin. The ratio may change depending on body weight, duration of diabetes, and physical activity. So, everyone with Type 1 diabetes should know their insulin to carbohydrate ratio.

Some other tips include:

  • Include healthy fats, protein, and smaller portion of complex carbohydrates
  • Consume carbohydrates with low GI and GL
  • Try to include proteins and fats from plant sources
  • Include nutrient-dense, colorful foods
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Trying to lose weight with Type 1 diabetes may be a challenging task that requires perseverance and dedication. However, committing to a healthy diet and lifestyle will help you with maintaining blood sugar levels as well as the quality of life. Be sure to consult your doctor or a medical professional for guidance before commencing your weight loss journey.

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