What to Do If You Have Type 2 Diabetes

While not designed for those with diabetes, the Weight Watchers program embraces the principles of healthy living. Weight Watchers recommends that those with diabetes seek advice from their healthcare professional for any adaptations to the program.
What to Do If You Have Type 2 Diabetes

Weight loss is a cornerstone of type 2 diabetes treatment. Research has shown that a long-term weight loss of five to seven percent of initial weight can be achieved by most people with diabetes through involvement in a lifestyle program that includes making wise food choices, being physically active and on-going participation.1 This amount of weight loss been shown to result in a 25 percent reduced risk of death.2

Weight Watchers is a lifestyle program designed for people who have not been told by their doctor to follow a special diet or exercise regimen as part of their medical treatment. Special diets are referred to as Medical Nutrition Therapy and usually provided by a Registered Dietitian (RD) and exercise regimens are done under the guidance of a Licensed Physical Therapist (LPT). For those with diabetes, these diet and fitness programs may come from a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE).

While not designed for those with diabetes, the Weight Watchers program embraces the principles of healthy living. For those with diabetes, some additional guidelines are often recommended. For example:

Strive to keep total carbohydrate intake consistent from meal-to-meal and day-to day.
It is not possible to convert the PointsPlus system into exchanges or grams of carbohydrate. However, experience-based estimation of carbohydrate intake has been shown to be as effective as exchanges and carb-counting.

Eat sugary foods and alcoholic beverages as part of a meal.
Global recommendations for the treatment of diabetes recognize that sugar can be considered in total carbohydrate intake and the moderate use of alcohol does not need to be avoided. To minimize the effect that either sugar or alcohol can have on blood sugar levels, having them in moderation and as part of a regular meal is often advised.

Choose foods with a low glycemic index (GI).
Research has shown that people following the Weight Watchers food plan have the same reductions in weight and improvements in blood sugar handling as those assigned to follow a low GI diet.3

Increase physical activity.
The activity plan in the Weight Watchers program mirrors the recommendations made by the guidelines for the treatment of diabetes. It is especially important, however, for those with diabetes to be physically active because it improves insulin sensitivity irrespective of weight loss.

If diagnosed with diabetes, Weight Watchers recommends sharing the program materials with your healthcare providers (e.g., MD, RD, LPT, CDE). They will be able to provide specific recommendations on how to adapt the program to your individual needs. Any recommendations they provide should supersede information received as part of a Weight Watchers membership.

This content is reviewed regularly. Last updated December 17, 2011.

view footnotes


Check out our Science Library or read more about Science and Weight Watchers.


1 Franz MJ et al. Evidence-based nutrition principles and recommendations for the treatment and prevention of diabetes and related complications. Diabetes Care 25:148 –198,2002.

2 Aucott L et al. Weight loss in obese diabetic and non-diabetic individuals and long-term diabetes outcomes--a systematic review. Diabetes Obes Metab 6(2):85-94,2004.

3 Brosnahan J et al. Portion Control, Low Energy Density, and Low Glycemic Index Diets Yield Comparable Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load Values When Provided as Part of a Comprehensive Weight-Loss Program. Obesity 14 (Suppl):A181,2006.