PRACTICAL TIPS FOR WEIGHT LOSS FOR CHRONIC PAIN SUFFERERS
If we simplify weight loss to its core, one of the main principles is “calories in vs. calories out”. The reason diet and exercise are instrumental to weight loss is because we get to control our daily calorie intake through diet and create a calorie deficit through exercise. If you suffer with chronic pain, you might not have the same options as everyone else - perhaps your condition affects your daily routine, perhaps you have to work from home, or maybe the difficulty and duration of gym classes do not work for you. However, that is not a reason to give up! There are a few small changes you can make in your day-to-day life, as well as some low impact exercise you could try to either lose or maintain weight.
● Drink more
This sounds like a really basic advice, however many people still fail to drink the recommended daily amount of water. According to a survey conducted by Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) in 2014, 89% of UK population does not drink enough water, with staggering 17% of Brits not drinking any water at all.  Water makes up a large part of our bodies and performs vital roles, such as carrying nutrients through the body and regulating body temperature. The feeling of an empty stomach we experience is actually often just our body signalling for more water, and therefore hydrating regularly could contribute to your weight loss. Drinking cold water was also reported to be able to boost your metabolism. According to a 2003 study, drinking cold water helped boost metabolic rate both in men and women up to 30%. The researchers found that by heating the cold water to body temperature, participants’ bodies expended more energy, resulting in improved metabolism. 
● Choose your drinks wisely
Hydration is important but drinking a bottle of water doesn’t equate to drinking a can of soda. One of the easiest ways to reduce your sugar intake and take a step towards a healthier diet is to have a look at what you drink. According to a 1998 survey of 3,003 Americans, 75% were chronically dehydrated, despite drinking eight servings of hydrating beverages a day. Their net fluid intake was actually negative, as it was offset by high consumption of caffeinated drinks, alcoholic beverages, and high content of sodium in their diet.  Similarly, the RNLI survey revealed that many people in UK will refuse a drink of plain water. Their statistics showed that the number of people saying “no” to water only gets worse with age. According to their survey, 11% of 18-24 year-olds, 7% of 25-34 year olds and 12% of 35-44 year olds would say “no” when offered water. By comparison, the number of people refusing plain water rises to up to 25% among the older generation (17% of 45-54 year olds and 25% of people aged 55+ years). Making a healthier choice and switching to water would help you create a positive difference, not only with your weight loss journey but also in regards to general health.
Here are a few ways to create a positive change: ❖ Drink water first thing in the morning when you wake up. ❖ Limit the amount of caffeinated beverages you consume daily. That doesn’t just refer to coffee - black and green tea both contain caffeine, as well as some carbonated soda drinks. ❖ Infuse your water with fresh fruit or herbs - why not add a wedge of lemon, a slice of cucumber or a sprig of fresh mint for some subtle and refreshing flavor? ❖ Reduce the amount of sugar in your drinks by choosing natural sweetener in your tea or coffee. ❖ Swap fruit juice for a smoothie - you will still benefit from vitamins and minerals, but unlike juice, smoothies also contain dietary fibre which is essential for gut health.
● Plan in advance
The lack of preparation often results in “hungry shopping” where you buy a ton of snacks you don’t actually need, or worse - you end up ordering take out or driving by a fast food joint. The best way to avoid this is to plan ahead. Why not sit down at the end of the week and write a plan for the next week? If you create a shopping list based on your meal plan, you are less likely to turn to comfort foods. Having fewer junk foods in your house will lead to better choices long term. That’s not to say you can’t have any snacks throughout the day but why not swap out crisps and chocolate for something healthier, like fresh fruit, nuts, banana chips or trail mix? If the idea of food shopping fill you with dread, consider signing up for a subscription based food service. Some companies create a meal plan based on your nutrition goals and deliver healthy ready meals that would take care of your weekly macros. Other companies focus on selecting and delivering fresh ingredients along with the recipes, therefore making the cooking process more accessible by removing shopping and prepping steps.
