An Exercise in Gratitude

happy-1060140_1920Happy Thanksgiving to each of you and yours!

This time of year, exercise can slip to the back burner.   No one wants to be rushing around, over stressed, and emotionally drained.  It can simply be a by-product of the added to-do’s and emotions of the season.

I invite you to let go of the “exercise to burn off those extra calories” approach to staying motivated this season.  Honestly, it is near impossible to know how many calories your body is burning with exercise.  There are just too many factors that effect how many calories we burn that vary person to person and change day to day in each person.  Besides, the calorie burning motivation only distracts us from the real benefits of exercise this season.

As we discussed, exercise is different than physical activity because it is focused, purposeful and consistent.    This makes it a perfect opportunity to be mindful.  Mindfulness is paying attention in tpexels-photo-255381he present moment, on purpose, with kindness.  The overlap between these two resources makes them perfect partners for restoring calm, health and well-being.

Gratitude is a shortcut to mindfulness.  When we turn our attention to what we are appreciate, we are automatically brought to the present moment in a way that is purposeful and kind.  A simply way to bring mindfulness to exercise is practicing an attitude of gratitude about exercise.  What are you grateful for about your body; its abilities, its possibilities? What opportunities are you grateful for that allow you even a brief moment to exercise?   What knowledge or skills are you grateful for that allow you to move in a healthy way?  What are you grateful for about how exercise makes you feel?  What do you appreciate about what you see and hear around you as you move?

Take a walk, stretch, lift some weights, dance, move intentionally in some way while focusing your attention on what you appreciate in each moment.  Keep it playful, see how many gratitudes you can brainstorm.   As you do, know that you are not only strengthening your body, but your ability to stay present as well.

Keep Moving, In Gratitude,

Janet

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by | November 23, 2017 · 1:36 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

Is stacking wood exercise?

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“Wood warms you many times” my friend said when we first got our wood stove. So true!  We had a truckload of wood delivered yesterday and I was “warmed” for the first time by this wood while stacking it into piles in the wood shed.

Whether you are preparing your wood for winter, raking leaves, cleaning your home, or running around after your kids, you might wonder – does this count? It must! I am tired after. I worked up a sweat. My muscles are sore. Look how many steps I got!  This must count for exercise. Surely I don’t need to go to the gym on top of all of this, do I?

I had these questions in mind as I stacked wood yesterday.  I did my strength training in the morning.  Did I need to do that if I was stacking wood in the afternoon?

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While stacking wood I could keep some of my attention on my body, but not all.  I had to pay attention to the job I was doing.   Knowing the days are getting shorter, I felt the pressure together this job done, so was driven push through fatigue and discomfort in order to get it done. Fortunately, once it is done, I will not need to do it again until next year!

The word exercise means something performed or practiced in order to develop, improve, or display a specific capability or skill”.   Remember from a few blogs ago the qualities that make something an exercise:

  • structured
  • consistent
  • purposeful

My strength training was structured into my schedule,  every other day in the mornings.  It is done consistently year round, because I want the benefits all year long.   The exercises I do are purposeful with movements of daily life that I want to get and stay strong  – squatting, climbing, lifting overhead, pulling, pressing.  The sets, reps and weights are chosen for the purpose of strengthening my body and metabolism.

Compare this with stacking wood.  Structured only by the need for wood so I do it for about a week once a year.   (unless someone else decides to start doing it or I get rid of the wood stove).   It is only consistent for that one week of the year.  (thankfully!).  It is purposeful, but not for the purpose of strengthening my body even if that is a side effect for that one week. The purpose is to get the job done so that I can stay warm this winter.

pexels-photo-302810So, is stacking wood (or something like it) exercise?  Nope.  It is not consistent, purposeful or structured enough to keep my body strong all year long.  Is it still a great physical activity that will give me health benefits from moving more?  Yes!  Both add to health and well-being.  Both are important… but one does not replace the other.

Strength training consistently and purposefully made stacking wood easier.

The extra bonus is, exercise “warms” me up too!

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 8, 2017 · 4:00 pm

I don’t mean to nag, but…

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This time next week the sun will set at 4:30pm! 

The “frost was on the pumpkin” this morning! (and on my windshield!)

Holiday decorations adorn the end isles in every store

What does this mean?  Physical activity is reduced simply because of less daylight.   Exercise routines are at risk of being squeezed out of schedules by holiday “to do’s”.   Hibernating often replaces moving at the end of a work day.

This blog is a quick check in.  How is your spring training plan coming along?

