Weight Loss and Parkinson’s Disease

Mary Beth Skylis avatar

by Mary Beth Skylis |

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Dad used to tell us that he has two sets of clothes: a normal set and a set of “skinny clothes” that emerge when he gets sick.

Dad was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in his 30s, and the illness caused him to lose a startling amount of weight. He was thin to begin with, but the disease found ways to take more away.

Ulcerative colitis became more manageable for my dad as time moved forward. He put on a healthy amount of weight and chose his food based on desire rather than necessity. With the help of my mom and his friends, he was able to nurse himself back to health.

But for the next 34 years, his two sets of clothing would hang in the corner of his bedroom closet because he never was certain when his health might change. Today, Parkinson’s disease is back to challenge this strategy. And Dad’s skinny clothes are making an appearance.

Causes of weight loss in Parkinson’s disease

Weight loss in relation to Parkinson’s disease can occur for a number of reasons. Decreased appetite, additional energy output, and changes in digestion can slow your food intake. And this ultimately can cause a shift in body weight.

It makes sense, really. Dad’s tremors cause him to expend energy 24 hours a day. That’s a substantial amount of time that is spent in motion. And the body needs fuel to maintain this motion.

Dad seems to eat about the same amount, but what he chooses to eat has changed. My little sister makes sure there’s a constant supply of densely packed foods, such as avocados. They juice every morning, squeezing the nutrients out of a shocking amount of produce.

Sometimes I giggle to see him eating a midnight bowl of ice cream or a handful of chocolate. Weight loss almost seems like an opportunity to eat his favorite treats. Dad looks thin, but his doctor seems to think his weight is stable.

Combating weight loss

In a society where weight loss ads litter social media platforms, it is easy to think that weight loss is a good thing. And it can be. But when uncontrolled, one risks becoming nutritionally deficient. And this ultimately prevents the body from using the building blocks it needs to keep healthy.

According to Parkinson’s News Today‘s Patricia Inacio, extreme weight loss can cause dementia, increased dependency care, and a shorter life expectancy. A study Inacio highlighted evaluated several Parkinson’s patients and found that weight loss might be able to point doctors toward an early PD diagnosis. Furthermore, counteracting weight loss might lessen disease-related outcomes.

Whatever doctors continue to discover, managing weight loss appears to be an important element of Parkinson’s. And it’s a common one, too!

Dad’s skinny clothes

More than six years have passed since my dad’s Parkinson’s diagnosis. The journey has been choppy, inconsistent, and filled with color. New challenges always seem to emerge. The disease never slows, but my dad is just as quick to fight back. His adaptability and determination are unmatched.

Today, his pants hang a bit loose around his skinny legs. But the muscles still ripple. His normal clothes have been collecting dust in the back of his closet for a while.

Christmas might be a time when those sizes shift completely, making skinny the new normal. But he’s strong. He spends three days of every week at Rock Steady Boxing, preparing himself to better challenge his disease.

During a recent visit to the gym, emotions bubbled to the surface. I had never seen him so committed to tackling an obstacle. And with great effort comes great change.


Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.


Paul DesRoches avatar

Paul DesRoches

Are increased Parkinsons symptoms caused by taking too much medication or not enough...?
After an increase in Levodopa..weight loss and poor appetite is a problem..Also an increase in tremors and fidgeting...

Douglas Hoke avatar

Douglas Hoke

I have lost a lot of weight and no one around here seem to know much about Parkinson's. I have a lot of tremors and it feels like my body inside is vibrating most of the time. It is using a lot of energy and the weight keeps going down. I would like to get some real help on this. Like I said before it seems like nobody care around here about this. Our family doctor doesn't care. She orders blood work and when the results come back, a lot of the results are low and a few are high. But she tells us everything is good. So time to change. Any how, the weight loose is too much. I also so have a catheter that I have to keep the rest of my life. This is help to urinate, but is a lot of pain with this, so my meds to take. When tis hurts the tremors increase. The food that I eat has too much sugar and or protein. We do not under stand why there is ADDED Sugar to food. What is the purpose behind that and HIGH protein? Why not just eat the proper foods. Too much sugar gives me problems now. My muscles get tight and my neck tightens up to the point of hard to move around. It seems to us that we are in a poor location for good medical help with Parkinson's.


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