Fiona McMahon PT, DPT
It’s that time of year again. We are all nobly setting out on our self improvement journeys. Resolutions are often deeply personal goals we set for ourselves and can involve spiritual, physical, and emotional aspects. Overwhelmingly, one of the most common goals people have is weight loss. The desire to lose weight often goes beyond aesthetic. People can be motivated to reduce pain in their joints, improve heart health, and to have more energy. As physical therapists we see the harms of the burden of carrying around extra weight on aching joints as well as the fallout from initiating a program with a little too much vim and vigor.
Goal setting is something almost every article on New Year’s resolutions addresses, for good reason. Goal setting properly is imperative to success. We can think of goal setting in two ways. Sometimes we think of goal setting like a wishlist, “it would be great if I achieved x”. These kind of goals are great for getting you to look at the final picture, but provide no direction on how to get to your end result. Writing down a goal to lose 10 pounds is all well and good, but without a solid plan, you are left without any real steps to put in motion.
In goal setting I suggest you borrow some tools from us physical therapists. When we assess patients we develop short and long term goals to get them to their ultimate fitness and health goals. The short term goals we make, allow us to zero in on small and discrete changes we can make towards the ultimate goal.
Think about what habits you currently are doing that are holding you back from weight loss. Are you having an extra glass of wine at night you could cut out, are you not getting enough sleep, so working out seems impossible? Break things up into small behavioral changes to concentrate on. Keep in mind goals can also be positive, what things are you currently doing that are helping you on your path that you would like to continue doing. It’s important to recognize where you are being an absolute rockstar already and use that positive energy towards things that might be harder to change.
Track your goals and think about how often you want to make sure you are doing them. Personally, I find it helpful to track my goals to see if I am generally sticking to them. There are apps out there, that you can install on your phone that will help track your success in sticking to your goals. I use a free app called “Productive”. It allows me to make a recurring checklist for my goals. You can use the app to schedule out what time of day you would like to do your goals, how many days a week you’ll do them, and provides stats on how regularly you are achieving them.
Finally, it is important to be realistic with your goals. Goals that are too easy or too hard are less likely to get you where you want to be. Allow yourself some flexibility, to keep your journey less of a burden. Over time, check in with your goals you may find you have outgrown them or they are unrealistic. It is perfectly okay to tailor as you go.
We all know diet plays a major key in weight loss. A friend to the clinic, Nutritionist, Jessica Drummond will often say, “ You cannot exercise your way out of a bad diet”. Poor diets can stymie any exercise plan.
Dietary needs vary widely from individual to individual, but overall it’s best to avoid highly processed foods. These foods tend to be chalk a block with salt and easily digestible sugars that can spike appetite. No good.
Be wary of fad diets and health crazes. Gluten free foods are all the rage right now. I, myself am gluten free for health reasons, but if you do not have celiac disease or non celiac gluten sensitivity, reaching for the gluten free pizza or cookie is not the wisest choice as a weight loss strategy. In addition to usually being more expensive, gluten free options, like cookies, bread, and pizza often are higher in calories than their “glutenful” counterparts. It only took a quick stroll over to my refrigerator to prove this point. I compared a slice of traditional bread next to a gluten free slice. As you can see in the photo below, the traditional bread is larger than the gluten free bread. Not only do you get more food for serving with the traditional bread, the traditional bread has 20 fewer calories per serving than the gluten free bread. This goes to show that regardless of your dietary needs, consuming foods that are not processed like sweet potatoes, quinoa, and rice, over processed food like bread, is a good way to avoid hidden calories.
It is important that you eat enough to sustain your metabolism, your energy, and your mood, and furthermore, to allow your diet to be a sustainable change you can carry out long term to ensure success. There are apps on your phone that can help you track your calorie input, how many calories you have burned off, and what the composition of your macronutrients are. Macronutrients are protein, carbs, and fats. A diet higher in protein is generally used to help build muscles, which can in turn, burn more fat. These apps, like Myfitnesspal and Lose It! can give you target calorie intake for your desired weekly weight loss. It is important to set your target with some element of moderation so it is easier to stick to. Caloric restrictions that are too extreme can backfire by tanking your metabolism, energy, and triggering food binges.
Exercise is so important. In addition to helping you progress towards your weight loss goal, exercise has so many health benefits that will pay dividends well into the future. From stress reduction, cardiovascular health, bone health and more, exercise is an essential element of self care even for those who do not wish to lose weight.The
American Heart Association recommends adults exercise at a moderate intensity for at least 30 minutes five times a week or vigorous activity for 25 minutes 3 days a week. In addition to moderate to high intensity strengthening activity at least 2 days a week.
Finding the right exercise can be daunting. This is where having a physical therapist can be a tremendous advantage. Personally, I don’t believe in “the one best exercise”. Everybody is different and every body is different. Physical therapists are the movement specialists of the healthcare world. We can help you find good workouts for where your body is now, as well as strengthen your body so you can do the workout or event of your dreams while avoiding injury. Take a look at the series we wrote chronicling how physical therapy prepared my body for the rigors of the New York City Marathon and allowed me to complete it in record time, to see a great example of what physical therapy can do for you. I have included our blogs on physical therapy and exercise at the bottom of this article.
Once you have an idea of where to start and where you want to go, then slowly get started on trying out different routines. I once heard a quote from an exercise physiologist who said, “the best exercise is one you actually do”. So remember when starting your exercise program, it is okay to not like a certain exercise routine and move on. You might abhor the treadmill, but find tremendous joy in a Zumba class. Finding a workout that brings you joy, and at the very least, does not bring you dread is imperative. It’s kind of like dating, keep trying different routines until you find what works for you.
Once you find your dream routine, remember moderation. Allow yourself at least a day of recovery if you are a seasoned exercise veteran, and more if you are an exercise newbie. Rest not only prevents injury, but it gives the body time to get to the job of laying down more muscle fibers and making you stronger.
Injury can happen with new exercise routines and really, nothing is more frustrating than being super gung ho about a new program only to be sidelined with an injury. Again this is where having a good PT on your side really helps. Seeing us before starting exercise can help us spot both literal and figurative achilles heels in your posture, strength, and flexibility and will allow us to address these issues before they become mega impairments later on. We can help you decide when it is time to progress and how to do so safely. Additionally we can help you recover from an injury faster and prevent injury recurrence if you see us when you do have an injury.
Failure and Success
Repeat after me, “ I am a person, not a machine”. You will fail at certain elements of your plan. Notice I used “will” and not “may”. When you do overindulge, miss a workout, or whatever else. Remember it is a process and small failures do not indicate that you will fail in your ultimate goal of greater health. Nor is failure in any way an indicator of your worth as a human being, neither is the number on the scale, by the way. Progress will be slow, but you will likely get there if you are consistent. Failure is a good time to re-evaluate your goals. Maybe five workouts a week is completely unrealistic and maybe sticking with three is a much better balance. Regardless of what obstacles you face in your journey, remember to be kind to yourself, you are doing the best you can. Find what changes you can stick with and go from there. It can take a lot to change up your whole routine, but keep working at it and you will find success.
Check us out at BBPT!
Although we do specialize in orthopedic and pelvic floor physical therapy at Beyond Basics, we do so much more than that. All of our physical therapists are trained in orthopedic and sports rehab, and many of our therapists have earned prestigious orthopedic certifications like the OCS and CFMT. We can help you to figure out where to start, how to progress your exercises appropriately, and how to keep your body healthy so you can continue to achieve all of your goals.
Additional Blogs Exercise and Fitness:
American Heart Association. American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults. Updated Dec 14, 2017