Weight Loss While Recovering From a Lower Leg Injury

By Behzad Rashidizadeh On Friday, May 10 th, 2013 · In iWalk-Free Blog

In our society of yoyo dieting and fading fads, it is easy to fall of the weight loss wagon. Suffering from a lower leg injury can make that fall all the more painful. A broken foot, twisted ankle, or strained Achilles is the perfect excuse to not exercise – after all, didn’t your doctor prescribe rest as the best medicine for your lower leg injury? That may be the case, but rehabilitation of an injury is depressing and difficult enough.  Consider how much more difficult bouncing back from your injury will be with extra pounds weighing down your body and creating an even heavier burden – literally. Luckily for you, all hope is not lost! Read on for weight loss and fat busting techniques that can be utilized with, or without, your lower legs.

EXERCISE – Increase the Burn

 

Marathon

Exercise is possible with a lower leg injury, though it is important that you take some time to recover from the initial shock of the injury or surgery before attempting anything more strenuous than lying on a couch with your feet up. Especially in cases where you are rehabilitating a serious injury, it may be wise to talk with your doctor about what an appropriate time frame would be to begin any sort of exercise routine.  Once you have verified exercise is safe, than read on for some muscle building and fat busting techniques that you can do without putting pressure upon your injured foot/ankle/lower leg. Consider of your recovery as the perfect opportunity to show some love to muscles that don’t get as much action when you are uninjured. 

Many people who choose conventional crutches or knee scooters will suffer the inevitable consequence of muscle atrophy within their injured leg muscle. Having a higher percentage of muscle-to-fat is one of the best ways to naturally speed metabolism, so losing muscle is one of the easiest ways to slow your metabolism and up the circumference of your waistline. Combat the common adverse effects of losing leg muscle by building up some muscle in other areas of the body. Keep in mind that the bigger the muscle group you work, the bigger its potential as a metabolism booster it will be. Luckily for you injured ladies and gentlemen, building up the two largest muscles in your body do NOT require the use of your lower legs!

Please keep in mind that it is always wise to speak with your doctor before beginning any sort of exercise plan. Listening to your body is also equally important – pain is definitely NOT gain when you are rehabbing an injury!

Booty Exercises:

Scientifically referred to as the Gluteus Maximus, your butt holds some major weight loss potential – you just have to get off of it first! Many exercises that can be done without putting weight on your feet can be found at www.womenshealthmag.com or www.menshealthmag.com (don’t listen to the gender qualifiers – check out both websites, they both are packed with gender-neutral exercises and brimming with fat burning advice!

–          Get in a table top position on the ground (hands and knees with a flat, straight spine – assuming this does not aggravate your injury) and slowly begin lifting/straightening one leg until it is at the same height as your torso. Do at least 3 sets of twenty lifts per leg.

Back Exercises:

The Latissimus Dorsi is the widest muscle in your body, and you can turn that width into even more metabolism enhancing power. Exercises that activate your back/shoulder/arms/core can all do their part in activating and building this (and neighboring/supporting) muscles. Simple arm lifts and curls are highly accessible and great ways to maintain/build your BMI (Body Mass Index: basically the percentage of muscle to fat in your body.)

–          Sit up straight on a chair and hold your arms out to the side so that they are parallel with the floor.  Make small, fast circles going both front and back. Be sure that you maintain the height of your arms. Do at least three reps of 20 circles.

–          * Extra Credit – get some small weights in the action to increase the burn!  

Cardio:

Cardio exercises are the most common go-to choice for those looking for weight loss. While muscle building is equally important in terms of weight loss, the cardiovascular benefits of walking, running, hiking, or dancing are hard to beat. You may feel cardio is impossible on crutches, but it really isn’t! If you are suffering from a lower leg injury, you may want to consider the iWalk-Free hands-free crutch. It allows you to walk, hike, go to the gym, or go dancing. Some extreme (and super talented) iWalk users have done everything from  run a marathon to playing tennis and golf – all while healing a non-weight bearing lower leg injury! Extreme activities like that should probably be saved for the pros, but complete mobility during recovery is accessible to everyone who uses an iWalk. Any person with a long rehabilitation in front of them should look into the benefits of getting a hands free crutch, so that they won’t have to kiss cardio goodbye for good!

