How to Lose Weight in a Wheelchair


Whether you are able bodied or living with a disability, losing weight can be hard. People who use wheelchairs are all too familiar with the added difficulty their chair can pose to everyday activities, weight loss is no exception. However, with proper planning, the right support and a willingness to adapt to challenges; weight loss while in a wheelchair is an achievable goal. Here are 4 tips to help you get started on your weight loss journey.

1. Set SMART goals

SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. Like any complex goal, “I want to lose weight” is vague and can be hard to act on. To create an actionable goal and to set yourself up for success, make it SMART. “I want to lose 5 pounds in one month”. Suddenly, something that was elusive is now specific “I want to lose 5 pounds”, measurable an objective number on a scale, attainable 1.5-2 pounds a week, relevant your goal is to weigh less, so any weight lost is in line with that objective, and timely having a deadline of one month holds you accountable and allows you to evaluate your progress. The thing about setting a SMART goal, is you can break it down further to help set manageable targets. So perhaps your monthly goal of 5 pounds is broken into weekly subgoals of 1.5-2 pounds. Now that you have a goal, what comes next?

2. Visit a dietician

Many would argue that diet is the single most important aspect of weight loss. A dietician is an expert in human nutrition and the regulation of diet. Human nutrition is complex and while a quick internet search may present you with a number of fad diets and discussion forum meal plans; a dietician can ensure that you have a safe and effective nutrition plan tailored to your unique needs. Most people in Ontario can access dietetic services, free of charge, through their primary care providers.

3. Get moving

Another key to weight loss is to get your heart pumping. The list of wheelchair friendly activities continues to grow as modified sports and equipment become more mainstream (chair yoga, hand biking, sit skiing, rowing, basketball, sledge hockey, weightlifting to name a few). Check out your local rec centre and gyms for accessible activities and classes or jump online to see what other wheelchair users are doing in your community. If teaming up with a personal trainer it might be helpful to seek out one with experience accommodating wheelchair users. A referral to physiotherapy is also a good option for those who would prefer a list of home exercises tailored to their specific needs, or for individuals wanting to ensure their body is prepared for a sudden or drastic increase in activity. Visit for wheelchair accessories to help you get and stay active!

4. Talk to a counsellor or therapist

For many people weight loss is not as simple as eat this and do that. It is important to understand that losing weight is a complex interaction between body and mind. Talking to a counsellor or therapist about your weight loss goals can help identify not only barriers arising from our relationship with food but internal and external supports available to address those barriers. Losing weight is hard. But as a wheelchair user, you have lots of experience doing hard things. Just like taking transit, encountering a blocked accessibility ramp, grocery shopping or realizing your destination is a 4th floor walk up, weight loss may seem daunting at first but if you formulate a plan and are willing to adapt it, you will get there!

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