How to Lose Weight with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia

I was a very active child. I had swim practice 5 days a week and played on practically every sports team in school. I was used to being tired on the court, but when I started getting the unique exhaustion that comes with chronic fatigue syndrome, I knew immediately something was wrong. I was used to being able to eat however much I wanted of whatever I wanted, so naturally once I stopped exercising regularly due to CFS I gained a significant amount of weight. Throughout university it went up and down, but always remained a little to moderately unhealthy. It wasn’t until 2009 when I learnt to eat properly and exercise that I finally got back down to a healthy weight (5 years and running…well not literally running, running is really hard- more like walking slowly with bits of yoga). It took several years of diet changes, cutting out certain foods, and learning how to eat for my body, but in the end I felt lighter, more energetic, and more confident than I had ever been. I know that weight is something that a huge part of the population struggles with, but it is especially hard for those with CFS and Fibro because we are often forced to be inactive. And not just inactive like too tired to go to the gym, but inactive like might only walk as far as the toilet for weeks on end. So now that we have all packed on a few extra pounds for the holidays, how can you increase your health and lower your weight without making your symptoms worse?

Photo Credit: pickled plum via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: pickled plum via Compfight cc

  1. Start the year off with an elimination diet. I have talked briefly about this before and can’t recommend it highly enough to figure out if your diet is causing any of your symptoms or simply making it harder for you to digest foods and maintain a healthy weight. End Fatigue gives some great guidelines for an elimination diet here, however, I would recommend doing the elimination phase for three weeks rather than just one as it can take more than one week for foods to run through your system.
  2. Eat Whole Foods. This does not mean that every item of food you buy needs to be local and organic, but cut out fast food, processed meats and cheeses, and anything that has a list of ingredients that sound nothing at all like food. Also, if you are eating grains, make sure you stick to whole grains- your body processes white bread like eating spoonfuls of sugar! While whole foods don’t necessarily have lower levels of fat or calories than processed foods, they will give your body more nutrients, keeping you full for longer and giving you more energy.
  3. Make Meal Time Silent. We all know we should turn off the TV when we eat, but what about chatting with friends or family over a meal? Try to make at least one meal a day completely silent. This will allow you to focus on the food and really concentrate on what you are putting into your body. Not only will you enjoy the flavours more, but your body processes visual cues quicker than digestional cues. When you literally watch what you eat, your body will naturally stop eating at the right time.
  4. Eat your fruits and veggies. Something as simple as making sure you get your 5-7 servings daily can significantly decrease your fat and calorie intake throughout the day while making sure you are loaded with vitamins and minerals
  5. Get Moving (a little). Don’t push yourself past your limits for the sake of weight loss, but just 5-10 minutes of mindful walking, or half hour of yoga a day can help get your digestive system moving and keep your muscles from weakening.

Have you struggled with weight as a result of your illness? Do you have any advice that helped you take off the pounds? Or have you heard any crazy suggestions from friends, family or doctors on how to lose weight?

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16 thoughts on “How to Lose Weight with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia

  1. I do struggle with my weight and I currently feel like I’m losing the struggle, despite eating a healthy, whole food diet. I just went off my amitriptyline to see if it was the problem. I’m hoping I can lose some now. Time will tell.

  2. I’m writing this comment as I read the article – I’m foggy frog right now.
    This is perfect! I’ve actually started up with my wii fit and I’m eating better. Mind you, this decision has nothing to do with the new year passing by – it’s just timed that way.
    Get rid of my fast food? I saw this one coming, but no Swiss Chalet? *dies* I totally understand that processes foods are too overcooked to really have any nutritional value left. Hello Slow Cooker.
    Silent meal time? I like the idea. I will have to try this one out!
    Mmm…fruits and veg.
    Yay for moving!

    I certainly have struggled with my weight even before I was diagnosed, but now more than ever. When you can’t make it to the washroom by yourself because you’re in too much pain, exercising really isn’t in the plan. Fortunately, with my doctor’s help, I’m able to start with a bit of wii fit (so yoga, a few games, and the boxing on there).
    I did once go to a weight loss clinic and I shed quite a bit of weight. Since then, I’ve gained 62lbs. That makes me out to be almost 300lbs at 6 feet tall.
    I have friends who are doing the juicing thing, but I haven’t seen much success with that. I’ve been ignoring everyone who doesn’t say eat right and move your body. I’m not looking for a way to lose weight, I’m looking for a way to enjoy life without pain – if that means that I have to lose weight to do it, then so be it!

    Thanks so much for the list! I’m off to start implementing it!

    • D’nt worry, I can help you, but you cont, me that !00% you can lose weight. I challengem, becouse I know very well about this.
      Raj, 8 905 584 84 08, Moscow in Russia.

  3. weight was never an issue for me prior to illness, as i was so active (and probably am blessed with good genes). however, struggling with exercise plus medications that cause weight gain have now made weight an issue for me. so far, i’ve found the most benefit from reducing carbs, especially simple carbs!

  4. I packed on ten kilos in a month at the start of 2013. I had no idea what was happening – I was sick and lethargic – and I just devoured sugary stuff to try and clear the brain fog (completely the wrong thing to do, but the cravings and were insistent and the utter confusion I was in made comfort eating a priority).
    I’m still not massively overweight, although I don’t fit into all my clothes which is a bit upsetting at times. For now, I’m just accepting where I’m at, and eating no sugar, dairy, gluten, yeast, and lots of raw veggies. Surprisingly, my weight only fluctuates by about 2-3 kilos, even on this ascetic diet.

    • It took a LONG time for me- but that’s because I wasn’t eating 1200 a day and exercising for an hour 5 times a week. but slow and steady wins the race! I was losing about 2 pounds (.75 kg) a month, so it took some time to get back down to my normal weight, but even after a couple months I felt so much better just from eating better foods even though I wasn’t any thinner.

      I also did the ea everything for comfort/energy! Mixed signals from our bodies haha

  5. I get my moving in in a therapy pool. 90+ Degree water is so soothing. Use an Aqua Jogger belt and move and stretch at your own pace. Helps my mood as well as there are many to visit with in the pool. This has become my main social visiting group also. (All “birds” hit with one stone).
    Julie

  6. Hi, nice article, its hard to find info on losing weight with cfs/fibro. I definitely recommend Slimming World Online to lose weight, especially if (like me) you have a significant amount to lose . I joined 3 weeks ago- its been great and ive lost 8lbs! Its obviously chronic illness friendly as its all online, and its very encouraging. I like that you can eat as much as you want of certain foods (eggs, pasta, potatoes, lean meat, pulses etc) so i never have to go hungry. The downside for me has been that it is an effort every day to eat less fat and sugar (and not comfort eat), although it has got easier. Also due to low spoonage/energy levels i cannot cannot really cook the recipes, i just had to tweak what i was already eating really. But overall i think its a great sustainable plan. Hope this helps. Xx

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