Managing Fibromyalgia Weight Gain: Effective Strategies & Insights

Unexpected weight gain caused by fibromyalgia can often be frustrating on top of the multitude of symptoms that make it hard to manage already.

In this article, we will explore the connection between fibromyalgia and gaining weight. We will explore some potential causes that may be contributing, how your weight can affect your symptoms, and solutions to manage your weight with fibromyalgia. So you can walk away with a more in-depth understanding on this topic.

What is the relationship between fibromyalgia & weight gain?

Fibromyalgia brings a host of symptoms into the lives of those affected, including intense pain, draining fatigue, sleep issues, and mood disturbances. You might have also noticed changes to your weight – and that could be an increase or a decrease.

Studies have found a higher prevalence of obesity in people who with fibromyalgia compared to the general population1. One study of people with fibro found that the participants had an average body mass index (BMI) of 30.7. For reference, the average BMI range to be classified obese is 30, although it's important to remember that this is a guide based on averages. BMI doesn't necessarily reflect your size, shape, or health and someone with a higher number might be more healthy than someone with a lower number.

There are many reasons why fibromyalgia can cause changes to your weight. And the most important thing to know is that the number on the scale, or what size clothes you wear doesn't really matter. What's important, and what we want to help you with, is working out how to be the happiest and healthiest version of you.

If you have any concerns about your weight, please chat to your doctor and consider working with a registered nutritionist and an exercise specialist, all of whom can help you to find what works for you.

Inactivity & muscle weakness

One of these reasons is that for a lot of people who live with fibromyalgia, their symptoms – such as pain and fatigue – often lead to a sedentary lifestyle, because engaging in exercise and even daily activities can become a daunting task. This lack of movement can lead to weight gain, a gradual loss of muscle strength, and reduced stamina over time. And this is turn makes it harder to be active.

Slow metabolism

Think of your metabolism as the body's inner furnace that burns calories to sustain vital functions. In those with fibromyalgia, this metabolic engine may run more slowly, which could contribute to weight gain. Understanding the link between a sluggish metabolism and fibromyalgia is key to grasping why those with the condition may see their weight increase. One study found that the metabolic rate in someone with fibromyalgia is lower by around 10-28% than that of an individual without the disorder2.


Leptin is like a watchman for your body's energy. It's made by fat cells and usually, the more fat you have, the more leptin you make. But when you have fibromyalgia, this system can go a bit haywire. You might feel hungry even if your body doesn't need more food. This mix-up can make it hard to control how much you eat, and you might gain weight without meaning to.

Research indicates that in individuals with fibromyalgia, there may be a dysregulation in the secretion of leptin, leading to a sensation of hunger even when the body has adequate energy reserves3.


The relationship between fibromyalgia and hypothyroidism is intriguing. While fibromyalgia impacts 2% to 7% of the general population, the incidence soars to an impressive 30% to 40% among those with hypothyroidism5. Hypothyroidism's tendency to decelerate metabolic rate means the body burns fewer calories, potentially leading to a slight increase in weight.


Medications for fibromyalgia such as pregabalin (Lyrica) and duloxetine (Cymbalta) can be effective for symptom relief, but they may also lead to unwanted weight gain as a side effect7.

It's important to monitor changes in weight when starting these medications and to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider.

The impact of weight on fibromyalgia symptoms

Carrying extra body weight can significantly worsen fibromyalgia symptoms, making the condition more difficult to manage. Studies have linked higher body weight with increased levels of widespread pain in those with fibromyalgia4. The added weight places more stress on the joints, particularly in the lower body, which can escalate the pain that people who live with fibromyalgia experience.

In addition to the physical load, adipose tissue, or body fat, can lead to increased systemic inflammation. It does this by releasing a variety of proteins and chemicals that are known to heighten inflammation and pain sensitivity, which are already issues for those with fibromyalgia. As a result, an upward trend in weight can intensify fibromyalgia symptoms, impacting not only the capacity for physical activity but also the person's overall quality of life.

Knowledge is power

Receive free science-backed tips and advice to learn about your fibromyalgia and what can help.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Overcoming barriers to weight loss with fibromyalgia

An integrated approach that combines tailored physical activity, smart nutritional choices, complementary therapies, and maybe medications is essential for effective fibro symptom management and weight control.

