5 Ways to Lose Weight When You Have Knee Osteoarthritis

Try these non-exercise strategies to shed pounds and avoid straining your knees.

A mother and her two daughters cook a healthy meal—with the goal of improving osteoarthritis via weight loss.

Being overweight can not only contribute to knee osteoarthritis, it can also increase pressure on the joints and lead to more pain. The good news? Knowing how to lose weight, even with osteoarthritis of the knees, is the first step in easing your condition. 

Increasing activity is helpful to some degree, but achieving sustainable weight loss with osteoarthritis usually requires adopting overall healthy habits. Try these tactics to help you reach—and maintain—your goal weight. 

Emphasize quality sleep 

Can you snooze your way to a better weight? Research suggests it may benefit weight loss efforts. Getting adequate, quality sleep may help regulate levels of the hormones leptin (which makes you feel full) and ghrelin (which stimulates appetite). Excessive fatigue from sleep deprivation can also hinder exercise habits. Aim to establish good sleep hygiene, which includes setting a consistent sleep and wake schedule, avoiding large meals and alcohol before bedtime and removing electronic devices from the bedroom. 

Put more colors on your plate 

In order to maximize the nutrient power of your meals, it helps to “eat the rainbow.” That means serving a variety of colorful fruits, vegetables and legumes. Not only do they provide filling dietary fiber, which can help with weight loss, but they contain a range of vitamins and minerals that are key to good nutrition. Include legumes like beans and peas, as well as colorful choices like red peppers and tomatoes, orange carrots and sweet potatoes, blueberries and blackberries, and dark leafy greens like kale and spinach. 

Drink more water 

Research suggests that you can lower your overall caloric intake by drinking more water, especially if you’re drinking it to replace high-calorie, sugary sodas and juices. Staying properly hydrated may also help lubricate and cushion joints, which may directly benefit your knees.  

Make it a group effort 

Research suggests that when you have social support for weight loss, you tend to be more successful, particularly at keeping the weight off. That might mean joining a commercial weight loss program that has online or in-person group meetings, or simply teaming up with some friends and checking in regularly on their progress at weekly get-togethers or via phone, email or text message. The sense of accountability and community can go a long way toward helping you lose weight and take the pressure off your arthritic knees. 

Slow down 

Eating mindfully may not only help you cut calories by helping you make smarter food choices. It could also help you lose weight because when you eat more slowly, you become more sensitive to fullness cues, which means you’re less likely to overeat. Mindfulness means focusing on your meal—instead of the TV or your phone—and savoring each bite. You may even want to try putting your fork down between bites to slow things down. 

To learn more about how to lose weight with osteoarthritis of the knees, talk to your healthcare provider about increasing your activity levels and developing an exercise regimen that’s right for you. Exercise can complement your healthy eating and help increase your overall mobility. As you lose more weight, you might find that you’re able to increase your exercise levels over time: a win-win!

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