Healthy Tidbits

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Mariam’s Monthly Motivation: How to Stay Physically Fit as a Bariatric Patient

Jan 12, 2022

Overall health is made of two components. Diet and exercise. We’ve got the diet part down as bariatric patients, but I see the latter component neglected often, (I’m guilty of this myself!)

While it is true that weight loss is 80% diet and 20% exercise, staying physically fit is crucial in a full circle weight loss dynamic. Not only is physical activity good for boosting weight loss, but it also provides a plethora of other health benefits including aiding cardiovascular health, blood circulation, skin elasticity, and stress relief.

Now all of that is great but, how do you get started?

Well, I’m not going to tell you it’s going to be the easiest thing you’ve ever done but will I tell you the sweat will 100% be worth it? Absolutely. At about 3 months post-op, my weight loss was doing great but pretty stagnant. I had been walking when I could but I didn’t make it a priority. I started slow. My once a week 30-minute walk around my neighborhood became 2 a week until I was comfortably walking Monday through Friday and it just became part of my day, something as normal as brushing my teeth. I won’t say though that there weren’t days I didn’t have to force myself to put my shoes on and go, but the feeling I got after walking made it totally worth it.

When I got comfortable with walking and my endurance increased, I slowly jogged and ran for a few seconds here and there. At this point, I had put off going to the gym for too long so I grabbed my keys and went and man, did I forget how much of an endorphin release exercise gave you. I had no clue what to do at the gym so I started with cardio and nothing else. My gym’s treadmills look out onto the free weight section so after looking at these strong men and women dominate, I decided it was my turn. I used my one free training session, learned how to use the weights properly to avoid injury and just started one day. It was fun learning what my new body could do and pushing myself every day to break my PR’s. Going to the gym became habit just like walking did and seeing how toned my body was getting in combination with the weight loss was very motivating for me.

Slowly, my confidence in the gym and in myself grew and it became a hobby, not something I forced myself to do. This took a LONG time. I’m one-year post-op now and this change only happened a few months ago so if you dread going to the gym, know you’re not alone. The best way to start or conquer gym anxiety is to start with at home workouts and a big plus if you add in dumbbells! There are endless free videos online that allow you to move your body from the comfort of your home. Once you feel like you’ve mastered that, transitioning into the gym becomes much easier.

Now, what if you can’t work out in the traditional sense? My first month back in the gym, I tore a muscle and was out of action for a while. I didn’t want to ruin the progress I had been making so I went on Amazon, bought weight-adjustable dumbbells and did things like curls, hip thrusts, and so many more exercises right from my couch. I started with just doing it on commercial breaks and then ended up setting aside 15-20 minutes right before bed to wind down and get my heart beating.

Now, here’s a few tips to make it all easier:

  1. Invest in a smart watch. It doesn’t have to be expensive but it makes a huge difference. Mine reminds me to stand if I’ve been sitting too long, tracks how many calories I’ve burned throughout the day, and so much more. Seeing my rings close and getting close to reaching the goals the watch sets out for me is so incredibly motivating.
  2. Go slow! I pushed myself way too hard the first time back in the gym and got burnt out quickly, injured, and discouraged.
  3. Don’t compare yourself to anyone in there. Every single person is on their own journey and has their own goals they are working towards.
  4. If you a make a mistake or make yourself look silly, try again. My first time doing a bench press, I dropped all the weights on both sides and dropped the bar on myself in the process. I was so embarrassed in the moment but it’s funny looking back on now, especially knowing how far I’ve come since then.
  5. Remember, any movement is good movement. If you can’t commit to jumping in or working out 3-5 times a week, do what you can.
  6. Be consistent. The Department of Health recommends 150 minutes of moderate to high-intensity exercise weekly. This is what I follow and break it up into three 50-minute workouts a week but you could do it any way.

My only regret in my fitness journey is not starting sooner but it’s never too late. You’ve got this. Let’s start 2022 out right!