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Question: weight gain, ankle swelling

Posted by Walt Thompson on Sunday, 16 February 2014 in Health Smart 2 Comments

February 15, 2014

Doctor Walt,

I am 52 years old, overweight, and have swollen feet and ankles. What can help to reduce my weight and reduce the swelling of my feet and ankles?

Dear ------,

Your question is a very common one among women of your age in America today. Furthermore, it is also becoming a problem around the world as Western lifestyles become the norm in other lands.

Since there are many possible causes for your problem and since I do not know anything more about you I will respond to your question in general terms. This should be helpful to you and be helpful as well to almost anyone with similar problems.

One becomes overweight when one takes in more calories than one uses. These extra calories are stored in the body as fat. What is commonly overlooked is the fact that not everyone uses the calories they eat at the same rate. Some people have a difficult time gaining weight while others seem unable to avoid it. There are many possible reasons for this, the most common being the kind of foods we eat and the kind and amount of activity we do. Therefore, for one wishes to lose weight, or avoid gaining weight, one must increase activity while reducing the number of calories eaten. This is true irrespective of the cause of the problem. More about this later.

Swelling of the legs and feet is generally due to retention of water by the body. This, too, may have a variety of causes. Hormonal changes associated with menopause are commonly associated with swelling of various parts of the body including the legs and ankles. Such changes seldom have serious consequences. On the other hand, swelling of the feet and legs may be a sign of abnormalities in the heart, kidneys, liver and sometimes other organ systems. It may also occur in the presence of high blood pressure, diabetes and other illnesses. Therefore, when swelling of the legs and feet is persistent and increasing, it deserves medical evaluation.

Excessive weight and obesity are rarely caused by serious illness, but, uncontrolled, certainly do predispose one to a wide variety of diseases including diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis and many other illnesses. Problems with the thyroid gland resulting in low levels of thyroid hormone in the body may sometimes contribute to both excessive weight and to swelling of legs, feet and other body parts. While this is true, it is not a common cause for these complaints.

Whether one has excessive weight simply because of taking in too many calories for the amount of exercise one gets, or as a result of some illness, adjustments in the diet and activity practices can almost always alleviate or resolve the problems of both weight and swelling.

Change is never easy. It will not happen unless one’s desire and motivation exceeds the discomfort and hard work necessary to produce the desired result. On the other hand, even a week of two of compliance with the following outlined program will result in significant benefits and improved feelings of well being.

Here are my recommendations:


Eat 3 meals daily--the largest of these early in the day should include about ½ of your total daily food intake. The other half should be divided between a mid-day meal and a light, early evening meal.

Limit your diet to unrefined foods of plant origin. You may have any kind of whole grains, any kind of vegetables; greens; legumes (beans, peas, lentils, etc.); fruits of any kind; seeds; olives, avocado, and nuts. Cooking of these foods is permitted, but many of them may also be used in the uncooked, raw state. It is generally not necessary to be concerned regarding the size of serving of these foods, but one should make an effort to obtain a wide variety of foods including all of the food groups (Fruits, vegetables, etc.). Oils, dressings, juice, sugar, breads and pastas, etc. that are made of refined grains should be avoided or used very sparingly.

(Note: Juicing of plant foods is an alternative way to begin your lifestyle change. Before beginning this process, it is important to give study so as to do it safely and effectively. I do not recommend this as a long term solution to your problem, but it may be a very effective way to begin.)

No food products of animal origin are permitted. No meat, poultry, fish, milk, eggs, cheese, etc. Including any of these foods will interfere with the effectiveness of your program.

Salt is necessary for health, but should be carefully limited.


Pure, clean water is essential to health. One should drink sufficient water to have clear or very light yellow urine. The amount of water necessary will vary depending upon environmental temperature, activity level, etc., but should generally be at least 6-8 eight ounce glasses per day.

Please avoid all other drinks.

Activity is mandatory. Walking is undoubtedly the most universally available and beneficial. But when this is impossible, other body exercises may substitute. Upper extremity exercise with or without weights can be quite effective in persons that are unable to walk. Whatever exercise is necessary or chosen, it must be done daily at least 5 days per week. Always begin very slowly and increase daily until exercising an hour or more daily. This may be continuous or interrupted into various length segments.


Your medication needs may change rapidly once you have begun this program. Diabetics and persons with other potent medications should work with their health care professional in regulating dosage. In many instances, most or all medications may eventually be able to be discontinued if the above dietary and exercise recommendations are carefully followed.

Vitamin B12 supplement is recommended for all persons avoiding animal food products.

While these recommendations are generally very safe, medical supervision/monitoring, is advised.

Change is never easy, but for those that will give the above recommendations full compliance will begin to experience significant benefits within a week or two, and will continue until one reaches one’s desired objective.

I know of no medication that will even begin to compare with the benefits to be expected from the recommendations noted above.

The above recommendations approximate the lifestyle established by God for our health and happiness at the time of creation. They are still effective.

Note: The God who created us and provided everything necessary for health and long life has also provided access to the power necessary to make lifestyle change. The Bible tells us to “ask” in the name of Jesus, and He will hear and answer our prayers. If you do not yet know this God, this is a good time to become acquainted with Him and to experience His love and concern for each one of us.

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