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Health & Longevity

How to Prevent Weight Gain While Bedridden

If you’re bedridden due to surgery, a catastrophic injury, or a chronic illness, it follows that you’re going to gain some weight, right?

After all, you can’t exactly handle an extensive workout when consigned to bed rest. The good news is that the common knowledge here is completely inaccurate.

While it’s true that being bedbound does mean you’re burning fewer calories, that doesn’t mean you’re fated to pack on the pounds. With a bit of care, awareness, and planning, you can maintain your current body weight for as long as you’re stuck in bed. And with a bit of extra effort, you can actually lose weight while bedbound. 

Here’s how. 

How Many Calories Does a Bedridden Person Need?

According to Web MD, this number varies based both on your age and your sex. A sedentary male needs anywhere from 2,000-2,400 calories a day. A sedentary female, meanwhile, requires 1,600-2,000 calories. This is fairly close to the calorie numbers needed for regular active adults, as most of your daily calorie burn comes from the basal metabolic rate, independent of any exercise or activities you do.

Alternatively, some fitness apps even provide you with an estimate of how many calories you need to either maintain or lose weight based on your age, sex, and weight. You might speak to a dietician or general practitioner to draft up a meal plan. Both options will allow you to get a more specific, accurate picture of your caloric needs.

Watch What You Eat

Especially if you’re stuck in one place for hours at a time, it’s incredibly easy to lose track of how much food you’ve eaten. Maybe you’re absently munching on chips while binging a series on Netflix. Maybe you’re constantly knocking back cans of pop while idly passing the time.

Whatever the case, the first step to getting your weight on track is to pay close attention to what you’re eating. 

Use a calorie tracking application like MyFitnessPal to monitor your food intake. Log everything you eat, as well as when you eat it. This will give you a more complete picture of your eating habits and allow you to identify any issues that could potentially result in weight gain.

It will also allow you to prevent yourself from taking in more than the recommended amount of calories.

Aside from tracking your calories, there are certain types of food you’ll want to avoid consuming in large quantities while you’re bedridden. Stay away from processed food as much as possible, and don’t consume too many sugary drinks like pop and iced tea. Too much liquor is a bad thing as well.

In terms of what you should be consuming, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Poultry, fish, and nuts are also excellent options, as they tend to be filling and packed with fewer calories than many other foods. You’ll also want to choose whole grains over processed grains.

Make sure that if you surround yourself with snacks, they’re healthy food. You might consider eating seaweed or carrot sticks instead of potato chips, for instance. Something which has the same consistency as the stuff you like to eat but less of an impact on your health. 

Of course, you don’t want to deprive yourself of every joy. It’s okay to have a treat every now and then, to indulge in some sweets or eat your favorite dessert. It’s when you’re doing it every day that you might have a problem.

Finally, drink plenty of water. As noted by health publication Wellness Magazine, dehydration can actually slow down your metabolism. The less water you drink, the fewer calories you burn, and the likelier you are to put on weight.

Occupy Your Mind

Being bedridden can be an incredibly boring and stressful experience. Unfortunately, this means it’s also something that gives itself over very easily to excessive food consumption. Many of us, after all, have a tendency to snack when we’re bored. It follows, then, that your best bet is to find a way to occupy yourself. 

Maybe you have a creative hobby you enjoy doing. Maybe you can learn some new skill, trade, or language. Or maybe you can simply find some shows you enjoy watching or games you enjoy playing.

The important thing here is to manage your boredom and keep yourself focused on something other than food. That way, provided you aren’t surrounded by unhealthy snacks, you’ll be less likely to absently nibble on whatever you have on hand. 

Work Up a Sweat

Being bedridden doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t move at all. There are plenty of bedridden exercises you can handle without even having to get up. Depending on the body’s strength and level of mobility, these include: 

  • Arm waves. This is exactly what it sounds like. Raise your arms up and wave them slowly and gently around for as long as you can. 
  • Leg raises. Keeping your back flat, lift your legs slowly up, breathing in as you do. Hold them for a few seconds, then lower them as you breathe out. 
  • Hip bridges. These are basically the same idea as leg raises. Press your feet into the bed and lift your hips slowly into the air. Hold for a few seconds. 
  • Palm stretches. Extend your fingers, then try to touch your thumb with each finger. 
  • Weight training. Get a pair of hand weights and a resistance band. You can hold the weights while doing simple arm movements, or use the band to add more intensity to leg exercises. 

Eat Well, Live Well

Being bedridden doesn’t necessarily mean you need to start packing on the pounds. By watching what you eat, finding ways to keep yourself distracted from food, and practicing some simple exercises, you can keep yourself happy and healthy. If you play your cards right, you may even end up losing weight instead of gaining it. 

With that said, it’s important to remember that, depending on other health conditions, some weight gain may be inevitable. Don’t stress or beat yourself up.

Always remember that you’re doing the best you can, and don’t let anyone tell you anything different. 

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