Losing weight with physical illness. - Weight Loss NHS

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Losing weight with physical illness.


Hi, i have chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis & spinal stenosis. I am currently on a very low calorie diet, under 600 calories 2 days a week & under 1200 calories 5 days a week. At the moment i have a BMI of 38.6 & with the combination of my weight & illnesses exercising is impossible. Some days i can barely walk yet we're constantly being told that to lose weight successfully we need a calorie controlled diet & lots of exercise. What do you do if you can't exercise? I have the will power to stick to my diet despite how lethargic it makes me but I'm struggling to shift any weight. 3 years ago i successfully lost nearly 6 stone on the atkins diet with 2 hours intense exercise daily but when my illness started kicking in i regained over 4 stone again & now cannot shift it. Can anyone help? I'm not entitled to bariatric surgery apparently because to be eligible with my BMI you have to be a diabetic or have heart disease yet if i cannot shift this weight by diet alone i could ultimately end up with those conditions which is something I desperately want to avoid as diabetes was the cause of my mothers death.

27 Replies

This makes me absolute fume, it really does, the current mainstream advice of move more eat less is based on complete myth and at best weak and outdated science. You're not alone feeling like this, we see this question asked so many times because people are conditioned through no fault of their own to believe this mantra.

Exercise is important, it's important for Health but not for weight loss. Successful weight loss is all about what you eat.

What the establishments that push this advice seem to fail to realise is that someone faced with immense weight loss that is unable to commit to reasonable level of exercise due to an illness or disability has a hard enough task mentally to tackle without having to think they have failed before they even start or that they are disadvantaged in comparison to an able bodied person. No one losing weight needs any more excuses to quit or not to start in the first place, it's hard enough already.

I personally lost at least 10 stone before I did a single step of what could even be remotely described as exercise and then for sometime it was only very light activities such as walking.

Get your diet right and you will lose weight Fireball76, and expect along the way to experience plateaus and slowdowns in your loss but when this happens don't be fooled into thinking it's because you are unable to exercise, just rethink what you are eating, stay strong and continue on, then once you've lost some weight and you feel you are able to move some more look at doing something then.

Good Luck.

Sorry had to respond quickly as the coal/log man turned up.

I meant to ask you what types of food are you currently eating, are you mainly just concentrating on restricting calories to lose weight or are you restricting certain food types? How long have you been on your current diet and how much have you lost on it? From your description, you are currently doing 5:2 intermittent fasting is that correct?

Fireball76 in reply to OlsBean

Believe me I know how to create a well balanced diet, I calorie count yes but I also stick to low fat and low carb (as much as possible) I don't have sugar in my diet unless it's from fruit & I make sure everything I have has the correct amount of nutrients I need. I do think exercise helps weight loss as when I was able to do that in conjunction with a strict diet I lost the weight. I think the problem is my body is storing everything I take in & the lack of ability to burn off what I take in is preventing me from losing weight. Basically like a physically active person on a much higher calorie diet would maintain their weight rather than lose, I feel this is what's happening with me. The annoying thing is I have been on several types of pain medication & all make me even more fatigued than I already am & many come with side effects including weight gain. Banging my head against a brick wall.

OlsBean in reply to Fireball76

Gaining and maintaining weight are very different beasts to losing weight, which further adds to people's confusion. In lots of individual, a continues surplus of energy (overeat) will end up being stored as fat, but an energy deficit (diet) does not necessarily mean you'll lose fat, you're just as likely to lose muscle, water and perhaps nothing at all for a number of reasons. From a scientific point of view Losing Fat (not just weight) requires a very specific biochemical state.

Have you thought of looking at LCHF (Low Carb, High Fat), it might help in your situation, there are a couple of less active members in this community following the regime and losing with it.


Fireball76 in reply to OlsBean

That's pretty much what i did on the atkins, high fat & under 20grms of carbohydrate a day, it was amazing, the weight dropped off but i was very physically active, fitter than I'd ever been however the drawbacks i have found can be thinning hair & receding gums which has happened to me & I'm having to try to rectify those along with everything else, I also developed a severe vitamin D deficiency but that's fine now after a high dose of meds. I dunno, I'm seeing my GP on monday so i might have a chat with her to see if there are ways to combat the side effects of such a diet.

Thanks for your understanding & advice, i do appreciate it. ☺

Penel in reply to Fireball76

I wonder if you have looked at the Paleo/Primal diet? It's similar to LC/HF diet.


Penel in reply to Fireball76

Any idea why you ended up with thinning hair etc? Lack of protein?

Fireball76 in reply to Penel

I don't know, it could be hereditary or hormonal (due to PCOS) it won't be due to lack of protein, the atkins diet is high protein.

Penel in reply to Fireball76

I had always associated PCOS with hair growth, but a quick google says that hair loss is also possible, along with Vit D problems. The problems look as though they are part of PCOS and are not caused by a low carb diet. Hopefully your doctor can advise.

