There is a direct link between being overweight and having back pain. This is often why the first piece of advice given by medical professionals to anyone who is overweight and suffering from back pain is to lose weight.
If you’ve ever been told to lose weight you likely know how frustrating and demoralizing it can feel, especially if it wasn’t the first time. Maybe you’ve lost weight in the past but gained it back. Or you’ve been trying to lose weight and nothing is working.
We are often our own harshest critic when it comes to how we look, and what we weigh. It’s human nature, and it’s ok to have those feelings.
But what if there is a way to lose weight and keep it off? What if this could help you get out, and stay out of back pain? What’s stopping you from trying to lose weight to lower your back pain today?
In this article, we will explain why weight impacts back pain, teach you about setting weight loss expectations and give you some daily habits that build a foundation for losing weight.
Why weight impacts your back pain
When we carry excess weight on our body, specifically around our abdomen, our center of gravity shifts forward, which moves our spine into an unnatural position. This results in what is called an anterior pelvic tilt and can result in additional stress placed on the lumbar spine.
The mobility of our spine now becomes limited since it is not in its natural position. This makes it harder for us to move, and as a result, we move less and thus become more sedentary.
Stress within the body, being overweight, and lifestyle factors like being sedentary lead to chronic inflammation within the body. When we are chronically inflamed, we are then more likely to suffer from back pain. We also have a harder time losing weight because of how inflammation affects our metabolism.
By beginning to build habits to combat chronic inflammation and promote weight loss, we can start to lower our chances of having back pain.
*Learn more about chronic inflammation and what foods can reduce them in our blog post ‘the best foods to reduce back pain’.
Setting weight loss expectations
In our weight loss journey, it’s important to remember we didn’t get to the weight we’re at overnight. It took time. Similarly, it will also take time to lose weight.
Popular diets emphasize rapid weight loss and restriction of certain components of foods including macronutrients and calories. Unfortunately, when we restrict macronutrients and calories, we risk ‘burning-out’ our metabolism.
Metabolic ‘burn-out’ is often marked by weight loss attempts that result in these three phases:
- Initial dramatic weight loss: mostly due to the restriction of carbohydrates and the loss of water weight that accompanies this.
- Weight plateau: this is the point where your metabolism has slowed down in response to the change in your diet.
- Rebound weight gain: because you now have a slower metabolic rate.
Knowing that dramatic weight loss generally leads to rebound weight gain, we need to begin focusing on lasting weight loss instead of rapid weight loss. According to the CDC, the optimal range of weight loss is 1-2 pounds per week.
Gradual weight loss can be achieved by focusing on habits that improve your metabolism. By building in the following metabolic-boosting habits into your normal routine you can begin to set a foundation for weight loss that will last.
Try these foundational habits for weight loss
Adopting any and all of the following habits will help you to lose weight, and keep the weight off.
Set realistic goals.
Losing weight takes time. Stressing over the scale can actually impede weight loss because you produce more of the stress hormone cortisol, not to mention our weight fluctuates a lot during the day. Shifting your perspective to having more realistic expectations of what your weight loss journey will look like, is essential to losing weight.
Try this instead: Set one small weekly attainable goal, that is NOT related to your weight. Make it something you can track or measure, like walking for 10 minutes each day or eating 2 cups of vegetables with dinner. The more specific you can make your goal the better your chances are of succeeding at it.
Drink more water.
Water is essential to keep our metabolism running. To lose weight, our metabolism has to work overtime. Increasing your water intake will help put your body into a natural ‘fat burning’ state. Ideally, you should aim to get ½-1 ounce of water per every pound you weigh (so if you weigh 150 lbs, your goal should be between 75-150 oz of water per day).
Try this: Start small by calculating how many ounces of water you drink each day and try adding 10 additional ounces of water each day. An easy way to add in additional water to your day is by having a glass of water right away when you wake up. Other alternatives to plain water include seltzer water, unsweetened tea, or water flavored with fresh fruit (like lemon or lime).
Movement helps to promote blood flow. This directly increases your metabolic rate because you are supplying your body with all of the nutrients your blood carries which are used to fuel metabolism.
Try this: Aim to walk for a certain amount of time each day (10-20 minutes for example) or to a set location (around the block, around your office building, etc). Getting any movement is better than no movement.
Take a multivitamin, fish oil, and probiotic.
If you eat a healthy diet that consists of healthy fats, lean proteins, fiber-rich grains, fermented foods, and at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, you probably don’t need to take these supplements.
But if you don’t, you should take these foundational supplements. Each of these supplements helps your body reduce inflammation and provide key nutrients to fuel your metabolism.
Important note: The supplement industry is not regulated. Which means, what is on the label is not required to match what is in the product. Find supplements that are ‘third party tested’ to ensure what you are buying is actually what’s on the label. A label that says ‘NSF’ is the gold standard for third-party testing.
Eat more vegetables and fruit.
Vegetables and fruits are jam-packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Foods high in fiber also help to keep you full for longer and can aid in lowering cholesterol levels within the body. This is because soluble fiber helps to remove cholesterol from your bloodstream.
Try this: Aim to eat 5-6 servings of vegetables and fruit each day. One serving of vegetables is equivalent to two ‘handfuls’. While one serving of fruit is equivalent to the size of a tennis ball, or the palm of your hand. Easy ways to add in more vegetables and fruits are by having a huge salad or adding in a smoothie to your normal routine.
By starting these habits, you can begin to lose weight and combat chronic inflammation within your body. This can help to reverse the cycle of back stress, limited mobility, and sedentary behaviors so you can get out, and stay out of back pain.
Begin building your weight loss foundation today
Losing weight is not easy. Select 1-2 of the above listed foundational habits for weight loss to start working on today. Try keeping track of these habits in a calendar or journal. Check off the days you complete these habits and begin reaching your weight loss goals.
If you need more guidance on how to build these habits into your daily routine to promote weight loss to improve back health, contact our Telespine Health Coaches. They have an extensive background in helping clients change their habits to live healthy, back-pain free lives, and they’d love to help you too.
Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Losing Weight. CDC https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/losing_weight/index.html. February 13, 2018. Accessed: June 27, 2019.