Category Archives: Barriers

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

Avoiding a Detour

I just finished the book Presence by Amy Cuddy. If you have not seen her TED talk, I highly recommend it.  Dr. Cuddy is a researcher who studies how our body language shapes our behavior. The  book is filled with amazing evidence from her research* and a whole slew of others, about how our body position changes how we think and behave.

detour-44160__480Sustainable weight loss is about keeping ourselves on course when detours pop up.    You come to the end of a VERY long day and you planned on walking, but it is cold and rainy and all you want to do is go home and veg out on the couch.  You are in the midst of a week of chaos in your life and you can’t even think of getting to the gym for  strength training. You get on the scale and feel completely defeated because, despite your best efforts, it is two pounds up!

What if we could get derailed less and back on track easier? What if it was something with research behind it that was simple, free, and completely accessible to you in any moment?  Would you try it?  Even if it seemed a bit strange and unlikely to make a difference?

It turns out that when our body is in a position with shoulders and back rounded we feel less confident.  We are less likely to make choices that are in line with what is most important to us.

low power pose 2

But, when we stand with shoulders and chest open, we are more confident, more likely to stick with what is most important to us.

high power pose

 

It is interesting that across many different cultures and situations, the most common expression of success is raising arms up in a “V”.   We now have some evidence this may work in reverse too!

athlete win 2

Give it a try!  Next time you step in the scale, put your hands on your hips and stand like your favorite superhero!  In the middle of a stressful day, stand or sit in alignment with your body strong.  When you are tempted to skip exercise, stand or sit with your arms up in a “victory” position for two minutes.

Post what happens in the comments section below!

Keep Moving, Be Well

Janet

*You may have heard some news flashes years ago debunking Dr. Cuddy’s research.  If you read her book, you will see that her study on power poses are just one in many showing there is something powerful in the way we hold our body.  Research is tricky business and one study does not prove anything.  Your best evidence is to try this for yourself and see how it works for you. 

 

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.

 

Leave a comment

by | May 15, 2017 · 5:38 pm

Myth # 3: The Calorie Burning Game

calories burned.jpg

Have you been playing the calorie burning game?  Paying close attention to how many calories you burn during a work out or on your activity monitor? Letting those numbers tell you how much you can or can’t eat?  Relying on those numbers for your exercise motivation?  Getting frustrated when you don’t lose weight even though you have been burning a ton of calories?

If so, are you missing out?  The true benefit of exercise for weight loss is not the calorie burning!

The fact is that the amount of calories we burn during movement varies greatly.  It is relatively small compared to the amount we could consume in just a fraction of the time.  More importantly though, those number are a big distraction.  I often hear of patients suffering through exercise just to burn calories or so focused on burning calories without realizing how good exercise feels.

Stress is part of life!  There is no way around it. Whether it is a big stressful event or chronic long-lasting stress,  the response in our body is the same.  Stress prepares the body for movement.   When we don’t move in response to stress, it drains our energy, lowers our immune systems ability to keep us healthy, and adds unnecessary wear and tear on every system in the body!

comfort-foods-600x857When we are feeling down or tense from stress, we look for comfort. We naturally want to feel better.  Our brain learns pretty quickly that those easy to access foods with sugar and fat help the brain feel better.  Comfort foods increase brain chemicals that improve our mood, until… we realize we just blew our best intention to eat well.  Then feel crummy again, thus adding to the stress response.  It’s a vicious cycle isn’t it!

Enter the calorie burning game.  We might try to burn off those calories by fervently exercising.  Exercising to make up for a mistake keeps us in that vicious cycle.  We might be tempted to push too hard and feel more tired and sore after.  We are reminded how hard it is to burn off those extra calories and feel even worse.

Ready to end the game?

How do you know you are stressed? What does stress look and feel like in your life?  Tight jaw and stomach? Tension in your shoulders?  Trouble sleeping? Headache? Moody? Food cravings?  Great!  What? Yes, great!  These are your warning signals. It is your body telling you it is ready to move!   The fact is that exercise, even simply movement breaks, increases the same chemicals in our brain as comfort food, just in a natural way!  (minus the viscous cycle of extra calories and guilt).  Replacing eating in response to stress with movement gives the body what it really needs.  THAT is the real value of exercise for weight loss!

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

Leave a comment

by | January 31, 2017 · 7:15 pm

Myths that Build Barriers. Part One: No Pain No Gain

myth truth.jpgWhen I read the statistic that only 20% of the US population are getting the recommended amount of exercise consistently enough to reap the benefits, I wonder “what is getting in the way?!”  There is certainly no shortage of reasons to exercise, yet there are plenty of barriers too.  Lack of time, pain issues, low motivation are very real barriers.   However, these barriers are built up by myths about exercise, kept alive by infomercials, reality TV shows and “fitness experts” selling their own personal (not science based) success formula.  Movement is a science.  Lets rely on science rather than myths to keep moving and be well.

We will tacno-pain-no-gainkle the biggest myth first: “No Pain No Gain!

I find this one seeps into everything from infomercials to even the more well-regarded articles and podcasts.   The idea that muscles need to be sore to get stronger is offered as a fact, even though there is no scientific basis for it when we are talking about exercising to improve health and well-being.

Part of the confusion is that in sports and military training, pain is just part of the package.  To excel and compete in these activities, the body needs to be pushed  beyond its limits.  Pain will be part of that.  Yet we have discussed how training for athletics and training for well-being are opposites. Since this is where many of us learn about exercise, and sports are a big part of our culture, it makes sense that the myth lives on.  When listening to any information about exercise, be aware of this confusion. The sports training is so often intertwined with discussions about exercise for well-being they can seem like one and the same.  But we know they are not.  Please spread the word!