Good luck with sorting it out.

Fireball76 in reply to Penel

Thanks. I would like to try low carb again & it would be good to know it won't affect my hair. I'll see what my GP says tomorrow.


Why are you on so low calories, your body will think its starving and store

Fireball76 in reply to Hidden

Yes that was a point I made.


Yes, your post had me fuming on your behalf too. I disagree with Olsbean that exercise (in general) is irrelevant to weight loss. But of course there are lots of people who face genuine challenges to exercise that are not all about attitude.

I have lost weight whilst unable to exercise due to ME (I never, ever, ever call it Chronic Fatigue Syndrome which I regard as an insult) It was hard work (cognitively) ***but it was do-able***. I have never been a hobby dieter, don't read women's magazines etc and fundamentally I don't have a major psychological problem around food/eating (though obviously something hasn't been right for me to become overweight) so I just counted calories. It took a couple of years because I didn't stick rigidly to the calorie limit every day, that's not how normal life works. The key thing was just not giving up.

Various things happened (perhaps the most significant was no scales) and the weight crept back on to the point where I was obese. Fortunately for me, something had shifted a little (I think it may have been the menopause) and I sensed I was ready to do a little bit more, or at least try (I still spend most of my life in bed) I now do a lot more - it has not cured me by any means, and I live a very 'small' life. It has been a lot easier and a lot more fun losing weight this way (I now have a healthy BMI) I am not a perfectionist about it - if there's birthday cake to be had, I am having it etc. The exercise I do doesn't burn many calories in itself - I'd have to be a lot more well for that.

Your current diet is extremely unhealthy, especially for someone with ME - this is not the 5:2 diet as you are restricting calories severely every day - and must demand a great deal of willpower and cognitive effort which you could usefully be spending elsewhere. I am very glad you are seeing your GP.

OlsBean in reply to GoogleMe

You say you disagree with me that exercise is not needed to lose weight, then in your second paragraph you say "I have lost weight whilst unable to exercise"

I'm not suggesting for one minute exercise is not important for longevity and health, it's critical! But it's not needed to lose weight and I fume about it because like the OP I was one of those people that was for years and years stuck in misery, indoctrinated and made to feel that I was wasting my time even trying to lose weight because I was disabled and if I'd not challenged that then (without trying to sound too over-dramatic) I can pretty much say I would not be here writing this now because of an incident since.

Anyway I can only share my own personal experience of it but I deplore anyone that may be lurking on the side reading threads like this to not give up on attempting to lose weight because of a disability that prevents you from being active.


GoogleMeMaintainer in reply to OlsBean

Exercise isn't *irrelevant* to weight loss - which is what I thought you were implying. There are some people who do lose weight without modifying an appalling and high calorie diet - but that's a heck of a lot of intense exercise (and obviously not to be recommended). And it has a lot of effects for many people that can have an impact on the ability to lose weight. But no, it isn't essential.

It is interesting though. I don't know where I was when this message was given out (and my professional background is in health education) that you needed to exercise to lose weight but I didn't get it, so I've never thought it was hopeless trying to lose weight.

But I didn't have the complication of medications (since no drugs worked), I'd never 'dieted' and I didn't have any mental health problems. These are all factors too.

Fireball76 in reply to OlsBean

I will never give up, it's too important to me to not let history repeat itself.

GRUMPYA in reply to OlsBean

So refreshing to read an intelligent take on the exercise front. When the exercise nazis tell us it's vital to weight loss they are in effect saying that someone who is profoundly disabled is condemned to obesity. It's not true but we do need to eat less to maintain than the not yet disabled do, many of us can only eat 1300 or 1400 calories to maintain so to create a deficit will need great determination and will probably result in a very meagre diet. The fact that the very disabled also need to get to a lower bmi than the average population also adds to the problem but it is possible to do it even by quadriplegics

Fireball76 in reply to GoogleMe

With all due respect everybody is different & I'm not some young slip of a girl new to all this, I have exhausted many avenues & in my 38 years did indeed come to the conclusion that diet with exercise works. I also have PCOS which doesn't help. I don't understand why you find Chronic fatigue syndrome an offensive name for ME, what's the big deal? I couldn't care less what it's called. Lol!

GoogleMeMaintainer in reply to Fireball76

Well, if you feel you've got it all sussed, fair enough and good luck. I got a different impression from your earlier post, I thought you sounded really desperate, my mistake.

It is probably very good for your mental health if you don't know anything about the huge controversies about ME/CFS! The chief proponents of the term Chronic Fatigue Syndrome argue that the central problem is faulty thinking and being fearful of exercise (hence deconditioning) and that we'll recover with cognitive behaviour therapy and graded exercise.

This is the 5:2 Diet - you mustn't eat so low every day!


