11 Tips for Losing Weight with Chronic Pain and Illness

Today I would like to discuss some of the things I touched on last Monday with 5 Side Effects of Chronic Illness that No One Talks About...

Weight Gain
30 pounds lighter than 2017 and 2016 but it took sacrifice
and hard work to achieve despite the pain.

There are lots of depressing things about being diagnosed with a chronic illness and disease but weight gain, for me, was one of the most depressing and expensive side effects I experienced

Expensive because I had to buy clothes I could fit in.

Depressing because I did not find myself attractive as well as, the quality of food I was eating was not healthy or beneficial for my brain.

Then why didn't you just avoid gaining weight in the first place?

Picture this, you are already upset that you are in pain or sick. Maybe you have been in this state for a while. All you really know is you used to be X and now you are Y.

You've been to doctor after doctor trying to get a diagnosis, in and out of surgeries, treatments, and a vast array of different medications to either treat you or in my situation, make you comfortable.

Each medication, surgical procedure, or treatment comes with its own version of side effects which ultimately set you up for a battle with weight gain.

My Weight Gain

At my largest, I feel I'm barely recognizable.
My 5th Wedding Anniversary March 2017
One month before my Adhesive Arachnoiditis diagnosis.
I went into my first back surgery doing a Whole30. That's right. I started a Whole30 one week before my microdiscectomy. I even brought almonds, my own organic apple juice, and Larabars to eat in post-op.

I stayed on the Whole30 throughout my first surgery recovery which was easy since I went off the Tylenol 3 a few days afterward. However, I still had to stay on the steroid pack until it was done.

Then a month later I had chronic disc prolapse.

Another steroid pack to see if it would calm things down, which didn't work and then I was back in surgery. A third round of steroids post-op and more Tylenol 3.

This time my stomach was torn to shreds with 3 steroid packs in a row and Tylenol 3 becoming a constant daily necessity so I had to add in a slice of toast when I would take my painkiller. I was also taking it more often so that meant meals every 4 hours just so I could take my medicine, even in the middle of the night.

The pain never stopped after this. Another month later, still complaining of non-stop pain I was given a 4th steroid pack. I was fed up and knew it was time to get further help.

I finally landed in physical therapy and pain management 3 months after my second surgery. During my initial assessment in physical therapy, I found out I gained 30 pounds in just three months and I wasn't even eating "bad" food!!! I had the occasional treat but nothing outrageous.

Even after starting physical therapy I didn't lose a pound. The start of 2017 forced me into a desperate wakeup call. I had a wedding to attend at the end of February and I desperately needed to lose weight in order to avoid buying an expensive dress.

I did my 3rd Whole30, started yoga private lessons and doing yoga every day at home, on top of physical therapy, and lost nothing.

That's when I knew. It was the medicine. I was on Gabapentin, Flexeril, and Tylenol 3.

It didn't help that my pain was still vastly uncontrolled.

My pain doctor switched me to Lyrica, I will save that discussion for another blog post, which worked imperceptibly better than Gabapentin but the side effects made it unable to take.

Finally, a week before the wedding I ended up dropping $250 on a dress, the biggest size I've ever purchased I might add and had zero ways to treat my pain since my pain doctor washed his hands of me. Unfortunately, it would be several more months into 2017 and 5 more doctors until I found out what was wrong and get my pain under control.

Now it's February of 2018 and I have finally lost the 30 pounds I gained and then some.

How did I lose 30 pounds with intractable pain?

Short version, doing anything and everything possible to get my pain under control to be able to workout and eating healthy, small proportioned meals.

Long Version

1. Acupuncture or Dry Needling for Pain Management

You have to move to lose weight.  You just have to. It sucks since pain and energy loss is dominating your life but there it is.

Dry needling, an alternative medicine treatment, helped me ease the greatest of my pain flares enabling me to build more muscle during my physical therapy and yoga sessions without massive pain flares.

Working out still hurt and did cause me to have pain flares but instead of going to a 9, I went to a 7. If that doesn't seem like much then let me break it down for you.

Level 7: I can move enough to get my IFC TENS unit on my body, grab an ice pack, and shove some food in my mouth to take my breakthrough pain medication.

Level 9: I am crying and begging my husband to grab my IFC TENS unit and put it on me.  I am moaning out loud uncontrollably and I can't move it hurts so damn bad.  I am nauseous, on the verge of throwing up from the sheer amount of pain ripping through my body. I am unable to get food or even get my medication to take it.

2. Supplements for Weight Loss and Pain Management

I started researching supplements.

These basic Amino Acids help with pain management and weight loss.

(Check with your doctor before beginning any supplements)

I started with 1000 mg Taurine, 500 mg Carnitine, 1000 mg Arginine, and 500 mg Colostrum as soon as I woke up with 16 oz of water.

I gradually increased those over several months to:

4000mg of Taurine
1000mg Carnitine
2000mg Arginine
2000mg Colostrum

I also increased my Turmeric/Curcumin to 6000mg a day for pain control over the same several months.

3. Epsom Salt Baths

Depending on your specific needs you need either a hot or ice bath.

