Category Archives: Barriers

Pain, exercise and mindfulness – Part 3

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In parts one and two we reviewed how pain can put us in a spiral of inactivity, gradually reducing strength and stamina which can limit function and lead to secondary pain from inactivity.  Exercise designed right can reduce pain by improving mobility and strength, yet too much exercise can increase pain.    Mindfulness has been shown to reduce pain.  When we combine exercise with a mindful mindset, we are more likely to make movement a tool for helping with pain.

When exercising to lose weight, we can get focused on burning more calories and getting enough steps each day.  This focus makes it tempting to ignore signals that the body cannot tolerate that amount or type of movement.  Add to that all too popular  “no pain no gain” approach and the use of competitions or challenges to boost motivation.  These are just a few of the ways popular approaches to fitness promote ignoring your body rather than listening to it.

Many people want to lose weight in order to reduce pain.  While weight loss may help to some degree in some cases, we need to look at what happens in the body with weight loss.  The fact is that weight loss without exercise promotes muscle loss. Muscle loss means less support on those painful joints that are trying to tell you they need more support.  This is one way weight loss alone could make the pain worse, not better.

Pain research is telling us that when we ignore pain, the body only speaks louder to get our attention, in the form of more pain.   If we practice ignoring pain while losing weight,  we are missing out on the benefits mindfulness offers to help us quiet the pain signals.    Mindfulness does not mean focusing on the pain, it is shifting mindset about the pain.  Three qualities of mindfulness are paying attention with:

  • Curiosity:  when we shift to curiosity, we move away from frustration about the pain and the temptation to either push past it or let it keep us from moving at all.  Instead we can try moving lightly at first and be curious about how to move in a way that could reduce the pain.  If you are an “all or nothing exerciser”, this can take some practice. However, the shift is key to getting out of this cycle of doing too much, ending up in pain and then moving less.
  • Openness:  This means being open to trying different approaches to and types of exercise. It means being open to learning about what your body needs right now,  letting go of comparing yourself to what you did in the past or what you think you should be able to do now.    Openness means focusing on what your body can do now as the way out of the exercise and pain cycle. For example, stretching may not burn a lot of calories, but it may be a way to start moving on a regular basis and build up your body’s movement tolerance so it is ready for more movement down the road.
  • Kindness:  Mentally beating yourself up while you exercise (or paying someone else to push you) can actually be keeping you in a pain cycle.  Think of how you would treat someone else you care about, a pet or a small child, who is in pain.  You would want to do what you can to help.  That is the attitude of kindness you can apply to yourself when you exercise.  The interesting thing about research on self-kindness is that is leads to more motivation, not less. Kindness does not mean letting yourself off the hook or being too easy on yourself. It just means you will work with your body rather than against. it.

The research is becoming more and more clear that movement and mindfulness both promote healing.  In order for these two resources to work together though, we need to shift how we approach exercise for weight loss away from pushing the body to burn calories and sculpt it into the shape we want to using exercise as a resource for taking care of this body we are trying to help through weight loss.  Just like anything else, it takes practice.  Practice exercising with a mindset that is curious, open and kind you will begin to find ways to use exercise t  help yourself feel better not worse.

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

These weekly blogs are general guidelines. These guidelines apply to patients who are cleared by a physician for the type of exercise described. Please contact your physician with any concerns or questions. Always report any symptoms associated with exercise, such as pain, irregular heartbeats, and dizziness or fainting, to your physician.

Please share these posts with anyone you know interested in losing weight with or without weight loss surgery.  Click here to learn more about the UMass Memorial Weight Center

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by | December 11, 2017 · 7:19 pm

Pain, exercise, and mindfulness – Part 2

Last week we looked at how pain can put us in a spiral of inactivity.  The decrease in movement can lead to more pain,  less movement, more pain… and so on and so on.  Exercising when you have pain is tricky.  There is a fine line between doing  enough to feel better and doing too much ending up in more pain.  Pain, in the end, lowers motivation, keeping the spiral stuck in the downward direction.

