- Dr. Melyssa Hoitink, ND
Maintaining a Healthy Body Size with Fibromyalgia
Updated: Aug 10, 2022
If you have fibromyalgia and your doctor has recommended that you lose some weight, you might be thinking "how the heck do I do that when I struggle to get things done throughout the day, nevermind exercising more and spending more time preparing food?!"
There are a number of reasons weight gain is common with fibromyalgia and it might not be what you think. Although, fibromyalgia makes it difficult to exercise in the ways we've all been taught are best to manage weight, there are underlying metabolic dysfunctions that contribute to weight gain and difficulty losing weight with fibromyalgia.
Hypothyroidism is a common diagnosis alongside fibromyalgia. Hypothyroidism means your thyroid is underfunctioning. When your thyroid is underfunctioning, your metabolism is slower and your body doesn't want to shed that extra weight.
Other symptoms of hypothyroidism include: Constipation, hair loss, feeling cold or feeling intolerant to cold, thinning of the eyebrows, fatigue, depression, muscle aches/cramps/weakness, dry skin, brittle nails, difficulty conceiving, and irregular or heavy periods.
If you've never had your thyroid checked or if it's been a few years, speak with your health care provider about having a thorough thyroid work-up. Untreated hypothyroidism will make it much harder to reach your weight loss goals.
Insulin resistance and blood sugar imbalances are very common among fibrowarriors and it can be a significant barrior to achieving a healthy weight.
Insulin is the hormone your body releases to move glucose (sugar) out of the blood and into cells, where it acts as fuel for the cells to carry out their functions. Resistance to insulin occurs when your body has stopped responding as efficiently to insulin as it should. This process begins with your pancreas pumping out more insulin to get the same blood sugar lowering effect.
As insulin resistance worsens, your body continues to pump out high levels of insulin, but since your body is less responsive to insulin, your blood sugar levels will start to increase. This is typically when insulin resistance is detected on blood work, although the pattern has been in place long before it was detected on a fasting blood glucose measure.
If this pattern is allowed to continue, eventually a diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes will follow. Ideally, we catch this pattern before a diabetes diagnosis and correct it.
With insulin resistance, your cells think they are starving. Because glucose is hanging out in the blood and not making it to the cells that need it, your cells are sounding starvation alarms. When your cells think they are starving, your body will not give up weight very easily as this is the way it will survive the "famine". Correcting the insulin resistance will allow cells to receive the fuel they need and help to make weight loss much easier.
Stress is a huge part of fibromyalgia. When your body is stressed, it's in fight-or-flight mode and preparing to fight or flee the perceived danger. Because a stressed body is in survival mode, it hoards resources it may need to escape/fight off danger, including fat.
Working on lowering stress, as well as practising stress management and self-care can help to switch your body out of this chronic stress response and allow you to achieve your weight loss goals.
Balancing metabolism and hormones, determining what foods help you achieve your goals, and incorporating the right types of exercise to heal your body are what we do best in the Flourishing With Fibromyalgia Academy. Ready to take the next step in your health journey? You can learn all about it here.