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    How To Lose Weight When You Have Chronic Pain

    Do you have chronic pain and feel like no one understands?

    Have you ever cried or gotten defensive because someone told you that you were fat and needed exercise more?

    I been there.

    I saw it all the time on social media. Someone in a picture would be fat and most of the comments underneath would be along the lines of “Fat people just need to exercise and stop eating”.

    I used to get so upset when I saw these comments.

    My chronic pain didn’t allow me to exercise!  Every time I tried, I got injured.

    Also, I already ate a max 1000 calorie per day diet (which isn’t healthy by the way). It doesn’t work.  So my depression would become 10x worse because it was obvious no one could understand I wasn’t included in a one size fits all approach.

     

     

    How to Lose Weight When You Have Chronic Pain-A lot of us live with chronic pain that prevents us from moving around like normal people. We find it makes us not able to exercise and that we keep gaining weight, making our pain worse. I found 10 ways to beat the cycle.

     

     

    It Wasn’t Always Like This

    10 years ago, I had a very physically demanding job.

    When I wasn’t there, my hobbies were running and weightlifting. I would run 5 miles at the park or hit the gym every day. I was in fantastic shape and you could see the muscles to prove it.

    Then I got into a brutal car accident in 2007. After that, a chain of events happened. I got into another brutal car accident, then got seriously hurt at work on 2 different occasions.

    I now have chronic pain issues and disabilities in almost every area of my body.

     

    The Pain and Obesity Cycle

    My glory days were over it seemed. Since I was laid up for about a year straight, I put on about 100 lbs and it steadily increased after that because the pain was keeping me immobile.

    To put it simply, I’m in pain. All the freaking time. It hurts to walk or sit up most of the time.

    I need to move to lose weight but can’t move without being in extreme pain.

    The extra weight makes it hurt even more but I can’t move to lose the weight…. It is a vicious cycle that for years I couldn’t get out of.

    It’s not the life I wanted, but it’s the life I have. I knew I could help it if I could just find a way.

     




     

    Finding Healthier Ways

    I LOVE learning about body chemistry and biology.

    Yes, I am a nerd. But it’s something I am good at and love, so I’m okay with it.

    I have a Science degree in Psychology (yes, that is a thing). Basically, it means I learned more about research, statistics, and how the body/brain works during mental illness than I did about clinical stuff.

    So when I went back to school to get another degree, I actually got excited that I had the opportunity to take a Nutrition Chemistry class.

    This is what ended up changing my life.

    I learned everything I was doing was wrong.

    It made me want to keep learning about it, so I read a ton of research studies and books on the human body and started implementing what I learned on myself.

    And I am healthier for it. I know you can be too.

     



     

    Being Healthy While in Chronic Pain

    When you are in chronic pain, it hurts to do everything.

    Many days, cooking or even getting up is a huge accomplishment.

    But I found some things that worked for me, and I hope they help someone else as well.

     

    1. Avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup

    I wrote an entire article on this. It has that much information.

    To put it in simple terms, this stuff is killing us and the reason why we are fat and sick all the time.

    Practically every processed food has this. It’s in your ketchup, your bread, your soda, etc.

    It causes mental illnesses, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, among other things. Seriously, if you don’t do anything else, at least get this ingredient out of your kitchen.

    You don’t have to change what you are eating, just change to the brands that don’t have this ingredient.

    Related Post:  The One Ingredient You Should Remove From Your Kitchen

     




     

    2. Drink More Water

    Water is fantastic because it lubricates your joints and assists in helping your body’s processes work how they are supposed to.

    Our body is made up of water, but we are constantly sweating it out or depleting it. You have to keep replenishing what you lose.

    We don’t automatically make enough new water in our body to cover what is lost daily!

    If you go two weeks of drinking only water, you will notice a difference in how you feel physically, mentally, and even see the numbers go down on the scale.

    So how much do I drink per day?

    My body weight / 2 = # of ounces to consume per day

    This is a starting point. The formula I use was given to me by a Dietitian, who said this is the general rule of thumb.

    At first, I had trouble keeping track of my water intake, but since I invested in this 40oz bottle, I know if I just drink a certain amount of refills, I am good to go.

