The scale is not my friend right now. I thought maybe some little elves were getting in my closet at night and shrinking my clothes, but when I stepped on the scale, I knew elves had nothing to do with it…. It’s time to lose a little weight.
Losing weight can be difficult at the best of times. With Fibromyalgia (and many other chronic illnesses), it can be even harder. We have a few unique challenges when we live with chronic pain: we may be on medications that cause weight gain, our energy levels are usually low to non-existent, and pain often keeps us from moving as much as we’d like to.
That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, just that we may have to be a little more patient with ourselves. We may also need to adjust our expectations to match our reality when it comes to deciding our target weight.
This week, I thought I’d share some strategies to make progress with weight loss while working within the limitations set by Fibromyalgia.
Remember — as with everything else where Fibromyalgia is concerned, each person is different, and and what works for one person might not work for another. Also, it’s always important to work closely with your medical team to ensure what you’re undertaking is safe.
Strategies for Weight Loss with Fibromyalgia
Know your “why.”
As I talked about in Discovering Our “Why” for Wellness Changes, having a solid reason for making changes helps us keep going when things get hard. This “why” needs to be something meaningful to you. For example, my reason for wanting to lose some weight is to improve my health, but why do I want to improve my health? So I can better support the people I love.
Set goals, but focus more on the process than the end goal.
When we only focus on the end goal, if progress is slow or if we hit a roadblock, we can become discouraged. If, however, we focus on the process – on being consistent with the behaviors we know will lead to goal achievement – the results will follow.
Prepare most meals at home using whole, minimally-processed ingredients.
This can seem daunting when energy levels are low and we’re in pain all the time, but reducing processed foods and eating whole, natural foods can have a huge impact, not just on our weight, but on our health. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet is the single biggest factor in maintaining a healthy body weight.
Control portion sizes.
Controlling portion sizes doesn’t mean having to weigh and/or measure everything we eat, but it does mean paying attention to the food we’re putting on our plates and in our mouths. On Wednesday, we’ll talk about an easy way to keep portions under control without having to weigh or measure.
How many of us eat in front of the TV, read while we’re eating, or scroll through Facebook as we’re eating our meals? Have you ever been in a restaurant where two people are sitting at the table, both of them looking at their phones, for the whole meal? I have. Many of us have gotten out of touch with our satiety signals (the cues that tell us we’ve had enough to eat) already, and when we’re distracted on top of that, it’s easy to overeat.
Don’t drink your calories.
Drinks have the potential to throw a big monkey wrench into your weight loss plan. One of my weaknesses is a mocha from Starbucks. Would you believe that a grande mocha has 363.7 calories? That’s not that much in the grand scheme of things, but if I had one every day, that would be 2545.9 calories in a week. Not drinking our calories is especially important for those of us who already have challenges with burning them off because we’re not able to be as active as we’d like.
Strive for “just a little better,” not perfection.
When we feel we have to do things perfectly, we could be setting ourselves up for failure. Deciding to do “a little better” can help us make better choices, choose some healthier substitutions, and even have some of those treats we enjoy. Remember that grande Mocha I mentioned? I could completely give them up, but then I might feel deprived. If I just replaced it with a small, though, I could still get my mocha “fix” every now and then and save 165.3 calories each time.
Especially when we’re chronically ill, it’s important to find small ways to work more movement into our day. Even if it’s just getting up and moving around a little every hour or so, the extra movement adds up over time. For some movement ideas, check out 21 Small Ways to Move More. Remember, it’s important to increase movement gradually.
Strength train when possible.
Muscle is more metabolically active (which means it burns more calories) than fat, so gaining muscle can help us lose weight and body fat. Now, just a word of warning – if you’re strength training and gaining muscle, your scale weight could go up, at least temporarily. A better measure of progress could be the fit of our clothes or a change in measurements. For tips on getting started with an exercise program, check out I Like to Move It, Move it. It’s important, especially when we’re just starting out, to give ourselves plenty of rest between sessions in order to help avoid Post-Exertional Malaise.
Weight loss is almost never easy, and when we deal with additional challenges it can be even more difficult. One vital thing to remember is that the scale doesn’t tell the whole story of our health. Thin doesn’t necessarily equal healthy, and heavy doesn’t necessarily equal unhealthy. Whether the scale moves or not, these strategies can help us get on the path being as healthy as possible.
What have you found that works well for maintaining a healthy body weight? What have you found to be your biggest challenge? Please share!