Category Archives: Motivation

Lower the risks, raise the benefits!

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We hear stories of people getting injured or having a heart attack during exercise. You might have even experienced this yourself.    At the same time, we are flooded with all the reasons we “should” exercise.  How do we make sure we are getting the benefits and keeping the risks low.

The risk of having a heart attack or dying as a result of exercise is relatively low.  Only 4% to 17% of heart attacks in men are linked to physical exertion, with much lower rates observed for women.  The risk is greater for people who are unaccustomed to exercise and for those at the lower fitness levels.   Compare that to the fact that regular physical activity cuts the risk of getting heart disease by about 40%.  In fact, regular physical activity has been shown to reduce the risk of dying from any cause by 40%.

Does anything jump out at you with that last set of facts?  The risk goes up if your fitness level is low and you get protection as your fitness level goes up.  Regular physical activity offers amazing protection, and irregular physical activity increases risk.

One of the best ways to protect yourself is be consistent with some physical activity because it provides protection from doing nothing.   Notice also the statistics from the Exercise is Medicine Fact Sheet   are for physical activity – which is a broad term that includes regular movement, not necessarily a rigid exercise program.  Bottom line, move and move often and regularly!

The second big factor that has been shown to increase risk is the intensity.  Vigorous exercise tends to increase risk.  Doing a moderate intensity lowers the risk while keeping benefits.  But what does vigorous or moderate mean?  Often you will hear it described as an absolute level; vigorous is jogging 6mph and moderate is walking 3mph.  But in reality, it all depends on your fitness level!   For some 6mph jog will be moderate and for others a 3mph walk will be vigorous.

Exercise at the level that is a moderate to comfortable challenge for your breathing – above what you would feel when you are resting but not so uncomfortable that you can’t wait to stop.   Avoid vigorous intensity where your breathing is heavy or uncomfortable.

The risks also go up with a sudden burst of intense (vigorous) exercise followed by a sudden stop in activity.  When you do feel like your breathing is uncomfortable (like when climbing stairs or a hill), keep moving slowly until breathing level comes back down to moderate to light before stopping completely.

Finally, if you have concerns with your heart, diabetes or high blood pressure and are not exercising regularly, discuss your plans to start with your doctor. Your best bet is to start with a light intensity activity that you can do on a very regular basis.  As you improve your fitness level, your risks will reduce and the benefits go up.

If you have symptoms such as pain anywhere above your waist that comes on with exertion and goes away with rest, or have more shortness of breath with usual activities, tell your doctor.  If you have pain in joints with activity, adjust what you are doing so it does not cause pain.  (either by doing that activity for less time or lower intensity or do something different until your body is stronger).  Pushing through pain only requires your body to “speak” louder to get your attention to let you know something is not right.

The bottom line is listen to and be kind to your body!  When you move it regularly at the just right challenge level, you can relax about the risks and enjoy the benefits of exercise.

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 20, 2017 · 6:48 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

The connection between “Being Good” and “Being Bad”

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This was a segment on NPR yesterday about a study on why we might tend to “be bad” after “being good” .

When you are an experienced dieter, you know how to “be good”.  You know all the rules and tricks in order to take in less and burn more calories.  You could probably could write a book on it!

It is interesting to learn from research in the field of marketing.  It gives us great clues in to what drives us, what motivates our decisions .   This term used called “licensing” is a handy one. It describes that switch that seems to happen when we have been following the plan closely for a while and then suddenly, without warning, we switch and make a complete 180 degree turn to do the exact opposite of what we know we “should do.

When we are trying at achieve a goal like weight loss, we can get really focused on all the rules.  We follow what someone else tells us we need to do and try really hard to stick with it.   We can become like a child sitting at a fancy restaurant trying really hard to be polite, use good manners and sit still. Eventually, they will lose it (hopefully not in the restaurant!).  Its like trying to hold our breath – there is only so long we can try hard to ignore signals from our body to do what we want and need to do.

Stringent, intense, hard-core exercise programs put us in that position.  We are working so hard to measure up, to perform, to keep up, to ignore pain and fatigue signals from our body.  That it can only last so long.  Eventually we are going to head in the complete opposite direction.

Moderation is key.  It is not glamorous, flashy or newsworthy, but it works when it comes to exercise.  Studies indicate moderate intensity of cardiovascular exercise  is enough to improve stamina.  Moderate amounts of training, like one set three days a week, works to improve strength.

So moderate is enough and pushing hard makes us lose motivation…. hmmmm   maybe we can finally lose the idea that we need to try to be good and not be bad and simply enjoy moving again!

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 | July 11, 2017 · 7:00 pm

“All in!” Patient Perspective

jump-1209647__480Being “all in”  separates the goals we set because we “should…” from the goals we set because we “REALLY want…!”

