Weight gain is an unfortunate consequence for many living in pain. Chronic pain can interfere with meal preparation, grocery shopping, and regular physical activity, leading to lowered metabolism and less-than-optimal food choices. Before adopting any specific diet or weight-loss plan, talk to your primary care doctor, who can factor in all of your medical needs. And stay away from fad diets, as they rarely produce sustainable long-term weight loss.
Here are a few tips that can help you work toward reaching a healthy BMI:
• Always eat a good-size breakfast that includes some protein and fiber for blood sugar stabilization. Studies consistently show that skipping breakfast increases the likelihood of becoming obese, and that those who take in a larger percentage of their daily calories in the morning are more likely to have normal BMIs.
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• Consult with a nutritionist or registered dietitian. You will receive a lot of practical information above and beyond what you’ll get from a traditional medical doctor.
• Follow the rule of seven. Do your best to have at least seven helpings of a variety of fruits and vegetables every day. If you make a fruit bowl for yourself as part of your breakfast, you are already almost halfway there, even before the day gets going.
• Go nuts. Keep a supply of nuts handy for healthy snacking. There are lots of options including almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, and cashews.
• Consult with an occupational therapist or physical therapist if your pain problems interfere with meal preparation. A therapist can help you make accommodations in your kitchen and/or strengthen the muscles you need to cook with greater ease.
• Put the “real” back into food. Go to local farmers’ markets, buy locally produced foods, and begin to feel connected to the process of turning food into appealing, healthful meals.
• Read the fine print. Get into the habit of reading the labels on everything that comes from a package or a can. Avoid empty calories by shunning processed foods and sodas. It will be well worth your while to become a more discerning consumer.
In addition to these tips, try seasoning your food with herbs and spices instead of salt or high-sodium/high-sugar sauces. Herbs and spices are plant-based seasonings that are full of antioxidants and inflammation-fighting substances, and are naturally low in fat, sodium, and sugar. Make water or tea your “go to” drink, especially green tea, which is loaded with health-enhancing polyphenols. Always consume the freshest food you can find, grown locally if possible, and eat what’s in season to increase the number and kind of nutrients you consume over the year. And make sure that meal time is a relaxing, fun, social event with family and friends. You’ll lower your stress levels while increasing enjoyment of your meals and life in general.