● Food prep is key
Cooking can be tricky if you are afflicted with chronic pain. Not everyone can get away with some food prep, you need to be smart about it. Instead of peeling and cutting carrots, why not stock up on frozen vegetables? Nowadays, supermarkets offer a lot of options, with most frozen produce being available ready to add straight into your dish. Same goes for protein options. Buying fresh tofu would likely require several shopping trips a week, as it’s so perishable, and soaking and cooking beans and legumes takes literal hours. However, freezer section is likely to have plenty of protein options - from soya mince to vegan sausages, various burgers and other meat-free substitutes. As for beans and legumes, why not swap dry beans, lentils and chickpeas for their cooked and canned counterparts?
● Watch out for the sauce
The only thing I would definitely advise making from scratch is sauce. Just like drinks, store-bought sauces, condiments and dressings often contain surprising amounts of sugar and salt, not to mention saturated fats and added MSG. The process of making tomato-based sauces can be sped up by using tinned chopped tomatoes, tomato purée or passata. Creamy sauces can be created with coconut milk and some seasoning. Salad dressings don’t have to be entirely oil-based. Why not try using lemon juice, apple cider vinegar or tahini as the main ingredient? Dips like hummus or guacamole only take five minutes to make and not only will they taste better than their store bought counterparts, you can be in control of what you are consuming.
● Equip your house to make cooking more accessible.
If you get a slow cooker, you could set it to cook in the morning and reap the benefits as you come home from work. You would be less likely to be tempted by a takeaway menu if you know there’s a or meal awaiting at home. Casserole dish is great for creating a hot dish without having to fuss around the kitchen for hours. Once you have done some basic preparation, such as getting your vegetables, protein and carbs ready, all you have to do is place your dish in the oven, sit back and relax while it is cooking. Rice cooker could be another great investment for your kitchen. Instead of hovering over a pot, rice cookers tend to give you exact measurements to be able to cook your grains without too much effort. Plus, cooking rice in a pot often ends up with some rice getting stuck to the bottom and burning, which in turn results in more washing up. Some rice cookers also have an option for steaming vegetables, which would let you kill two birds with one stone. Steamed veggies have more nutritional value than boiled ones, while being healthier than roasted or fried vegetables. EXERCISE Creating an exercise routine can be challenging even for a perfectly healthy person, so if you suffer with chronic pain, it’s very important to exercise in a sustainable way.
● Pay a visit to a physiotherapist
While physio professionals are usually consulted in regards to an existing or past injury, their skill set can come in handy if you’re suffering with chronic pain (e.g. fibromyalgia, arthritis or connective tissue disorders). A physiotherapist could help you devise an exercise routine tailored to your abilities while taking your limitations into account. A physio routine can be used alongside other disciplines or as an exercise in its own right.
The popularity of yoga can be partially attributed to the fact that it is so versatile. It can be adapted to cater to people with various abilities, including those afflicted with disorders or illnesses resulting in chronic pain. Due to the nature of being a low-impact exercise, yoga is a more sustainable exercise option long term. When choosing a yoga class, it’s important to select a yoga teacher who is knowledgeable about the cause and the symptoms of your chronic pain, so that they can adjust their session accordingly. If you’re new to yoga, it may also be a good idea to book a private class. That way the session would be better tailored to your personal abilities and preferences (including duration, levels of physical adjustment, location and time of day). A one to one class would also help if you are feeling anxious or self conscious, and help you focus on yourself instead of worrying about anybody else present.
No exercise really beats walking. It is extremely adaptable, it can be performed by a person of any age, and best of all - it’s free! You don’t have to walk for hours every day to feel the benefits, either. Getting up from your work desk and walking around for a few minutes counts towards your daily exercise. Getting off at an earlier bus stop and walking the rest of the way home counts as your daily exercise. Walking up the stairs instead of taking the lift counts as your daily exercise. Furthermore, walking is a lot friendlier in the joints than running or lifting weights. If you are looking for a way to encourage yourself to walk more, it might even be a good idea to get a smart watch with a built-in step counter to set goals for yourself and embrace movement!
 Survey conducted by Royal National Lifeboat Institution, May 2014 - https://naturalhydrationcouncil.org.uk/press/how-hydrated-is-britain/
 Boschmann, M, Et. Al. Water-induced thermogenesis. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 2003 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/14671205/
 Survey of 3003 Americans, Nutrition Information Center, New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, April 1998.
This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. Please consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise program.