Article By: Whittany Gibson, RDN
Whittany is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who specializes in bariatric nutrition counseling, providing education and support prior to and following weight loss surgery.
Exercise is a vital part of succeeding with weight loss surgery. But why is it so hard to get started? And more importantly, why is it so hard to stay consistent? Adopting an exercise routine happens to be the most difficult part of habit and behavior change I see with my patients before and after surgery. As a result, I see many patients fail to lose the amount of weight they desire and even experience weight regain when they fall off track and lose focus. I get it. It’s difficult, and it takes discipline. I don’t know about you, but discipline sometimes doesn’t feel good and may even seem to go against our human nature. However, discipline is necessary if we want to be successful with most things in life. Other than lack of discipline, many people have spent most of their lives inactive and not exercising simply because they've been too heavy, uncomfortable, or out of shape. To be successful in reaching a healthy weight after surgery, you must find forms of exercise that you somewhat enjoy and can do consistently. Want to know the best way to succeed? Start working on this before surgery! That way, you’re not left trying to figure out what to do when it’s prime time to get after it. Follow these foolproof steps to be as successful as possible.
1) Identify what it is that holds you back from exercise. This can be considered a self-assessment of sorts. Ask yourself the following questions:
What is my opinion of exercise, and why have I formed that opinion?
Did you grow up in an inactive household? Did you have a bad experience with exercise in the past? Do you assume you have to do hours of exercise each day to be successful? It’s time to crush those preconceived notions and opinions, forget the past, and take on a new outlook on exercise. This can help you to identify, unlearn, and relearn bad habits — a good way to start fresh.
Why do I not like to move my body?
Is it because you have a bad knee or hip? Do you have arthritis or any other physical conditions that hold you back? Are you unfamiliar with exercise and what to do? Are you fearful of gyms? Do you hate sweating? Are you self-conscious of what you would look like if someone saw you exercising? There will always be a reason why you don’t or won’t exercise. The key is to identify the barrier and get around it. Don’t let it serve as an excuse because there’s always something else you can do. Once you begin to understand the WHY behind your lack of exercise, it’s easier to move on to the next steps!
2) Think about how you will get started. What could you try? During my initial assessments with patients prior to surgery, they get homework. A part of this homework is to schedule a time during the day to devote to themselves. You know — carve out time that’s non-negotiable. Communicate with yourself and everyone around you that this is to be uninterrupted time. It’s optimal if you can schedule this block of time just like an appointment with yourself. If you can make it the same time every day, even better. That’s how you form a habit, folks! Start by being regimented. For example, schedule 15 minutes in the morning prior to taking care of any tasks or getting into your usual morning routine. Take this 15 minutes and do something that gets you closer to starting exercise. This could be sitting in your living room and searching exercises on YouTube or Prime. Or maybe you look for apps you can use? What about searching for gyms or clubs in your area that offer group exercise or trainers? Or take the plunge and research trainers in your area that can come to your house? Once you start brainstorming, ask yourself the following questions to see what type of exercise can be the right fit for you:
Do you like to exercise at home?
If so, what are your resources? Do you have a smart TV? Do you have adequate space somewhere within your home you could use to comfortably do exercise? Do you have any tools you can use like a yoga mat, chair, resistance bands, light weights, etc? Could you potentially fit a treadmill, elliptical, or stationary bike in your living room? I much prefer at-home exercise because everything is right at your fingertips. You can opt for stretching routines, yoga, chair exercises, simple floor routines using just your body weight, you name it. It’s there for you. This can also be a good backup plan for the days when you don’t have optimal weather.
Do you like to exercise outside?
A benefit to exercising outside is that it’s also good for your mood! With outdoor exercise, you can identify parks and recreational areas with trails for walking and biking, community pools, or meetup/social groups that exercise outdoors. You can also find outdoor aquatic centers that offer group fitness classes so you can stay cool in warmer temperatures. What about walking the dogs? I’m sure they’d love a little exercise as well!
Do you like the gym setting?
Search local fitness facilities and gyms. The good part about gyms is that there are professionals to help you get started. Most gyms offer a free session with a trainer to get started, or you can take it a step further and purchase ongoing sessions to learn more about proper form and appropriate exercises. Most gyms offer group fitness classes of all varieties and ability levels. The worst thing you can do is assume you dislike the gym. Take the first step of walking in, talking about options, and give it a try.
Basically, begin thinking about what you can start trying. You don’t know what you don’t know... The more you try prior to surgery, the more familiar you will be with your likes and dislikes and what you are capable of. Another huge benefit to starting before surgery is that it will help you with maintaining and gaining lean mass, improving your metabolism, and getting you stronger so you can bounce back and heal faster after surgery. In general, you’ll be ready to rock 'n' roll!
3) Get started! Make a plan. After you have dabbled in a little bit of this and that, aim to make a short list of the types of exercise you like and can do well. Start easy, simple, and slowly. The last thing you want to do is go all-in and hurt yourself. Get your schedule out and start planning. Review this schedule every night before bed. You need to train your brain. If you wake up not knowing what kind of exercise you’ll be doing the next day, you’re more likely to pass it up. Tell your brain, “these are the exercises we’re going to accomplish tomorrow and for this upcoming week” and begin to visualize yourself doing it. What can you do to set yourself up for success? Literally, set up anything you can in advance, have your clothing and shoes ready, get adequate sleep, and focus on a healthy diet to fuel your workouts. Preparation, people! It makes the world go ‘round. And more importantly, helps you to succeed with your weight loss goals long-term!
There you have it. There’s no magic pill to replace exercise. Although it might not feel like it now, it WILL get easier. You will become more comfortable and confident. You will become stronger and more energetic. But without discipline and consistency, you will fall short of your goals. Reach out to others who have similar goals and support you because it’s so much easier when you do. What can you get started with today?
BariMelts provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor.