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Is There a Connection Between MS and Obesity?

By Matt Cavallo

Weight has been a running theme with me over the last couple of years. First, I tried intermitting fasting, but I was never able to really achieve my goals. Then, during quarantine, being at home and living a sedentary lifestyle got led to my heaviest weight and to a secondary health problem of acid reflux. If living with multiple sclerosis and acid reflux weren’t bad enough, I also developed hiccups that lasted for two weeks this time last year.

To read this without a photograph, you may think I look really heavy. In reality, I am 6 feet 2 inches tall and 245 pounds and don’t look overweight. I look like I have a ‘dad bod’ and my once square jaw has rounded. Being tall, I am able to hide the extra weight except in my belly. The problem is that males who carry their weight in their belly like I do often suffer from serious health problems down the road.

Even don’t look like I am someone who would be considered obese, I have a BMI of 34.1 percent and a body fat percentage of 33 percent which puts me in the obese category. When I learned this information, I was shocked. I was also shocked at the physical toll it was taking on me and my MS

In the here and now, my extra weight is hurting my MS. I had a severe relapse in 2016 where I was basically paralyzed on the right side of my body from my face to my feet. This led to overall weakness on my right side that I have not recovered from. 

Where the extra weight comes into play is that it is making it hard for me to walk. My weakened right leg now has a slight limp. I am also having trouble getting up from sitting or lying down. In addition, I developed hip bursitis, which my physical therapist believes comes from my right leg being weaker. The extra weight I am putting on that leg is really making it hard to move, so I find myself participating in less and less physical activity. 

Because I don’t look obese, but I am considered obese, I started researching MS and obesity. Here are some of the things that I learned from medical studies on MS and obesity:
The finding that really surprised me was that the majority of people who are overweight with MS do not adopt a specific diet. I realized that I was in that majority, so I decided to make a change.