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Blogs are brief, to-the-point, conversational, and packed with information, strategies, and tips to turn troubled eaters into “normal” eaters and to help you enjoy a happier, healthier life. Sign up by clicking "Subscribe" below and they’ll arrive in your inbox. 

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Exercise and Self-image

As a woman carrying excess weight, if you notice that you feel a bit differently about exercise than your slimmer peers, you’re not imagining the discrepancy. Or so says an article entitled “The influence of self-image on exercise” by Gretchen Reynolds (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 1/28/14, Health & Fitness, 18E). The International Journal of Obesity published a study in which “scientists affiliated with the Key Laboratory of Cognition and Personality at Southwest University in Chongqing, China” concluded that the brains of thinner and heavier women show different activity when asked questions about exercise. Lean and heavy female participants were shown images of people engaged happily in activity and told to imagine themselves doing the same and also shown images of people being sedentary. “The resulting readouts revealed that overweight women’s brains were put off by exercise.” They also showed that the part of the brain that deals with negative emotions lit up more...

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One More Reason to Exercise

When most disregulated eaters think about genes, they look at them as static predeterminants of body weight, but there is more going on than meets the eye. Did you know that you can actually change your cellular structure by exercising? “How exercise changes cells is a mystery” (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 8/27/13, p. 18F), reminds us that some of our genes turn on and off—called expression—“depending on what biochemical signals they receive from elsewhere in the body. When they turn on, genes express various proteins that, in turn, prompt a range of physiological actions.” For example, it turns out that something called the “methylation process” is substantially driven by lifestyle choices. This process is important because “differing methylation patterns resulting from differing diets may partly determine whether someone develops diabetes and other metabolic diseases.” So, it’s not as simple as thinking that you have or don’t have a gene for diabetes or other...

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What Does Exercise Mean to You?

Many of my clients aren’t sure how they feel about “exercise.” The topic truly is confusing. Is there a difference between sports or dance and exercise? Does any activity constitute exercise, including vacuuming and gardening? Is exercise simply moving our bodies or is it only about improving them? One of my clients said that growing up no one in her rather sedentary family mentioned or engaged in exercise except her mother when she wanted to lose weight. Then, she spoke incessantly about “needing to get more exercise.” This client, quite naturally, associated exercise with weight loss—and hardship. Oddly, she didn’t associate the long walks she loved to take by herself in the woods as a child as exercise. They were peaceful, interesting, and invigorating, a comforting getaway from her troubled family. Another client, who identifies herself as heavy, adores riding horses. Very little makes her happier. She’s never said to me...

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Doing Activities for the Wrong Reasons

Clients often complain, “I’m going to the gym three times a week, so why haven’t I lost weight” or “I’ve cut way back on sweets, so how come my pants are still tight?” I really don’t know what to say to them. Frankly, I don’t have an answer that will make them less disappointed and frustrated. But, I do have a response that will help them think in a healthier way about cutting back on sweets and continuing to go to the gym. If you’re still engaging in health care behaviors to lose weight, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Linda Bacon, PhD, researcher and author of Health At Every Size and Body Respect says that we disregulate our body by dieting and binge-eating and that it can take a year of “normal” eating for the body to re-regulate. So, I suppose that’s one answer for why clients aren’t seeing...

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What Is the Best Motivator for Exercise?

Previous research has said that the best motivator for exercise is the desire for good health, but new studies point to an even better motivator. “Rethink exercise as a source of immediate rewards” by Jane Brody (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 7/28/15, E28) focuses on research by psychologist Michelle Segar who directs the Sport Health and Activity Research and Policy Center at the University of Michigan. Her studies and others conclude that, “Though it seems counterintuitive…people whose goals are weight loss and better health tend to spend the least amount of time exercising,” but that “immediate rewards that enhance daily life—more energy, a better mood, less stress and more opportunity to connect with friends and family—offer far more motivation.” This conclusion makes sense because, let’s face it, most of us want instant gratification. It’s not enough to know that our blood test a few months from now will show that our HDL, LDL and...

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Succeeding at Fitness

Do you cringe at the word “fitness”? Do your eyes glaze over and does your mind slam shut because the subject seems so overwhelming? Does the word sound like a chore, drag, or even punishment? Quick: In a sentence, what’s your purpose for fitness?In How to Think About Exercise, Damon Young (“Your thinking about fitness is all wrong” by Mike Plunkett, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 2/3/15, page 20E) helps us clarify our thoughts on fitness. According to him, changing your thinking about it is essential to becoming and staying fit. Young is neither a trainer nor was he a physiology major. Rather, he uses “philosophical inquiries to explain how we in the West came to think about exercise and fitness and how that way of thinking is a major barrier to being fit.” He makes sense, arguing that “much of our thinking comes from the philosophical separation of mind and body” and maintaining...

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Do You Know All the Health Benefits of Exercise?

How sad that we’ve learned to associate exercise almost exclusively with weight loss. Sure, we may know in a vague way that it promotes a better quality of life or helps prevent cancer or heart disease. The truth is that exercise can help improve not only whatever ails us, but contribute to longevity as well. So say the experts in “The new science of exercise” by Mandy Oaklander (Time, 9/12/16, pp 54-60). The good news is that, though the recommendation still stays at “150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise weekly and twice-weekly muscle strengthening,” shorter intervals—10 minutes at a time!—seem to be just as beneficial as longer ones. Here are some of the ways that activity keeps us healthy: Got pain? Depressed? “Increased blood flow to the brain creates new blood vessels and triggers the release of chemicals that dull pain and lighten mood.”Wish you had more energy? “Moving quickly makes...

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Could Exercise Avoidance Be Hardwired?

If you’re someone who dislikes exercise and is tired of feeling like there’s something gravely wrong with you, perhaps there’s something very normal going on. You may be in sync with our human ancestors. Or, so says Daniel Lieberman, Harvard professor and expert in human evolutionary biology in “Hate exercise? Maybe you’re only human” by Colby Itkowitz (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 10/4/16, E26). “In a 2015 paper entitled “Is Exercise Really Medicine? An Evolutionary Perspective,” he poses the possibility that there is something unnatural about the idea of exercising simply for health reasons. Interesting, because we’re told all the time (and you may have even heard it from me on more than one occasion), that we should want to exercise to stay healthy. His explanation is based on the concept that humans developed in such a way as to want to conserve energy. The more energy we conserved for important activities, the likelier we...

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