Participating in specialized group programs designed for individuals with fibromyalgia can provide expert advice and a community of support, helping you reach your weight management objectives and enhance your overall health.

Adapting your diet

Managing your diet while dealing with fibromyalgia is a bit like navigating a maze. The pain, tiredness, and brain fog that come with fibromyalgia can make it tough to handle shopping for food, cooking, and following recipes. But with careful planning and some changes to how you deal with food, you can keep eating healthy. Here are some ideas to help you:

  • Ask someone else to cook for you sometimes.
  • Try meal-kit delivery services that send ingredients to your door.
  • Use grocery delivery services to avoid the store.
  • Keep easy-to-eat healthy snacks around, such as:
    • fresh fruits
    • veggies
    • nuts
    • seeds
    • cottage cheese
    • yogurt.

Another option could be altering your diet to incorporate elements from the Mediterranean diet. Studies have shown this diet to be effective in alleviating some symptoms6.

Talking to a registered dietitian can be really helpful. They are great at identifying your particular needs and can make a special nutrition plan just for you. This plan can help you lose extra weight or keep from gaining more, in a way that's safe and good for your body.

Exercise & physical therapy

Regular participation in moderate to intense exercise, accumulating at least 150 minutes per week, has been shown to relieve symptoms of fibromyalgia and assist in maintaining a healthy weight. 150 minutes might seem completely unattainable at the moment, but if you start with just five or ten minutes a day, you can gradually build your strength, without flaring.

Initiating an exercise regimen can be as simple as starting with gentle, low-impact aerobic activities such as swimming, water aerobics, walking, or cycling. Physical therapists can also help create personalized programs that progressively increase the level of physical activity at a comfortable pace.

A variety of activities have been found to be beneficial in managing symptoms and reducing fatigue for those with fibromyalgia, including:

  • aerobic exercise routines
  • tai chi sessions
  • strength training workouts
  • yoga practices
  • flexibility and stretching exercises
  • stability and muscle conditioning exercises.

Additionally, integrating therapies such as applying ice or heat, massage techniques, and electrical stimulation can offer further advantages for individuals managing fibromyalgia.

Medication & fibromyalgia weight loss

Milnacipran, a medication for fibromyalgia that hasn't been linked to weight gain, offers a potential alternative for those concerned about their weight.

Evidence from three meticulous double-blind, placebo-controlled trials indicates that milnacipran may promote weight loss. Participants taking milnacipran generally experienced a greater average weight loss compared to those on a placebo, especially over a longer duration of treatment. Remarkably, at the conclusion of one year, the number of patients who had managed to reduce their body weight by at least 5% was double the number of those who experienced weight gain.

Other ways for managing fibromyalgia weight gain

Weight management extends beyond a nutritious diet and consistent exercise. It's about developing strategies for stress reduction, creating a strong network of support, and engaging in activities that bring joy. Spending quality time with loved ones can enhance overall wellbeing, thus bolstering the journey towards effective weight control for those living with fibromyalgia.

Stress management

It's essential for individuals with fibromyalgia to effectively handle stress to prevent weight gain. Various approaches can be helpful, such as:

  • engaging in mindfulness practices like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which have been shown to slightly or moderately improve fibromyalgia symptoms
  • cultivating a positive outlook and expressing gratitude to reduce stress
  • participating in activities that one enjoys can also play a role in weight management.

Regular consultations with mental health professionals experienced in chronic pain can be crucial for those with fibromyalgia. These experts provide guidance on managing stress and developing coping strategies, aiding in better weight management.

More support

Remember, you are not alone in this journey. At MoreGoodDays®, our expertise in pain retraining can significantly lessen the intensity, occurrence, and overall effect of your pain and related symptoms.

Our resources and self-management techniques are designed to enhance your understanding of fibromyalgia and empower you to take control of your symptoms. We champion lifestyle changes that focus on physical activity, nutritional choices, and sleep patterns to elevate your overall wellbeing.

Join us on your path to a more rewarding life as we tackle the intricacies of fibromyalgia together.

Download our mobile app for free from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store for immediate access to some of our content and to see your support options.