DIET – Maintain the Burn

Nutritional Pyramid

Diet is a big part of not getting bigger – but being mindful about your food doesn’t mean ingesting only low calorie, cardboard tasting junk labeled “low calorie” or “fat free.” So-called “diet” foods are jam packed with unhealthy fillers and artificial sweeteners which don’t make you full and have a ton of other negative side effects. Eating wholesome, natural foods is the real key to lasting and easy-to-maintain weight loss; tasty and healthful fare will be a lot more satisfying for both your taste buds and your belly!

There is no fountain of youth, no more than there is there a secret get-skinny food (despite what the diet industry wants you to think). A cabbage diet, no-carb diets, any diet that restricts natural, healthful ingredients is not a diet that will nurture your body to its fullest potential. Basic rule of thumb, if it is leaving out any major food/nutrient, (i.e. Atkins, Skinny Girl, Ext.) it probably won’t be the best choice.

Cinnamon:

Spice up your morning cup of joe, or sprinkle some cinnamon on apple slices or whole wheat toast! This flavorful ingredient can spice up your meals and it comes packed with some additional benefits that can help naturally boost your body’s weight loss potential.

Cinnamon’s Nutritional Benefits: Spiked insulin levels can wreak havoc on your liver and can increase the amount of fat your body stores (especially in the belly area). Cinnamon helps prevent the sugar you ingest via other foods (even healthy foods have sugar in them) from turning into fat, and allows your body to process food more slowly, which leaves you full longer.

–          Desert of the Day: Slice up some apples and sprinkle cinnamon, nutmeg and (if you’ve been good that day) a small amount of brown sugar on top. Bake for 10-20 minutes or until soft.

Cumin:

Suggest Indian food instead of pizza this Friday night! Mix things up at home, and score some major nutritional points!

Cumin’s Nutritional Benefits: This spice is supposedly the secret to Cleopatra’s beauty, but we think it deserves a place on this list due to its weight loss potential! Cumin helps regulate blood sugar levels as well as digestion, and is often used as a supplement for those suffering from type 2 diabetes. Try this recipe from the BBC for a comforting, healthful, and low fat dinner option.

–          Dinner of the Day: Sprinkle some cumin in a bean quesadilla made with whole wheat tortillas for a yummy and healthy way to say goodbye to belly fat!

Lemon:

Before you pucker your lips in protest, think of lemon as the ultimate cleaning ingredient – for your insides.

Lemon’s Nutritional Benefits: Adding lemon juice a glass of water or a smoothie is one of the easiest ways to aid in the disposal of toxins that can build up in your intestines. Lemon has been shown to help the body dispose of these toxins more efficiently, so give it a squeeze!

–          Snack of the Day: Try adding 1 lemon (or ½ if you like things more sweet) to a smoothie filled with less acidic fruits and veggies to give it an extra kick! Mix 1 banana, 1 pear, frozen berries, 1 lemon, and ½ cup of almond milk in a blender, pour, and enjoy!

Green Tea:

Consider green tea your fountain of youth. The many benefits that come from this natural substance can mean big time benefits in your weight loss plan, as well as in the healing of your lower leg injury.

Green Tea’s Nutritional Benefits: lowered cholesterol, increased fat oxidation (which is GREAT for losing weight), stimulated bone growth (especially important if you are healing a broken or fractured foot or ankle!), better smelling breath (seriously), memory retention (there has even been studies that link green tea to helping ward off Alzheimer’s disease), reduction in free radicals that cause cancer, lower blood sugar levels that can prevent diabetes, and energy (thanks to the caffeine). As long as you don’t pack your tea full of harmful sugar and other unnecessary add-ons, drinking green tea is a win-win situation!

Eat Organically:

The basic reasoning behind organic food is that chemicals kill things and nutrients build things. That’s simple enough, right? Choosing the organic option means more nutrients and fewer chemicals, while the non-organic option means fewer nutrients and more chemicals.

Eating organically is the best way to have your cake and eat it too. If you are craving a huge hamburger – go for it (as long as you pack it with veggies on a whole wheat bun!), but make sure that the beef you are ingesting doesn’t come with a side of harmful hormones. Your wallet may take a small hit, but it will be nothing compared to the extra healing power your body will be able to drum up when it is being fed more nutrients and less chemicals and artificial hormones.

