Fatigue and your weight are tightly intertwined. Having overweight means you have to work harder to do simple physical tasks, such as climbing the stairs and walking from the bus stop. A large body size may also interfere with nightly sleep as it increases the chances that you experience sleep apnea. If you eat high-calorie, low-nutrient foods, your meals can contribute to weight gain and make you drag through your day, because you aren't getting the nutrients you need to support a healthy body. Talk to your doctor to make sure your fatigue isn't caused by a medical issue, and then work with them to embark on a program to use diet and exercise to help you achieve a healthy weight and elevated energy levels.
Sleep Apnea and Daytime Tiredness
The National Sleep Foundation reports that approximately 18 million Americans experience sleep apnea, a disorder that causes you to stop breathing during sleep. Your body naturally awakens when this happens, and it affects the quality of your rest. Sleep apnea also leads to health risks such as heart attack or heart failure, stroke and excessive sleepiness during daylight hours.
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People with overweight seem to experience sleep apnea more regularly as weight gain in the torso and neck interferes with breathing functions. Because you wake often during the night -- whether you consciously lie awake or not -- you may find yourself tired during the day. In fact, you may feel so tired that the thought of exercise and making good dietary choices to help you reduce your weight is not appealing.
Losing weight by trimming portion sizes and making healthy food choices can help you drop weight, which may alleviate sleep apnea. Once you feel more rested, add in exercise to further your efforts to achieve a healthy weight. Talk to your doctor about strategies and medical interventions, too, as the condition can be serious.
Movement Is Harder When You Have Overweight
Having overweight creates a sense of inertia because moving is so physically demanding. A vicious cycle ensues: The less you move, the more weight you gain -- making you even less inclined to be active.
Excess fat, especially belly fat, acts as an inflammatory organ of sorts. It secretes chemicals that raise your risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. This inflammation can also contribute to a general malaise that includes a sense of overwhelming fatigue.
Losing as little as 5 to 10 percent of your total weight can help you feel better and improve markers of your health, such as high blood pressure and heart disease risk. It may also make you feel a bit lighter, so exercise becomes easier.
Poor Nutrition and Tiredness
If you've gained weight by indulging in high-calorie foods from sweets, soda, chips and fast food, you may not be getting all the vitamins and minerals you need to support your health. Fresh vegetables, fruit, low-fat dairy, lean proteins and whole grains make for a balanced nutrition plan that, when eaten in moderation, supports a healthy weight and quality energy.
Consuming too many refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and added sugar, can also cause blood sugar swings that give you a brief surge of energy only to have you crash and feel lethargic an hour or two later. Eating more high-fiber foods and adequate protein, both of which take longer to digest, means the surges of sugar aren't as extreme and neither are the crashes. By moderating your blood sugar levels, you'll feel more energized throughout the day.
Health Conditions, Overweight and Fatigue
Medical conditions may contribute to your tiredness. A sluggish thyroid can be responsible for fatigue and weight gain. If you suspect this may be the case, talk to your doctor about having your thyroid hormone levels checked. Anemia, which results from too little iron or vitamin B12, can also lead to overwhelming fatigue. Your doctor can identify such conditions with blood tests.
Sometimes having overweight can make it hard to get even, deep breaths throughout the day, because diaphragm movement is restricted. This may make it difficult for you to get adequate oxygen to your muscles, tissues and brain. This can make you feel sluggish and fatigued, too.
In some cases, having overweight and increased fatigue may have the same root cause -- stress. A demanding job, family issues or financial concerns can make your body pump out more of the hormone cortisol, which causes cravings for unhealthy foods, encourages your body to store excess calories as fat and keeps you up at night. The combination is an overweight and tired body. Adopt stress-relieving techniques to help you sleep better and manage your weight; yoga, meditation and journaling are often helpful.
- National Sleep Foundation: Diet, Exercise and Sleep
- Tired of Being Tired: Overcoming Chronic Fatigue & Low Energy; Michael A. Schmidt
- The Guardian: Exercise Advice for Overweight People
- Harvard Health Publications: Taking Aim at Belly Fat
- CNN: Feeling Lethargic, Moody, Tired, Fat? It Could Be Your Thyroid
- NHS: Why Am I Tired All the Time?
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Losing Weight
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.