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Can Diabetes Cause Weight Gain?

Can Diabetes Cause Weight Gain?

Has your scale been creeping up since your diabetes diagnosis? You’re not alone! Many people wonder if diabetes is to blame for those extra kilograms. While diabetes itself doesn’t directly cause weight gain, the truth is a bit for nuanced. Several factors related to diabetes, from the role of insulin to certain medications, can contribute to weight changes.

In this blog post, we’ll break down the science behind diabetes and weight gain, explore why it happens and offer practical strategies for managing weight while living with diabetes. 

Understanding the Role of Insulin

Insulin is a hormone produced by your pancreas that acts like a key, unlocking your body’s calls so they can absorb glucose (sugar) from your bloodstream. This glucose is then used as energy to fuel your daily activities. 

However, in type 2 diabetes, your cells become resistant to insulin’s effects. This resistance means that glucose can’t easily enter your cells, leading to a build-up of sugar in your blood. Your pancreas tried to compensate by producing more insulin, but eventually, it can’t keep up. When glucose can’t be used for energy, your body stores the excess as fat, potentially leading to weight gain. 

Interestingly, insulin therapy can sometimes contribute to weight gain. This is because insulin helps your body store not only glucose but also fat. If you’re taking insulin and eating more calories than your body needs, that extra energy can be converted and stored as fat. 

Medications & Weight

Certain diabetes medications can also contribute to weight gain. These include: 

  • Sulfonylureas: Medications like glipizide, glyburide, and glimepiride stimulate the pancreas to produce more insulin, which can sometimes lead to weight gain.
  • Thiazolidinediones: Drugs such as pioglitazone and rosiglitazone work by improving insulin sensitivity, but they can also cause fluid retention and fat accumulation.
  • Insulin: While essential for many people with diabetes, insulin therapy can lead to weight gain if calorie intake isn’t carefully managed.

It’s crucial to remember that these are just potential side effects, and not everyone will experience them. If you’re concerned about weight gain related to your diabetes medication, don’t stop taking it abruptly. Instead, discuss your concerns with your doctor. They can help you explore alternative medications or adjust your dosage ensuring you manage your blood sugar effectively without unwanted weight gain.

Increased Appetite & Thirst

Increased blood sugar levels can affect your body’s hunger and thirst signals. While your blood sugar is elevated, your body may struggle to get glucose into your cells for energy. This lack of energy can trick your brain into thinking you’re starving, leading to increased appetite – a condition known as polyphagia.

In addition to feeling hungrier, you might also experience excessive thirst (polydipsia). High blood sugar levels force your kidneys to overtime to filter excess glucose. This process pulls fluid from your body tissues, leading to dehydration and triggering your thirst response. 

The combination of increased appetite and thirst can create a vicious cycle. You eat more to satisfy your hunger, but the excess calories can further raise your blood sugar. You drink more to quench your thirst, but this can lead to more frequent urination, further dehydrating you. Breaking this cycle is crucial for managing both your blood sugar and your weight. 

Kidney Function & Fluid Retention

Diabetes can also take a toll on your kidneys, affecting their ability to filter waste products and excess fluid in your body. When your kidneys aren’t functioning optimally, fluid can build up in your tissues, leading to swelling and weight gain. This fluid retention, known as edema, is often noticeable in your feet, ankles and legs. While the extra weight from fluid retention isn’t the same as gaining fat, it can still contribute to an increase in your overall body weight. 

Other Potential Contributing Factors

Beyond the direct effects of insulin, medication, and blood sugar fluctuations, other factors can contribute to weight gain in people with diabetes, such as: 

  • Decreased Physical Activity: Fatigue is a common symptom of diabetes, making it harder to stay active. Less exercise can lead to fewer calories burned and a potential for weight gain. 
  • Emotional Eating: Stress and anxiety are often part of living with a chronic condition like diabetes. From some, these emotions can trigger emotional eating where food is used as a coping mechanism. This can lead to consuming more calories than needed. 

It’s important to recognise that weight gain is diabetes is often a complex issue, with multiple contributing factors intertwining. By understanding these factors, you can take targeted steps to manage your weight and improve your overall well-being.

