WEIGHT GAIN, Chronic Pain, & the Munchies: What Should You Do?
There is a lot to deal with when you have chronic pain. The challenge is compounded by being overweight, and especially so when you’re having trouble fighting off the munchies because you are medicating with cannabis.
Do you want to improve your health? As the pandemic gets worse, most of us are working very hard to improve our immune system defenses. And that includes eating a well-balanced diet, getting enough exercise, keeping your weight in check, as well as taking care of yourself. How hard is it to do this if you have long-term pain?
A long-term user may already know which strains are likely to make them hungry and refrain from using them if trying to lose or maintain weight. Certain combinations of genetics, along with THC and other cannabinoid ratios, will undoubtedly send you running to the kitchen in search of anything from cereal to chips.
Have you discovered that cannabis exacerbates the difficulties associated with diet and weight loss? Numerous people face obstacles such as this unwanted side effect when attempting to use medicinal marijuana to alleviate anxiety, pain, and other symptoms. This side effect, however, has a lot more to do with when and how you’re using cannabis to medicate, and at what dosage or frequency.
Certain states have a more sedentary lifestyle
Most people find it hard to keep their weight in check. For most of us, with a few exceptions, it will only become more difficult as we age and our lifestyles become less active. There is also, of course, an ongoing pandemic which provides even more obstacles to maintaining a consistent, healthy weight. People who work from home aren’t getting to know each other and socializing with coworkers as well as they used to, which is bad for their health as well as the workplace. With the onset of lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, we don’t move as much as we used to. Unsurprisingly, all of this is taking a toll.
Your level of physical activity is likely to be affected by where you live, according to a CDC study released in 2020. The new maps of physical activity levels in the United States were created using data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).
People in these states said that 30 percent or more of them were sedentary when they took the survey:
Other states with a 25% to 30% sedentary lifestyle included thirteen (13) others. This includes Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Missouri, Michigan, New York, Michigan, and New Jersey. As far as overall health and fitness are concerned, the states of Utah, Oregon, Colorado, Washington, and even the District of Columbia rank among the top 10.
Weight Status of Americans by Ethnicity
Another thing that has resulted in these studies is the understanding that ethnicity can be linked, in some cases, to being less active. Hispanic adults were the least likely to be active (31.7%), followed by non-Hispanic people of color (28.9-30.3%).
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 40% of Americans are overweight or obese. Since 1980, this number has been steadily climbing and now boasts a 29% increase nation-wide. The non-profit group “Trust for America’s Health” says that African Americans are more likely to be obese than white Americans at a rate of 49.5%. 44.8% of Latinx adults are obese, and 42.2% of white adults are obese. Obesity rates were lowest among Asian adults in the United States, at 17.4%.
THE 30-MINUTE MOVE IT & LOSE IT SOLUTION:
If you’re currently immobile for several hours a day, 30 minutes of exercise a few times a week won’t necessarily be enough to protect your health. This is according to a report in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (2020). It’s true that if you’ve ever heard someone say, “abs are managed in the kitchen, not the gym,” there’s a lot of truth to that, too. It’s important for us to be active to stay healthy, but it’s also important for us to make good decisions about what we eat and drink every single day.
What does this information mean for people with a medical marijuana card, however? If you routinely use cannabis, you’ll need to devise some methods for dealing with the munchies. Many fit people will tell you that periodically using cannabis and exercising in unison can give you an extra boost of performance and focus. Activities such as yoga, pilates, swimming, cardio kickboxing, and jogging can all be benefited from a 10mg edible or small puff of a cannabis vape. Whatever you decide, make sure it works for you, and you’re not operating heavy machinery while you ingest cannabis. More often than not, people find that their physical performance only improves in this instance when their body is familiar with the activity being done.
Weight loss can be complicated by chronic pain
Some people will still gain weight or have a hard time keeping their weight in check, even if they are eating around 2,000 calories a day and exercising throughout the workweek. People with chronic pain may find it difficult to move around, especially in the beginning of their weight loss journey. Even 50 pounds of extra weight can make it a challenge to move around or jumpstart the cardiovascular system. They may not be able to bend, walk, or lift because of an injury. What is important to note here is that, while agility and mobility may still be lacking, most overweight people are stronger than average because they are essentially carrying around extra weight all the time.
In 2021, it is believed that more than a quarter of US adults will be living with chronic pain. The more chronic pain you have, the more likely you are to put on weight. Pain and discomfort can make someone less active if they have to deal with them every day. Because of where the pain is, some exercises may not be possible at all. While there are a lot of other things that make people who have long-term pain more likely to be obese, the only way to treat and further mitigate that pain is by returning to a healthy weight and lifestyle.
