woman giving a thumbs upA local gym in Seattle has a weight loss program comparable to the most famous weight loss program of all--“The Biggest Loser”. Promotions for this show and for other weight loss programs frequently talk about how much better you’ll look, how much energy you’ll have, and how losing weight can save your life. Although all of these things are true, rarely do I see anyone singing about the wonders of weight loss for your feet.

Our poor feet often get the short shrift, even though we all know that good foot health is vital to our wellbeing. A survey conducted in 2012 drove home the importance of weight loss on feet. The National Foot Health Assessment showed that 51% of survey respondents who describe their foot health as poor or fair were overweight and obese. Only 21% of those who took the survey said their feet were poor or fair were of normal weight.

This is not surprising when you consider that every pound of body weight creates three pounds of force when walking and seven pounds when running. A person weighing 200 pounds would place 600 pounds of force on their feet when walking and 1400 pounds of force when running.

Although foot problems can occur in anyone of any weight, it’s clear that losing weight can provide great benefits to your feet.

Common Foot Problems In People Who Are Overweight

  • Heel pain– extra weight puts more force on the arch with every step causing it to flatten out to a greater degree than normal. This pulls on the fibers of the plantar fascia (the tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot) causing micro tears leading to plantar fasciitis and heel spurs.
  • Bunions– overweight can contribute to the formation of bunions and their progression. Overpronating or walking with the toes pointed outward is more common in overweight people which increases the change of getting bunions.
  • Posterior Tibial Tendon Dysfunction– the posterior tendon supports the arch. Excess weight will place a lot of stress on this tendon when walking, and when it’s overused it can develop tendonitis.

What Makes Weight Loss Difficult

As someone who treats diabetic patients, weight loss is something I frequently discuss with all my patients. However, while it's easy to say we're going to lose weight, getting there is a more difficult act to follow. 

Overweight Is More Than One Disease

Even the medical community is confused about the best ways for people to lose weight. And no wonder. An article in the New York Times by Gina Kolata says that losing weight is not a one size fits all proposition.

That's because obesity is not one disease but 59 different diseases, according to one researcher. Weight is put on for different reasons including genetic factors, medications, or specific diseases like hypothyroidism. How to take weight off can also vary greatly. Researchers are working on why one diet works well for one person, but not for another.

In addition, a commentary written in 2015 by leading experts in Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology says that obesity is a chronic illness caused by basic biology and cannot be cured with diet and exercise alone.

Forming New Habits Are Difficult

Every year lots of us sign up for gym memberships to lose weight. And many of us will stop going to the gym after the first couple of months.

What's happening here?

According to some experts the "21 day" rule to form a habit is not true. Forming a new habit depends on so many factors including complexity, frequency, consistency, and individual variation. For example, it will likely take much longer to make running on a treadmill and using gym equipment a habit than walking since most people already walk and it takes no special equipment or gym to do it.

Why Your Weight Gain May Not Be Caused By Overeating

At this time of year we often vow to change our habits. Losing weight is at the top of the list. I'm all for my patients losing weight. It can help prevent and manage the chronic illnesses I see frequently see such as diabetes and heart disease. Weight loss can also help prevent plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis since extra weight puts more pressure on the feet.

However, not all weight loss is caused by overeating or not exercising enough. Many physical and mental health problems can contribute to weight gain. It's important to make an appointment with your doctor to discover the underlying cause, particularly when gaining weight for you is unusual.  Here are five reasons why you might be gaining weight.


Each year more than 200,000 people are diagnosed with an underactive thyroid and they're mostly women. Without enough thyroid hormone in your system your metabolism slows and weight gain can occur. Other symptoms of low thyroid are hair loss, fatigue, and dry skin. Most people see an improvement in this condition once they receive thyroid hormones.


If you're depressed, you're more likely to gain weight. An increase in cortisol is the major physical reason for this process; however, taking certain anti-depressant medications can also be a factor. Lack of motivation to eat well or exercise can also play a role. It's important to see your doctor or a therapist if you're feeling down or depressed.


A regular pattern of sleep loss can trigger weight gain through a change in hormone levels. A change in hormones can also make you crave foods high in fat and sugar. If you suffer from insomnia try some of these tips. If you still feel tired, visit your doctor.


Weight gain is common among women who enter menopause particularly around the middle. What's causing these changes? Lack of sleep due to hot flashes; loss of muscle mass due to aging; and decreasing levels of estrogen with an increase appetite come together to contribute to weight gain. Changing how you eat, what you eat, and how you exercise will go a long way in helping keep weight off.

Metabolic Syndrome/Diabetes

Excess weight can certainly increase your risk for diabetes, but does diabetes make it harder to keep off weight? Yes, it does. When you're diabetic or have metabolic syndrome, your body becomes resistant to insulin (it doesn't work as well at getting glucose out of your bloodstream) and so your body makes more insulin. Because insulin works to promote the storage of fat and to block the release of fat from fat storage, you gain weight. Following a diet containing fewer carbohydrates can reduce the insulin in your blood. Working with a diabetes educator or nutritionist to determine the right combination of foods for you is very important.

Dr. Rion Berg
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A podiatrist in North Seattle treating families for over 40 years.
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