How to Lose Weight With Asthma

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Research shows that asthma is somewhat more common in people who are overweight and is significantly more common among those who are obese, which includes those with a body mass index of 30 or higher. The risk of asthma is even greater among women who are overweight or obese. If you're looking to gain better control of your asthma and reduce the severity of attacks, you should talk to your doctor about how lowering your weight might help you achieve those goals.

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. To reap the benefits, you can start adopting simple strategies to lose weight through diet and exercise.

Link Between Excess Weight and Asthma

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).

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.

Set a Goal and Chart Your Progress

First, you should discuss a weight loss plan with your doctor in order to determine how much weight you might want to lose and how quickly you might expect to take it off.

Next, be accountable for meeting that goal by weighing yourself every day and recording the weight on a chart. 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 motivated.

Controlling What You Eat and How You Eat

Reducing your calorie intake is hard, but, sometimes, it can be easier if you think in three-day cycles. Tell yourself that you only need to fight the temptation to eat more or avoid 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, it'll start to 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 is by 500 calories. You may be able to lose more weight, 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 your daily target, you need to divide it up throughout the day. That means 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. Keep a list of ideas for 400-calorie meals and 200-calorie snacks so you can swap them around to allow 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 plan some easy-to-prep meals.

Snack Healthy

Often, weight loss is about building good habits and breaking bad ones. Among the two big lessons to learn:

  1. End the urge to nibble on whatever is on hand.
  2. Be prepared for times when you're suddenly hungry between meals.

Keep healthy snacks with you during the day for times when you're out and need a pick-me-up. 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 Alternative Fats

Afraid of missing your favorite foods? Often, you can find lower-fat versions to replace them. For example:

  • Swap a beef burger for a ground turkey or a plant-based option.
  • Cut your own potatoes into fries and bake them with some sea salt.
  • Roast or bake chicken instead of frying it.
  • Switch to lower fat milk and yogurt instead of full-fat dairy.

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—are actually beneficial.

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, and if you have asthma, try to limit your cardio at first. 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 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 asthmatics, 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 meds or an inhaler before exercise if prescribed by your doctor.

Exposure to cold weather, 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 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 5 years following surgery.

While these reports are promising, bariatric surgery is a fairly radical step. The procedure has its own risks and complications. If lifestyle modifications targeting weight loss produce similar results, surgery may not be worth the risk.

A Word From Verywell

Asthmatics do not have to be constrained or limited by their condition. With careful planning and preparation, you can get healthy and lose excess weight. These lifestyle changes will help you manage your condition more effectively and enable you to live a full and rich life with asthma. Asthma patients often suffer from other conditions, including depression and sleep apnea, that can improve with weight loss as well, so your overall health can get a lift by some steps.

Keep in mind, however, that weight loss does not happen overnight. Strive for gradual weight loss that stays off, and don't worry about quick fixes. Stick with your plan and focus on the long term.

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Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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