Are You Gaining Weight?

Common causes and solutions for people with diabetes

gaining weightBy Joy Pape, RN, BSN, CDE, WOCN, CFCN

Whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, have you noticed that your weight is creeping up on you? You may wonder why and if there is anything you can do about it. The solutions may be easier than you think.

To fix a problem, you must first understand what may be causing it. Read on and see if any of these reasons for gaining weight sound like yours.

You gained weight after being diagnosed with diabetes.
Have you noticed you gained weight once you started to manage your diabetes? It is not unusual to gain weight when your blood sugars start coming down to your target levels. This can happen for several reasons. Before being diagnosed with diabetes, you may have lost weight, but this wasn't a healthy way of losing weight. You were losing weight because you had diabetes. Your blood sugars were up because your body couldn't use the calories from what you ate and drank for energy.  It takes insulin for your body to use these. Either your body was not making insulin, or at least not enough insulin to meet your body's needs, so… your body used alternative sources, such as your body's fat for energy. You may also have been urinating more to get rid of the excess sugar you couldn't use, which meant you were losing calories too. Losing fluid can also lead to dehydration, which leads to weight loss.  Once you started managing your diabetes, you were no longer using the alternative sources of energy or losing your calories and the additional fluid, so the number on your blood glucose meter went down but the number on your scale went up. Hopefully you also felt better, that is, until you looked at the scale. This was a good reason for gaining weight, but you don't want it to continue to go up, so read on for tips to stop your weight gain, and perhaps even lose some of those unwanted pounds.

The medicine you are taking to manage your diabetes may be causing you to gain weight.
Some medications to manage diabetes do cause weight gain. For example, if you have type 2 diabetes, you may be taking a sulfonylurea. You may know these medicines by the name of glipizide, glyburide, or glimiperide. Or, you may be taking one of another class of medicines called thiozolidinediones, such as pioglitazone or rosiglitazone, or yet another called meglitinides such as repaglinide or nateglinide. If so, talk with your health care provider to see if you can be changed to a more weight neutral medicine or even a medicine that may help you lose weight along with helping you manage your blood sugar.

You may be gaining weight because of low blood sugar.
If you have ever had low blood sugar you know that you are extremely hungry at that time and sometimes not even thinking straight. When your blood sugar is low, it's easy to eat or drink more than you are aware of.  You just want to feel better. When you over treat, your blood sugar gets too high, and because taking in more carbs and calories can cause weight gain. It is best to prevent low blood sugar, but that's not always possible, so be prepared for them. The best way to prevent them is to balance your food, activity, and action of your medicine, including insulin, to prevent lows. If and when the lows catch you unaware, have something with you to treat it, not over treat it. Check out the Rule of 15 to learn more about how to treat low blood sugar.

Being insulin resistant can cause weight gain.
Most people think of type 2 diabetes when they think of insulin resistance, but many people who have type 1 diabetes are insulin resistant too. Being insulin resistant means your body "fights" the insulin you make or you take, which means you need more insulin to get your blood sugar into your target range. There are ways to make your body more sensitive to insulin so the insulin is more effective. One way is to lose weight by eating healthy and staying active, but this doesn't work for all people who have diabetes. It is important for you to continue these healthy habits, but you may also need some help such as mentioned above. Also, if you do take insulin, there are other medicines that work in other parts of your body such as metformin, incretins, and/or SGLT-2 inhibitors that may help you be more sensitive to the insulin you take or help you lose weight and therefore be more sensitive to your insulin.

When it comes to your medicine, dLife is not recommending you make any medicine changes on your own. Always discuss your diabetes management with your diabetes health care team, so that together you can come up with the plan that's best for you.

Learn more about it:

Are You Losing Smart?

9 Beight Weight-Loss Tips

Secrets to Keeping the Weight Off


Read Joy's bio here. 

Read more of Joy Pape's columns.

NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition.

Last Modified Date: April 24, 2014

All content on is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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