Reality TV shows certainly do their part to keep this myth alive as well.  They send the motivation sapping message that in order to lose weight you must suffer. If you are not suffering, you must not want it bad enough!  Reality TV shows are NOT reality.  They are not science based. They are concerned about keeping viewers (period).

If you are looking to help you body lose fat and preserve muscle and metabolism, soreness is not needed, nor is it helpful.  Start with a light intensity and over a few weeks gradually work up to challenging your muscles.  Starting with a very challenging workout is like over-watering a small seedling of a plant – it is too much of a good thing and prevents, rather than promotes growth.     Some light soreness is normal with any new activity, but if it happens with each workout, and /or if it is so intense that you do not want to move, it was too much.  It is pain without gain.

Bottom line:  If you are looking to exercise to improve health and well-being,  learning to move without pain is the goal!  Striving to enjoy movement, as a source of boosting mood, energy and vitality is how we truly gain from exercise in the long run.

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.

 

Leave a comment

by | January 10, 2017 · 9:19 pm

Attitude for Sustainability

sustainalbeLet’s take a look at one more critical difference between training for athletics/military and training for well-being.

Athletes and military professionals need to train right at the edge of a very fine line between improving skills and risking injury. Athletes and their coaches find that line and push the body as close as possible to that line, in order to stay in the competition. Step over that line and injury risk is greater than the training benefit.

This type of training does not consider what the body will be able to do ten or twenty years from now. It is focused on the next level, improving by pushing that limit as much as possible. There is only so long the body can sustain that type of training. At some point, an athlete needs to retire from competition, or at least semi-retire and take a few steps back from that line if they want to keep moving.

In training for well-being, choosing the level to train at considers what is needed to be well right now, as well as for the rest of our lives. This type of training does not require pushing to that risk/benefit ratio line. To the contrary, part of training for well-being is listening to the body to know when we are stepping too close to that line because we know an injury keeps us on the sidelines of life rather than out enjoying life. Training to be well considers how we feel, now as well as decades from now, by preventing injury, illness, and disease as much as possible. “Retire” from this plan too early, and that risk along with the rate of aging ramps up…fast!!!

Training for well-being means we find the types of movement that give us energy rather than drain it. You might be one who needs more adventurous types of physical activity, such as skiing or rock climbing. Remembering it is more important to be well than excel at that activity keeps it energizing and the risk/benefit ratio in check.

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed the attitude of no, pain no gain, look better, be better, push harder, ignore the body, trick the body, is so enmeshed in the world of fitness we often don’t even see it! The confusion over these two very different ways of training the body has made exercise stressful (which is ironic because when we are stressed, the body preparing to move!). Even the word exercise overwhelms many people, which drains motivation in the long run, causing them to miss out on the great benefits of fitness for well-being.

Bottom Line:  It is not necessarily the activity, but the attitude that makes training for well-being so sustainable. The ultimate goal is feeling better on the inside (rather than getting better at some external goal). Let’s stay aware of activities that are more about proving ourselves instead of being ourselves, because when it is more about well-doing, it can take us away from well-being.

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.

Leave a comment

by | November 14, 2016 · 4:18 pm

How Much is Enough?

enough-2Let’s continue to look at the difference between training for sports/military performance and training for well-being.

When it comes to fitness, how much is enough?   

  • How hard should I push my body?
  • How much weight should I lift? 
  • How many miles should I walk or run?
  • How many steps should I take? 

If what you are doing never quite seems enough, always feels like you should be doing more, you may have strayed from training for well-being.

In athletic training, there is always a next level to strive towards. That ‘never enough’ provides the motivation to push harder. For this type of training, then, we need to rely on external guides to inform about our progress. Numbers such as miles and minutes provide accurate feedback. Coaches help assess our performance, giving valuable information about how to keep pushing the limits to excel at the sport.

In training for health and well-being, enough is the level that allows you to achieve the definition of fitness for well being – “do activities of daily life with ease, having enough energy left over for recreation and to meet emergencies.”

For this type of training, you have a guide more accurate than the most advanced technology or experienced professional available. The best part is this guide is free and with you all the time! It’s your body! What your body tells you in the present moment is the most accurate and reliable information available for training for well-being.

What makes it not so reliable is when our mind starts dictating what the body “should” do.  I should not have pain with this exercise, it was fine yesterday. I should be able to lift that much weight, run faster, walk further. I should push my body harder to lose more weight. 

Our judgment about what the body is telling us right now squelches this most accurate guide. When we use the body as a guide, we realize we can have the ultimate “personalized fitness program” available. When we listen we might hear the body saying:

  • That pain you feel when you exercise is a warning signal… possible injury ahead!
  • Those tight muscles cannot tolerate what you are doing right now. The nervous  system has taken over and tightened the muscle to protect it.
  • That pain and stiffness you feel when I am still for a while means I need movement to help get rid of some of this inflammation.
  • When you feel exhausted after a busy, stressful, yet sedentary day, it is because I have been working hard all day, ready to move to respond to your stressor.  Please give me what I have been preparing for and move so I can really relax.  

It is really easy to get caught in the should’s when fitness marketing and the culture tend to mesh together sports training and well-being training. Using mindfulness is very helpful here for developing the skills for listening to our body without judgment, uncovering the most accurate and reliable guidance available when it comes to training for our own well-being.

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.

 

Leave a comment

by | November 9, 2016 · 6:32 pm