The nutrients that we receive from our food are what power everything from our metabolism to the process of repairing torn ligaments, tendons, and bones. This means the quality of the food we ingest is directly proportional to the quality of the work our body does for us. Think about it this way – would you feed a marathon runner a big slice of cake and some ice cream (800 calories) or a big bowl of whole wheat pasta and veggies (also 800 calories) the night before a race? If you want that runner to win, I bet you’d choose option two. The calorie count may be equal, but the nutritional value is not. The same goes for an organic meal vs. a non-organic meal: they may be exactly the same in every regard, except the organic option is going to power your body a lot more efficiently, while the non-organic option is going to add to the problems of your body. Studies have shown that the chemicals and hormones found in non-organic food not only have less nutritional value, but they also can cause a myriad of other problems, including weight gain. If you want to heal your body and lose weight in one of the simplest ways possible, buy organic!

LIFESTYLE – Weight loss is a mental game too!

Healthy Lifestyle

The mental attitude you approach things with, whether it be healing your injury, tackling a project at work, or losing weight, can make a big difference in the quality of your results. It has been scientifically proven that positive thoughts are far better motivators than negative ones. 

We realize that healing an injury while trying to drop/maintain weight is hard work, and can sometimes feel impossible. Feeling impossible and being impossible are two very different things though! Spend your free time doing things that are proven to up your mental game! Meditating, learning a new hobby, or chatting with friends/family are all great options. Your mental strength plays the biggest part in the motivation and determination you have to reach your goal, so start exercising it! 

Donate Time to Charity:

One of the biggest issues people face when rehabilitating an injury isn’t the pain, it’s the boredom. Even patients who do not have to take time off work will still have a lot more downtime than usual if they are using conventional crutches. Consider spending your extra down time doing charity work. Visiting a nursing home, writing letters to soldiers, and making crafts or cookies (just no tasting!) to raise money for a worthy cause are all great ways to spend your time off of your foot and prevent boredom eating. The added benefit of charity work is that you will probably feel great about yourself and how you spent your time, and good feelings can also be a great motivator for staying on track with your own health!

Sleep:

When you have a healing body to take care of, sleep can be one of the most important factors in your rehabilitation. It pays an equally important part in facilitating weight loss. Allowing your body an adequate and consistent amount of rest each night is critical for it to function at a high level – naturally. All the coffee in the world can’t make up for lack of sleep: your body will feel tired, heavy, and your mind does not process information as quickly or efficiently. Sleep deprivation also reduces the hormone that regulates the feeling of “fullness” after eating, which means if you haven’t gotten enough sleep, your body is going to ask you to compensate by eating way more than you would have with a solid 8 hours under your belt in order to maintain energy levels.

Sleep is also necessary in the immune health of your body, and this is especially important for those who are post-surgery. A healing body without sleep will become more prone to harmful infections and illnesses. Sleep deprivation can also cause inflammation in the body and an insulin response that is similar to the insulin response found in patients with type two diabetes. Needless to say, that all-nighter is not going to help heal your injury, quite the opposite in fact. Lack of sleep creates even more roadblocks to recovery, by making your body work to combat the sleep loss, instead of work to heal your injury.


I hope you have enjoyed our article! We want to make it clear that just because you have a lower leg injury, that does NOT mean you have to fall off the weight loss wagon! There will be adjustments you will need to make, but there is no better time to open your eyes to some weight loss techniques you may not have considered prior to your injury. Remember though, your health is far more important than any number on a scale, so always listen to your body! Happy healing!

The information above is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any illness or injury. Any changes in diet or exercise should be discussed with your doctor or healthcare professional prior to making the change. If you have any comments, questions, or disagreements with the above information let us know! We always love to hear from our readers!

 

References

Borrelli F, Capasso R, Russo A, Ernst E. Systematic review: green tea and gastrointestinal cancer risk. Aliment Pharmacol Ther Mar 1, 2004;19(5):497-510.

Boschmann M, Thielecke F. The effects of epigallocatechin-3-gallate on thermogenesis and fat oxidation in obese men: a pilot study. J Am Coll Nutr. 2007;26(4):389S-395S.

Fukino Y, Ikeda A, Maruyama K, Aoki N, Okubo T, Iso H. Randomized controlled trial for an effect of green tea-extract powder supplementation on glucose abnormalities. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2007; [Epub ahead of print].

Orenstein, Beth. Marcellin, Lindsey.“10 Life-Sustaining Reasons to Drink Green Tea.” Everyday Health.com. Web. http://www.everydayhealth.com/.