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Being overweight can lead to a host of health problems, from high blood pressure and heart disease to arthritis, gallstones, and sleep apnea. It can also contribute to foot problems in two ways.
First, excess weight contributes to the misery of common structural problems such as heel pain and arthritis. Any foot ailment is more painful the more weight you put on it. Second, excess pounds increase your chances of developing atherosclerosis, poor circulation, and diabetes — all of which can damage your feet.
If you deal with foot pain, your doctor may recommend medication or physical therapy. But if foot pain is slowing you down and you are also overweight, losing weight can help get more spring in your step.
No single diet plan is guaranteed to produce a slimmer you. But this three-pronged strategy for losing weight can help:
- Be physically active. Aim for at least 30 minutes of strenuous physical activity (such as fast swimming) or an hour of moderate activity (such as walking briskly) on most days—more if you want to lose weight faster. But protect your feet with well-cushioned, supportive shoes. Exercise not only burns calories, it also builds muscle — or at least prevents muscle loss.
- Find an eating plan that works for you. Nutrition experts at the Harvard School of Public Health emphasize limiting your intake of refined carbohydrates (such as white bread) and added sugars (soft drinks, candy, cookies). Instead, choose whole grains and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Eat relatively little meat, especially processed meats. Use olive oil and other vegetable oils instead of butter, margarine, hydrogenated oils, and other sources of saturated and trans fats.
- Be a defensive eater. Learn to stop eating before you feel stuffed. In restaurants, avoid oversized portions, share an entrée, or choose an appetizer and salad instead of an entrée. Share or skip dessert, too. Look for hidden calories: for example, an 8-ounce glass of cola has 100 calories. So does the same amount of grapefruit juice (although it's healthier because it has more nutrients). It's better to drink mainly water or seltzer, which have no calories.
Learn more about taking good care of your feet. Check out Foot Care Basics: Preventing and treating common foot conditions, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.