Its time to get excited about the possibilities of exercise boosting your mood this season, take this opportunity to try something new for exercise and set your sights on that first spring day when your body and mind will be ready to enjoy it!

Take a moment now to post your plan in comments here or email it to me or a friend.

I look forward to hearing what you have planned!

Keep moving, Be well,

Janet

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by | November 1, 2017 · 3:05 pm

Holiday Preparation: Mindfulness Call-in Event

pexels-photo-268533I am pleased to share information about a wonderful opportunity to enter the holiday season with tools for managing stress and eating environments over the holidays and beyond.  This call is offered by Narmin Virani, RD who also has training in mindfulness. Narmin has a wonderful way of combining these two areas of expertise with practical tools and guidance.  I hope you can take advantage of her generosity of time and talents.

I will be offering a 45-60 minute phone session starting at 7:30 pm on October 29th and 30th, and November 1st and 2nd  (the 2 days before and after Halloween!), including 15-20 minutes of guided mindfulness meditation and 20-30 minutes discussion after.   I will take you through a body scan, which is a simple mindfulness exercise where you scan your body in your mind’s eye, starting with your feet, moving all the way up to your head, while breathing slowly and deeply, all the while observing your thoughts as they arise, without judging, trying not to get carried away with the thoughts, using your breathing/pulse/heartbeat as an anchor for your awareness, every time your mind wanders.  By the end of the exercise you might find yourself feeling more centered, focused, and calm.   We might even do guided imagery and mindful eating exercises with trigger foods later in the week, following the body scan exercise.

What are the benefits?

Mindfulness has clinically shown to reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and chronic pain. There is evidence that regular practice shrinks the area of the brain associated with fear and anxiety (amygdala) while thickening the area of the brain responsible for rational/ logical thought and impulse control (prefrontal cortex).  Our natural human instinct is to avoid unpleasant thoughts, feelings and sensations, but this just prolongs our suffering as the distractions we seek hurt us more than they help, and the unpleasant thoughts/sensations don’t really go away when we distract, but keep trying to get our attention.  Mindfulness is based on turning towards these unpleasant experiences rather than away from them, with an attitude of curiosity (what are my thoughts/feelings trying to tell me?  Are these changing from moment to moment or do they last forever?), non-judgement (thoughts are not right/wrong, I am not good/bad for thinking this way, all emotions are organic), and self-compassion (it’s okay to feel this, what I am going through is natural, I am only human, I am trying my best).  How does mindfulness reduce anxiety? It increases body awareness. With practice we get better at noticing what  anxiety feels like in the body – heart racing, muscles clenched, holding our breath, etc, instead of getting caught up in our thoughts – “Why am I so anxious? Why can’t I just relax ?” When we feel anxious about feeling anxious or try to “think anxiety away”, it actually just makes it snowball; but when we notice what it feels like in the body, without judging, we instinctively unclench and breathe, which instantly loosens the grip that the anxiety has on us.

I have professional training in mindfulness-medicine from the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine at Harvard Medical School, where I worked for 10 years, and am currently pursuing advanced teacher-training at the Center for Mindfulness at UMass Medical School.

Why is this a good time to do this?

  1. Holidays can be a stressful time, especially for someone who has had bariatric surgery and is trying to eat healthy. From Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas, it’s 2 months of temptations. All the impossible-to-follow rules being tossed at you by online forums and well-meaning relatives/health-care professionals – “avoid carbs, stay away from sugar” – make this time especially difficult.
  2. Winter evenings can be depressing as it gets dark sooner.
  3. I have done this with quite a few of my patients who were struggling with stress-eating, and found it very effective
  4. Regular mindfulness practice has personally changed my life and personality for the better over the last 10-15 years, made me less reactive, more responsive, and kinder to myself and others.

 I am hoping that this four-day mindfulness session, followed by practicing on your own, will help you feel more calm, collected, and centered as you navigate the holidays.  You can’t control the food-filled environment at this time of the year, but facing it with anxiety and fear could actually leave you more vulnerable to breaking down and eating distractedly or quickly, while facing it calmly and fearlessly might help you eat mindfully, in a way that leaves you satisfied, not filled with regret.  If people find it helpful I might offer it again around Thanksgiving and Christmas.

How can you participate?

