One common side effect of HIV treatments is the risk of weight gain. Some treatments, such as medications, can also increase the chance of weight gain, but it will depend on an individual’s unique medical history. If you find yourself struggling with weight gain during HIV treatment, you’re not alone. We’ve rounded up a few tips to help you balance your holistic health, including treatment and weight.
1. Be Aware of Your Risk Factors
It is said that certain biological markers make a person more prone to experiencing weight gain during HIV treatment. Some studies have shown that women, minorities, specifically Black populations, and those with poor health prior to beginning their treatment are more at risk. Being aware of one’s risk can help you to make more informed choices and help minimize the chance of weight gain.
2. Discuss Your Options
Some treatment methods are more prone to causing weight gain than others. If you’re in a position to speak with a medical professional about your concerns, you may be able to choose an option that is not known to cause weight gain. This is another approach to minimizing the effects that medication has on your weight before even beginning.
3. Maintain Physical Activity
Any treatment plan can take its toll on someone, physically, emotionally, and mentally, regardless of the health issue. When you’re feeling up to it, and perhaps to keep your spirits elevated, staying active is a great method. Getting outside and moving your body will promote good-for-you chemicals in your body and help to improve your overall health with Vitamin D from the sun and strengthen your body. While physical activity may not completely counteract the effects that HIV treatment can have on the body, it can certainly help.
4. Fuel Your Body
The last thing your body needs when it is trying to heal is over-restriction and a lack of fuel. Be sure to keep your meal plan bountiful in all the right nutrient-rich ways. Your doctor should be able to help craft a diet that works for you, but generally, vitamin and mineral-dense foods can help to promote overall health and make HIV treatment a touch easier, not to mention help with your weight. Fiber-rich foods help you to feel full and regulate your system, while other macronutrients (fat, protein, and carbohydrates) are all equally important.
5. Rid Yourself of Stress
If you find that weight gain during treatment is more mental health-related (i.e., stress eating, stuck in bed), it may be time to seek some more help from professionals. Speaking with someone can help you to realign with what matters most and give you the boost you need. For help with soothing yourself inside and out, there are plenty of natural alternatives out there such as cannabis microdosing, as seen here.
6. Stay Hydrated
It’s surprising how much fluid fluctuations can impact the body. If you’re skimping on your water intake, your body may hold on to more fluids in order to make sure you have enough for daily functions.
If you’re not properly hydrated, that can impact your digestion, organ health, and so much more! Keeping your fluids up is very important during the treatment process. If you’re having trouble, try adding natural flavor boosts like sliced fruit or supplement with electrolyte drinks.
Our bodies tend to hold onto weight when they are stressed. Putting your body in a chronic fight or flight state means that it is preparing for the worst-case scenario, including holding on to extra fuel. Try meditating or similar relaxing activity to soothe your mind and make yourself relax.
While this won’t make the pounds melt off, it can help your body to understand that you’re not in a state of panic and will continue to nourish it. Plus, a great, calm mental space is exactly what you need during the treatment process. (see #5 above)
Weight gain is an unfortunate side effect of many HIV treatment plans. While it may not be completely unavoidable, there are certain methods to help reduce the extent. Whichever you choose, it’s important to discuss your options with your doctor to ensure you’re doing what is safest and best for you!