How to avoid weight gain when injured or sick

RightFood4U Blog How To Avoid Weight Gain When Injured or Sick - Nutrition Programmes - Bray Wicklow Dublin
Ilona Madden - RightFood4U - Nutrition Programmes - Bray Wicklow Dublin

Written by Ilona Madden

October 24, 2019

Having done damage to my knee ligaments recently, and been told you need to be at least 6 weeks on crutches, my first thought and worry was “How am I avoid putting on weigth during this period?”

Just because I know what I “should” be eating does not mean that I am actually doing this. Also, I have never been sure what role the amount of exercise I’ve been doing all the time played in me not gaining weight. I’ve always been quite active, between walking the dogs at least twice per day, the gym (3x week), golf (2x week), running and just generally not being able to sit still.

That exercise element was completely taken away and while I’ve been trying to do certain arm strengthening exercising at the beginning, I soon found that my arms and shoulders were under such pressure from walking on the crutches already, that I didn’t want to add to the “injury”.

So, I still tried to get up and “hobble” around as much as possible, but everything was much slower and much more difficult. I also found myself tired much quicker and have to admit: I did have the odd afternoon nap. But then again, my body needs rest to heal.

Well, I’ve also been telling myself that my body “needs red wine to relax and after all, I’m not taking the anti-inflammatories and pain killers that I was prescribed”. I felt that “I need a little bit of chocolate to comfort myself”.

Upps, and suddenly, this did not just happen once, but more and more frequent. I had to stop myself.

My body does not NEED chocolate and red wine! What my body does need is rest, and good nutrients to help heal!

So, here is what I’ve been doing. For some things, there’s absolutely NO proof or an official study that proofs that it will help, but I think all those things are worth a try if you find yourself in this or a similar situation.

All I can say that in the 4 weeks since it happened, I have actually lost weight, and I assume this is pure muscle loss, which is not a good thing.

So, here are 12 tips that I would like to share:

1. Move as much as you can

Keep your circulation going and the more you move the more energy you create. Keep the muscles that you can move working and active. If you have been prescribed physio, make sure you do those exercises! It’s incredible how quickly you lose muscle function – and potentially permanently – if you don’t move.

Also, if you lose muscle mass, you are also slowing down your metabolism, so if you eat the same amount of food with a slower metabolism, you are not burning as many calories.

2. Reduce the amount of food you eat

This sounds like such an obvious recommendation but I actually found myself eating less without consciously trying to eat less. I found I have definitely less appetite, but what I noticed, I still dished up the same amount of food and actually had to stop myself finishing off the plate. Once I realised that I actually consciously decided to stop eating or started out with smaller portions.

If you are finding yourself being as hungry as before the injury or your illness, you will need a bit of willpower and keep reminding yourself that you are requiring less energy at the moment. Watch out for those hunger signals! Maybe you are just eating the same amounts out of habit. Maybe you just want to finish off the plate. So fill less on to your plate. Use less ingredients if you are cooking from a recipe.

Simply: Be aware of your portion size.3

3. Eat only slow-releasing carbohydrates

This is something, you should apply anyway, but particularly when you are sick or injured and less mobile. Eating carbohydrates that cause your blood sugar to rise quickly, will lead to a higher insulin rise, and insulin is a fat-storing hormone (that’s the short and non-sciency way to explain it).

Also, when your blood sugar spikes, it often leads to a drop in blood sugar later – and this leads to more cravings and being hungrier soon after again.

The less carbs you eat, the longer you can stay fuller and the less likely you are to crave more carbs.

Also, it is so easy to over-eat the fast releasing carbs, such as white toast and pasta. You don’t even realise that you are full already.

And again, as you spend less energy, you don’t need as many carbs anyway.

4. Eat protein and good fats with every meal

This is also something do anyway to keep to your blood sugar under control but it is even more important now. As it takes longer to digest protein and fats, you will stay fuller for longer. Each meal leaves you more satisfied and avoids cravings further on. E

Even though it is much more difficult and takes much more time if you are injured or sick, please try to make a point to cook as much from scratch, as you don’t want to add more additives and preservatives to your diet from ready-made meals.

5. Building up nutrients

In order to heal your body now needs loads of nutrients, so while you might have a “good” diet with plenty and a variety of vegetables already, now you might need even more and really should make a point of having veg and some fruit with each meal.

The fibre from the vegetables also feeds your good gut bacteria and the link between mood and the gut is quite established at the moment. So, eating more vegetables makes you feel happier and you’ll be better at coping with your current situation.

6. Supplements

You should always aim to get your nutrients from natural foods first, but in times when you are sick or injured, there are certain supplements you might want to add, as you simply might not be able to get enough through your diet.

As with all supplements, please check with your GP or health practitioner if it is ok, especially if you are on any kind of medication or have any health condition.

For healing an injury, our bodies need collagen as a building material. Type 1 and type 3 collagen is best for building up. So, this is one I would definitely supplement with, as well as cooking my bone broth.

Natural anti-inflammatories such as curcumin and fish-oils are helping with the natural inflammation process and are supporting your own body’s response.

I’m also taking a multivitamin supplement from food sources and a good quality protein powder with no additives or sugar added, as protein is required to keep muscle.

