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Weight and Diabetes

Being at a healthy weight is a good idea for everyone, but it's even more important for kids with diabetes. Why? Because carrying extra weight can make it harder to keep blood sugar levels under control.

When kids with diabetes are at a healthy weight, they may have fewer diabetes problems. This is true for all people with diabetes — whether they have type 1 or type 2.

Diabetes and Your Weight

What Happens in Diabetes?

When someone has diabetes, his or her body doesn't use glucose (say: GLOO-kose) properly. Glucose, a sugar, is the main source of energy for the body. Glucose comes from the foods we eat. Glucose levels are controlled in the body by a hormone called insulin (say: IN-suh-lin), which is made in the pancreas.

Most people are overweight when they first find out they have type 2 diabetes. The extra weight can make it harder for their bodies to use insulinThat's why people who have type 2 diabetes will be encouraged to get to a healthy weight by eating right and getting regular exercise. Exercise not only burns calories, but it can also help the body use insulin. This makes it easier to keep blood sugar levels on track.

Being at a healthy weight makes it less likely that someone will get type 2 diabetes. And if someone already has type 2 diabetes, losing weight can make their diabetes easier to manage and can even reduce the amount of medicine they need.

With type 1, kids may have the opposite problem — weight loss. Before they know they have type 1 diabetes, kids may lose weight because their bodies can't use glucose properly. Once someone knows they have type 1 diabetes and gets treatment, he or she usually gets back to a healthy weight.

It's also possible a kid with type 1 diabetes might be overweight. If so, the extra weight can make it hard to keep blood sugar levels under control.

Are You at a Healthy Weight?

Doctors use your weight and height to calculate your body mass index (BMI). The BMI is a number that helps doctors figure out whether your weight is healthy.

Your doctor will tell you if you should lose weight to manage your diabetes. If it turns out you don't need to lose weight, you can still help your health by eating good-for-you foods and getting a lot of play time.

If your doctor wants you to lose some weight, you might feel upset or sad. But try to focus your energy on getting healthy. You can do it — with some help from your family, doctor, and the rest of your health care team!

Your diabetes meal plan already helps you know what foods to eat, so you may just need to eat a little less and be more active. It doesn’t have to be boring or hard — you can just do more fun stuff like ride your bike, play outside with your friends, or dance to your favorite music in your room.

Kids with diabetes should never try fad diets or skipping meals or snacks to lose weight. These things aren't good for anyone, and they're especially bad for kids with diabetes. You need to keep your blood sugar levels on track, and extreme diets can mess them up. Also, never skip insulin injections to lose weight — it can make you get very sick in just a few hours!

If you follow your doctor's advice about food and exercise, you can reach your weight-loss goal — safely and successfully.

Reviewed by: Shara R. Bialo, MD
Date reviewed: October 2016

Note: All information on KidsHealth® is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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