Today, I want to discuss a particularly tough issue for many people, but one that can be significantly more complicated in the disabled and reduced mobility communities.
Those of us who become disabled may lose the ability to walk or exert ourselves due to limited mobility, fatigue, and many other concerns. Discuss any new activities or diet plans with your medical professionals before making any major changes. Hey, I know we are all fighters, but be smart about it.
First, I believe we are ALL beautiful works of art, inside and out “AS IS!” I also believe in fitness and living a healthy lifestyle. I want us all to be beautiful AND healthy!
Second, I realize there are a million disabilities and some that are not conducive to managing weight or exercise. This is by no means meant to be a “one size fits all” approach. Do what you can!
Third, the info below is intended to be helpful whether you have a disability or not.
I have been using a motorized scooter about 95% of the time for about 14 years. That said, I have been made keenly aware (to say the least) of the easy and gradual weight gain. I live with nerve pain all over my body which can be severe at times, and my body can fatigue badly if I do too much. I have found over the years that working out helps immensely with both issues.
At the onset of my illness in 2004, my weight went down..unhealthily down, primarily because I had to be fed due to full body paralysis that impacted my throat and the back of my mouth. However, as I began to improve my weight started to creep up, slowly but surely even with regular workouts.
I have been committed to working out most of my life. I was a cheerleader (as you know from my prior blog (“I’d rather be dead than in a wheelchair!” ). I was on dance and drill teams, and I was a sprinter. I never lost the desire to keep fit, even though I was a single parent with a disability and working full-time. While I was paralyzed I thought a lot about how much I missed my workouts. I loved physical therapy, although I think physical therapists secretly love to torture us ;-)! I lived in a rehabilitation center for a couple of months receiving two or more hours of physical, occupational, and speech therapy every day. Once my time was up there, my insurance company offered to send me to a convalescent home where I’d receive 15 to 30 minutes a day of mostly “in bed” therapy. I was like “kill me NOW!” Of course, I did not take them up on that plan!
Fast forward a few years, I built up my stamina and revived my pre-disability workout schedule. I did cardio 3 to 5 days per week using a stationary recumbent bike and an Arm Ergometer. Unfortunately, my weight continued to creep up, and in very challenging places like my back, and legs.
I knew that I had to make major changes to avoid the gain or at least slow it down. I was becoming a size that I was comfortable with. Additionally, I wanted to be healthy and avoid issues like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes etc. that run in my family.
I began to be super careful about my food choices. I tried low carb plans, lost a little weight, I tried low-calorie plans maintained, I tried vegetarian, and pescatarian diets, but I was not able to lose any significant weight (beyond 5 or 10 lbs).
One day while studying the subject, I realized the simplest thing!
All of the diets and plans I was trying were based on a 1200 calorie diet! Even with a 30-minute cardio workout per day, a person who is sitting most of the time may not burn 1200 calories. So I needed to find out how many calories I was burning and eat fewer calories!
Here’s what I do now that over time has effectively toned my body, AND taken off the excess weight even in the tough areas.
- I purchased an activity tracker that tells me the real number of calories I burn in a day. This helped me better create the caloric deficit I needed to lose weight.
- I added weights and resistance to my workouts. In order to improve metabolism, I knew that I needed to more effectively burn calories and stored fat. Slightly stressing my muscles not only sped up my weight loss but also toned my body much faster. Light muscle burn during workouts is a good thing. I gained at first because muscle weighs more than fat, but the long term effects have been great!
- I added variety to my workouts for more of a total body plan. I now rotate my recumbent bike (30 to 60 minutes) with my rowing machine (30 minutes). I also do seated aerobics and seated kickboxing both with leg and arm weights. I am working on videos to teach adaptive fitness to people with disabilities and/or injuries to keep in shape. Stay tuned for that!
- I INCREASED the number of days, intensity and the duration of my workouts. I now workout 6 days per week. I use more intense resistance on my bike, I ride further averaging 8.5 to 9 miles (verses to 5 to 7), and I use weights for strength training and muscle toning while riding. I use weights (arms and legs) during seated kickboxing which helps keep my heart rate in the zone.
- I use a heart rate monitor to make sure my heart rate stays in the target zone for most efficient fat burning and cardiovascular benefit. The monitor I use also tells me what percentage of calorie burn was fat.
- I am super careful about my diet. Although I’ve been careful for many years, I am even more picky about what I shove in my pie hole! I avoid unnecessary carbs, like rice, pasta, and bread (yes, I said bread), I get my carbs from fruits and veggies. I avoid oils where possible and I don’t eat red meat. I also do not succumb to peer pressure when I eat out with family and friends who enjoy teasing me.
- WINE!. One word “yay!” I will have an occasional glass (4 to 10 ounces) versus the nightly huge glass I was drinking very evening. Typical red wine carries about 25 calories an ounce. Today’s glasses easily hold 10 plus ounces! One 10oz glass at 250 calories per night is 2500 calories every 10 days! If you don’t burn the calories, guess where they go?! Just saying!
- I use a food scale regularly and a food intake tracker app. The scale works great and I can now look at foods and guess quite accurately the weight.
- And finally, I weigh myself regularly. I read that weighing oneself is a way of holding ourselves accountable. Just because you don’t check doesn’t mean you’re not gaining.
The formula for weight control and healthy living is simple, but not easy.
Eat fewer calories + Activity = Weight loss
Believe me, I understand the variables like time to work out, having to cook for families while making different food choices for yourself etc. but it is really about self-discipline, self-motivation…and making time for yourself. If you are really serious about getting healthy, what are you willing to give up? Are you willing to get up early or drink wine once or twice a week instead of every night?
I know you may not be able to or even want to do everything that has worked for me but pick one or two things and just try them for 30 days. I’ll bet you’ll feel better and might decide to stick with it or add to it.
My results have been a loss of more than 30lbs, and I am not a spring chicken! Let’s just say that my son is 20! My body is much leaner and toned, I am often complimented on the shape of my arms and shoulders. My body craves healthy options because it has been retrained over time. I have none of the health issues that might be expected after 14 years with reduced mobility. There are many other aspects that afford a healthy lifestyle like reducing stress, water intake, and sleep but that’s a whole other blog.
I am here to help! If you’d like to Skype or FaceTime to discuss your challenges and how I might help, please let me know in the comments. They are not automatically posted (I have to review them first). Feel free to let me know if you have questions or if my help, support, or encouragement is needed.
Be HAPPY, Be FIT, Be HEALTHY!
Love and Light,
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