Preventing Post-Transplant Weight Gain: Kick-Start Healthy Habits this Summer

By Katie Tiedtke, R.D., L.D.

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Weight management is a challenging task that lasts a lifetime. We always need to be conscious of our habits and do our best to have a lifestyle that promotes a healthy weight. Whether you are striving to maintain a healthy weight or are working to shed those extra pounds, it can be difficult getting started. It can be increasingly difficult to maintain a healthy weight after transplant. Factors such as medications, fewer diet restrictions and increased appetite create the perfect situation for unwanted weight gain. Fortunately, a few healthy lifestyle changes can help you get to and maintain that healthy weight.

The first step in making any sort of lifestyle change is finding the right motivation. Weight management after transplant is very important for preventing diabetes, keeping cholesterol under control to prevent heart disease and maintaining a healthy blood pressure. Managing all of these things can help protect your newly transplanted kidney as well as your overall health. Whatever your motivation might be, what better time is there than the summer months to kick-start your weight loss plan?

Summer is a great time to get motivated. Getting healthy habits firmly established during these months can help you continue those habits into the winter months and break that cycle of seasonal weight gain. The abundance of healthy fruits and vegetables makes it easy to get a wide variety of low-calorie, nutritious foods. For most transplant recipients, a potassium restriction is no longer needed after transplant, so feel free to dive into some of those summertime favorites such as watermelon, strawberries, and tomatoes. Longer days and sunny weather are also great motivators to get outside and get moving. Grab a friend and head outdoors to go walking, biking, swimming or camping. You will burn calories and tone your muscles while having fun!

During the summer, look to buy as much local produce as possible. This will ensure that your produce is ripe, delicious and affordable. Pack up the family and head out to your local farmer's market. You may be surprised by the variety of foods you find there—from fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables to lean varieties of meats, such as pasture-raised beef and free-range chicken. At the grocery store, you will see a large assortment of affordable produce to choose from as well. Fruits and vegetables are great foods for losing weight because they are low in calories but still fill you up with the fiber and water they contain. They are also packed with lots of disease-fighting nutrients.

Why not bring nutritious food even closer to home and grow your own garden? Growing a garden is a great way to have your own fresh and delicious produce right at your fingertips. It is economical and can also be a fun activity to share with friends and family. If you are just starting out with gardening, start small with a few potted plants on your deck or patio. You will also benefit from the additional calories you burn while you work in your garden. It is important to remember that you are encouraged to eat fresh fruits and vegetables after transplant, just make sure that you clean them thoroughly before you eat them.

To have optimal health and to maintain that healthy weight, you need to have daily exercise in addition to eating a nutritious diet. Try to increase the amount of daily activity (e.g. house cleaning and yard work) that you do and also plan in some regular exercise every day. The warm weather makes being outdoors much more enjoyable, which is an important point to remember—exercise should always be something that is fun and convenient! Start out easy with something such as walking and work your way up from there. Participating in a wide variety of physical activities after transplant can improve your health, help with weight management, build muscle, and preserve bone density.

Weight management can be a challenging task, but you can control it with good motivation and planning. Do not try to take on too many life changes at once, but instead focus on a few small goals at a time, such as eating a couple of servings of vegetables and fruit and walking 20 minutes each day. As you begin to adopt better behaviors and start to feel more energized and confident, you'll find that it is easy to continue to add in other healthy behaviors to your lifestyle.

So as you kick-start your weight management program this summer, here are a few key points to remember:

  • Figure out your source of motivation for weight management and make a plan of action from there
  • Utilize local and homegrown produce to reduce calorie intake and improve flavor
  • Include lots of daily activities and an exercise program every day to keep your body strong and healthy