How to Lose Weight With Asthma

Losing weight can help you gain better control of your asthma and reduce the severity of attacks, as well as lower your risk of a host of other health concerns. But the obvious catch here is that asthma makes breathing difficult, making physical activity for weight loss all the more challenging—especially if your asthma is exercise-induced.

Obstacles aside, working toward a healthy weight is a worthy and possible undertaking. The first step should be talking with your doctor about a reasonable goal and what can help you reach it safely. Exercise will surely be a part of that, but making changes to your diet is a great place to start as your asthma doesn't factor in and they may offer you early "wins" that motivate you to stay the course.

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Link Between Excess Weight and Asthma

Research shows that asthma is somewhat more common in people who are overweight and is significantly more common among those who are obese (i.e, people with a body mass index of 30 or higher). The risk of asthma is even greater among women who are overweight or obese.

Reducing weight can help manage and even improve asthma in these individuals. In a randomized clinical trial, 83% of asthma patients reported a better quality of life and 58% showed improved asthma control after they lost 5% to 10% of their body weight as a result of diet and exercise.

Even a change of five pounds, according to research, affects the likelihood of an attack, impacts everyday activities, and alters your need for emergency steroid treatments to control asthma symptoms.

Other small and mid-size studies show similar benefits associated with weight loss for asthma patients. Large-scale studies haven't been conducted, but based on the findings to date, there are several simple practices that you can follow for successful weight loss, which should help ease symptoms.

Setting a Goal, Charting Your Progress

Craft a weight loss plan with your doctor, determining how much weight loss is advised and how quickly you should expect to take it off. Having a clear sense of these two things from the start is important to managing any expectations you might have about what your journey should and will entail, which can help you stay motivated.

Next, be accountable for meeting that goal by weighing yourself every day and recording your weight on a chart. You might consider doing this on a smartphone app or simply on a piece of paper.

This can be difficult because you'll see fluctuations, including days when your weight goes up even when you've done all the "right" things. Don't worry about those increases. The goal is to help you see the changes—even if they are very small to start with.

Along with charting your weight loss, record how you feel day-to-day. Is your breathing labored? Do you need your inhaler? This data gathering will help identify what is working and keep you going, as well as what may need modification.

What and How You Eat

Reducing your calorie intake is hard, but it may help to think in think in three-day cycles.

Tell yourself that you only need to fight the temptation to eat more or indulge in high-calorie foods for the next three days. If you can get through those first 72 hours on a reduced-calorie intake, you'll feel some sense of accomplishment—and you'll be ready to set the next three-day goal.

Eventually, this will get a little easier as you adapt to fewer calories and healthier meals.

Plan Meals

Planning meals is the key to eating right. Calculating and writing out every meal is a common tool for weight loss. Begin by using a calorie calculator online to determine how many calories you need to consume in order to maintain your current weight.

To lose at least a pound a week, you’ll need to cut your current daily calorie intake per day by 500 calories. You may be able to lose more weight if you reduce that even more, but there are other factors to consider. Very low-calorie diets can be unhealthy, so don't be overly restrictive and discuss a strategy with your doctor.

Once you know the target number of calories to consume in a day, you need to divide that up and dedicate a certain amount to each meal/snack.

For example, if your target is 2,000 calories per day, you could consume about 400 calories per meal four times a day, plus two light 200-calorie snacks.

Play around with those numbers to see what suits your schedule and lifestyle best. You may find it helpful to keep a list of ideas for 400-calorie meals and 200-calorie snacks so you have them at the ready when you crave some variety in your diet.

To make your planning easier, you might choose to follow a well-researched healthy diet such as:

You might also take advantage of the numerous online resources and apps that can help you figure out the number of calories in different foods so you can plan some easy-to-prep meals.

Prepare for Hungry Moments

Reducing your caloric intake (and increasing your activity) will inevitably leave you feeling hungry sometimes, particularly as your body adjusts to these changes.

End the urge to nibble on whatever is on hand by being prepared for times when your stomach growls between meals.

Keep healthy snacks with you during the day for times when you're out and need a little something. When you're at home or attending an event, turn to fruit and vegetables, which can be made more exciting with healthy dips.

