Q: “I know I need to take my corticosteroid medication to control my disease, but how can I get rid of these fat cheeks?” How do I control my weight while on corticosteroids?

A: You finally have your condition in remission and under control, whatever it may be. Now you are concernced about the side effects of corticosteroids (prednisone, methylprednisolone , prednisolone, dexamethasone and hydrocortisone) including, infection, ulcers, osteoporosis, insomnia, elevated blood pressure, hyperglycemia, eye problems, atherosclerosis, aseptic necrosis and last but not least… weight gain.

Control Weight on Corticosteroids

1. If you are serious about losing weight, you must be on a strict diet. To control your weight on corticosteroids you must eat fruits and vegetables like your are a rabbit! Fruits and vegetables are low in calories and high in fiber, which is calorie-saving and will help you feel full throughout the day, which will reduce hunger cravings. Next, complex carbs should replace any processed grains, rice, cereals and breads. Complex carbs will not only help manage steroid induced hyperglycemia, but will also keep blood glucose levels steady throughout the day, reducing hunger cravings and weight gain.

2. Exercise is a must to control weight on corticosteroids. Although weight gain is medication induced, exercise will burn additional calories and help aid weight loss. Your condition may make it difficult to exercise effectively or safely. Therefore, you must work with your patient to identify exercises that are appropriate. If you have severe rheumatoid arthritis, then water aerobics may be more appropriate, for example. Your goal is to identify an exercise that youcan perform in which youwill SWEAT for at least 30 minutes per day.

3. Begin a resistance training program. Strength training builds muscle, which will help will prevent steroid induced muscle wasting and weight gain alike. Keep it simple. If you are new to exercise,  focus on performing body weight only exercises, such as push ups, sit ups, lunges, squats and calf raises. If a gym or personal trainer are available options, surely use them. Again, if you have difficulty with movement, you have to be creative. In most cases, water aerobics is a great alternative. Whatever limb you can move, move at least 30 minutes per day, three times per week.

4. Drink plenty of water. Although water retention is a side effect of steroid use, regular water consumption will help you feel full. If you are full, you will not consume calories, which will help long-term weight management. This is also a good time to cut out sugary drinks including juices and sodas. As you know, the general recommendation is about eight glasses per day.