Last month the editors of ProHealth conducted a survey on weight management and chronic illness. The results are in.
While weight management is something a large percentage of people are concerned about, it can be a particularly frustrating issue for people who have a chronic illness. Chronic illness often causes metabolic changes that can affect the ability to lose or gain weight. The ability to exercise properly is also frequently affected.
Following are the responses to our survey:
Who Took the Survey?
A total of 117 people took the survey. The majority had received a diagnosis of fibromyalgia and/or ME/CFS. Almost a quarter of respondents reported a diagnosis of osteoarthritis.
Concerns About Weight
More than 91% of people who responded expressed concern about their current weight – 71% of whom said they were very or extremely concerned. Of those who were concerned, 96% said they wanted to lose weight, while only 4% were interested in gaining weight. A little over 36% of those who wanted to lose weight said they'd like to lose more than 50 lbs.
What Prevents Acheiving Desired Weight?
For those who wanted to lose weight, 91% said they felt a lack of exercise was at least partly to blame. Half felt like emotional stress was a contributing factor and 57% felt that their health issues were an important part of the problem.
For those who wanted to gain weight, 60% said their health issues were the problem and the same percentage said they just don't know what is preventing them from gaining weight.
A whopping 91% report that their weight has changed since receiving a chronic illness diagnosis.
When asked about things that may challenge the ability to manage their weight, 71% reported struggles with unhealthy food cravings, followed by 63% who said they have cravings for sugar, caffeine, tobacco, etc. and 55% who reported a problem with emotional eating.
When it comes to the challenge of exercising, 58% said they would like to exercise but are unable to due to their chronic illness.
Despite the challenges of trying to lose weight, 82% of respondents said they were not interested in considering any form of weight-loss surgery.
The Support Factor
Gaining support from family and friends for weight management efforts is apparently more of a problem than one might expect. Although half of the respondents said their family is supportive, only 34% could count on support from friends and surprisingly, only 29% felt they were supported by their health care professionals.
What Helps and What Doesn't?
When asked what weight management strategies have been helpful, 53% said that dietary changes made a difference and 30% reported fitness (exercise) was helpful. Other strategies were helpful for a few, but not for others. Unfortunately, 31% felt that nothing had helped them.
Interestingly, although diet was found to be the most helpful weight management strategy, it was also reported to be the most disappointing, with 57% saying it was not helpful. The next most disappointing stragegy was meal replacement products (such as SlimFast, etc.), followed by exercise (38%) and nutritional supplementation (34%).
The Stress Factor
Sixty-three percent of respondents reported that their weight issues cause them stress and another 30% said they sometimes feel stress about their weight. The statements most said characterized the stress they feel included:
- I'm frustrated about my weight. (86%)
- I'm embarrassed by how I look. (75%)
- My weight feels beyond my control. (59%)
- Being too thin/overweight is depressing. (55%)
- I think people may judge me based on how I look, not on who I am. (52%)
What Would Help You?
When asked what they would like more support and help with related to weight management, 72% said they'd like to find a fitness solution that doesn't increase their symptoms. Fifty-eight percent said they'd like to know more about how specific health issues affect their weight and what they can do about them, while 52% expressed an interested in knowing more about nutritional supplements that could help with weight control and 49% would like to know more about foods that can help reduce their symptoms.