    I don’t count ounces, I count refills, so it is so much easier to keep track of. The greatest thing about the water bottle is it is skinny, so it’s easy to take EVERYWHERE with me!

    More water = better functioning body behind the scenes and you won’t be as hungry!

    Related Post:  The Truth About Water

     



     

    3. Avoid Chemicals in Your Food

    Ever eat a meal and find out you are still hungry or even hungrier than you were before you started eating?

    That’s my life story right there.

    I found the culprit.

    There are many different ways of eating healthy. So many, that it is enough to spin your head.

    So what way is right? I don’t 100% know the answer to that and neither does anyone else. There are too many conflicting studies.

    But I do know what is working for me and what most dietitians and doctors agree on: Avoid artificial ingredients, dyes, and flavors.

    Artificial ingredients are not real food!  They don’t have nutritional value, so you won’t feel as satisfied after eating them as you would real ingredients.

    Nearly every unbiased study shows fake ingredients does the following:

     

    Many of us feel at a loss because we are obese and have chronic pain, so we can't exercise. These are the things I did to help myself lose weight and get healthier.

     

    Are you kidding me? No wonder why most of us feel like crap 100% of the time! Artificial ingredients are in practically everything!

    So how do you avoid this?

    You look at the ingredients before you buy! You don’t even have to look at anything else. Just the ingredients.

    Examples

    If the peanut butter you buy has 15 ingredients, half of which your five year old can’t pronounce, then put the jar back and pick up a different brand and look at those ingredients.

    There should be one ingredient: peanuts.

    That’s it.

    Sometimes you might see some that have oils or sea salt in it. Those are okay, because you know what those are. It’s personal preference if you want those added things in it. I personally don’t.

    Another example is chips. You don’t have to stop buying chips. I still buy them.

    But if you look at the ingredients on Doritos, you will see it has about 20 ingredients, half of which are dyes and chemicals. Pick up a bag of original Fritos. You will see Fritos has 3 ingredients: Corn, Oil, and Salt. Which do you think is better? There is a reason Fritos fill you up faster than Doritos do.

    FYI, I am not advocating a diet of Fritos, but I just want to show an example how big of a difference ingredients can make.

    So check your labels.

    You don’t have to stop eating pasta, cookies, etc. Just choose a different brand or make it from scratch!

    If you don’t know how, check out my recipes. All of my recipes have ingredients without anything artificial. I even include links to the brands I buy, so you know which brands don’t have artificial ingredients without spending a lot of time staring at labels in the store.

     




     

    4. Eat Organic as Much As Possible

    Before I jump into this, I want to explain what Organic is, because a LOT of people don’t understand this. According to the USDA, organic is food that is free from GMOs, chemicals, and synthetic pesticides.

    Ever see Jurassic World where they put DNA from one species into the dinosaur DNA, to make a “new, improved” dinosaur that can take on qualities of the other species?

    THAT is GMO.

    Scientists take genes from a something like a fish, and inject it into an apple, so the apple is resistant to pesticides (this is just a random example of how GMOs work). GMO means your apple isn’t really 100% pure apple because there is DNA from another species in there.

    What organic means is that an apple is just an apple, and has never been altered or exposed to dangerous chemicals.

    The Taste

    If organic means an apple is just an apple, then why are so many people saying organic stuff tastes bad?

    Because they have the assumption that if something is healthy, that it tastes bad. They haven’t actually tried it.

    Or they ate something healthy once, didn’t like it, thought it was organic, and it either wasn’t organic, or the bad taste was from the actual product they were eating.

    I find it hard to believe that people think a pure apple tastes worse than an apple with synthetic pesticides and DNA from something else in it.

    We call it organic now, but this is exactly what our grandparents were eating before GMOs and pesticides were invented!

    I buy organic brands and my husband and I found there is a taste difference. Most of the stuff tastes better, fresher, and fills us up more.

    Recommendation: I found a couple of jellys that my husband and I think is the best in the world for our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that I highly recommend. Crofters Organic Wild Blueberry and Crofters Organic Apricot. Simple ingredients and absolutely the best jelly ever, hands down in our opinion. I will usually order these in bulk from Vitacost because we love them.  Organic, simple ingredients, and it tastes AMAZING!

