I was able to ignore my advancing weight for a very long time. It wasn’t until my first weight-related injury that I was forced to acknowledge that being heavy could hurt me.
That first and most pervasive injury was plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the plantar fascia, which runs all along the bottom of the foot, from the toes to the heel. The inflammation occurs at the juncture of the fascia and the heel, and feels as if you are being stabbed in the heel with hot iron with every step you take.
When my heels became very inflamed, after a good bit of walking, my whole foot would swell, and I would be forced into a chair, forced to spend hours icing my feet. It would get better, then flare. I tried stretching, wearing bandages, splinting at night, injections, everything.
It was the stress of carrying my extra weight that kept bringing it back.
Plantar Fasciitis is also a jock’s problem, a common complaint among runners. So though I knew I hadn’t earned the problem through activity, still it wasn’t quite the catalyst to losing weight that I needed. Diabetes was my lifeboat. But my feet gave me an early warning signal. And still today, it’s a battle scar, a weakness in my feet that I need to manage.
How? Stretching. Massage. Strength work. Boring, yes? Yes, well, a lot of maintenance just is. Grow up. Get used to it. Stretching regularly, maintaining my flexibility through evening stretches in front of the fire, in front of the T.V., while reading. Yoga helps a lot. That downward dog pose gives you the flexibility you need in your legs and ankles and feet to protect you from all manner of missteps.
Strengthening helps too, making sure the muscles in my lower legs and feet and everywhere else in my body are able to help do the work of supporting my weight as I stand, walk, and run, so all the stress doesn’t land there at the bottom of the pile.
It’s a terrible thing to be sidelined with foot pain. It can wipe out your mobility so quickly, or change the way you walk so you wind up hurting your knees, your hips, your back. It ages you too, too quickly.
If you’re overweight now, start stretching and massaging your feet, ankles, shins just as a preventative measure. Stand against a wall, and lean into it to stretch your calves. While seated, pull your toes back toward your body with a belt or Theraband. Use your thumbs to massage that fascia that runs all along the bottom of your foot, or better yet, get a friend to do that for you. Roll your feet over cans of produce to keep that fascia flexed.
Be good to your feet, folks. Immobility is nobody’s idea of fun.
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