If you are overweight when you are diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, your doctor will likely recommend that you lose some weight. Weighing more than you should is never a healthy thing – and it can be downright dangerous when your kidneys are always struggling. Some people choose to follow diet plans and exercise regimes (link here for more information on those), whereas some choose to hire a personal trainer and some like to do a mix of both. Whatever encourages the best results is usually the best way forward.
Why is Losing Weight Important for Kidney Disease Patients?
First, let's look at the science behind being at a healthy weight if you have CKD.
A study called, Effects of weight loss on renal function by Oxford Press, suggests that intentionally losing weight can help reduce proteinuria (abnormally high protein levels in the urine which can damage the kidneys) and normalize a patient's GFR (glomerular filtration rate, which measures how well your kidneys are functioning).
Another study conducted in 2013 at the University of Baltimore stated “Reductions in waist circumference and 24-hour urine phosphorus excretion may prevent chronic kidney disease (CKD) or slow its progression.”
Other Benefits of Losing Weight with CKD
Becoming more comfortable
Unhealthy eating and not following your renal diet if you have kidney disease can make you feel very uncomfortable. Stomach pain and bloating are common for those that cheat on their renal diet. By sticking to the guidelines given to you by the doctor, you will not only lose weight, but you will feel better too!
Improved quality of life
Losing weight can drastically improve the life you are currently living. You may be fit more comfortably in your clothing or even purchase new, smaller sizes. You may also notice more energy and a more optimistic outlook when you wake up in the mornings. Weight loss can have a positive effect on your moods and self-confidence, making it easier for you to cope with your CKD diagnosis and any related issues.
Reduce/Eliminate other health concerns
Patients with chronic kidney disease often have other medical issues to deal with, including high blood pressure, anemia, and diabetes. When you lead a healthy lifestyle and lose unneeded weight, you will notice that these related concerns are reduced.
Slowing your Kidney Function Decline
Being at a healthy weight can help to support healthy kidney function. Even if you have been diagnosed with CKD, following the renal diet and exercise tips, as well as taking all medications given by your doctor, could mean many more years of living a happy life!
How to Lose Weight on a Renal Diet
Losing weight with chronic kidney disease isn't that different from weight loss any other time. Most of the foods you choose will be the same that a person with normal kidney function would choose. However, there are some restrictions you will need to heed when you make your healthy choices.
- Always follow your doctor's orders.
Whether your own doctor of a dietician gives you the dietary guidelines, be sure you follow the restrictions. Stay away from the foods that they tell you to, and limit others that need to be consumed in moderation.
- Substitute as much as possible.
No one likes giving up their favorite foods – but what if it's that or losing your kidney function?! Soften the blow by finding alternates for your favorite snacks or meals. Having a “plan B” when you are craving something lessens your chances of giving in and ruining your renal diet!
- Be aware of mineral intake.
Those with chronic kidney disease need to limit the intake of certain nutrients to prevent their damaged kidneys from having to work harder than they should. These may include protein, potassium, or phosphorus.
Also, almost every CKD patients will be told to heavily limit sodium intake. Sodium can lead to fluid retention in the body, forcing your kidneys to work harder at removing the excess — therefore increasing the decline of your kidney function.
- Plan ahead.
If you know you are going to away from home, pack a meal or snacks to keep you full. Running through a fast food drive-thru is one of the worst ways to mess up your renal diet! By being prepared you can still make healthy choices even on the go.
- Exercise regularly.
One of the best ways to lose weight, or just get healthy, is to be physically active. No matter how sedentary you have been in the past, now is the time to get up and get moving. Consult with your doctor where you can start with your exercise. Most CKD patients can at least walk for 15 minutes in the beginning. If you are planning on starting off with walking as your exercise, then you might as well invest in a Fitbit, as this can help motivate you to walk a little bit further every day. You can check out Mobile Mob for more information on Fitbits though.
As you get stronger, be sure to add intensity and length of time to your workouts. Once you can handle walking a mile, push yourself to walk 1 ½ miles. If you've been swimming 10 laps for a while, bump it up to 12 laps.
The slow increase will not only keep your body working to burn fat and lose weight, but it will also help you to avoid injuries caused by straining your body too hard before it's ready.
- Find better ways to manage stress.
Many overweight people would likely confess that they eat when they are stressed. The act of comforting yourself with good-tasting foods is a very common habit, but it's one you must break if you want to lose weight.
Find better ways to cope with your stress so that you won't keep running to food and ruining your weight loss progress. Go for a walk when you are angry or upset. Talk it out with someone when you are worried. Relax in a warm bath every night to calm your mind and just enjoy life for a bit. Anything that reduces stress without leaving you running for the fridge is a good tactic!
The Right Foods for Weight Loss on a Renal Diet
You will want to choose low-calorie foods to eat when you are trying to lose weight with CKD. You must also make sure they follow any dietary restrictions you have been given by the doctor.
Don't fear that you will have “NOTHING TO EAT” once you start your renal diet and make healthier choices. Even with a handful of restrictions you will be able to eat and stay full and satisfied. You just have to get creative and find new foods you enjoy!
We have Losing Weight with a Renal Diet Tip Sheet that you can download by clicking on the Download the Tipsheet button below.
Download the Losing Weight with a Renal Diet Tip Sheet
Also published on Medium.