7. Intermittent fasting

There is so much research coming out of the benefits of intermittent fasting. One important aspect in times of sickness is that once your body is not busy digesting foods, it actually has time to heal.

On top of that, by limiting myself to only eating at mealtimes, and sometimes limiting myself to only 2 big meals per day, I am drastically cutting down on the number of calories I take in. I don’t always go for the recommended 16 hours of fasting, but make a point of fasting every day for at least 12 hours. i.e. when finishing my dinner at 7 pm, I won’t have anything anymore until the earliest 7 am in the morning. By sticking to this discipline also means, I won’t have wine or crisps or peanuts while watching TV anymore!

8. Feeling sorry for yourself

When we feel low, we tend to go for food especially sugary foods, it’s quite a natural process, as these foods spike a dopamine response in our brain and dopamine is the “Happy Hormone”, so you instantly feel happier and rewarded.

As you are feeling under the weather, you are more likely to crave sweets. These foods are also readily available, don’t require preparation, are easy to eat – and well-meaning friends who visit you tend to bring them along. Not many friends bring avocados…

Be aware of this pitfall. Ask your friends to bring flowers or a good magazine or book instead. Remove all sweets from within reach. I’ve had to ask my husband to move the chocolate upstairs!

9. Make sure you don’t get bored

When we feel bored, we also tend to go for food. Feeling bored is similar to feeling unhappy and sorry for yourself. Food gives instant gratification and feeling of happiness. Find things to keep you busy in a nice way. Reading the book you meant to read for ages. Watching a movie you’ve been meaning to watch for ages, but don’t mindfully flick around the channels or Netflix.

Sort through photographs, maybe sort them on your computer or clean your phone. This will also bring back nice memories while you are doing it.

Find something nice to treat yourself to – whatever might be possible depends on your injury or illness. I treated myself to a facial and a head massage, and I will go to the hairdresser next week and also get a manicure. I wouldn’t be able to get a full body massage for example.

Do a jigsaw, play a board or card game with your friends that are visiting.

Ask people to come visit. I actually found that hard, as everyone seems to be so busy these days, but most friends and neighbours were happy to help and to take me out for a coffee at the seafront in Bray.

10. Practise mindfulness

You can only feel bored and sorry for yourself if you want to be in a different place than you are at the moment, i.e. if you have this feeling of being bored you are not in the present moment. Or otherwise said: If you are in the present and mindful, you cannot feel bored.

I love the Headspace App and have been using it for the past year. What it shows me is the difference from my thoughts and feelings and what actually IS. There are some great exercises on the APP on pain management which really helped me understand pain better. It does not reduce the level of pain, but it changes the way I see it. And that’s the same with thoughts and feelings.

You can download 10 x 10minutes sessions for free, after that you have to pay the subscription of around €100 for the year and you can get a lot of various specific meditations.

However, if Headspace is not for you, there’s also KALMS app which is also quite good, they also do some free ones, and there are tons on the internet and you can find which one suits you best.

11. Practise gratitude

I’ve been on and off writing a gratitude journal for years, but being out sick, I found it really is helpful tool to stay positive. Each evening, I write down at least 5 things for which I’m grateful for, sometimes specific for that day, sometimes just general.

I’m grateful my other leg is still strong so that I can actually move around the house.

I’m grateful that I don’t need surgery and will get better.

I’m grateful I was able to see a client today and help her with her on her health journey.

I’m grateful to have my two dogs around.

I’m grateful to have my eyesight to read and see the beautiful sunset (even though it was not over the sea).

I’m grateful for my friends and neighbours

etc etc. You get the idea…

12. Ask for help

For someone who is so independent always and for someone who likes to be in control, this has probably been one of the most difficult things to do. However, I know that if I want to get around and go out, I need to ask for a lift.

I asked people who I didn’t expect would say “yes” and they did, and I was even more delighted. I need to accept that the things the people buy for me when they do the shopping for me are not necessarily what I wanted, but I’m grateful that I got something to eat.

I have to accept that my house is not as clean and tidy, as it would be if I had my two legs functioning but then again, it will do and is not the end of the world. I find people are actually delighted to be able to help when you ask. And they always have a choice to say no. And if they do, that’s ok with me too.

It is a known fact that having a community around you is healthy. Making a point of seeing friends and neighbours and also clients, gives a great sense of belonging and I am hoping will help on my healing process.

So, thank you to all my chauffeurs and friends and clients who have called and have helped me! I really do appreciate all you are doing for me!

You May Also Like:

6 Super easy tips to reverse symptoms of feeling old

6 Super easy tips to reverse symptoms of feeling old

Are those people who get old and stay fit and mentally alert just lucky or have good genes? Or can we influence how we feel, how fit we are and how mentally sharp we stay as we get older? Many people blame symptoms such as lack of energy, weight gain, becoming...

Why shouldn’t I eat that cake if I fancy it?

Why shouldn’t I eat that cake if I fancy it?

Many people have been telling me that they don’t want to live a life where they constantly must think about whether something is good for them or not. They tell me, they want to eat a piece of cake when they fancy it and not restrict themselves. While they do...

How do you manage to stay so slim?

How do you manage to stay so slim?

“How do you manage to stay so slim, when you are eating so much?” 3 “hacks” to stay slim without food restrictions I’ve recently been away with a few friends on a fully organised tour programme where meals were included and where we spent a lot of time eating. One...