There is a key ingredient we can add when approaching exercise that can help us with this dilemma – mindfulness.  Research is showing mindfulness can be very effective in dealing with pain.    Mindfulness meditation has been shown in clinical trials to reduce chronic pain by 57 percent. Accomplished meditators can reduce pain by over 90 percent!  Mindfulness is not just a form of meditation.  When practiced regularly, it helps us to have a mindset that is open, curious and kind.  Mindfulness and pain research tells us that our thoughts about pain – its history, our fears, memories, beliefs, all affect the levels of pain we experience.  This three-part article explains the process in more detail.  It’s worth a read if you are dealing with pain issues right now.

meditation-1000061Exercising for weight loss can promote the opposite mindset. When we ignore our body’s symptoms in order to push the body to burn more calories, we are being anything but curious, open and kind.  The “no pain no gain“,  “if some is good more is better” and “just do it” mindsets promotes mindlessness.   These mindsets work for sports training but not for lasting success with weight loss and health.     There is no evidence that our muscles need to be sore in order to get stronger.  Studies show something really is much better than nothing when it comes to exercise.  And when we “just do it” we miss out on the helpful signals our body is sending us.

Next week we will blend our approach to exercise for weight loss with this skill of mindfulness to discover an approach to exercise that can reverse the spiral of inactivity and pain.  This week, check out the article on the connection between mindfulness and pain management so you are ready to apply it to approaches to exercise for true weight loss success.

Keep Moving, Be Well

Janet

These weekly blogs are general guidelines. These guidelines apply to patients who are cleared by a physician for the type of exercise described. Please contact your physician with any concerns or questions. Always report any symptoms associated with exercise, such as pain, irregular heartbeats, and dizziness or fainting, to your physician.

Please share these posts with anyone you know interested in losing weight with or without weight loss surgery.  Click here to learn more about the UMass Memorial Weight Center

 

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by | December 5, 2017 · 2:39 pm

Pain, exercise, and mindfulness: Part 1

Pain is one of the biggest barriers to exercise.  Beyond the obvious limits it creates, pain leads to what we call a spiral of inactivity:

Cycle of inactivity

Pain makes us move less. Since our body is a “use it to keep it system”, when we use our body less, we lose strength, stamina and mobility, which means movement is more challenging, and so we move less.  Over time this inactivity causes stiffness, making movement less comfortable.  After a time of less activity we lose muscle mass which means less support for painful joints.  Both of these can lead to more pain, and the spiral continues.

The way out of this spiral is to move in order to regain strength, stamina, mobility, function and support around joints. However, what if you have pain when you move? Should you push through pain or listen to it?  It feels like a catch 22 and the spiral seems irreversible.

Add to that the all too common “no pain no gain” approach to exercise and the “suffer through in order to get to your goal” approach to weight loss.  These can often make pain worse, and leave us believing we need to work through the pain to get to our goal. This discomfort and the frustration it causes can create not only physical but  mental barriers to weight loss.  It may seem hopeless, but it is not.

The first step is awareness about how our approaches to exercise and to weight loss are making it more difficult to turn the spiral around.   Athletes need to push through pain to gain a competitive edge.  For health and well-being, pain is your body trying to tell you it cannot tolerate that level of movement right now.   Ignore it and it will only “speak” louder.   There is no gain in pain.

If you have tried the “get through the first few weeks of a diet until you see results” approach to weight loss, you know it is just not sustainable in the long run.  There is no badge of honor for those weeks of suffering through hunger, derivation, sore muscles and fatigue.  Not only does it leave us with less motivation to try again next time, it makes our brain look for comfort – and food is a quick and easy source of comfort.

If you goal is to lose weight to feel better, why suffer through exercise in order to feel better?   Why not take a direct line to feeling better even before the scale moves?  It is possible when you drop the “suffer through” approach and listen to your body with exercise.

