QUESTION: I'm 33 years old, 5'2 and 200 pounds. A few months ago, I broke my ankle and had to have surgery. I was pretty much bedridden for an entire month. Now I feel worse than I ever have in my life. I get tired easily and I can barely walk without pain. I feel as if I'm falling apart! Before this injury I was run-walking—I wasn’t losing weight because I hadn’t really changed my diet, but I did feel better. I can't tell you how many times I've resolved to lose weight. Where do I begin? I need hope—and help. — Adrianna
DEAR ADRIANNA: Injuries are THE WORST. I am so sorry you are struggling, especially because it sounds like you had some momentum going before you broke your ankle. I’ve also been laid up with injuries at various times in my life, the most serious of which was a wrecked knee that required arthroscopic surgery. No fun. It is possible to work your way back to good health—and drop some pounds. Here are some suggestions.
Go to physical therapy. If you can’t walk without pain, you can probably make a good case for physical therapy to be covered by your health insurance. Go, and be the best patient you can be. Milk those sessions for whatever workout wisdom you can get. Do your homework between sessions—any exercises your PT suggests, even if they seem silly or ineffective. The opportunity to get professional help is so valuable, especially when you’re trying to heal an injury. Ask your therapist to also recommend fitness regimens for the future—post-therapy. You’ve got him/her one-on-one for a while, so make the most of it.
Don’t be an overachiever. Sure, do what your therapist tells you, but no more than that. The last thing you want to do is injure yourself further. When I was coming back from my knee surgery, all I could do was ride the stationary bike for 15 minutes a day. After a week or so, my therapist upped it to 20 minutes, then 30, and so on. I stuck to that plan, and although it was a long process, I went on to run marathons and do triathlons. Yes, you want to lose the weight, but impatience can be dangerous.
Try water workouts. Once your doctor or therapist gives the OK, get into the pool: swim laps, do water aerobics, or even run in the water. High impact exercises like running or even walking long distances may put too much stress on your ankle, especially while you’re heavy. Even when you’re completely healthy, you might want to mix in some low- or no-impact exercises to keep your joints healthy and protected.
Lift weights. Again, get your doctor’s OK first. But weightlifting can do two things for you while you recover: give your metabolism a bit of a boost now by building lean muscle, and give you a more solid foundation for when you’re up to exercising again.
Make little dietary changes. I know how it is when you feel like you’ve got a mountain to climb to get where you want to be weight-wise. You’ve got to switch your focus to the little steps you need to take to get to the top of that mountain. Start by making a list of little things you can do to cut calories and/or portions: switch from soda to water, maybe; cut out the afternoon snack; have one dessert-less day a week. Adopt one of those changes, and then add another change after two weeks, then another two weeks after that. Each little step will get you a bit closer to your goal—plus, you’ll feel better knowing you’re doing something, you’re taking control. You can do this! You can feel better, get stronger, be more in control. Just start. Today!
Spry editor Lisa Delaney is one of the rare souls who know what it’s like to be an “after.” This journalist and author of Secrets of a Former Fat Girl shed 70 pounds—and six dress sizes—and has kept it off for 20 years. She answers your questions here each week.