1. Anxiety and depression
A long day of dealing with pain symptoms can be exhausting, both physically and emotionally. The reservoir of chronic pain will be restored by the time you wake up. People who have chronic pain have to deal with the painstaking journey of lifting themselves out of this pain, while feeling like they are starting back at step one for the majority of the initial phases. Even if you have a solid support system or mental health care, it can change your mood over time. Depression and anxiety can happen a lot, but they are a short-lived consequence of making healthier choices.
People who have long-term pain have to do a lot of different things each day to deal with it, so unfortunately managing their condition does take up a large part of their day. Doing some stretching and ice packs or applying heat is also part of what you might do to try to find a place that’s right for you. Tired of having to keep an eye on and deal with pain all the time? While cannabis will help put you to sleep, skipping the nighttime munchies will keep you on track. Alternatively, some foods help initiate REM and lead to a sounder sleep, such as:
- Dairy products (glass of milk, cottage cheese, yogurt)
- Bananas (even the peel!)
- White rice
- Passionflower tea
- Walnuts & almonds
- Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, trout)
- Tart cherries and/or juice
- Chamomile tea
2. Obstacles to Making Healthy Snacks and Meals and Snacks
Healthy eating requires the preparation of your own meals and snacks, sometimes referred to as “meal prep”. Understandably, some people have a hard time doing that food preparation, especially if they lack a fundamental understanding of what makes meal preppers successful. Without learning the basics to nutrition and diet, overweight people could continue to set themselves up for failure.
Instead of making their pain worse, they might choose to eat unhealthy snacks that are easy to make. Alternatively, because fast food is more convenient, you may eat it more frequently. Certain convenience or fast foods contain a lot of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). Some of these foods are sandwich meat, fast food, and processed snacks: People who already have health problems like obesity or diabetes are more likely to have long-term pain because of the PUFAs, which are short-chain fats.
Most folks working eight hours a day simply do not have the opportunity to cook three meals a day, which is where preparation becomes they key game changer. Changing your habits – when, where, and how you eat – is no easy feat. Plenty of products are marketed to this demographic of people looking to make a change, and while they can prove to be useful in some way or another, eventually consumers will find that the methods they find work best for them are simple changes in daily routine, behaviors, and mindset surrounding food.
3. Insomnia caused by pain
You may not know that one of the main reasons why people take pain medicine is to get a good night’s sleep. People can deal with pain in many ways during the day. During the night, however, those feelings of pain keep you from getting a good night’s sleep. It is more often than not that chronic pain is more persistent when a person finds themselves in one position for an extended period of time, so it makes sense why a person’s bed is a constant source of frustration and turmoil.
Pain makes it so hard to fall asleep, that medical professionals have begun to refer to it as “pain-induced insomnia”. Aside from being unable to regulate one’s mood and experiencing fatigue throughout the day, this can also make the body want to eat more high-carbohydrate foods to get more energy.
4. Economic Restrictions
For some people, the level of chronic pain they have every day is so bad that they are unable to work. They can’t sit or stand, and it’s hard to exert extra effort when you’re in pain. They have to stop working and live in assisted living or find programs that will assist them in their pain management plan because they are in so much pain that they can’t go back to work. Additionally, the term ‘food desert’ refers to economically challenged neighborhoods who do not have access to quality nutrition or fresh produce. Areas where grocery stores do not offer healthier alternatives, or gut the consumer with inflated price tags on health-conscious brands, can make it increasingly difficult to find a healthier rhythm to everyday life.
If you want to be healthy, the impact of this can reflect in the cost of your grocery bill. While fruits and vegetables are still readily available, healthy proteins and nutrient-dense foods are more expensive in the grocery store. To make a limited food budget last as long as possible, you might choose less healthy, pre-packaged foods more often. Despite this, many social experiments have been conducted to prove that those living below the poverty line are more than capable of living a healthy lifestyle, and some of the sacrifices that are made in this journey end up being beneficial to their endeavor (such as decreasing the amount of food waste or food consumed by as little as 5-10%). Since Americans waste 30% of the food they purchase from grocery stores to begin with, and this number is increasing over time, it might make more sense to spend more on quality food and waste less.
When you suffer from chronic pain, here’s how to prevent the munchies
Like most things in life, staying healthy requires a set of strategies and a game plan. If you’ve been using medicinal marijuana and you’re starting to gain weight, there are a lot of things you can do to win the ‘battle of the bulge,’ not for aesthetic reasons, but also for your health. What works for someone else may not work for you, and finding the standards that produce the results you are working towards is a task of its own.