Look for Fat Alternatives

It can be counterproductive to give up on fat altogether in your diet, as certain unsaturated fats—like those in nuts, olive oil, grapeseed oil, and avocados—offer health benefits and can help you feel satiated.

Make an effort to choose these healthier fats over other options. And when you're looking for a favorite food that may not quite fit with your diet, seek out and make lower-fat versions that still satisfy. For example:

  • Swap a beef burger for a ground turkey or a plant-based option.
  • Cut your own potatoes and bake them with some sea salt to make fries without actually frying.
  • Roast or bake chicken instead of frying it.
  • Switch to lower fat milk and yogurt instead of full-fat dairy.

Eat Slow, Wait 20 Minutes

Eating food too fast generally results in overeating. Your brain takes some time to process the fact that you've had enough to eat. Eating quickly means that you don't realize you're full until well after you've hit that point (meanwhile, you've continued to consume more food).

Instead, try slowing down. Eat a reasonable serving of food. Then, wait at least 20 minutes and drink a glass of water. Often, you will find that you feel full just by waiting that little while.

Exercising With Asthma

In addition to decreasing the number of calories you take in, a good weight loss plan will include increasing the number of calories you burn. You can burn hundreds of calories with a 30-minute intense workout, but asthma can make a sustained 30 minutes of exercise hard.

When adopting a new routine for physical activity, you need to be aware of what your asthma triggers are and how to enjoy a workout without suffering from exercise-induced asthma. Making a practical plan for increasing your calorie expenditure is the best way to ensure you stay healthy and stay motivated to stick with the routine.

Set Aside Five Minutes a Day

Most experts recommend beginning with just a short workout every day. It won’t burn 200 calories, but it will get you moving. Start with five minutes a day, seven days a week. Any kind of exercise will work, but limiting cardiovascular activities at first may be best for those with asthma.

Experiment with crunches, push-ups, some jumping jacks, or maybe some running in place. As long as you don’t stop for five minutes, you are fine.

The following week, try to increase your workout time by five minutes. Keep increasing it every week by two minutes, and soon you will be working out for 30 minutes a day. The more you build up your heart and lungs the more you lower your risk for an asthma attack during exercise.

Choose Activities with Lower Risk for Asthma Attacks

Focus on activities that are less risky for people with asthma—that is, those with short, intermittent periods of exertion, like:

  • Volleyball
  • Gymnastics
  • Baseball
  • Wrestling

When you participate in an exercise that involves sustained long periods of exertion, like soccer, running, or basketball, your asthma may be triggered. Cold-weather sports like ice hockey, cross-country skiing, and ice-skating may also be activities to avoid at first until you get your heart and lungs in the best shape possible.

To reduce the risk of asthma risks, ease into a workout. Fifteen minutes of warm-up before an intense workout can help avoid asthma symptoms.

Control Asthma During Exercise

Once you decide which activities to incorporate into your weight-loss strategy, formulate an asthma action plan. For example, always use your preventative asthma medications or an inhaler before exercise if prescribed by your doctor.

Exposure to cold temperatures, allergens, or pollutants can bring on an asthma attack, so try to avoid these conditions. Do not exercise if you have a viral infection such as a cold or the flu. Finally, exercise at a level that is appropriate for your overall health, and always do less than you think you can do as a precaution.

Considering Surgery

Several studies have suggested that weight loss from bariatric surgery improves asthma control in obese patients. One study stated that asthma medication refills decreased by as much as 50% following bariatric surgery, and asthma patients have shown a decrease in symptoms and improvements in pulmonary function tests five years following their procedures.

While these reports are promising, bariatric surgery is a fairly radical step. The procedure has its own risks and complications, which is why lifestyle modifications targeting weight loss are typically recommended first. If they prove to be effective, surgery may not be worth it.

A Word From Verywell

Weight loss is an achievement that pays countless dividends, but it doesn't happen overnight for anyone. Strive for gradual, sustaining weight loss and avoid "quick fixes," however appealing they may sound. Remember that your doctor-approved weight loss plan is personalized to you and designed to be realistic, beneficial, and safe for your asthma. It's also crafted with long-term success in mind.

Know, too, that if you have depression or sleep apnea—conditions that others often have along with their asthma—they can improve with weight loss as well.

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Article Sources
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