How Can Pain Impact Your Weight Loss?

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In recent years there has been an increased research focus on chronic pain conditions and this has brought new discoveries about how the brain deals with pain, but also the sort of impact that pain can have on the rest of the body. The TL;DR of this research is that essentially when the body is dealing with pain it often neglects other functions and in some cases this can even impede weight loss.

One of the most significant ways pain can prevent weight loss is by limiting physical activity. It’s no secret that exercise is an important component of a healthy weight loss plan, as it helps to burn calories, build muscle and improve mental health. However, pain can make it difficult or impossible for a person to engage in physical activity. Anyone who has ever tweaked a muscle in their back will know that when you’re coping with pain, the last thing you’re looking for is your yoga mat – regardless of how healthy it would be to do so.

But beyond that, pain can also affect a person’s ability to make healthy food choices. When a person is in pain, they may be less likely to prepare healthy meals or make time for shopping. They may also be more likely to turn to unhealthy, convenient foods as a way to cope with the pain. For example, a person with chronic headaches may rely on fast food or vending machine snacks because they are easy to access and do not require any effort to prepare. This can lead to an increase in calorie intake and make it more difficult to lose weight. Worse still, the processed foods might even exacerbate the headaches.

Sleep is another important factor in weight loss, and pain can disrupt sleep and as MAN v FAT has looked at before this can make it more difficult to lose weight. When a person is in pain, they may have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, which can lead to poor sleep quality. The even crueller consequence is that poor sleep quality can lead to an increase in appetite and a decrease in physical activity, both of which can contribute to weight gain.

So, how can you overcome the barriers to weight loss posed by pain? One strategy is to work with your doctor to manage the pain. This may involve medications, physiotherapy, or other alternative treatment options such as osteopathy. By effectively managing the pain, you may be able to increase your physical activity level and then make healthier food choices.

It is also important to be patient with yourself and recognise that weight loss may be a slower process when you are dealing with pain. It may be necessary to start with low-impact activities, such as swimming or riding a stationary bike, and gradually increase the intensity as your pain improves. Additionally, it may be helpful to enlist the support of a friend or family member to help with shopping and meal preparation, or to join a support group for people dealing with chronic pain.

Another strategy is to focus on making small, incremental changes to your diet rather than trying to overhaul your eating habits all at once. This may include making healthier food choices, such as choosing whole grains over refined grains or opting for lean proteins rather than high-fat meats. You can also try eating smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day to help control your appetite and prevent overeating.

Finally, it is important to prioritise sleep and to make an effort to get enough rest each night. This may involve establishing a bedtime routine, setting a consistent sleep schedule, and creating a comfortable sleep environment. If you’re currently suffering with a pain condition, remember to lean on a wider community such as MAN v FAT and get help when you feel that it could help.


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