Why Is Rheumatoid Arthritis Weight Gain Common?
While unexplained weight loss can be one of the earliest — and sneakiest — signs of RA, weight gain after an RA diagnosis is unfortunately quite common, and difficult to bear. Even if you’ve maintained a healthy weight all your life, you could see the number on the scale rise when symptoms and medications begin to interfere.
Whenever you want to make a change in your health or lifestyle, it’s important to understand what’s causing the problem in the first place. Getting to know the factors and processes behind your rheumatoid arthritis weight gain or loss issues can help you attack the problem at the source and change your trajectory for a healthier body mass and a happier self-image.
What Causes Unintended Weight Gain in Rheumatoid Arthritis?
While the disease itself doesn’t cause you to pack on pounds, RA disrupts your body and routine in a number of ways that could result in weight gain. It’s difficult to predict how each patient will adapt and react to their RA, but there are some clear factors that will increase your chances of struggling with unwanted rheumatoid arthritis weight gain:
Not all medications will interfere with your metabolism, but the corticosteroid prednisone has a particularly bad reputation when it comes to weight gain. It also happens to be one of the most commonly prescribed drugs for the chronic inflammation of RA.
Unfortunately, the majority of patients who take prednisone will experience some degree of weight gain — and sometimes in places you don’t expect. Fat can accumulate in the face, abdomen and even the back of the neck. Fortunately, most people will quickly shed the excess weight once the steroid dosage is lowered.
It’s no secret that exercise is one of the very best things you can do for your muscles, joints, and waistline, but it can get complicated when RA flares up. You may realize that an exercise class or long walk is best for your body in the long run, but simply getting off the couch and out of the front door can be too much to ask some days.
If you have trouble with weight bearing movements, fatigue or range of motion, build up an arsenal of readily-available activities that favor certain movements over others. For instance, you can do laps in the local pool or join a yoga class when you’re up for the journey, but having an elliptical machine, treadmill or selection of gentle exercise videos on hand will let you get your muscles moving at home (or the office) when you can’t commit to travel.
Once you factor in unwelcome medication side effects and a less active lifestyle, you’ll find that your regular diet may no longer be suitable.
After all, if you’re not burning those extra calories, they will get stored as body fat. And if you’re not taking in quality calories, you’ll see and feel the unhappy consequences. As your body’s needs and metabolism change, your diet needs to change, too.
Obviously, a wholesome diet is the way to go, but it can be difficult to jump into an entirely new menu plan when you’re used to eating whatever you want. The first step is to learn which foods are “calorie dense” versus those that are “nutrient dense” and begin to make smart substitutions.
How to Lose Weight With Rheumatoid Arthritis
Losing weight can feel like an uphill battle when you live with RA. You’re sore, tired and struggling to simply get through your day. In turn, many people with RA fall into a reactive cycle rather than a proactive routine.
It’s time to break that cycle. You may not be able to control all the factors, but when it comes to the basic grounds of weight gain — taking more calories in than you’re burning — there are some ways to tip the balance in your favor.