Nutrition and Diet for Weight Loss

Quite simply, obesity results when more calories are consumed than are burned by the body over a long period of time.

Contributing to many Americans’ obesity or overweight condition are the combined effects of insufficient exercise and a high-calorie diet.

Guidelines for Good Nutrition and Weight Loss

The National Institutes of Health recommends that patients educate themselves on several nutritional issues to help manage their own diet and nutrition. The basic recommended guidelines for a healthy diet and good nutrition for weight loss include the following:

  • Reducing the number of calories in the daily diet
  • Eating smaller portions as part of the diet
  • Tracking meal composition, portion sizes, and nutritional content of the diet
  • Learning methods of food preparation for a healthy diet1
  • Choosing nutritious meals that are lower in fat2

For more information: Lifestyle and Diet Tips for Healthy Bones

Patients who reduce caloric consumption in their diet slowly but consistently are usually the most successful in maintaining their weight loss. Steady, controlled progress during a diet and weight loss program is generally more effective than sporadic and inconsistent changes in caloric intake and portion sizes.

Watch: Video: 3 Simple Ways to Indulge Your Spine


Proper Hydration and Weight Loss

Drinking enough water is essential for a healthy back. But how much is enough?
Video: How Much Water Do I Need to Drink?

It is commonly recommended that patients drink at least 8 large cups of water throughout each day. Drinking enough water is essential for a healthy back, as water transports nutrients and eliminates wastes in the body.3

The discs are comprised mostly of water and need to stay hydrated so that nutrients and fluids can be properly exchanged within the spinal structures. For patients undergoing exercise and dieting for weight loss, drinking adequate amounts of water helps the body to metabolize fat and avoid water retention.

See 5 Nutrients to Support Healing from Back Pain and Back Surgery

Effect of Behavioral and Environmental Factors on Diet and Weight Loss

Dieting programs should take into account behavioral and environmental factors that can influence a patient’s eating habits. For example, stress, boredom, sadness and anger can all have an effect on a patient’s diet in terms of the quantities and types of food the patient consumes.2

Behavioral factors, such as feelings and mood changes throughout the day, can induce patients to eat at times when they are not hungry or to eat unhealthy foods.

Environmental triggers such as smells or stressful situations can also lead patients to eat when they are not actually hungry but instead are reacting to external stimuli.2

Patients may find it helpful to keep a written log of what they eat and when over a period of several days or weeks, observing and recording information about the impact of behavioral and environmental factors on diet and nutritional choices.

In order to stay motivated and on-track with a weight loss and diet program, patients can reward themselves for positive behaviors, develop a support network of friends and family and use additional motivational techniques to maintain steady progress.

When Weight Loss is Unhealthy

Although weight loss with the use of a healthy diet and exercise program may alleviate back pain and improve overall fitness, there are several warning signs indicating that weight loss is unhealthy.

Patients should pay close attention if they experience any unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite, pain and neurological problems.


Depression, malnutrition, some prescription drugs, and infections may also cause unintentional weight loss.4

If the patient’s weight has been steady for a long duration of time and then his or her weight drops unexpectedly or the patient experiences a loss of appetite, it may be an indication of a serious medical condition, such as cancer.


  • 1.American Obesity Association. "Obesity treatments." AOA Obesity Fact Sheets. 2002.
  • 2.National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases. "Understanding adult obesity." 2001.
  • 3.Hochschuler, S. Back In Shape: A Back Owner's Manual. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1991: 149.
  • 4.National Institutes of Health. "Weight loss - unintentional." MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. 2003.