There is no way around the fact that increased weight on the body puts excess stress through the feet. No other body part carries as much weight as the feet. Those who carry extra weight on their body put a tremendous amount of extra force on the heel, especially during heel strike. It’s not just the weight of the body that contributes to the development of the extra force. Gravity, the speed at which the legs swings and body weight combine to give the resulting force of impact at the heel. This means that small changes in weight loss and weight gain will impact the feet.
That is good news and bad news. A small amount of weight gain can worsen foot conditions. But, a small amount of weight loss can also improve foot conditions, especially plantar fasciitis. To use this information to your advantage, set your goals small. Try to lose weight in 5 pound increments. Many people try to focus on losing 30 pounds or 50 pounds in a short period. “I want to lose 25 pounds this month!” This is impractical and unhealthy and will in almost all cases backfire. It may take a month or even two months to lose 5 pounds while undergoing treatment for plantar fasciitis. Yes it’s slow, but considering that most people GAIN weight with plantar fasciitis, this is a real accomplishment. Losing 5 pounds will decrease a great amount of force on the heel and will accelerate healing. Don’t worry about the next 5 pounds until the first 5 pounds are lost. Do not get ahead of yourself. Yes, weight loss is good for your whole body, but we are talking about treating plantar fasciitis, and small increments are important.
No magic bullets for weight loss. If you read that you can lose 5 pounds in 5 days, know that you are most likely going to lose water weight. You want to lose excess fat, not dehydrate yourself. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. Do not lose sight of this fact. There are hundreds of diets out there promising easy weight loss, but it is never easy. Never. There will always be temptations. If you are on the Atkins diet and eating steak and eggs every day, you will crave bread and crackers. If you are on a low-fat diet, you will crave steak and ice cream. No one diet will work for everyone. What you have to do is find the diet that works for you. A lifestyle change is better than any diet. Any lifestyle dietary change that involves eating whole foods (non-processed foods) chosen from all the food groups is a healthy change. It won’t matter what combination of fats, carbohydrates and protein you are eating, as long as you are eating mostly whole foods in normal proportions.
Go back to the basics. Look at foods how they used to be, before everything was boxed, packaged and processed. Pick fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, low fat dairy and whole grains. It is hard to go wrong with these tips:
Pick out fresh fruits and vegetables
Find things you like and enjoy and stick with them. Chop some vegetables in the beginning of the week and then throw them in a stir fry or a pasta sauce for mid-week meals. Things like zucchini and squash are healthy, low calorie and will last a few days in Tupperware once chopped. Keep apples and pears around to snack on, they are typically affordable and tend to be a sweet, low calorie snack food.
Buy whole grains
Use brown rice instead of white rice. Brown rice will keep you fuller for longer because it has more fiber, which slows the absorption of food and slows the emptying of the stomach. Make sure the bread you buy says “whole wheat flour”, not “wheat flour” on the ingredients. Try to buy bread with at least 3 grams of fiber per serving and no added sugar or molasses. When a product says multi-grain, check for the fiber content. If there are less than 3 grams of fiber per serving, most of the grains added are most likely in negligible amounts.
Pick lean meats
Check the fat content on the meat. Chicken and turkey are generally very low in fat. But, be careful, some ground turkey has the skin ground in and will be higher in fat than some lean ground beef. It is ok to eat beef, but try to buy the lean cuts.
Choose low fat dairy
Most dairy products have a low fat version and drinking milk, eating cheese and yogurt can be considered part of a healthy diet. Non-fat yogurt will have a lot of excess sugar and may not be lower in calories or any healthier than the low-fat yogurt. Let’s face it, non-fat cheese just is not cheese. You may just want to eat smaller portions of regular cheese and consider low fat options. Try to choose non-fat or reduced-fat milk. Avoid using cream in recipes and remember that cream cheese is like butter. There are very few nutrient and lots of fat and calories. A bagel and cream cheese is about the nutritional equivalent to butter on white bread.
Add beans and legumes to meals
A low calorie, high protein, high fiber affordable food, beans are a great diet food. Add them to any meal as a side dish or as part of the main dish. Be careful with canned beans, many have very high sodium content and will add to water retention.
Nobody needs to tell you to eat in moderation as you’ve probably heard this a million times. But, this is the something that most Americans have a difficult time with. With supersized portions, large grab bags, and heaping servings at restaurants and take-outs, it makes it nearly impossible to figure out adequate portion size. But, be sensible. Eat slowly, chew food thoroughly and stop eating when you are starting to get full. Imagine a serving of rice as a half of a tennis ball. A serving of meat should be no bigger than a deck of cards. Understand that the amount of pasta served at a restaurant is probably 4 times the amount that you really need. A large soda has about 300 calories and so does the Caramel Frappuccino Light at Starbucks.
Exercise! Exercise! Exercise!
It is possible to have plantar fasciitis and still exercise. The decrease in activity during the healing of the plantar fasciitis is the reason most people gain weight. To prevent this, it is very important to take up an exercise program. It does take some creativity and determination. It also depends on how much you want it. Do you want to get rid of the heel pain? Do you want to lose weight? If the answer really is yes, then it can be done.
Excuses come in all forms: “don’t have time”, “can’t squeeze it in”, “don’t have a gym”. The first question really should be: How much time do you spend a week watching tv? How much time do you spend playing on the computer, surfing the internet? Add it up? That is how much time you have to spend exercising. Even if you took one half, or a quarter of that time, it would help. Going to the gym for 30-45 minutes 4-5 times a week would be great. The easiest way is to get on a bike or swim in a pool. Neither of these activities will aggravate the plantar fasciitis. Weight lifting will increase muscle mass, while burning calories. The more muscle you have on your body, the more calories your body burns at rest. Hence, weight lifting will increase your basal metabolic rate. Burning more calories at rest? That sounds pretty good.
If you don’t have access to a gym, then that makes these activities difficult. Riding a bike outside is a fun way to get exercise without aggravating the plantar fasciitis. But, maybe you don’t have a bike, or maybe it’s winter and there is snow on the ground. How about buying a pilates or yoga DVD? Used DVDs for sale on the internet are not that expensive. You could lift weights at home with a few cheap weights from a sporting goods store. Adding a few sit-ups or crunches into this regimen may help get your heart rate up and burn calories. No money for weights? Grab a few canned foods from your cupboard, or fill up a grocery sack or pillow case and start with these. Lie on your back and spin your legs in the air as if you were cycling. There are many ways to incorporate exercise into your daily routine without spending a lot of money or even a tremendous amount of time. Many people spend thousands of dollars on a treadmill and or stationary bike and never use them. The idea is to find something that you can fit into your daily routine and then stick to it. You will feel better, the exercise will help with weight loss and your plantar fasciitis will improve.
If you are not committed to losing weight, none of this advice will help. You will most likely continue to look for the quick fix. But, if you have decided it’s time to take off those extra pounds, incorporate these tips to any diet plan out there and then be patient. The weight will come off.
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last updated 6/23/10
Disclaimer: The advice on this website is not intended to substitute for a visit to your health care provider. We will not be held liable for any diagnosis made or treatment recommended. Consult your doctor if you feel you have a medical problem.