The following are some tried-and-true methods to get you back on track, with or without the implementation of cannabis:
When you eat anything, wether it’s a snack or meal, be conscious and present in the moment. Watching TV, scrolling endlessly on your phone, and even driving are all activities we sometimes find ourselves doing while eating. If you’re overweight, though, this behavior can be an indicator of something larger at play. When you’re not paying full attention to the food you’re putting into your mouth, lots of things can occur as an unfortunate consequence: you are not connecting with the delight that eating provides, you are less aware of feelings of being full, and you are more likely to gain weight by eating beyond your body’s subtle signals that you are nourished. Mindful eating may seem silly, but it’s extremely important to reestablishing a healthy relationship with food.
Prepare healthy snacks ahead of time and store them in the fridge or portion them out so they are ready to go. To save space in your fridge, cut up melon, cucumbers, berries, and other fresh produce can be stored in small containers. Healthy foods should be as easy to get your hands on as possible.
If you are craving a particular junk food, such as a fast-food cheeseburger or chocolate, your body might actually be trying to tell you its lacking in essential macronutrients. Instead of giving into the craving, you will need to override the intense feelings driven by your mind and see to it that you give your stomach, and body, what they truly require instead. Many examples of “what you crave vs. what you need” can be found via web search, and memorizing healthy replacements for some of the most common cravings you have would be ideal.
The repeat offenders you have on your weekly grocery list have simply got to go. Your favorite brand of potato chips should not be brought inside because you can finish the whole bag in one sitting, and honestly, who has the willpower to eat a single serving and feel satisfied? In fact, most of these highly processed snack foods have been engineered in a laboratory where scientists are tasked with making them the most irresistible foods ever. Not only are they impossible to avoid, special chemicals and additives are used to keep you unsatisfied (eating more) and trick your brain into thinking you’re still hungry. This may sound crazy, but what would happen if you never bought foods that were bad for you? You wouldn’t have to eat them. They won’t be there when “the munchies” come out. Keeping yourself accountable is critical.
Social media, television, billboards, sports games, the newspaper… all of these sources have one thing in common: they rely on advertisements to survive. Since everyone needs to eat, and unfortunately a lot of large food companies and corporations do not have our best interests in mind, a lot of these advertisements can become predatory and damaging when you are trying to take care of yourself. Changing the way your mind receives and understands these messages is also a critical part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Their incentive is to make you a consumer, not a healthy human being. Instead of becoming resentful, try to have a realistic understanding of why these ads exist and how you can become a stronger, more accountable person by refraining from responding at all.
Taking on the Munchies: How to Win the Battle
The following are some cannabis-specific, munchie-fighting suggestions and changes you can make:
Before you ingest any cannabis, start your day (and metabolism), or go to bed, drink plenty of water. After dinner, if you smoke or consume medical marijuana, try to drink 2 full 12 oz. glasses of water. That has two advantages. As a first step, you may not want to snack as much because you will feel full. People who smoke cannabis can also get thirsty, and this side effect is commonly known as cottonmouth. If all you have in your fridge is sugary, fructose corn syrup-laden drinks, you are not providing yourself the opportunity to be healthy.
Choose a cannabis solution that doesn’t make you want to eat everything in sight. Certain strains (sativa-dominant) and methods of ingestion (tinctures, topicals, and vapes) are particularly beneficial for individuals who require monitoring of dietary intake due to their medical conditions. If you’re unable to make a full switch, try a couple options to see if there is an option to crossover. Request daytime and nighttime strains that will not have you face-dive into a box of Cheez-its; your dispensary pharmacist will tend to your needs and inform you on what options are best.
Finding alternative activities to do during or after medicating can be extremely useful as well. It is not uncommon that people will get the munchies after they smoke cannabis, but continuously eating after a smoke session begins to reenforce that behavior. When you reenforce a behavior like this, your mind begins to connect one activity occurring (cannabis use) with the result of another (eating unnecessarily) and makes it that much harder for you to change these habits. Instead of becoming discouraged, try to find better habits to replace the ones you are trying to rule out. Taking a walk, watching a show (perhaps not Food Network?), or playing a game on your phone can all take your mind off these hunger pangs. In doing so, you also establish more nuanced connections in your brain, which will lead to better cognitive function and memory recall. Win, win!
Using cannabis for the purpose of treating a medical condition can be complicated, and is not without several complexities. These curiosities are better understood through individual research, utilizing the educational resources available to you, and of course consulting with your medical professional or care team. Without a proper diagnosis, patients with chronic pain are not able to access realtime and verified information about their condition, so it is vital to take these steps in order to properly care for yourself.
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Missouri Green Team – Medical Marijuana Doctors & Recommendations – (508) 606-6741
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