     

    Why I Choose Organic

    Many scientists (who aren’t paid for by special interest groups) are finding GMOs and synthetic pesticides may be dangerous for us and cause many types of illnesses. This is still controversial research, but I’m not taking any chances with my health while they argue back and forth.

    If I want to eat an apple, then I should be able to eat an apple. Not an apple with fish and spider DNA, sprayed with synthetic pesticide.

    So like the artificial ingredients, you don’t need to change what you are eating, just look for your favorite foods in different brands!

    And guess what, after you eat organic for a while, you will be able to taste the difference immediately when you go to a restaurant or eat at someone else’s house. And the taste won’t be good.

    Further Reading Recommendation:

    Dr. Mark Hyman, a functional medicine doctor who specializes in Nutrition and Diabetes research, wrote a book called “What The Heck Should I Eat“.

    He has each chapter focusing on each food group and what his research shows we should be eating and not eating in those food groups.   One thing he does consistently throughout the book is talk about organic vs non-organic.

    He sites the research to back up his claims and explains the differences and dangers very well. Some of the research he cites is frightening! If you are on the fence about organic foods or just want to have a guideline on what you should be eating, read this book.  It will give you all the information you need.

     

    5. Relax and Think Positive!

    Did you know your mindset has a lot to do with how healthy you are and if you can lose weight? It does!

    When you are stressed or negative, your body releases all kinds of hormones that prevent your body from working correctly and efficiently. It also releases hormones that keep you fat!

    So calm yourself!

    Stop saying things like “I’m worse off than everyone else and had it bad in life”. Your future doesn’t depend on how bad you had it in the past!  Even if you live with chronic pain!

    When you continuously think about how horrible off you are, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy (It comes true) over and over again, catching you in a vicious cycle.

    Your mindset is what will determine if your future will be any better.

    Keep negative thoughts at bay by thinking a positive thought for every negative thought you have. Name 5 things you are grateful for every day.  Take a relaxing bath. Go sit by the river or on a hill and watch the sunset. Seek out pretty things that make you smile.

    The more positive your mind, the better the rest of your body works. This is truly how the brain works and I toughed on that in my Depression article.

     

     

     



     

    6. Sleep!

    Okay, when you have chronic pain and anxiety, this can be hard to get the recommended 8 hours a night. Not getting comfortable and worried someone is going to break in while you are sleeping are not great combinations for getting good rest.

    However, I did find something that helped me relax.

    A white noise machine.  I sleep better than I ever did. It sounds weird when you are awake, but it puts you to sleep pretty fast. This is the one I have (picture link):

     

     

    Why does it work? Because the white noise drowns out the thoughts in my head, so my mind is on one thing- the noise. Being able to single track my mind helps it calm down and be tired, so chronic pain or not, I am resting.

    Something else that helps is switching pillows with my husband every few days. I wake up with neck pain no matter what pillow I use.

    I have probably spent thousands on pillows over the years to find the perfect one and I can’t find it. So my husband and I got two different types of pillows and switch them every few days. I don’t know why this helps, but it does. We both sleep better and both have less pain in our necks.

    Did you know when you lack sleep, your body looks for extra nutrients to keep you awake and moving?  That’s why you are always hungrier on days you don’t sleep as much!

    Sleeping better helps with the stress levels and not being as hungry!

     

    Related Article:  9 Ways to Fall Asleep Faster

     




     

    7. Walk

    I know, I know. Chronic pain kind of prevents this. But that’s why you have to start off super small.

    And I mean embarrassingly small.

    Complete honesty? When I started, I could only go for about 30 seconds before I was out of breath and had to sit down! And that’s okay.

    I did that a few times a day until I didn’t feel like I was going to die anymore.

    Once I accomplished that, I walked to the end of the driveway and back a few times a day. Then once my body got use to that, I walked halfway up the street, then to the edge of the street, etc.

    Now I can do about 30 minutes a day without feeling like I am going to fall over. It took a while to get there.

    Like I said, I started at 30 seconds! Keep at it and don’t give up. You WILL be able to walk longer eventually.

