Not everybody with diabetes needs to lose weight. Some people have the opposite problem; the pounds just won’t stay on. Although certainly a great source of calories, filling up on hot fudge sundaes isn’t the best way to fill out your frame if you have diabetes.
Before we talk about some healthful strategies for weight gain, it is important to make sure your efforts to add a few pounds are not sabotaged by out of control blood glucose numbers. If your glucose level is very high, all the extra calories in the world won’t have the desired effect. When the body perceives it is starving –that is essentially what occurs when it can’t use all the glucose building up in the blood stream– glucose (energy or calories) spills into the urine. So instead of keeping those precious calories to add muscle and some fat you will end up losing weight.
If you are losing weight and your glucose levels are in good control then a visit to your health care provider is in order to look for other causes of weight loss.
The old adage says; to gain a pound a week, add 500 calories a day to your current calorie level. Now new research tells us that this isn’t entirely accurate, but it is still a good place to start. You can find out about how many calories you are eating now by using any one of a hundreds of nutrition management websites on the internet: Caloriecount.com, Myfitnesspal.com and Fitday.com are three options.
One of the first things to look at when you are trying to gain weight is low calorie foods to eliminate. Plain beverages such as black coffee or tea, broth soups, low calorie salads all fill you up without providing much in the way of calories. All of your food chooses should be as calorie dense as possible. If you like salads for example, keep the lettuce to a minimum and add nuts, low fat cheese, olives and avocado to the mix and use a regular, oil-based salad dressing. Choose low fat milk and bean or cream soups made with low fat milk for higher calorie liquid options.
The calories you add to your diet should come from all the macronutrient groups: carbohydrate, protein and healthful fat. And yes, you can add more carbohydrate. As your calorie needs increase, so do your carbohydrate requirements. Let’s say you want your diet to be 40 percent to 50 percent carbohydrate and you are adding an additional 500 calories. In that case, 200 to 250 calories can come from carbohydrate (these should be healthful carbohydrates and spread throughout the day to avoid spikes in blood glucose levels).
Healthful fats and oils can also be your friends. Fats pack a whopping 9 calories per gram which is great news for people who are trying to bulk up. Instead of broiling that piece of chicken, pan sauté it in a tablespoon of oil. You have just added an extra 125 calories. Thinking of fruit for dessert? Have that apple or banana with a tablespoon or two of nut butter. Try almond or cashew butter as a change of pace from peanut butter.
Eat more often: fit in at least two to three snacks per day.
And although you might think that eliminating exercise may sound like a good plan (after all exercise does burn calories), it isn’t the right way to go. Exercise, especially resistance training, can help you put on the proper type of weight. It can help make sure you are adding muscle and not just extra fat. But if you are exercising excessively—say two hours every day of the week at high intensity—then you may want to cut back.
Consistency is one of the most important strategies for both gaining and, for that matter, losing weight. It is difficult to be consistent on the long haul. That’s why keeping food and exercise records are important. Writing down what you eat tells you if you have eaten up to your calorie goal every day (while taking into consideration the amount of energy you have expended with exercise).
And weighing yourself once a week will tell you if you are going in the right direction. If you still don’t find that the pounds will stay on, a visit to a registered dietitian is in order.