Chronicles of Rehab: Part Four “How Did You Not Gain Weight When You Were Stuck on the Couch?!”

View from the sofa

View from the sofa

“How did you not gain weight when you were stuck on the couch?!” I got asked this question over and over and over and the truth is it was pretty easy not to.  Just because you might not be able to exercise or work for that matter does not mean you need to throw all good principles aside. For myself I tried to keep close to my normal schedule. I went to bed around 11pm and woke up around 7am.  I ate breakfast when I woke up and it didn’t consist of cold pizza and Coco Puffs! Lunch came about 4-5 hours later, afternoon snack 4-5 hours after that and the dinner followed predictably in due course. This approach seems like a no-brainer to me.  The regular input of  balanced nutrient-rich foods spurred what some may call a miraculous, speedy and complete recovery.  I would argue that my recovery was “optimal” not miraculous.  That means that everyone’s body would respond in like fashion when you nourish it!

Additionally, from a mental health perspective being a prisoner of your couch can be depressing!  I was not without repeated bouts of tears of frustration.  But then I thought, “I am getting better every day.  I am in my own house from which I have a lovely, peaceful view.  I am able to eat foods that I love and are prepared with care and I have the support of my friends and family.  Some people are stuck in a hospital bed and are not getting out anytime soon.”  So after my epiphany and self pep-talk and realization of all the things I had to be grateful for, I got on with the healing process.  Great food choices chemically assist in the battle of the mood swings in your brain.  Again, keeping to a great diet, that was balanced in terms of portion sizes and nutrients helped my mental state to stay optimistic and thus, boosted my healing.

Perhaps the one thing I did do that might not seem so obvious was I did NOT leave the T.V. on all day long.  In fact, it was turned off most of the time as I chose instead to work on the computer, read a magazine, renew my certifications, build a website, write a book, etc.  The benefit to this was that I was not constantly bombarded by advertisements about fast food, salty foods, or any kind of food.  We as humans are very stimulated by visual mediums, so when you see food in front of you constantly, guess what happens…you want to eat…constantly. Plus, I think I got smarter from all the reading I did – so my body healed quickly and my brain was stimulated too.

So to recap here’s my suggestions to anyone facing enforced couch time, whether from a physical disability or work layoff or illness:

1) Stay rested and keep your sleep schedule in tact.  Don’t oversleep or under sleep. Try to get 7-8 hours/night and try to maintain your set routine.

2) Keep eating balanced, appropriately portioned, nutrient rich meals.  It promotes health (body and mind) from the inside out.

3) Turn off the TV!  I am certain there are 1000 things you can find to do to pass the time and give your brain some healthy fuel choices too!

4) Don’t decide that because one piece of the puzzle isn’t there that you can’t make out the beautiful view of the rest of the layout.  In other words, just because you can’t exercise doesn’t mean you have to give up every other basic tenant to healthy living!

Clear Your Mind Young Jedi

8648876146_3df3e20120_n“If you’re feeling anxious you’re living in the future. If you’re feeling guilty or upset you’re living in the past.  Either way, you’re not living in the present.”

Being present is not only important, it allows you to respond calmly, quickly and efficiently to the task at hand.  Also, in a world that seemingly demands multitasking from the moment your eyelids flutter open it’s a healthy break for your over stimulated brain to allow it to connect with your body and operate as a complete system rather than a fractious one.

Now before you go thinking I’m a preachy sort of saint, I too have to work to be present but honestly, when I do it feels like an all around better way to move through my day.  But how does this relate to working out you ask?  Well, let’s say I’m working with you and you have mastered doing a chest press with 15 pound free weights.  And we’ve done this every workout for the last few weeks.   Today, I ask you to do 20 pounds and suddenly, your body stiffens with worry.  “What, no!  I’m content doing the weight I’ve been doing.  I’m good at it now and it feels easy. I won’t be able to do that weight.  It’s seems scary.  What if I drop it.  What if I can’t do it?”  And your mind is racing away from the task at hand.  That’s where I come in, Yoda-like, (albeit with better biceps and less ear-hair) to remind you: 1) Your technique stays the same.  You might not do as many reps, but there is no magic number and it’s time to progress. 2) In a few weeks you will feel just as confident about this move as you did a month ago about the last one.  And if you stay calm you might discover that in this moment you are stronger and more graceful than you know even if you’re not as confident.

Let’s look at another example.  I’m training you; the workout’s going great and then you check yourself out in the mirror and your mind takes you back into judgment and condemnation, “Man, look at my belly.  Yeah, I just had a baby, but remember when five years ago it was flat?  I was in such good shape then.”  Once again, you’re living in the past.  Take it from someone who knows, if you’re trying to walk forward while staring behind you, it’s likely you will smack into a wall and it’ll probably hurt…a lot!  So let’s be in this present moment and realize 1) I am taking steps to improve my wellbeing mentally and physically, just by showing up to this session and 2) I’m doing it with more demands on me now than I did then…and I am succeeding.  Maybe, I’m even curvier now!

Sports psychologists get paid a lot of money to work on aiding athletes to be able to find a nirvana like state to be able to repeat high performance under stressful circumstances.  But you don’t have to be an athlete or wealthy to bring yourself back to the present moment, take your time, be confident in your abilities and reward yourself by mentally giving yourself a high five just for showing up!

When you find yourself panicking, breathe, come back to this blessed moment and “clear your mind young Jedi.” I use this quote because it’s funny and will break all levity and also because a Jedi is a warrior with poise and when you’re working out so are you! So the next time you work out use that time to reconnect yourself to yourself, don’t try remember everything your supposed to get at the grocery while you’re doing pull-ups…also because if you can…I am certain you’re not doing it right!