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7 Steps to Reverse Obesity and Diabetes

7 Steps to Reverse Obesity and Diabetes

What disease affects EVERY other American and one in four kids? Type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes. Type 2 diabetes in America has tripled since the 1980s, and researchers estimate one in three Americans will have diabetes by mid-century. More than one-third of American adults are obese1. And one in three Medicare dollars is spent on diabetes making it the biggest driver of our federal debt. Sadly, these numbers continue to increase. Overall, it’s not a pretty picture, and experts predict things will only become worse.

I use the term “diabesity” to describe the continuum of health problems ranging from mild insulin resistance and overweight to obesity and diabetes. Diabesity is the underlying cause of most heart disease, cancer, and premature death in the world.

Tragically, these conditions are also 100% preventable and reversible.

Most people believe diabetes is not reversible. That’s unfortunate, considering its numerous complications including kidney failure, amputation, stroke, and dementia. I’ve also heard experts claim obesity is difficult to treat and maintaining long-term weight loss is almost impossible.

I wholeheartedly disagree. Science shows diabetes and obesity are preventable and reversible with aggressive utilize nutrition and lifestyle modifications.

It is caused by the 152 pounds of sugar and 146 pounds of flour a year eaten on average by every American – that is a toxic drug dose of diabetes causing food.

It is well known that massively obese patients can reverse their diabetes within a few weeks of getting a gastric bypass, even if they haven’t lost that much weight.  Why?  Because food is medicine and when you take disease producing food out and put the right food in the healing happens quickly.  I recently had a patient lose 45 pounds and get off 54 units of insulin and all his diabetes medication. I implement these seven strategies every day with patients to prevent, treat, and reverse diabesity without drugs and surgery. 

Pull the sugar. A diet full of empty calories and quickly absorbed sugar, liquid sugar calories, and refined carbohydrates – all of which convert to sugar – creates high insulin levels, eventually leading to insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes. Among the many problems of chronically high insulin levels include inflammation, high blood pressure, poor sex drive, increased risk for cancer, and depression. The most important thing you can do to reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity or reversing its impact is to eliminate or dramatically reduce sugar in all its many disguises. 

Stock up on whole, unprocessed foods. Whole, unprocessed real foods balance your blood sugar, reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, and improve your liver detoxification to prevent or reverse insulin resistance and diabetes. Choose a rich variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, plenty of omega-3 fats, coconut butter and olive oil, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Whole, real foods turn on all the right gene messages, promote a healthy metabolism, reverse insulin resistance and diabetes, and prevent aging and age-related diseases like diabetes and heart disease.

Get the right nutrients. Supplements make your cells more sensitive to insulin and more effective at metabolizing sugar and fat. Combined with the right diet and lifestyle modifications, they can help you balance blood sugar and reverse or prevent diabetes. At the very minimum, I recommend:

I’ve put together all the supplements I recommend for managing diabesity in a kit which you can find here. Other nutrients also play a role in balancing blood sugar and normalizing insulin levels, and I’ve discussed these more fully in my book, The Blood Sugar Solution or on this page. 

Get the right exercise. You needn’t spend hours at a gym to get exercise’s benefits. Even a 30-minute walk can help. Vigorous is the key for effective exercise that helps balance blood sugar and lower insulin levels. Get your heart rate up to 70 – 80% of its maximum capacity for 60 minutes, up to six times a week. Step it up a few notches with high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and strength training.Studies show HIIT can benefit Type 2 diabetes2 and obesity3. Best of all, you can do it in just minutes a day.

Get sufficient sleep. Lack of sleep or poor sleep damages your metabolism, spikes sugar and carb cravings, makes you eat more, and increases your risk for numerous diseases including Type 2 diabetes. One study among healthy subjects found even a partial night’s poor sleep4 could induce insulin resistance. That’s why you must prioritize sleep so you get eight hours of solid, uninterrupted shuteye every night. Create a sleep ritual that includes herbal therapies, creating total darkness and quiet, and relaxing with my UltraBath.

Control stress levels. In the face of chronic stress, our levels of insulin, cortisol, and inflammatory compounds called cytokines all increase. This drives the relentless metabolic dysfunction that leads to weight gain, insulin resistance, and eventually Type 2 diabetes. The links between stress, weight gain, mental disorders, and blood sugar imbalances show that managing stress becomes a critical component of obesity and diabetes management. You can’t eliminate stress, but you can learn to control it. Meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, massage, laughing, and dancing are among the best ways to manage stress and reverse Type 2 diabetes. Check out my blog to learn five ways to never be stressed again.

