Monday, August 2, 2010

Moving your thoughts, moving your body.

Maybe the last post just doesn’t apply to you. The compulsion to exercise is far from the problem. Rather, it’s a struggle to even think about moving more. I mean, why bother when perhaps you feel it’s hopeless? Here are some obstacles to exercising that I frequently hear from my clients:

   -“Last time I started exercising I didn’t see results, so I stopped.”
   -“I’m supposed to be doing one hour or more of exercise per day, and that’s just not gonna happen. So if I can’t do that, no sense doing any.”
   -“I’ve already failed at meeting my goal—I didn’t exercise the past few days, so I may as well skip it altogether.”
See any flaws in this thinking? Perhaps you’re not exercising because you just didn’t “see results”. But were there really no benefits of your increased activity? Did you not notice any improvements in your energy level? Stress? Feelings of accomplishment? Was there no impact on your appetite and your motivation to take care of yourself and eat well? Or perhaps on your sleep? Is weight change the only measure of success, of getting results?

It certainly shouldn’t be! Managing your weight is only one of many benefits of exercise. And I choose the word managing intentionally. Regardless of your personal need in terms of weight—to stabilize it, lose it if you are overweight or increase it if you are underweight, exercise can be quite valuable. That is, if you fuel your body appropriately.

Maybe your past experiences with exercise helped to stabilize your weight, in contrast to the unintentional climbing you struggled with. Exercise may have helped to prevent future weight gain but you failed to recognize its value. Or perhaps you improved your activity, without addressing your eating.

And who on earth begins to be active with 60 minutes per day?  While an hour daily might be a great target, setting the bar too high is likely to set you up for failure. Just today a patient was relating the experience of a recent visit with her physician. Here’s the backdrop. Struggling with binge eating, pre-diabetes, overweight and high cholesterol, Kay presented to me for guidance. Over the past several weeks she reports that her binging has stopped, completely. Still overweight, yes. But her weight is gradually dropping as her eating behaviors and activity have improved. And she feels so much better. And no, she did not begin with an hour a day. In fact, I believe we started with a modest goal of walking 15-20 minutes, a few times per week, appropriate given her sedentary activity level.

So about the physician visit. He apparently told her that her walking isn’t good enough. And that yup, she ought to be doing an hour a day! And that he exercises daily! So instead of acknowledging that she’s made remarkable progress, for the first time in years, he makes these absurd recommendations that were nothing short of devastating.

Rather than viewing your progress as half empty, as just not good enough, try to focus on what you have achieved, even if it falls short of your (or the doctor’s) ideal level of exercise. And please acknowledge the many benefits you're getting from exercise on many levels—physically as well as psychologically. And set realistic, achievable goals and reevaluate them from time to time. And finally, try to choose activities  you enjoy so you’ll be more likely to want to stick with them.

Please send in your comments and let me know how you’re doing!

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