Osteoarthritis is initiated by chronic low grade inflammation that overtime initiates the transcription of enzymes in the body capable of degrading components of cartilage and decreasing synovial fluid leading to joint space narrowing, bone spurs, cartilage loss, and PAIN. While many physical and dietary components can lead to inflammation, the most common cause of osteoarthritis is OBESITY. Increased body weight overtime leads to the generation of inflammatory cascades in the cartilage eventually developing and progressing the disease. Therefore, one of the most effective treatments for osteoarthritis is to decrease body weight.
When thinking about decreasing body weight it’s most important to think about moving more and eating more moderately. Research on osteoarthritis shows the largest improvements in the progression of the disease occur when both diet and exercise are involved. When incorporating exercise think slow and steady wins the race. It’s not about going from zero to 100. Start slow – think about small ways to increase activity like parking farther away when going to work or the grocery store. Enlist a buddy to help keep you moving more consistently during the week, or start by tracking your steps. Then incrementally increase your daily goals. Whatever you do, try to do it consistently. Consistency makes the biggest long term improvements in joint health.
The same can be said when it comes to diet as well. For slow and consistent weight loss women should range between 1200-1500 calories and men between 1500-1800 calories per day. Start by trying to get more nutrition out of the calories you are consuming. This means eating more whole foods and eliminating empty calories. Empty calories pack in lots of sugar, alcohol, or fat calories and not much actual nutrition. These foods include sugar sweetened beverages like sodas, baked goods, processed carbohydrates, fried foods, and alcoholic beverages like beer, wine, and mixed drinks. Focusing on replacing these foods with healthier, more nutrient dense options can help to consistently shave calories from your day while preventing hunger cravings. With time, these small modifications can equate to significant changes in body weight and inflammation, all improving the symptoms of osteoarthritis and increasing mobility as we age.
When under stress, we tend to binge eat. This makes us feel better, gives us a much-needed pick-me-up, and serves as a reward for good behavior. The foods we usually reach for are those calorically dense, salty, sweet, high-fat foods that taste wonderful but don’t do our waist lines any good. Then come the guilty feelings of dissatisfaction and disappointment, leading to negative thoughts about ourselves.
While we can’t make this time of year any less stressful, being aware of this is the first step in helping to avoid this type of eating. The second step is to understand that this type of eating (emotional eating) is completely okay to do every now and then. Try these other ways to avoid emotional eating:
- Find other outlets. Go for a walk, take a quick nap, read a chapter from a good book. Get your mind off of the stress even if it’s just for a few minutes.
- Pause for 5 minutes. Once the craving hits, wait 5 minutes before deciding to reach for the chips or ice cream. If you have thought about the necessity of eating that particular food and have thought about the potential consequences and still want that food, then go for it.
- Support other healthy habits. Getting a good night’s rest, exercising regularly, and eating healthily can reduce stress in general, tamping down on those cravings before they start.
- Portion control. Sometimes we just need the fatty, salty, sweet snack foods we crave. Pre-portion out a single serving in sandwich bags or keep just one or two bite-sized pieces of dark chocolate on hand.
- Keep healthier alternatives on hand. Don’t buy the unhealthy snacks to begin with. Keep lower calorie options on hand that still taste good such as fresh fruit, vegetables with low-fat dip, or unbuttered popcorn.