How to Reach Your Body Goals without Obsessing over Weight
Editor’s Note: Meet and learn from Christel (Diabetes Strong) at our upcoming Slipstream weekend in Southern California – September 6 – 8. She’ll be leading sessions on exercise + T1D. Get your questions answered + enjoy a weekend with the T1D community. Register here.
If you want to shrink your waistline, your first inclination is probably to start dieting and monitoring your progress by stepping on the bathroom scale weekly, or maybe even daily.
As a personal trainer, and especially as a personal trainer who specializes in helping people living with diabetes reach their fitness goals, I always recommend a strength building fitness plan over a simple diet plan. Aiming for “strong over skinny” also means shifting focus from the number on the scale to improving your fitness and diabetes management. There are many reasons why a resistance training plan is superior to a simple diet, here are a few.
I think most people would agree that being “toned” or “fit” is more attractive than being “skinny.” The thing is, you can’t be toned without first building some muscle mass. If you don’t, you’ll simply become a smaller version of yourself when you diet down, and, unless you’re naturally muscular, you won’t look “toned.”
Improves Type 1 diabetes management
Adding resistance training to your fitness routine will not only help you achieve that toned look, it can also make your diabetes management easier. Yep, you heard that right! Resistance training can improve your insulin sensitivity up to 72 hours after a good hard session. That means you’ll need less insulin, and if you combine that with a good diet of complex carbs, lean proteins and healthy fats, you have an awesome recipe for good blood sugar readings.
Burns more calories
Resistance training will also permanently improve your calorie burn. While cardio (e.g. going for a run) will have you burning energy during your run, adding muscles to your frame will have you burning more calories 24/7. Because restricting your calories (dieting) makes your body burn less calories to compensate for the fewer calories you eat, adding resistance training is a great way to keep your metabolism high and healthy.
Reduced risk of hypoglycemia
From a diabetes perspective, it can also be easier to manage your blood sugar during resistance training versus during cardio sessions. Most people will see their blood sugar decrease rapidly while doing cardio, increasing the risk of exercise induced hypoglycemia. There are, of course, ways to reduce that risk but if this is something you struggle with, resistance training might be the perfect workout type for you.
For most people, resistance training will not make their blood sugar decrease – it might even make it increase a little – but this is something you’ll have to test out for yourself. The type of training, carbohydrates consumed, stress level, time of day, etc. will all influence how your body reacts to resistance training.
Changes body’s look
As you work on your strength and build a little more muscle, you might actually see your weight stay the same or even go up a little. However, you will start to see changes in how your body look, and hopefully you’ll stop worrying about the numbers on the scale.
I’ve seen great examples of people’s weight staying the same, but their body composition changing completely.
The reason why you might see the scale move very little in comparison to the progress you see in the mirror is that muscle is denser than fat. So, even if you lose a larger volume of fat than you gain muscle volume, your weight may stay the same.
Although there is more to it, this is the main reason why the number on the bathroom scale shouldn’t be the ultimate determinant of whether your fitness program is successful.
Of course, you also need a good nutrition plan to see the desired results, but instead of just jumping on the latest fad diet, learn how to find your daily calorie need and make sure to eat enough to maintain your metabolism and fuel your workouts. You don’t need to starve yourself to see results!