This week simply notice your mindset when it comes to exercising for weight loss and the long term effects of it.  It helps to keep in mind, weight loss is not a goal.  Goals have an end.  Sustainable weight loss is a shift in what we do and how we think.  Mindfulness helps us make that shift. Next week we will take a closer look at the research on mindfulness and pain to uncover how it can help with exercising when you have pain.

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

These weekly blogs are general guidelines. These guidelines apply to patients who are cleared by a physician for the type of exercise described. Please contact your physician with any concerns or questions. Always report any symptoms associated with exercise, such as pain, irregular heartbeats, and dizziness or fainting, to your physician.

Please share these posts with anyone you know interested in losing weight with or without weight loss surgery.  Click here to learn more about the UMass Memorial Weight Center

 

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by | November 29, 2017 · 7:05 pm

10 ways to exercise in winter

  1. walk indoors at a mall, large store, hospital, university
  2. try exercise videos online (i.e: Leslie Sansone)
  3. embrace strength training as spring training
  4. try a winter activity such as snow shoeing or cross country skiing
  5. have a spontaneous dance party before dinner each night
  6. fire up the active video games (i.e: Wii)
  7. take a class like line dancing or ballroom dance
  8. invest in a piece of exercise equipment so you are ready for winters to come
  9. invite a friend to exercise with you instead of hibernating
  10. try something new like tai chi, yoga, kickboxing or MUVE

 

Keep moving, Be Well (stay warm!)

Janet

These weekly blogs are general guidelines. These guidelines apply to patients who are cleared by a physician for the type of exercise described. Please contact your physician with any concerns or questions. Always report any symptoms associated with exercise, such as pain, irregular heartbeats, and dizziness or fainting, to your physician.

Please share these posts with anyone you know interested in losing weight with or without weight loss surgery.  Click here to learn more about the UMass Memorial Weight Center

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by | November 13, 2017 · 8:33 pm

Letting Go of the Should’s

positive-2470506_1920Have you ever been part of a group or organization where it drained your energy?!    Every task or meeting felt like a something you had to do or should do?  How likely were you to procrastinate doing those tasks?

Now think about something you are involved in that gives you lots of energy; something you are passionate about, something really important to you.  How likely are you to go above and beyond, making sure you fit in those tasks, even when you are busy?

When exercise feels like a  “should” we miss out on the kind of motivation that gives energy.  Eventually, we will start to make excuses and life will get in the way.

Take out a piece of paper and brainstorm all the should’s connected to losing weight and exercise (you may need a whole notebook!).  I should….. eat more veggies, get my heart rate up, push myself harder, stretch more, be able to walk without pain…..

It does not matter if they are helpful goals or not, just write down what feels like a should, that make you sigh or roll your eyes when you think about them.

Now brainstorm what comes to mind when you ask yourself “what do I really want more of?  Energy? Stamina? Strength? Confidence?  Comfort?  Why do I want more of that?  to be able to travel, play with my kids, socialize again….  the things that make you feel really excited about getting to your healthy weight.  The things at the heart of your reasons for wanting to lose weight and to exercise.

When motivation is low,

there is a disconnect between

what we are doing and

why we are doing it. 

Listen to your words, they are great clues.  If you hear yourself saying,  I should ____ or I have to  ______ or I need to make myself _____,  it is time to get to the heart of why you are doing it in the first place.

Keep Moving, Be Well

Janet

Please share these posts with anyone you know interested in losing weight with or without weight loss surgery.  Click here to learn more about the UMass Memorial Weight Center

These weekly blogs are general guidelines. These guidelines apply to patients who are cleared by a physician for the type of exercise described. Please contact your physician with any concerns or questions. Always report any symptoms associated with exercise, such as pain, irregular heartbeats, and dizziness or fainting, to your physician.

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by | September 12, 2017 · 6:08 pm

It’s summer! Stop trying, start playing!

Dive-in-WaterThe drive to work is easier this time of year; no school buses or crossing guards, less cars on the road and, with the exception of the seasonal road construction, it is pretty smooth and enjoyable.   I was thinking this morning how it makes up for the months of traffic headaches with ice, huge snow piles, and more vehicles in the winter months.