    I still can’t exercise fully right now, but I can do so much more now than I could a year ago. So keep doing small steps. I will eventually be able to fully exercise, and I know you will too. Just do it at your own pace. Who cares if you are walking slow and only go for 20 seconds at a time?

    You are doing it and that is what you should be proud of!

     



     

    8. Eat Whole Grains

    There is a lot of conflict on whether carbs altogether are bad for us. But honestly, since I switched to whole grains instead of other pastas, I feel 100 times better. So this is what works for me.

    Harvard also recommends eating whole grains, and I trust them because they do their own research and are pretty smart people.

    When you eat pasta and flour, it is usually processed to have the portions containing the vitamins, fiber, and minerals removed. So you are just eating the bad stuff. Whole grain means the grain stays intact, so you get the health benefits.

    I eat 100% whole wheat bread, whole wheat flour, etc.

    Yes, there is a slight taste difference at first, but it’s not one that is worth me giving up pasta and carbs altogether.

    Also, when you throw it together with other ingredients, you don’t notice the taste difference. I actually prefer whole grains instead of the other stuff now.

    Be Careful!

    Just because something says whole grain, doesn’t mean it is healthy. Sometimes companies use processed flour and pasta, and include a couple of whole grains, just so they can make the claim on the box.

    Go for the 100% whole wheat or 100% whole grain labels. If all else fails, look at the ingredients list and make sure Whole grains is listed first and is the only wheat type ingredient.

     




     

    9. Stop Eating Out

    This step not only saved us a ton of money, but helped us lose weight too!

    Most restaurants and fast food use ingredients that contain dyes, artificial ingredients, GMOs, and other bad for you stuff. Why? Because it is cheap.

    Even popular “fresh” sandwich places, have more than one not-naturally-occurring ingredient in their chicken and beef products. Yuck. Why can’t it just be chicken?

    Basically, after reading the ingredients list for every restaurant ever, the only places that seem to have true fresh ingredients, without chemicals or anything artificial are Chipotle and Panera.

    But who can afford to eat that constantly? Plus the sodium content in their meals is really high, so be careful if your blood pressure is sodium sensitive.

    So what should you do? Eat at home.

     

    Related Post:  How to Kick Your Fast Food Addiction

     

    How To Do This When You Are In Chronic Pain

    I will usually sit at the kitchen table with my husband on Sunday nights and clean, dice, and chop all the produce or vegetables I will need for meals that week and put in to separate storage containers.

    I will make all the seasonings I will need, put them in separate little Tupperware bowls, with post-its labeling what seasoning it is.

    If I am making a casserole dish on Tuesday, I will usually pre-cook the ground turkey or chicken Monday night. That way on Tuesday, I spend five minutes just tossing ingredients together and baking.

    I do everything in spurts and never all at one time. That is how I am able to make new recipes for this website and still be standing to take pictures afterwards!

     

     

    10. Find Rooibos Tea

    You probably read my article on how I lowered my blood pressure, but in case you didn’t, this tea ROCKS.

    Rooibos Tea has so many healing properties in it, that it makes you feel better after drinking just one glass per day. I LOVE this tea and feel it helps me in so many ways when it comes to my blood pressure, inflammation, calming mind, etc. I highly recommend you try it and let me know what you think.

    It tastes different than other teas, but that is a good thing! I almost spit out tea I drank recently because it tasted awful compared to Rooibos.

     

     

    How Doing These Things Helped Me

    Did I drop the 50 lbs overnight?

    NO.

    When you live with chronic pain, everything is slower, including your metabolism. But don’t be discouraged! I did all of this and I dropped 50lbs eventually!

    AND IT’S EASY TO KEEP UP ON!

    As you can see, as far as eating, I didn’t cut carbs or stop eating sweets. I didn’t jump into a big exercise program.

    I just changed the brands I bought, relaxed, and moved a little bit.

     

    Many of us feel at a loss because we are obese and have chronic pain, so we can't exercise. These are the things I did to help myself lose weight and get healthier.

     

    The weight may be coming off at a slow pace, but I am much healthier.

