How to Lose Weight & Have an Active Lifestyle with a Chronic Illness

by Krissy Ward

     If you have fibromyalgia and you’re in pain, exercising is probably the last thing you feel like doing. 

     Fibromyalgia has no cure, but consistent exercise can help reduce your symptoms significantly. It's easy to try to avoid exercise because of the initial pain, but I promise if you just stick with it, it'll pay off in the end. Avoiding physical activity can lead to more issues in the long run.

     When I first started my weight-loss journey, I was 315 pounds with high blood pressure. I would go to Planet Fitness and get on the treadmill and would struggle to meet my one mile goal. I know that one mile may not a big deal for many of you, but at the time, it was a challenge for me.

     Now, when I go walking, my goal is 10,000 steps, which is about 4.75-5 miles. I NEVER thought I’d be able to walk that distance. Once, I just wanted to see how far I could actually walk and I walked almost 8 miles! Granted, I took an Uber home, but we aren’t going to focus on that part lol. I paid for it dearly the entire week after. So when you start to feel like you can handle a little more in your workouts, please don’t go overboard like me. Learn from my mistakes.

     With consistency and dedication, I was able to get down to 202 pounds and was able to slowly ween off the blood pressure pills. 

     There is a mental component that comes with having a chronic illness and when you are on a weight loss journey. Working hard to lose weight while having Fibromyalgia seems almost impossible sometimes, but I had to learn to work WITH Fibromyalgia and not against it. I don't always listen, but I do try to listen to my body. Having setbacks can be tough and it feels like you aren't doing enough, but know this: consistency is key! Stay with it. Don't give up.

     When starting this journey, it's important to stay focused. It's hard to not look at others or your life pre-illness and start comparing. When going to the gym, you may see other people who are able to do so much more than you can, but stay focused on what you CAN do. Sometimes, I often criticize myself when I get exhausted and can't finish a workout as hard or as long as I would like, but then, I remember how I couldn’t even walk a block without getting winded. It's all about shifting your perspective.

     When you first start out, you are going to want to take things slow. The last thing you want to do is exacerbate your illness by working your body too hard. Take it one day or goal at a time. When you have a chronic illness, the goal of exercising should be to feel better, not the opposite. Too much too soon can trigger a flare and that may take a while to recover from. 

     Give yourself grace. When you have a chronic illness, no day is the same and you never really know how you're going to feel. One day we feel great; the next day we may feel terrible. Unfortunately, that is life with chronic illness. Try not to get so hung up about a particular daily goal. I've had a routine and did the same machine for months. One day, that same machine put me in a flare and I was out of commission for over a week. So, just keep in mind that the workout that feels invigorating on Monday may feel unbearable later in the week. Just listen to your body and give yourself time for extra rest while you are adjusting to your new routine. 

     Celebrate the wins, no matter how small.

     I have a tendency to take "go hard or go home" a little too seriously and if you are anything like me, you may be tempted to try using the heaviest weight you can lift, but please learn from me and resist the urge! Use a smaller weight that you can easily lift and raise above your head without any issues.  Multiple reps of small weights will suffice and you won't end up straining yourself. 

     Remember Warriors, the exercises should be challenging, but comfortable enough to do most days of the week. Listen to your body, rest and adjust accordingly.