Managing Your Weight Despite Lupus
In the western world weight management can be difficult — with or without lupus. Increasingly, we live in a sedentary society with very little exercise, particularly those who drive to work at a desk job.
Many people, particularly those who live alone or in a two-earner household, don’t have the time or money to create home-cooked, healthy meals, which leads to an increase in turning to processed foods for a quick and easy solution.
Gaining weight and lupus can, unfortunately, go hand in hand. This is particularly true in a flare-up when you’re taking steroids (which can increase your appetite and make you retain fluid) or just being sedentary due to needing to continually rest.
While it is normal to gain a few pounds due to these factors during a flare, you should ensure your weight gain doesn’t get out of control.
There are many ways you can manage your weight when you have lupus, but personally, there are a few ways I’ve found that have helped me.
Consult Your Doctor
Firstly, before you begin any diet, exercise, or nutrition regime, consult your doctor.
They will be able to give you a baseline for your health and help you figure out what it is your diet is lacking or what you are getting too much of. This way, you can begin a plan to start eating in a healthier way.
Your doctor can also give you a reality check on what a healthy weight is (if you’re too heavy or you’re suffering from body image issues and imagine yourself heavier than you are) so you know how many calories per day you should be eating.
Analyze the Amount of Food You Eat
Some doctors will say increased hunger when taking steroids is all in your mind, but many lupus patients will tell you differently. This can be anything from increased cravings to actually eating much more food than you normally would.
Recognizing this, it is important to prepare for going on steroids by purchasing healthier food you can snack on during the day.
Instead of reaching for things like potato chips or cookies, try substituting your snacks for things like dried cranberries, fruits, vegetables, rice cakes and other lower-calorie goodies.
You can also buy your favorite splurge items in smaller pre-packed containers. For example, instead of buying a whole package of Oreos and chomping down on them (realizing later you’ve eaten half of your daily calorie allotment in one sitting), purchase packages of them that contain two to four cookies.
Another way you can feel satiated more easily is to eat more low-calorie meals throughout the day instead of two to three big meals and snacks in between. Try going for things like fresh chicken salads and hearty soups three or four times a day to make sure that your stomach feels full.
Although some people find it maddening, it is a good idea to weigh out food to ensure you aren’t accidentally eating more than you intended to. This will also minimize frustration later if you can’t understand why you’re gaining weight — and the real reason lies with the fact you are constantly eating more than you think you are.
When I have to be sedentary due to lupus (which I have been most of the year due to chronic appendicitis and two surgeries), I find eating healthy foods for lupus is key. It can also keep you feeling a little bit more energetic and less sluggish.
When I was younger and only worried about calorie counts, I would eat to my calorie limit with junk food and foods loaded with sugar and other ingredients that aren’t good for you. This allows you to control your weight, but it increases your sluggish feelings and, if you have body image issues, might also increase feelings of shame.
Additionally, if you load up on processed foods, you may actually be eating fewer foods in the day because you’re eating all of your calories at once, which leads to ultimately feeling less satisfied and perhaps feeling hungrier later.
Slow Down on the Sugar
Another added source of empty calories, and often an addiction in itself, is refined sugar. Sugar is definitely something your body needs in moderation, but it can be garnered from fruits and other natural sources.
Of course, this doesn’t mean going full out and never eating anything sweet again, but cutting down on it can help curb the weight gain.
Next page: tracking your food intake, exercise, and more tips for avoiding lupus weight gain.