I have the same issue my back is un fixable because of my gps negligence I don't suffer with diabetes either does it go on bmi? What about something low impact like Pilates or tai chi? Yoga can b quite hardcore have u tried any of these , or v v slowly start walking v v little each day u don't have to run b4 u can walk do they say I know runnings a no no but maybe walking Im trying to do this I can't do much at all but a little may help ur heart

On reading all this there seems to be mixed feelings toward healthy eating and exersise, I am about 8 stone overweight as the graph goes, but I would be happy to loose 4 stone, it would make a huge difference, I just calorie count, and it works, it would probably work better with exersise, I am 65 and would love to run a mile, realistic it's way in the future if at all, I do walk quite a way ,3 mile is fine , I strugle with 5 , but there's nothing wrong with my brain, so if I can loose weight and stay mobile that will be fine for me

I have lost a total of 31lbs and i am in a wheelchair and not very good at self propelling so get very little exercise. When it finally sunk into my thick head that food is simply fuel rather than an entitlement or a pleasure it started to happen. The truth is most profoundly disabled people who succeed in maintaining a low body weight eat very little and many are a bit hungry most of the time. The trouble is a bit like a very economic car, we don't need the same amount of fuel and need to fill up either less often or with less fuel.

Being unable to exercise also means more available time which it's easy to fillwith food too.

Once you have lost the first few stone I'm sure your confidence will improve and you may find that the local swimming pool has a disabled swimming club. If you find the water supportive and helpful you could progress onto aqua fit. Some pools do an aqua class in the deep end or diving pool this puts no stress on the bones or joints at all and is well worth searching out. All pools nowadays have hoists and disabled changing. Most gyms also have equipment designed for disabled customers and your GP may be able to refer you for exercise on prescription which gives you 12 weeks free.

Try to focus on what you can do not what you can't. You can lose weight without exercise but if and when you start making progress the exercise will help and will help make your heart stronger and blood pressure lower

Good morning Fireball76

I hear you loud and clear. How frustrating has it been. I think unless you have a physically illness it is hard to understand the trying to relate that calories in and calories out which is the essence of loosing weight, however, that is one side of the story. For most people without the physical rescrtiction you can had exercise to boost not only your cardio and strength fitness but your overall weight loss. Now I know the physical constraints . Even this morning I knew I had to get up, my puppy licks my nose and walks on me until I get out of bed. At 5.38 to be wavy I wasn't feeling a get up and go morning but she needed to go wee and so did I.😊 Dual purpose having a puppy. Well I eventually go up as my body creak with every move and pain shot through my joints. I grabbed my walking stick to lean on and shuffled to the bathroom as I heard my puppy bolt for the doggydoor.

Now as much as that is just a smudge early I shuffle around the house putting items from the night before in there place. I am a bit obsessed I like cushions place in the right position, no cups or marks on the tables, no toys on the floor and when I can I go outside and very slowly brush up the half dozen leaves that have fallen overnight and puppies little parcels. She goes weed on a grass mat but for some reason insists on doing her other anywhere on the Pavers. Now this morning I just couldn't do the outside bit so after getting a glass water for my tablets and reheating my heat pack for the tenth time I went back to bed. Puppy looking wondering why I didn't feed her but honestly I couldn't bend down yet to put her bowl down due to al the pain.

This is my daily routine so I get the physical bit. Today will be a day of rest and I hope to do some cooking. Of course, not for me so much to eat but burning calories standing up and moving around the kitchen which might seem strange but it is exercise but on a slow scale but it keeps me moving.

Today is not a pool day or a bike day it's finding exercise that suits my current pain score. If I feel better later I might get on my bike and ride round the block😊🙏🏼

I hope you can find the insight that if you can't do much do some. My ways might not and proberly won't much your desires but we can all move with not body strength but mental strength.

You can do this too. Choose something you think you might like for a short- term goal and maybe a long term goal for later. Start small with movement. Even when I was a Personal trainer I use to go to a nursing home and run a group of over 70's. We did chair exercises for the ones over 80yrs and in that group a gorgeous lady of 101 yrs came out with her lipstick and hanky in the other hand just to do my group. I always remember her and use her as my measuring stick. I have a few more years to go but I want to be exercising even in a chair at 101.

Getup and go girl. Get some music on and move that body even if it's very slow to start.

You can do it and everyone here is here to help. We are all ears to what and how you are progressing and even in a little way and when/ if you feel unmotivated come here and read other stories, vent a bit and I am sure someone will give you the reassurance that you need to continue on.

Congrat for writing here, one goal down and many to go I am sure.

Sending a big hug and a little of my motivation to get you started.

All the very best. 😁🤗🙏🏼

Poppy x

MissisBAdministrator in reply to Poppyrose1

Unfortunately you have written your lovely reply to a post that is four years old so you may not receive the replies you hope for. 🙂

Poppyrose1 in reply to MissisB

That's ok even one person it may help😊 or just me to get moving today🏊🏻‍♀️🚴

MissisBAdministrator in reply to Poppyrose1

You keep chasing after that puppy. 🙂

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