Life is dynamic.    The challenging times come and go. The enjoyable times come and go.  Its all normal.  It can seem like the challenges come more often and stay longer than the easy and enjoyable times though?  We are not just imagining things when life seems more challenging than enjoyable.  Our brain has a “negativity bias”. It is set up to look for what is wrong, could go wrong, or did go wrong, in order to keep us safe.  Rick Hanson puts it this way “negative thoughts are like Velcro, and positive ones are like Teflon”.

This effects how we approach exercise.  We try really hard to exercise away what is wrong with our bodies.  We try tricks to fix our low motivation.   We try to fit it into our already full schedules.  We try to push our body to be stronger, faster, better.    With all this trying to fix what is wrong we forget that movement itself has been a resource for celebrating life for all of time.  rwanda-1229760.jpg

Its summer! Time for taking it easy, resting, having fun, enjoying life a bit!   How about we stop trying with exercise and just enjoy moving?  Put on music and dance.  Play with kids.  Walk to discover a new place.

Three years ago I wrote this blog on the health benefits of play. Could it be that all this “trying” is leading us to miss out on the true benefits of moving – to enjoy life a bit more?  What would happen if we stopped trying and start playing?  Simply enjoy moving in any way, for however long, and as often as your body allows you to.  No rules, just move in a playful way.

It might be worth a try.  What we have been doing to “try” to move more has not been working. In the past 18 years the amount of people who get the recommended amounts of exercise has increased from 16% to 20%!  4% in 18 years!  No business would survive with that growth rate!  Could part of the problem be that exercise has become more about guilt, dread, pain, and fatigue rather than  relaxation, recreation, and rejuvenation?

Lets see what happens between now and Labor day if we simply think of exercise as a way to play and enjoy life more!

Enjoy Moving, Be Well!

Janet

Please share these posts with anyone you know interested in losing weight with or without weight loss surgery.  Click here to learn more about the UMass Memorial Weight Center

These weekly blogs are general guidelines. These guidelines apply to patients who are cleared by a physician for the type of exercise described. Please contact your physician with any concerns or questions. Always report any symptoms associated with exercise, such as pain, irregular heartbeats, and dizziness or fainting, to your physician.

 

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by | July 5, 2017 · 6:34 pm

Resilience!

resilience

Some members of my family just returned from Haiti.  When I saw this picture I was just amazed.  It is impressive enough how people walk for miles and miles balancing heavy objects on their head. This woman is doing it with one leg!!!

Years ago I taught aerobics for people with disabilities.  I will never forget the woman  with a birth defect where the only limb she was born with was a left arm. I can still picture her in her wheelchair doing aerobics like nobody’s business!

Here at the Weight Center there are countless stories of resilience.  The images in the header above are just a few.  These are snapshots of success but in between I know were many days of challenges to overcome in order to get there.  cropped-keep_moving_banner_09-301.jpg

We all have our challenges.  Some days are much harder than others.  This is not meant to be an article to make you feel guilty when you skip exercise.  Just the opposite.  It is a reminder that resiliency only comes from our challenges.

When your life is limited by your body, it is a challenge.  It is those challenges, combined with a sense of purpose, that create resiliency. And resiliency is what it takes to keep moving forward.  We don’t move forward in one straight line.  We will have days the challenges win.  Resiliency does not come over night.  It is a gradual strength that only comes from being committed to doing the best you can at meeting your challenges day by day by day.

Keep Moving, Be Well

Janet

Please share these posts with anyone you know interested in losing weight with or without weight loss surgery.  Click here to learn more about the UMass Memorial Weight Center

These weekly blogs are general guidelines. These guidelines apply to patients who are cleared by a physician for the type of exercise described. Please contact your physician with any concerns or questions. Always report any symptoms associated with exercise, such as pain, irregular heartbeats, and dizziness or fainting, to your physician.

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by | May 30, 2017 · 8:37 pm