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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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?