Fighting back against injuries or health conditions that “cause” weight gain
Fairly often, people will tell me that a health condition they have “caused” their weight gain. For example, a disturbingly common phenomenon is that somebody who was maintaining a reasonably healthy weight develops an injury or pain from something as simple as a sprained ankle or a sore knee. What happens next is a vicious cycle of that person becoming unable to remain as active, curtailing his or her exercise, and also continuing to eat the same or even more.
Weight gain is caused by one basic thing: the consumption of more calories than the body is burning. This means that if an ankle sprain leads you to reduce your physical activity and cuts out those afternoon walks, then eating the same amount will lead to an excess of calories. And what happens to those calories? They get stored on your body as fat. Someone who experiences an injury or a change or a reduction in their activity level has to think ahead about this problem and find ways to both cut calories and increase the burning of calories through other types of physical activity.
Easier said than done. Cutting calories, especially after you might be feeling pretty sore, and perhaps a little sorry for yourself, after injuring your ankle, knee or back, is not an easy thing to do. After all, what else do you do if you have to sit around with an ankle brace or put your foot up on the coffee table? Why, eat of course! We all have done this, gathered up some of our favorite snacks and comfort food, put on a movie or a sporting program and indulged.
But the opposite is what is really needed. Once an injury comes along that cuts down on the activity your body is getting, you need to cut down on the fuel that you are pouring into your system or else it is just going to be stored as more fat and then the cycle really starts because more fat means more weight and more of a load on that injured ankle. And guess what? It becomes even harder to resume your walks. I have seen this very thing turn into a cycle in which the person gained more weight, experienced more pain with walking, became even less active, and then became even more depressed and ate more calories to try to find some fun in life. The result was a very negative progression to severe obesity and poor health.
You have to fight back and fight back right away. There may be nothing you can do to accelerate Mother Nature’s healing process for an injury, but there are things you can do to cut back on the calories you are taking in. You can also work to find new ways of getting activities. Be creative and be persistent. Start working the upper body every day. Find a pool where you can regularly swim. Try different kinds of activities including bicycling in an effort to find ways to burn more calories. But far and away the most important thing you can do is cut down your calories. Shift to lower glycemic index foods and snacks. Focus on protein first. Keep your pedometer on and use the crutches or walker to get around (you actually burn more energy that way) and remember that if you are not burning those calories, you should not be eating them.