Tag Archives: exercise motivation

Collect your exercise ‘gems’ before heading into 2019

Before you dive into your new years plans to ‘get back on track’, pause for just a moment.

Why pause? I am ready to move on!

Because you don’t want to leave behind the ‘gems’ from 2018.

What do you mean by the ‘gems’ of 2018?

Those things that you learned about what works and does not work for you to get the most out of exercise. I am not talking about what you did for exercise that helped you lose weight and inches though. No, we are going for the even bigger gems. We want to capture what worked to keep you exercising regularly.

Why is consistency more important than pounds and inches lost?

Because unless you want that success for only a brief moment in time, consistency with exercise is the key. Something that ‘worked’ temporarily is great if you want to make 2019 a constant struggle to stay motivated. (I didn’t think so…). If you want 2019 to be a bit easier, pause and jot down all the ways you exercised consistently. What made them easy to stick with? Next write down all the things you did only temporarily. What got in the way?

Now, look at your list of what worked and what did not. These are your gems. In the coming year, when you are tempted to do those types of programs that sound great but you are not so sure you can stick with, take out your gems and see how you can turn it into something you know you can stick with long term.

Make a resolution to make consistency with exercise the most important factor when choosing what to do. By staying ‘up to date’ on what works to keep you moving, your confidence for exercise motivation will be stronger every year and so will your success with weight loss.

Keep moving, be well, and have a very happy new year!


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by | December 31, 2018 · 3:37 pm

Beware: Misconceptions about exercise are often in disguise

Copy of bake bread(19).pngHalloween is around the corner, so seeing folks in disguise is to be expected. When it comes to exercise advice, stay aware all year long, because misconceptions about exercise are often presented as expert advice in the well-meaning popular media.

This video is a reminder that even when exercise advice is from a well-regarded professional with lots of enthusiasm, it can still be full of myths and misconceptions.

Here is where the advice given in that video needs an exercise science ‘fact check’:

  1. From the image in the thumbnail of the woman lifting weights with an excruciating expression on her face, to the headline “extreme exercise”, to the benefits he lists about HIIT training, this video is promoting a high intensity training.  The misconception is that it is better for health because it will burn more calories and raise metabolic rate “than low intensity” training.  (notice it was not compared to moderate intensity).   The most important fine print here is that when your brain experiences pain or discomfort it sets up a habit loop to AVOID exercise.   You, as the savvy fitness consumer need to ask yourself, is the drain on your motivation worth burning just a few more calories?
  2. The heart rate equation he offers is a prediction equation to estimate where you might want to keep your heart rate during cardiovascular exercise.  It is meant to be a guide.  Heart rate is not the best guide when it comes to cardio for most people (yes, honestly!)  This equation that is used often in fitness centers, has a 15 beat error to it.  This is not a great error rate for a number you are using to guide your body.  With all the things that effect your heart rate, from medications to caffeine to stress, you are MUCH better off using your breathing level to self check during cardio.
  3. Sweat is your body cooling itself off. That is it!  Sweating does not mean you are burning more calories or fat or getting a “better workout” in any way, shape or form.  There is just no science behind this despite the fact that you hear that advice given often.   Please do not use sweat as a goal for exercise and don’t listen to anyone who tells you to either.

Before doing HIIT training, consider the pros and cons very carefully.  Many more studies show that moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise, that challenges your breathing at a moderate to comfortable (not uncomfortable) level, for 20-30 minutes three days a week will improve your stamina just fine. As long as you are consistent, your body and your health will benefit.  And that is the point. When exercise feels good for your body, your brain will encourage you to keep coming back for more so sticking with it to keep getting those benefits will be MUCH easier!

Keep Moving, Be Well,


PS: I hope you never, ever think you need to look like the woman in that image to get the benefits of exercise.  That is NOT exercise for health and well-being.


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 22, 2018 · 5:59 pm

Let’s simplify exercise for weight loss

Copy of bake bread(8)Calories in, calories out.  This little equation sounds like such a simple solution to weight loss.  However, this vast oversimplification has greatly complicated our relationship with all kinds of physical movement. In the end, this equation has lowered the ability of exercise to help with sustaining a healthy weight.

Why?  Because it leaves too many people feeling like they need to  push their body in order to burn more calories to make the scale move.   I often hear of people suffering through an exercise program in order to someday feel better.  This unnecessary suffering through exercise, only leads to lowered motivation.  The long-term problem is that it makes it much harder to pick yourself up to start exercising again once you get off track.   You can end up caught between dreading exercise yet knowing you need it to burn those calories.

