4 weight loss strategies that have worked for me, even with IPF

How an interdisciplinary gym is helping me build muscle strength

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by Charlene Marshall |

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Keeping up with a regular exercise routine and a healthy diet can be hard as we get older. Between our career, family commitments, and social obligations, finding time for these habits tends to be challenging.

Still, maintaining a healthy weight is important for our overall health, and may even help in the management of chronic illnesses. However, achieving that healthy weight can be a battle, especially for those of us with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a debilitating and life-threatening lung disease.

Last fall, I joined an interdisciplinary gym in anticipation of requiring knee surgery to repair a dislocation injury. It wasn’t easy to find a facility that was willing to work with me, given that I use supplemental oxygen, have limited mobility, and needed a regimen focused on strengthening my leg and knee. What I love most about the gym I eventually found is that myriad professionals — including chiropractors, physiotherapists, massage therapists, and nutritionists — all work together under one roof.

Even though my surgery was postponed to later this summer, I have no regrets about joining the gym when I did. Not only were the trainers able to strengthen my quad and hamstring muscles, but I’ve also lost 40 pounds and feel stronger than I have in a long time, particularly in my core. Because those muscles surround my lungs and rib cage, I’m hopeful this will benefit me as I live with IPF.

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Aside from the training and interdisciplinary care, I’ve also learned a lot about health. In the past, I assumed I couldn’t lose weight because I required oxygen and couldn’t do cardio exercises. But as it turns out, an effective way to lose weight is through a combination of cardio and strength training. I can attest to this, because my 40-pound weight loss was not the result of cardio.

Following are four strategies that have helped me with weight loss. Please note that I’m not a medical or fitness professional; I’m merely sharing my experiences and what worked for me. Always consult a medical provider prior to starting any diet or exercise regimen.

1. Prioritizing protein

Protein is an essential macronutrient that contributes to weight management, tissue growth and repair, and various bodily functions. It helps the body build muscle and strength, making it particularly important for those who exercise or engage in regular physical activity. Protein also helps us to feel full and can be found in foods like eggs, whole grains, cottage cheese, and meat.

I always knew protein was important, but I had no idea how much I should be consuming, or which sources offered the greatest overall health benefits. When I started at the gym, my trainer recommended I strive for 30-40 grams of protein with every meal. At first, I didn’t think it was possible, but it’s become easier over time.

2. Strength training

When I shared my fear of doing cardio as someone with IPF, one of the trainers told me that strength training is actually one of the most effective activities for weight loss, particularly for those in their 30s. It raises a person’s heart rate and can be tailored to their fitness level, making it an accessible type of exercise.

3. Quality sleep

Between the coughing, shortness of breath, and humming of an oxygen concentrator, many IPF patients have a hard time getting a good night’s sleep. Getting enough rest can be an important part of losing or maintaining weight, so I’ve been focused on improving my sleep quality.

4. Everything in moderation

Both before and since my IPF diagnosis, I’ve fallen prey to various fad diets that claim to help people achieve and maintain a healthy weight. All of those excluded a certain type of food, be it bread, rice, fruits, or certain vegetables. While in some cases it’s possible to make healthier choices (using Greek yogurt instead of sour cream to reduce calories and increase protein, for example), I’ve learned that moderation is key. I don’t deprive myself of certain foods, especially carbohydrates, which are vital macronutrients that provide the body with energy.

Have you intentionally lost weight while living with IPF? If so, I’d love to hear what has helped you or what you’ve learned in the process.

Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, Bionews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.


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