For me and anyone with MS, you should not expose yourself to more heat. I have neuroinflammation, which a hot or even a warm bath is going to cause more inflammation.

Sure I would love to drop $800 a month on a cryochamber but who the hell has that kind of money?

My pain solution and post-workout or fasciablasting treatment, Epsom salt ice baths with lemongrass and lavender.

I won't lie. It's hell.

3 minutes into it you get numb and the rest of the 17 minutes go by smoothly if you have a good book to read or a video to watch. Set a timer, get out, and put your comfiest lounge clothes on and drink some hot unsweetened chamomile tea.

Do some research to see what kind of bath temperature would help you the most. The Epsom salt will help your muscles, the essential oils will soothe you and also help with pain.

4. Eat Healthy and Do Portion Control

I did another Whole30 and this time, despite the rule to not obsess over calories and measure food out, I had to weigh and measure out my food. I had to do the Whole30 and count my calories to start losing weight.

After the Whole30 I immediately switched to Paleo and have been Paleo ever since.
Yes that means even measuring out blueberries!
I did three months of strict Paleo eating. Strict! No cheat days. By July of 2017, I finally lost about 15 pounds. Only 15 more to go!

Research food programs that emphasize vegetables and proteins to find one that works best for you. I do find that the Whole30 is a great starting place with superb resources online that are free.

5. Stop Eating Out

Seriously. Just stop. Your body and bank account will thank you. Restaurant food has chemicals, preservatives, additives, hidden sugars, and too much salt. Even salads.

6. Cut Out Alcohol and Soda (all kinds!) and Increase Water

Stop drinking these.
Even diet sodas.

This is key if you want to lose weight. I limit myself to a glass of red wine or two only for special occasions. Thanksgiving. Christmas. My Birthday. You get the picture.

Start adding fruit slices to your water if you are craving a treat. If you need to have that fizz check out LaCroix. A month into cutting out soda, you will be over that craving.

To increase your water, you need to take your body weight and divide that in two. Depending on your activity level, that is how many ounces you should drink.

Let's take my husband, he weighs 165 and is very inactive because of his desk job. His body weight divided by 2 is 83 oz rounded up. That's how much water he should drink in one day.

If he increases his activity level:
Light that's an extra 8 ounces: 8+83 = 91
Medium: 16+83 = 99
Heavy: 24+83 = 107

7. Be Sugar Free and Chemical Sweetener Free 

Sugar is the worst thing for you.
Cut it out.
Leave it behind and move on with your healthier life.

I could go on and on about how sugar is inflammatory, it makes you gain and keep weight on, and is more addictive than cocaine.

Watch the documentaries Fed Up and That Sugar Film, do some research and whatever it takes to make up your mind about this issue and where it stands in your life.

Chemical replacements for sugar are just as bad if not worse.

8. Therapy

Get a professional to talk to about what you are going through. Stress and depression can keep the pounds on your body even if you are working out and eating healthy. There also may be some underlying past experiences that cause you to overeat or seek comfort in food.

9. Dry Brushing and Fasciablasting

Dry brushing and fasciablasting target flushing your body and fascia to increase blood flow, reduce inflammation, water weight, tighten your skin, and move your lymph.

There are numerous videos on YouTube on how to best dry brush and fasciablast.  This in conjunction with your increased water will help you eliminate and detox faster.

If you are fasciablasting as a chronic pain patient I recommend following the same procedure as your baths.

Even though they recommend heating up your muscles/fascia I will have an instant pain flare. I do mine "cold" and have experienced the same benefits.

Ashley Black's Fasciablaster was a game
changer for me.
You should also go extremely light and slow. Only increase in speed after months.

Also only start in one area. I chose my IT Bands on my right and left leg. I then added in my stomach after a month. Then my quads after another month, and so on, until I got up to doing my whole upper leg, glute, and stomach area.

I still do not do my whole body as that would just too too much for me.

10. Find Some Form of Exercise and Be Consistent

Whether it is yoga, pilates, walking, or lifting soup cans, do something active.

For tips on getting started see my 3 initial steps for starting a workout program post.

11. Change Up Your Medication

It's been three months.

If you have faithfully completed a Whole30 or another corresponding program while doing portion control.

Worked out at least 5 times a week.

Added appropriate supplements to help you lose weight and completed all of the above tips and are still not losing weight or inches...It's your medication.

Talking to your doctor about switching your medication is a difficult process, plus just trying to find something new that works is another terrifying procedure for anyone in pain or sick.

However, if losing weight is going to help you in the long run, it's a topic that needs to be broached with your doctor.

You need data though.

Taking data to show your doctor about your program, trackers, and goals is necessary so they can see what you have been doing on your own to make an assessment that it is really your medication.  It's what truly helped my pain management doctor determine that dry needling was beneficial for me. So I was able to get another prescription.

Having trackers and data can establish a timeline, show your routines, and highlight areas of progress or regression for your doctor.

Check back with me to see how to start a Chronic Pain or Illness Bullet Journal to document your progress. Sign up under the "follow by email" to get the content delivered to your inbox.