You can dial in at 7:30 pm on Sunday October 29th and Monday 30th , and Wednesday November 1st and Thursday 2nd, using the number 712-451-0901 and access code 222264.  You can join anonymously if you want, you don’t have to tell us your name, just your initials or an alias before we start the discussion, so I can get a head count, to help me decide if it’s worth offering again.   I would recommend doing some gentle stretching exercises for 5-10 minutes before dialing in, because a relaxed body is more conducive to a relaxed mind.  We will start with a brief description of the exercise at 730 pm, do the exercise from 740 to 8 pm, then answer questions pertaining to the exercise itself, or general questions from 8 pm to 8.15-830 pm.  If you join after 740 pm, please press Star 6 to mute yourself, and stay muted until we start the discussion.  You will need a quiet place in your home where you wont be interrupted, a comfortable spot to sit or lie down, comfortable clothes that allow for free breathing, and ear phones or head phones so you can rest your arms.   I assure you that I will be in a room by myself, to protect your privacy.  You can call in, any or all of the four days.  This can be a break for you from your busy day and responsibilities, time devoted to just you, to de-stress. You don’t have to RSVP for this event, I plan on doing this even if no one shows up on the call, because if nothing else, I’ll get a good meditation out of it, and sleep better that night!   Please let me know if you have any questions.  Narmin.Virani@umassmemorial.org

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 | October 23, 2017 · 7:04 pm

It’s that time again!

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As much as I do not like being the bearer of unhappy news, its that time again so we need to talk about it! Daylight savings time ends in less than three weeks! This is when those shorter, colder days kick in our inclination to hibernate!

Honesty , the concern is not the lowering of calorie burning.  There is a  bigger problem with the reduced activity that tends to goes with shorter days.  The real challenge is the sharp reduction in great brain chemicals that keep our mood elevated, lowers cravings for comfort foods, and keep us generally feeling good.

We can’t blame those winter blues all on less daylight.   The brain chemicals we get from being physically active are more powerful than those provided by sitting under a sun lamp.

What is your plan for staying active this winter?  What worked last year?  What will work this year?  This post is a reminder to us all to start brainstorming now so we are ready.  Share your list in the comments section so we can inspire each other to stay well physically as well as mentally this winter.

Need some extra motivation?  Consider yourself in spring training!  What do you want to be able to do that first beautiful day of Spring?  Take a walk, garden, bike ride, play golf?  Train for that this winter.  It will keep exercise meaningful and you probably will not regret one moment of exercising in the winter when daylight savings begins again!

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 | October 17, 2017 · 6:04 pm

Why it matters, part 2

 

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Last week we clarified the difference between exercise and physical activity and why it matters.   Another important reason why we need to be clear about the difference is because the two are mixed up often in the media.  Here is an example I came across on the internet:

Don’t overthink your exercise: just 2.5 hours per week of any kind could help you live longer

The article is a wonderful write up reviewing a one of largest global studies ever published on the heart health benefits of physical activity.  “The researchers found that 150 minutes spent exercising per week could cut a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease and death. And, most importantly, the Lancet paper demonstrated that all kinds of physical activity were equally good for the heart.”

The great news from this article is that this huge study showed that the “people who reported at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week were much healthier than their sedentary counterparts: They were less likely to have heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular disease, and less likely to die from any cause. Getting only two and a half hours of weekly exercise was associated with a 28 percent reduction in premature death, and a 20 percent reduction in heart disease.”

Wow! That is awesome!  On one hand it is a message to relax a bit, don’t worry if you are not super fit, you are getting a nice protection just by making efforts to be sure you move in some way for 150 minutes a week.

On the other hand though, what about all we do to fit in exercise time?  If we can get that nice protection from vacuuming and yard work, why waste time lifting weights and walking?

Articles like these miss the chance to promote both exercise and physical activity.  We need to talk about two different goals here:

Reducing sedentary time by increasing physical activity in bouts during the day. This offers great health protection because begin still for more than 30 min at a time strains health, even if you are a regular exerciser!   Studies indicate that going to the gym in the morning does not protect from the risks of being sedentary the rest of the day.  Even regular exercisers get added health protection from avoiding prolonged stillness all day long .

Exercise as practice to make physical activities easier.  What exercise does for daily function is a bit more difficult to measure in studies like these.  It is individual, often only you see the difference.  When you can climb the stairs without stopping or get up off the floor without grunting or do housework for longer without resting, you know you are benefiting from exercise.  Remember, exercise is time set aside to practice making what you want and need to do everyday easier! In this way, exercise helps you be more physically active.

If you are not doing either right now, the great news is you can start right away by just moving every thirty minutes in some way.  Know that you are getting health protection from this simple act.  If you are doing one but not the other, what can you do today to give yourself the best of both physical activity and 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.

Leave a comment

by | October 10, 2017 · 4:19 pm