    I had a blood test before I started doing this and not one thing was in the normal range. I was pre-diabetic, along with an entire list of things I won’t get into because it is long.

    Just one month later, I had another blood test, after I started implementing these changes. I had only lost a few pounds at that point (not much), and EVERYTHING was in normal range.

    Doing this stuff eventually did help me lose 50 lbs over time, but the most important thing is it allowed me to feel better and be more confident that I am taking care of my health.

    I am healthier despite living with chronic pain and know I am on the right track to make myself even healthier, even if the weight loss isn’t super quick.

    Side Note: My husband did all 10 things with me (he does not have chronic pain and is on is feet at work) and he dropped 30 pounds almost immediately, within the month. I’m completely jealous, but it proved to me we were taking the right path to be healthy!

    I hope these changes can do the same for you.

    Is there anything that helps you be healthier while having chronic pain?  I would love to hear about it in the comments below!

     

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    Comments

    1. Jenny says

      Thank you for writing this, it has so much heart. I was once incredibly active but following a very intense illness was diagnosed with ME and complex PTSD. Trying to lose weight, or get advice is a minefield that can leave you feeling less than human. This post made me feel seen and loved, and is the first of its kind to focus on being kind to yourself. I never comment on things, but this means so much. Thank you!

      • Ashly Edmiston says

        Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I appreciate it so much. I wish you well on your journey and hope you get to feeling better and continue being kind to yourself.

    2. Tammy Cook says

      like you i was also in an auto accident, instant coma lasted 5 months. unable to use most of my left side & am in constant pain. i am almost 100 lbs bigger than before accident. i read this & i plan on doing your suggestions. am living on disability so i will not be able to replace everything right away. but sounds great!

      • Ashly says

        Oh wow, I’m sorry to hear about your accident! I can understand the constant pain. Definitely check out my article on the alkaline diet or sign up to receive my anti-inflammatory e-book, because that may be a great next step to help reduce some of the pain and inflammation going on. It helped me so much. I hope this all helps you too!

    3. Lisa Green says

      Thank you so much for writing this article and sharing your plan. I think this is just the motivation I need to get started on a new, healthier lifestyle. I’m looking forward to reading more of your articles and trying your recipes. When you started out you probably didn’t think you could possibly help and motivate others. God bless you and keep up the good work, thank you again. Your new friend.

      • Ashly says

        Thank you Lisa! When I started, it was mostly because I was trying to help a cousin out with what I had learned. You are right, I never thought I would ever be able to motivate others with my struggle. I’m really happy that others find it so helpful.

    4. Kendra says

      I just want to point out that organic does not mean gmo free. Something can be genetically modified but also organic.

    5. Stephanie A says

      I’m going to try this. I have bone on bone knee pain and all over chronic pain. Plus I am overweight. I will be 50 next month. My boyfriend of almost 14 years is no help and thinks I am just lazy. He’s of average build. I have supportive grown children and they are trying to help me. Thank you for this article because it does give me hope and is very relatable.

      • Ashly says

        I can relate to your comment so much! My ex used to call me lazy all the time and it hurt. You just want to make them understand how much pain you are in, but when you explain it, they don’t seem to believe you! It really affects your mindset. I’m glad your children are giving you the support you need. I hope you check out the e-book of anti-inflammatory foods, because I truly believe that might help with some of your pain, like it did for me. I am finding more and more things that help and will be posting more as I find them!

    6. Susan says

      Thank you Ashley!! Loved reading your articles. You shared some great information. It was refreshing to be given some great advice without having to purchase something in return. I too suffer from chronic pain and have just begun my weight loss journey. I want to do this in a healthy way.
      Wish me luck!!😊

      • Ashly says

        Thank you for your kind words! I understand how hard it is, and want to share what works for me because I was tired of everything not working for so long! I know others are too. I wish you all the luck in your journey. Let us know how it goes!

    7. Brooke says

      Thank you. I do well one day, then have trouble the next 3. Your post helps to remind me of the little things and motivation to hopefully keep it up.

      • Ashly says

        It’s okay! I have been there too, so I know exactly what you are talking about. You can do it, just keep going, even if you have a setback. Thank you for your comment, I’m really glad this article helped remind you to keep it up!

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