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The Basics of Losing Weight with Kidney Disease

It’s no secret that if you’re living with kidney disease, you’ll have to make certain changes to what you eat and drink and how much. Making these changes will help you protect your kidney function and manage your weight. Being overweight can lead to or worsen other health problems like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, which are risk factors for kidney disease. In fact, obesity increases your lifetime risk of chronic kidney disease by 25%.1 Fortunately, losing weight and following a kidney-friendly diet can help lower your risk of other health complications and preserve your kidney function. Your doctor and care team can help you develop a plan to reach your ideal weight and take control of your diet and health.

Benefits of Losing Weight with Kidney Disease

Maintaining a healthy weight has many benefits, including increased energy and fewer health complications, and is especially important for people living with kidney disease. Losing extra weight can reduce the stress on your immune and cardiovascular systems, helping you stay healthier longer. Losing weight can also reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, or if you’re already managing these conditions, it can help you better control them.

If you also have type 2 diabetes, losing weight has been shown to improve your body’s use of insulin, helping control your blood sugar levels.2 As you lose weight, you may need fewer diabetes medications.2 Your weight is also linked to your blood pressure—as you gain weight, your risk of high blood pressure increases.3 Therefore, losing weight can help lower your blood pressure. Maintaining a healthy weight can help keep your blood pressure in check. And lowering your blood pressure can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Following a kidney-friendly diet will also help you lose weight by fostering healthy food choices. When living with kidney disease, your kidneys aren’t able to filter excess fluid and waste from your body, so it’s important to be mindful of what you eat and drink. With the support of your doctor and renal dietitian, you’ll learn how to read food labels and what to avoid. The good news is, there are so many healthy and delicious kidney-friendly recipes to choose from, so you don’t have to sacrifice flavor or the things you love. Over time, as you become more aware of what you’re eating and incorporate more kidney-friendly meals into your diet, you’ll naturally begin to lose weight by cutting out processed foods for fresh, nutritious foods.

6 Tips for Losing Weight with Kidney Disease

When living with kidney disease, you may also hear about weight gain as it relates to fluid management. Since your kidneys aren’t able to filter your blood properly, your weight may fluctuate slightly due to a buildup of fluid in your body. Managing your fluid intake is important to avoid a fluid overload and protect your kidneys, however, it is a separate discussion from managing your dry weight.

Managing your dry weight can help you take control of your health and reduce your risk of other chronic diseases. If you are overweight, it’s important to work with your doctor and renal dietitian to develop a plan to lose weight.

Below are a few tips to help you lose or maintain weight when living with kidney disease.

  1. Choose fresh foods. Fresh foods like vegetables and fruits are healthier options than processed and fast foods. In general, fruits and vegetables are lower in calories. Try including fresh foods in your diet in place of processed foods. For example, when reaching for a snack, grab a bowl of fruit instead of a bag of chips.
  2. Read nutrition labels. Reading nutrition labels will help you select healthier options so you can lose weight and improve your overall health. Make sure to check the serving size and calorie content—the amounts shown are for one serving. Keep an eye out for certain ingredients to limit, such as sugar and saturated fat. Keep saturated fat under 10% Daily Value and avoid trans fat altogether. Choose foods that contain fiber. Eating more fiber will help promote weight loss.
  3. Monitor your protein intake. Protein creates a waste called urea, and for people with kidney disease, your body may have a hard time removing this from your blood. While it’s still important to include protein in your diet—it plays a role in building and repairing muscles—you may need to watch your portion sizes and how often you eat protein-rich foods. Whenever possible, choose plant-based options or fresh, lean animal products, and avoid processed proteins like hot dogs and chicken nuggets. Your doctor and renal dietitian can help you determine your ideal daily protein intake.
  4. Consider a plant-based protein diet. A plant-rich diet can help slow the progression of kidney disease, assist with weight loss, improve blood pressure, and manage diabetes. Plant-rich foods are high in fiber and vitamins that will keep you feeling full longer, which helps reduce your food intake and promote healthy weight loss.
  5. Limit your calorie intake. Reducing your calorie intake will help you lose weight since excess or unused calories are stored as fat. Choose foods that are lower in calories—mainly fresh fruits and vegetables. Avoid high-calorie foods like baked sweets as well as deep fried and processed foods. These foods are usually high in sugar and unhealthy fats that cause unwanted weight gain.
  6. Add exercise to your daily routine. In addition to eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, exercise can help you lose weight and improve your overall health. Get your body moving by taking a walk, or try something more active like swimming. Choose an activity you’ll enjoy, start with 15 minutes a day, and work your way up from there.

Each person’s needs are unique and may vary depending on their stage of kidney disease. Talk to your doctor and renal dietitian before making any dietary or lifestyle changes. They will work with you to develop a plan that works best for you and your specific health need.

Risks of Rapid Weight Loss with Kidney Disease

Kidney disease will likely influence your weight and it’s important to control it as much as you can. Losing or gaining weight too quickly can cause health complications including changes in your blood pressure and/or breathing. Work with your doctor to develop a weight management plan that is best for you. This will likely include following a kidney-friendly diet, regular physical activity, and frequent check-ins with your doctor to track any changes.

Managing Your Weight Long-Term

If you have questions about managing your weight while living with kidney disease, take an active role in your health by talking to your doctor. Your doctor and care team are here to support you in your care journey and are best equipped to answer your questions. We also understand that visits can be brief, so to get the most out of the conversation, jot down ahead of time what you’d like to discuss. And don’t be afraid to bring up concerns or fears that you may be having. Your doctor and care team will help you identify simple lifestyle and dietary changes to help you manage your weight and lower your risk of other health complications.


1 Allon N. Friedman, Lee M. Kaplan, Carel W. le Roux, and Philip R. Schauer, “Management of Obesity in Adults with CKD,” Journal of the American Society of Nephrology 32, no. 4 (April 2021): 777-790,

2 Moira Lawler, “8 Ways Weight Loss Can Help Control Diabetes,” Everyday Health, last reviewed November 10, 2020,

3 “Managing Weight to Control High Blood Pressure.” American Heart Association, last reviewed October 31, 2016.



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