Health: Ask the Expert: Slimming Down With Chronic Pain

Dear Jenna, Since I turned 50, I have put on 20 lbs. and can’t seem to stick to any diet. I’m about 60 lbs. overweight and have chronic pain of fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis. Any suggestions for me?

Fibromyalgia, a chronic condition that causes widespread pain in the muscles, tendons and ligaments, as well as extreme fatigue, definitely makes losing weight difficult. But your situation is not hopeless.


Fibromyalgia, a chronic condition that causes widespread pain in the muscles, tendons and ligaments, as well as extreme fatigue, definitely makes losing weight difficult. But your situation is not hopeless.

Because you’re dealing with persistent pain, I would look to your diet before setting high expectations for a new workout routine. Also, dropping the extra pounds will help your joints, which are taxed due to the extra weight that you’re carrying.

First of all, forget the word “diet.” It’s just setting you up for another cycle of restricting and binging, which, inevitably, leads to more feelings of failure and self-hate. (Which is definitely what we’re trying to avoid!) But not being “on a diet," doesn’t mean you can just eat whatever you want, either.

Remember, nothing comes easy. If you want to lose, you’ll have to cut calories somewhere. The good news is that even small changes can make a huge difference. Swapping out half-and-half in coffee for the fat-free version will cut close to 20 calories. If you have the usual two to three cups of joe per day, that’s a 40 to 60 calories loss. Add that up over a year and you’re looking at almost a 7-pound drop, just from that one little adjustment.

Try to stick with the 80/20 plan: eat lean proteins, fiber-rich carbs, and colorful fruits and veggies 80-percent of the time, and eat what you want the rest. Just a little disclaimer here: that means one or two cookies, not the entire box!

Next, look to your bedroom. Many sufferers of fibromyalgia also have disordered sleeping, which leaves them feeling even more sapped come morning. Talk with your doctor about ruling out sleep apnea, a disorder that causes a person to stop breathing while slumbering. This condition results in interrupted sleep, as the body repeatedly wakes to begin breathing again. Most often, those with sleep apena do not realize they aren’t snoozing soundly, and never feel fully rested.

Also, aim to crawl under the covers at the same time every night, and set the alarm for the same time each morning—even on weekends. This will help to set a natural, normal sleep rhythm for your body. Additionally, avoid caffeine and alcohol a few hours before bedtime, as they may interfere with your shut-eye.

And if you can walk, walk. Spend 10 minutes a day moving your body, whether it”s walking after dinner or doing a few easy yoga moves, and that’s 70 minutes a week. Which is only a little less than the weekly minimum of 90 minutes! The point being, try to do something everyday, no matter how small it may feel at the moment. Eventually, all the small things will add up to a much healthier and slimmer you.

So whether it’s your diet or your activity level, keep in mind that you’re aiming for long-term fitness. It’s all about trying to feel the best that you can with the body that you have.

 

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Read her answer to: I want to lose the freshman 15, not gain it. Any advice?