Jenilee Matz has a master’s degree in public health and worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a health communications specialist. She writes for several health publications including Everyday Health, HealthDay, and Diabetic Connect.

Diabetes can be a difficult disease to manage. And if you're overweight, diabetes can be even harder to care for. But reaching and keeping a healthy weight may improve your blood sugar control. It can also lower your risk of diabetes complications like heart disease, kidney failure, and blindness.

Shedding pounds will also boost your energy, lighten the stress on your hips and knees, and possibly improve your self-esteem. So, how do you get started on your weight-loss journey?

Food for thought before you start

Chances are you've tried to lose weight before. Maybe you tried the newest diet plan or joined a fancy gym, only to fall short of your weight-loss target.

You can lose weight for good. Eating a nutritious diet and getting regular exercise are the cornerstones of a sound diabetes weight-loss plan. You also need one other component: realistic goals.

Realistic goals can help you lose weight and keep it off. Keep in mind that:

Even modest weight loss can help. Losing just 10 to 15 pounds can help lower your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol. Setting several small goals instead of one large goal can help keep you focused.

Fad diets don't work. While they might work in the short term, diet pills and plans that shun whole food groups are not the ticket to lasting weight loss. They can also be unsafe.

You need to be ready for change. Don't view the diet and exercise plan you'll use to reach a healthy weight as temporary. These lifestyle changes should stick around for good.

Gather your weight-loss allies

These people can be invaluable members of your weight-loss team:

Your doctor. Talk to your doctor about how you can reach a healthy weight. You may be closely monitored during weight loss to make sure your blood sugar levels stay in a healthy range.

A dietitian. Your body and your metabolism are different from everyone else's. A nutritionist can teach you how much, how often, and what you should eat. Is your biggest challenge portion control? Your dietitian can help you overcome your hurdles.

A personal trainer. If you don't know how to exercise properly or where to start, a personal trainer can help. If you can't afford a trainer or you aren't comfortable going to a gym, there are several online or DVD options you can look into.

Get started

These tips can get you started on your weight-loss journey:

• Focus on healthy foods. Your diet should focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean sources of protein, and low-fat dairy. Try vegetable soup or low-fat popcorn for a healthy, filling snack.

• Cut junk calories. Foods high in saturated and trans fats, sodium, and added sugar should be limited. Swap sugary beverages for water and choose veggies with a low-fat dip over chips.

• Tune out. Don't eat a meal or snack in front of the TV or computer. It's easy to miss your body cues and overeat when you're distracted.

• Get moving with exercise. Aim to be active for 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week. Choose an activity you enjoy so you'll stick with it. Brisk walking may be a great option.

• Watch your blood sugar. Starting a new eating or exercise plan may cause shifts in blood sugar. If you have trouble keeping your blood sugar near your goal, talk to your doctor.

Just get started. Take it day by day. You can do this.