Adiposity and Fibromyalgia


Image: Karolina/ Kaboompics

You’ve probably heard by now that obesity has become one of the greatest public health issues in many countries. Poor diets and a sedentary lifestyle have made obesity a serious health risk in many developed countries. In fact, one in three Americans is classified as obese.

And you may also have heard the term “adiposity” used in the debate around this epidemic. And that might have left you scratching your head. It’s not a term that you hear being used as often as “obesity.” But put simply, adiposity is the state of having excess fat.

And when you have fibromyalgia, you can be at serious risk of developing adiposity. And this condition can have a number of serious side effects, some of them even life-threatening. So, let’s talk about adiposity, how it’s related to fibromyalgia, and what you can do about it.

What Is Adiposity?

Fat is composed of something called adipose tissue. This tissue plays a number of important roles in the body. It protects and insulates your internal organs, for instance. But it’s most important role is storing energy.

Every time you exert energy, your body needs to replace it. And the natural process of your cells replicating requires energy as well. So without enough energy, your cells can’t replace themselves as they die. Fat is the way your body stores extra energy. Humans evolved with a less reliable food supply than we have today and didn’t always know if they would have to go long periods without eating.

So, fat is an evolutionary adaptation that helps make sure you can get the energy you need when there’s less food available. But these days, food is much more available and often has more calories. As a result, our bodies store that excess energy as fat. And the state of having that extra body fat is called adiposity.

Where your body tends to accumulate fat seems to depend on your genetics. Researchers have identified several genetic markers that determine if you’re more or less likely to accumulate fat around your waist. This fat around the torso is probably what we think of most when it comes to obesity.

While fat is important to staying healthy, too much fat can cause serious problems. It leads to conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and life-threatening cardiovascular problems like heart attacks and strokes. This makes adiposity a serious health concern, and unfortunately, it’s very common for people with fibromyalgia.

Adiposity And Fibromyalgia

Adiposity is very common, but people with fibromyalgia seem to be especially vulnerable to being overweight. The most obvious link between the two conditions is that having fibromyalgia makes it very difficult to exercise. And with constant fatigue and pain, it’s hard to find the energy or time to eat as well as you should.

But there’s also evidence that disturbed sleeping patterns contribute to obesity, as does chronic depression. And we know that people with fibromyalgia tend to suffer from both of these conditions. The truth is probably that all of these things contribute to making obesity so common in people with fibromyalgia.

And being overweight can actually make your fibromyalgia symptoms much worse. There seems to be a direct link between your BMI and how intense the pain of fibromyalgia is. So, losing weight is an important part of managing fibromyalgia. Of course, that’s difficult when you have a condition that causes constant pain and fatigue. But there are still things you can do.

How Can You Treat It?

Weight loss is simple, but of course, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It’s simple in the sense that you gain weight when you eat more calories than your body uses for energy and lose weight when you use more energy than you eat. For a good rule of thumb, every 3,500 calories you eat without burning them off equals about a pound of fat.

Your body naturally burns a certain number of calories a day, even if you don’t move at all. This is called your basal metabolic rate (BMR). BMR varies based on age, gender, and weight, but generally, it’s around 1,200-2,000 calories.

So, the key to losing weight is to know how many calories you’re burning through your BMR and movement and know how many calories you’re consuming through your diet. Then, try to make sure that you’re running a deficit of calories every day until you hit your target weight. Your doctor can help you with this and give you a good idea of what your BMR is. And on a daily basis, there are tons of great apps out there that can help you keep track of your exercise and diet.

Obviously, exercising is difficult for people with fibromyalgia. But studies have shown that just 45 minutes of moderate exercise a day, 5 days a week, can have a lot of benefits for weight loss and overall health.

And ultimately, while exercise is important for your health, diet is probably more important than exercise when it comes to losing weight. Ideally, you should aim to do both to create a life-long, healthy lifestyle.

So, what do you think? Do you have any advice about losing weight when you have fibromyalgia? Let us know in the comments.