Between a rock and a hard place is no easy place to live.

Since calorie burning is vastly unpredictable, person to person and day to day, one part of this simple equation is not reliable.  Even though this equation is not the solution to weight loss, it is continually promoted in the way the media talks about exercise.

The bottom line is, you want to lose weight because you care about yourself.  If you didn’t care, you would not be trying to lose weight.  When exercise is about tricking your body, pushing it to exhaustion or ignoring pain all to burn more calories, we can easily forget that this whole effort is about self care.

So, I invite you to wipe that whole calorie burning thing out of your mind.  Instead, design exercise to be a time in your day that you take care of your body.   Whether it is in several small bouts each day or one longer bout, do it with full focus on taking care of your body. Not to burn calories, or just “get it done”, but with the intention of taking care of your body.

Admittedly, this is a big challenge.  This mindset about exercise and calorie burning is pretty strong.  It will not be easy to let go of the idea you need exercise to burn as many calories as you can each day.

The reality is though, research shows over and over that self-criticism drains motivation and self-kindness leads to lasting motivation.  This mindset shift about exercise from a way to burn more calories and fix your body, to a way to take care of your body, makes motivation much easier and that simplifies this whole process!

The ability to simplify means to

eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak 

Hans Hoffmann

Keep Moving, Be Well,


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by | July 25, 2018 · 4:39 pm

The Catch 22 of Exercise


When it comes to the recommended amounts of exercise that we hear all the time, there is a huge Catch 22. Each time guidelines and recommendations are updated, there is more and more evidence about how much exercise can help us live healthier lives.  It should be very motivating.

For example, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) first put out guidelines  for physical activity recommendations in 2008.  A 2018 scientific report was just released to the public and it will be used for the updated guidelines coming out later this year.   The report highlights some updated findings about the benefits of exercise:

The Scientific Report demonstrates that, across the full age spectrum, regular physical activity provides a variety of benefits that help us feel better, sleep better, and perform daily tasks more easily. The report also demonstrates that some benefits happen immediately. A single bout of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity can improve that night’s sleep, reduce anxiety symptoms, improve cognition, reduce blood pressure, and improve insulin sensitivity on the day that it is performed. Most of these improvements become even larger with the regular performance of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity…  There is newly documented health benefits” as well

  • reduced risk of excessive weight gain in adults, children, and pregnant women
  • improved cognitive function
  • a reduced risk of dementia
  • reduced risk of cancer of the bladder, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, lung, and stomach
  • for adults who have a chronic disease or condition such as osteoarthritis, hypertension, or type 2 diabetes, a reduced risk of developing a new chronic condition and reduced risk of progression of the condition they already have, plus improvements in quality of life and physical function

We now have more reasons we should increase our physical activity and exercise regularly.  This is where we get into tricky territory, with that word “should”.   More should’s do not lead to more motivation. In fact, the opposite is true.  The bigger our “should” the lower our motivation.

choice-2692575_1280We as humans are motivated by having a sense of choice.  When we are told what to do, we tend to shut down.  Sure, we can tough it out for a while to “do the right thing” or because we “have to” or “make” ourselves do something we know is good for us.  The problem is all of this takes will-power.  As it turns out, will-power is a limited resource because it takes brain energy.  Eventually, we will need to use our will-power for another area of our life, without enough left over for exercise.   This is how “life gets in the way”  and our best plans to “be good” are out the window.

The things we want to do because they are important to us are instantly motivating.  Hobbies, spending time with family and friends, working for a cause you are passionate about, these are most likely instantly rewarding in some way.  Yes of course you want to lose weight and be healthy, but that is not instant enough.  Our brain likes instant positive “rewards” or benefits, a lot!   (which is why comfort foods are so attractive to our brain)

Life is dynamic.  We need will-power for those unexpected changes that are a normal part of life.  Everything from changes in weather to major life changes take will-power to push through.  We can’t rely on having the will-power to do what we should do for exercise in any sustainable way.

Those instant benefits mentioned above are a key. Pick the ONE instant benefit that you want the most each day.  Do you want to sleep better, feel better, elevate your mood or calm nerves?  Pick the ONE that is most energizing now and make THAT your reason to exercise each time. Design your exercise to get those results.  Let’s make exercise motivation easier.  Letting go of the should’s is one of the first steps to exercise motivation that lasts.


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by | April 17, 2018 · 7:47 pm



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


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

“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 gastrectomy 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.


Keep Moving, Be Well, Be All In!


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 | April 10, 2017 · 3:18 pm