Lets face it, trying to do something because we should is exhausting.  Working for something we REALLY want is energizing.  Below is one patients story of what happens when you go “all in”.  Although this is a patient who decided to have weight loss surgery, the approach can be applied to any goal set because we want to enjoy life to the fullest.

First, let me start by saying that when I went to the original orientation meeting for the Weight Center, I had absolutely no intention of having surgery. I was thinking that I could lose weight with behavior modification. Heck, I’d done it before. Of course, the weight always came back, usually those pounds brought a few friends with them. To consolidate this, I did have a sleeve mastectomy in 2014. At first, I reluctantly pursued an exercise regimen, because I was *told* that this was part of the program, not because I actually wanted to. My mindset at that time was simply this, I had gone through all the preparation and such to have the procedure done, I may as well do the work – this might be my last opportunity to be healthy (note, I did NOT say “skinny”).

I’m by no means saying that I’m perfect, or that anyone should see me as an example of what you *should* do. But I found, over time, that success becomes its best motivation. For every thing I suddenly realized I could do that I could never do before, I wanted to do more. Success is insidious and addictive. People who haven’t “been there” have no idea how empowering it can become to be able to MOVE, to do things that darn near felt like a near death experience before. Over the course of the last 2 1/2 years since my surgery, I’ve gone from being a card-carrying couch potato to working out nearly every day for an average of 45-60 minutes. I bought into the mindset that long term success requires total lifestyle change. It’s not a finite endeavor with some “end goal”, after which you can go back to your old habits. They’re what got you to the point of seeking surgery.

I’ve heard others say things like “I don’t want to deprive myself”, or “I don’t exercise, but I’m still losing weight”, and in inwardly cringe. These people just don’t seem to understand that bariatric surgery isn’t some magic pill that is going to fix what’s wrong…. it is merely a tool that can be used to aid in major changes in behavior. In order to be successful long term, you really DO have to go “all in” and exercise as well. No matter if your stomach is the size of a hard boiled egg or a Winnebago, exercise will *always* be a part of achieving a healthy body.

I went “all in”, and I still have work to do to reach my goal weight, but that is really secondary to what is truly important – being healthy. My advice, for what it’s worth is this: embrace the whole shebang, you might curse the process in the beginning, but when you see and feel your own success, you’ll be eternally grateful you did it.

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Keep Moving, Be Well, Be All In!

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 | April 10, 2017 · 3:18 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.

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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.

 

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by | November 9, 2016 · 6:32 pm

Success Breeds Success!

Success breeds success
Mia Hamm

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Who doesn’t like a little pat on the back once in a while. Heck, who would not like one every day!  It is nice to be recognized for an achievement. It gives us a little energy boost, a bit of extra motivation to keep going, to try harder, to overcome obstacles.

Successful leaders know recognition is an important part of keeping a team going.  In fact, according to the book How Full is Your Bucket,  the number-one reason most Americans leave their jobs is that they don’t feel appreciated.

So, who is the CEO of your well-being?  Who is the leader of your weight loss journey?  YOU!  As a smart leader, who knows you do not want to quit your weight loss goal,  how often to do you recognize your achievements?

It can feel self-serving to recognize our own achievements.  However, research consistently shows that self-criticism lowers the chance of reaching a goal. Since finding our faults can be a knee-jerk reaction, we need to make it easier to recognize what is going well or we might automatically end up focus only on what is NOT going well.

Here are tips for making this most effective:

  1. Make it easy.  Keep a daily accomplishments list on something easy to access, such as on your phone or in your daily calendar.  Every day jot down at least one accomplishment.  Whether it is exercising that day, or eating a vegetable, give yourself credit for the achievement.
  2. In the moment.  As soon as you notice an achievement, no matter how small, jot it down so you don’t forget.  (enjoy that pat on the back!)
  3. Be specific.  Instead of just saying “good job”, note exactly what you did.  You might even make a special note if you overcame a challenge in that achievement.  For example, “I did my strength training routine, even though I was tired after work. I felt so much better after!”.
  4. Connect it with the bigger goal.  The more you connect what you are doing with why you are doing it, the more you harness the energy of this goal for you.  For example “I exercised after work giving me more energy for playing with my kids, and that is why I want to lose weight, to have energy to play with my kids”.

When looking back on this list, you will find you have a record of what works well for you.  This is like finding gold in times when you are struggling, looking for ways to get back on track.

I challenge you to try it for a few days, see how it goes for you. (Give yourself credit for at least trying it). Let me know how it goes!

Keep Moving, Be Well

Janet

Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort
Franklin D. Roosevelt

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 | October 18, 2016 · 3:36 pm