Managing Weight with Diabetes

Weight management with diabetes is achievable, and it starts with making healthy choices a part of your daily routine.

Healthy Eating Habits

A balanced diet is the cornerstone of weight management and blood sugar control. Focus on whole, unprocessed foods that nourish your body without causing spikes in blood sugar.

Limit Processed Foods & Added Sugars

Processed foods are often high in unhealthy fats, sodium and added sugars, which can contribute to weight gain and worsen insulin resistance. Opt for whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins instead.

Fibre helps slow down the absorption of sugar, keeping your blood sugar levels stable and promoting feelings of fullness. Include plenty of high-fiber foods like whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, oats), legumes (beans, lentils), fruits and vegetables in your diet.

Protein is essential for building and maintaining muscle mass, which helps burn calories and regulate blood sugar. Include lean protein sources like chicken, fish, tofu, beans, and low-fat dairy products in your meals.

A registered dietitian can help you create a personalised meal plan that meets your specific needs and preferences. They can also provide valuable guidance on portion control, carb counting, and other strategies for managing blood sugar and weight.

By making healthy food choices a priority, you’ll be well on your way to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight while effectively managing your diabetes.

Regular Exercise

Physical activity is a powerful tool for managing both blood sugar levels and weight in people with diabetes. When you exercise, your muscles use glucose for energy, helping to lower blood sugar levels. Regular physical activity also increases insulin sensitivity, making it easier for your body to use insulin effectively.

Don’t feel pressured to jump into intense workouts right away. The key is to find activities you enjoy and can stick with over time. Start slowly and gradually increase the duration and intensity of your workouts as you build up your fitness level.

Here are some great exercise options for people with diabetes:


A simple and accessible way to get moving. Aim for at least 30 minutes of brisk walking most days of the week.

A low-impact exercise that’s easy to on your joints while providing a full-body workout.


Whether outdoors or on a stationary bike, cycling is a great way to improve your cardiovascular health and burn calories.

Strength Training

Lifting weights or using resistance bands can help build muscle mass, which boosts your metabolism and makes it easier to maintain a healthy weight.

Remember, every bit of movement counts. Even short bursts of activity throughout the day can make a difference. Talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise program, especially if you have any complications from diabetes. They can help you create a safe and effective exercise plan that fits your individual needs and abilities.

Medication Adjustments

Open communication with your doctor is key to managing your diabetes effectively. If you’re experiencing weight gain and suspect your medication might be a contributing factor, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor. They can review your current medications, assess any potential side effects, and explore alternative options that may be more weight-neutral.

In some cases, adjusting the dosage of your current medication might be sufficient to address weight gain concerns. Other times, switching to a different medication altogether might be the best course of action. Your doctor will consider your individual health needs, medical history, and treatment goals when making any adjustments to your medication regimen.

Seeking Support

Managing diabetes and weight can be challenging, but you don’t have to do it alone. Connecting with others who understand what you’re going through can provide invaluable support and encouragement.

  • Diabetes Support Groups: Considering joining a diabetes support group, either in person or online. Sharing your experiences, challenges, and successes with others can help you stay motivated and gain valuable experiences.
  • Individual Counselling: Talking to a therapist or counsellor can help you develop coping mechanisms for stress, anxiety, or emotional eating that may be contributing to weight gain. They can also provide support and guidance as you navigate the challenges of managing diabetes.


The relationship between diabetes and weight gain is complex, influenced by a combination of factors like insulin’s role, medication side effects, increased appetite, and lifestyle habits. While diabetes itself doesn’t directly cause weight gain, it can create conditions that make it easier to put on kilograms.

However, don’t be discouraged. Weight management is possible with diabetes. By prioritising healthy eating, regular exercise, and open communication with your doctor about medications, you can take charge of your health and maintain a healthy weight. Remember, small, sustainable changes can lead to significant results over time.

Ready to take the next step in your weight management journey?

At My Weight Loss Clinic, our team of clinicians is here to provide personalised guidance and support. We understand the unique challenges faced by individuals with diabetes and can help you develop a tailored plan to achieve your weight loss goals safely and effectively. Book your initial consultation with us today and let us empower you to take control of your weight and your health.

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