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Weight Gain and MS

Updated on September 30, 2020
Medically reviewed by
Amit M. Shelat, D.O.
Article written by
Alison Channon

Maintaining a healthy weight can feel like an uphill battle with multiple sclerosis (MS). MS symptoms often make exercise difficult, and medication side effects can contribute to weight gain. “What can I do? I try not to eat bad foods. I can't exercise. I am exhausted just walking to the bathroom,” one MyMSTeam member said.

“I keep gaining weight since my MS symptoms have increased and my activity has decreased,” another shared. A third member said, “Trying to lose weight, but I’m on steroids, so it makes it twice as difficult.”

Despite the challenges, members of MyMSTeam work hard to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight as a way to control their MS symptoms and manage risk for other health conditions. Diet is an important tool for managing weight. “The one and only way I have found to lose weight is to become very aware of what you are putting in your mouth,” a member wrote.

MyMSTeam members have also shared their strategies to limit sugar or adopting low-carb or ketogenic diet plans. It is very important to check with your doctor before starting a new diet.

For those who are able, exercise is critical to losing pounds or maintaining a healthy weight. “I try to get 10,000 steps a day even if it isn’t pretty, and often it isn’t,” one MyMSTeam member wrote. Another member shared, “I did water aerobics/swimming to start, then I moved on to walking the treadmill.”

Exercise can have the added benefit of improving MS symptoms. “My right weaker leg does not drag or get ‘floppy’ as often as it used to,” a member reported after beginning an exercise regimen.

Members who use wheelchairs have also found exercises that work for them. “Picture what you can do while sitting in your chair,” a member suggested. “Try curling some weights. Use a book to act as your weight.” Another member who uses a wheelchair recommended a wheelchair exercise routine from the U.K.-based MS Society.

Fatigue can be a major barrier to exercise and weight loss. “I’m trying to lose weight, but I can't exercise anymore because it knocks me out for days,” a member shared. In some cases, exercise itself can help with fatigue: “I go to the gym three times a week and I find that helps a lot with my exhaustion,” a member commented.

Getting started can be difficult. One member found exercising first thing in the morning to be the best way to get around her fatigue. Other members suggest starting out with small actions and adding more activity as you’re able.

Members of MyMSTeam encourage each other to be patient with themselves as they try to lose weight. “Don’t be too hard on yourself. Take one day at a time,” a member reminded a teammate.

On MyMSTeam, the social network and online support group for those living with multiple sclerosis, members talk about a range of personal experiences and struggles. Weight gain is one of the most discussed topics.

Do you struggle with weight gain? Do you have tips for healthy eating or increasing movement in your days? Share your experiences in the comments below or directly on MyMSTeam.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Amit M. Shelat, D.O. is a fellow of the American Academy of Neurology and the American College of Physicians. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Alison Channon has nearly a decade of experience writing about chronic health conditions, mental health, and women's health. Learn more about her here.

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