Measure to improve. Research shows that people who track their results lose twice as much weight and do twice as well. Begin by getting a journal to track your progress in. That could be as simple as a pad of paper, a notebook, a spreadsheet in your computer, or whatever is convenient and works for you. Now, what should you track? In addition to what you eat, you’ll want to get a baseline of all measurements: your weight, weight, waist size, body mass index (BMI), and blood pressure (optional).Many patients become inspired when they see their results on paper.

Would you like help in balancing your blood sugar, losing weight, preventing disease and feeling great? Check out The Blood Sugar Solution 8 week program.

Have you already implemented food and lifestyle modifications to reverse or prevent diabetes or obesity? Tell us your story! Share your comments below or on my Facebook fan page.

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Overweight and Obesity.
2Shaban N1, Kenno KA, Milne KJ., The effects of a 2 week modified high intensity interval training program on the homeostatic model of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) in adults with type 2 diabetes., J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2014 Apr;54(2):203-9.
3Gremeaux V1, Drigny J, Nigam A, Juneau M, Guilbeault V, Latour E, Gayda M., Long-term lifestyle intervention with optimized high-intensity interval training improves body composition, cardiometabolic risk, and exercise parameters in patients with abdominal obesity., Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 2012 Nov;91(11):941-50. doi: 10.1097/PHM.0b013e3182643ce0.
4Donga E1, van Dijk M, van Dijk JG, Biermasz NR, Lammers GJ, van Kralingen KW, Corssmit EP, Romijn JA., A single night of partial sleep deprivation induces insulin resistance in multiple metabolic pathways in healthy subjects., J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2010 Jun;95(6):2963-8. doi: 10.1210/jc.2009-2430. Epub 2010 Apr 6.

Mark Hyman MD is the Medical Director at Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, the Founder of The UltraWellness Center, and a ten-time #1 New York Times Bestselling author.

Comments (18)

  • Back in 2009 my husband and I started on an incredible weight loss journey. At the time he had just graduated to three prescription medications. He wanted to stop the downward spiral – medication causing side effects that get treated with more medication. My weight gain was causing concern because my blood pressure was getting out of normal range. My husband was able to lose a lot of weight and we both regained our health by starting with drastically reducing our salt intake

    Our focus on reading the sodium content on nutrition labels made us realize how much salt is added to processed foods- sauces, cheese, frozen dinners, condiments, salad dressings- the list goes on. We started increasing our intake of whole foods. Lots of fresh vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds- all unsalted. The results we achieved in this simple change of reducing sodium piqued our interest in how the foods we eat affect our health. Since then we continued to learn as much as we can about nutrition so that we can eat well, be healthy and feel great. We’ve also learned new ways to prepare food to make them just as enticing without the added salt.

    We share our experiences in our blog-

  • I really loved your website and all the information it provides for Diabetes and eating plan. I do not have high sugar but have very high insulin production, which means my body is insulin resistant. I am a vegetarian, been that way all my life. But went through huge work stress. I do exercise but not as much I should. I will follow your recommendations and write about it here again.

    Thank you.

  • Thanks for the insights on insulin&foods.

    Its a relief to find a Dr. who has the wellbeing of people in mind. i also found a previous article on blood pressure very helpful too.

    It is all too common for disinformation, or the absence of information to come from healthcare practitioners and this blog has been a great stand for health an honesty in an ever growing dishonest industry.

    thanks so much for your commitment to what is good and right!

  • That is a great article Dr. Hyman. But there’s one important point that I think needs elaboration. The “stress” component. We have to eliminate the reasons why people over eat in the first place. In my experience as a Holistic Healer for a Happy & Healthy Brain, they develop the habit as a means to hide from the world, or to self abuse. Why? Because they were treated poorly (or they come from families who’ve been treated poorly), and they don’t believe that are worthy of treating themselves well. When you release the trauma, the shame, feelings of unworthiness, the addictions, that self love begins to shine through. And when you truly love yourself, you will treat your body well. Meditation, yoga, laughter and dance all help w/stress and general. But in my experience EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), The Emotion Code and the Body Code are far more effective in releasing trauma around specific events or thought patterns. I worked with an obese client that lost 30 Ibs in 2 months (she was not dieting, but was finally taking care of herself). I did not talk to her about diet. Most people have some general sense of good and bad foods. But I did release shame, trauma, fear of getting well (which was significant), feelings of unworthiness and other contributing factors to low self-esteem. You can learn more about my methods,testimonials and articles at

  • Indeed obesity is a big problem and we are vulnerable to this “disease”. Fast food is the main reason which triggers obesity. We really have to be more careful with what we eat and when we eat because after all these we have to take diet and to take weight loss supplements. Additional information about obesity you can find here

  • 12/28/2014: I’m a diabetic, due to several elements; stress, no interest, domestic misery, less activity, over-70, worldly problems, elder responsibilities, health problems, elder problems,
    frustration, sensitivity, emotional burnout, pain, internal discomfort, bladder problems, colon problems, death loss, pet loss, and deficient satisfaction in life at my age.

    • ROSALIE – I encourage you to listen, use the methods that are in this article, create change in your life. Waiting isn’t going to help. You will never know what is right for you unless you take that step and try what is presented to you. At least what is being said here isn’t going to make things worse. It’s a step in the right direction and if it happens to be the solution for you, it will reveal it self in your journey for answers. I have a journey I’m on could have done this or 5 years ago and not be in the current state of health I’m in do to waiting for the right solution. I have now about 200 lbs to lose just to be in my target weight zone for my body type and diabetes to reverse. I started my journey just over 30 days ago I’m down 35 lbs. Please join me and make those changes.

  • I have some problems picking up the right weight loss supplements. In my search I did discovered that the majority of weight loss supplements are made in China and they are not effective. Finally I did find some popular weight loss supplements that are made in USA and I want to give it a try . But first can you please tell me if a “diabesity” person can use one of this weight loss supplements?

  • I lack discipline in every aspect of my life. I understand that sugar affects the brain center that is identical to heroin etc. I am 74 years old and along with battling addiction to sugar and high glycemic index foods I battle the problem of sticking to any discipline. What do you suggest? I am diabetic.

    Thank you for your help in targeting my problem with discipline. I look at people who are trained or naturally this way with a tremendous envy, which only increases my sense of helplessness. I do understand that I am the only one who can change this.

  • I am not diabetic…yet, but it is certainly in the family. The belly fat came on rather quickly and surprise, after 5 years of intense family stress (Plus many of the long list Rosalie mentions) and crisis issues that I took on alone as the family fixer. I will just assume it was cortisol related. Wasn’t sleeping well. Very active, I found myself fatigued in all ways. My joints were aching. I had knee surgery and walked with a cane. I read that food choice is sometimes the only thing you can ‘control’ when everything else is out of whack. I found myself taking little bites here and there and of course those add up!! Tara and Rosalie, please do not do this alone. But identifying your list is a good start to take to a professional. I believe our higher power wants us to achieve the greatness within. I am now on a journey to find that healthy body I lost and have the mobility and energy I once did so I can enjoy the ‘final third’ of my life. I am visualizing the ‘old me’ which was the young me! I had many interests and am rediscovering those again. Smile. Take naps. Play your favorite music.Turning off the cell phone is a great freedom move. Well, that’s the short story, but be your own best friend and learn to say YES to a new way of doing things and NO when you need to. Blessings.

  • Basically your asking me to change my lifestyle….duh? Jokes aside, I have so much information about diet, nutrition and so forth, however all is futile if I do not get a grip on myself, ie. change my “lifestyle”-what is important to me…

  • i am overweight my bmi is 26.4 and Hb1AC test reveal 6.3% n fatty liver grade1 sir suggest ways to reverse my diabetic condition

  • Dear Dr. Mark Hyman,

    My father is diabetics and I actually would like him to make your 6 weeks detox diet.As it is said in your book that dairy should be avoided during the time of diet.I was wondering homemade yoghurt and kefir could still be counted as dairy.

    Thank you very much,

    • Hello Sinemyis,
      Both yogurt and kefir are sources of dairy and should be avoided during the 10-Day Detox Program. Your father can add fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut or kimchi to his diet as sources of probiotics.
      Wishing you and your father the best of health,
      Dr. Hyman Staff

  • Hi Mark,

    This is great article which driving best ways which we can control our regular activity and can prevent some daises.. all 7 way is truly effective ways..

    Sonia Bray

  • If you are supposed to take PGX before every meal — when do you take the supplements? (PGX will interfere with absorption of supplements — you aren’t supposed to take supplements within the time frame one would normally take supplements when you take PGX before every meal.) I have asked this question before and have never gotten a satisfactory answer.

  • “It is recommended that any oral medication be taken one hour before PGX and two to three hours after consuming the product.” So how do you take supplements or oral medication that is meant to be taken with food???