I feel like an elephant today

I feel bloated like an elephant today. If you do too, stick to your fitness plan.

Did you ever wake up and, after you do your usual morning stuff, say to yourself, “I feel like an elephant today?” Everything feels fat and bloated, even more than usual. Even my hands and feet feel bloated. Don’t get me wrong – I love elephants. I think elephants are among the cutest beings on the planet.

I don’t want to feel like an elephant

But I don’t want to feel like one. Elephants usually move slowly and deliberately. (Except for when your safari jeep gets between a mama and her calf. But that’s a story for another day.) That is not how I want to move. I want to feel light and energetic. I want to feel like I can move effortlessly. 

I’m pretty sure that you have this feeling sometimes too. I may have eaten too much salty food yesterday and I’m retaining water. Or I just plain ate too much. Or I didn’t get enough sleep. Any of these could lead to feelings of heaviness.

Stick to your fitness plan

First thing to do is not obsess about it. Feeling like you have to wear a giant muumuu to cover everything up can lead to feelings of depression. Don’t let it. Everyone feels this way at some point. And even if you feel it, it’s not visible. This article describes how I pull myself out of the dumps.

Next – drink more water. It may seem counter-intuitive to drink water if you’re retaining water, but it’s one step in the right direction. If you like to drink carbonated beverages, try to replace them with water. That carbonation can lead to excess gas not only in the beverage, but in your system.

It’s important to move!

Take a walk. This can diminish that bloated feeling right away. And over time, if you move more, you won’t feel bloated so frequently. Yes, this is another reason to exercise regularly!

Gradually add more fiber and probiotics to your diet. This tip is not an instant cure. Adding additional fiber to your diet is a long-term improvement and will improve your digestion over time.

But right now?

No matter how you feel, you don’t look different. You’re still the same person inside and out. So if you’re self-conscious and want to wear baggy shirts and pants for a couple of days, that’s OK. When I’m feeling bloated, I have to remind myself that no one is looking at how tight (or not) my pants are. I’m still me – tight waistband or not.

Maintaining Your Motivation

You’ve been eating right and exercising for a few weeks now. Congratulations! It’s been going pretty well. You’re hanging in there. But every once in a while that muffin looks better than what you planned for breakfast. Or your co-workers are going to your favorite sandwich shop for lunch. And there’s that piece of cake left over from your significant other’s birthday. Maintaining your motivation through all the temptations is really hard.

And it doesn’t get easier.

Five Keys to Maintaining your Motivation

So, how do you maintain your motivation? How do you stick to the plan? These five methods help me maintain a healthy lifestyle every day.

1. Take Each Day as it Comes

One day at a time – Today is the only day that matters in your “healthier you” plan. Yesterday is gone. No matter how “good” you were yesterday (and congratulations for that!), it doesn’t matter today. Keep that date you set up for yourself today in your calendar. (You’re doing that, right? A few weeks ago we talked about forming healthy habits, and a key point was making that recurring appointment with yourself on every day you wanted to exercise.) Make every food decision count especially on days that eating right is a challenge. For every meal you prepare, ask yourself if it’s a good choice for you.

2. Just Get Going

The final stretch with my dog. Just do it, don't agonize over working out. That's maintaining your motivation.

Don’t think too much about your workout preparation – On days that you really don’t want to exercise, just do it. Shake yourself mentally and don’t think about the things you’d rather be doing (like watching TV, reading a book, lying on the couch). Just change into your workout gear and start to exercise. Promise yourself you’ll do 10 minutes of your workout. Before you know it, you’ll be cooling down and looking forward to that final stretch.

3. Reflection

Reflect on how far you’ve come. Just a couple of weeks ago you knew you should start an exercise program and healthy eating plan but were confused about how to start and what to do. And now you’re crushing it! A great way to keep going is to put these reflections in a journal. (Check out my Gratitude and Happiness Journal on Amazon.) Every day, think about what you’re happy you’ve accomplished and write it down. When you go back and read these reflections, you can’t help but feel motivated to carry on. (Writing these thoughts down will also give you a great sense of gratitude, and we know that happiness follows gratitude, and resilience follows happiness and optimism!)

4. Visualize

Visualize yourself maintaining your motivation. Picture yourself eating a plate of vibrant greens with your family and enjoying it! Better yet – you’re all eating that wonderful salad and loving it. Feel how you’d like to be, at the place you enjoy the most, with the people you love most. Picture yourself at a party, enjoying yourself, holding a glass (a champagne flute?) of sparkling water. I can’t tell you to picture yourself exercising and loving it, because I can’t do that myself. But I do it so that the other pictures can become realities.

5. Your “Why”

Your reason for sticking to your plan. Finally, and probably the easiest way of maintaining your motivation – remember your reason for starting in the first place. Whether your reason is for your family or for your own future, remember that. You’re eating right and exercising to lower your blood pressure, to improve your cardiac conditioning, to improve your cognition and memory. 

These five methods will keep you on the straight and narrow. Maintaining your motivation will be easy.

Pull yourself out of the dumps

Some days are real downers. On those days, it’s easy to see how some may become chronically depressed. You’re so sad that even though you don’t drink to excess, a cocktail sounds mighty good. At 2:00 in the afternoon. Not even the sunshine can cheer you up. Your adorable dog doing something amazingly cute can only make your mouth turn up a little. You don’t see how you’ll ever be happy again. But it is possible to pull yourself out of the dumps.

I’m not a psychologist, so I can only use myself as an example. But I’m pretty average, so it works.

My personal trash heap – Time to pull myself out of the dumps

The pandemic is still running rampant, but fortunately vaccines have been approved and are available. But not widely available here. I’m lucky enough to live in a Village that has its own Health Department which has vaccine clinics available by appointment. However, the supply in my area is extremely limited and the demand far outstrips the supply. I’m so happy that most people in my area want to get vaccinated, but every time I learn by email that supply is available and try to make an appointment, they’re all gone. No appointments available at local pharmacies either. My friends have been vaccinated. My sister got her first dose. Even my 20-year-old neighbor got his. I know that I will probably have an opportunity soon, but in the meantime I’m sad and frustrated.

I hardly ever remember my dreams. But a couple of days ago I dreamed of my mom, who’s been gone for over 20 years. I miss her every day, so it was great seeing her. I woke up and tears started flowing. 

When I add my newer physical ailments to these things, I’m even more sad. Every so often my thumb joint hurts like crazy and it’s hard to hold things in my left hand. It’s good that I’m right-handed, but it’s still painful.

Wallow? Not me…

So yesterday I felt myself wallowing. I decided it was time to pull myself out of the dumps!

I started with some deep diaphragm breathing. Sitting straight, bring air in through your nose and let your diaphragm inflate. Hold your breath for a couple of seconds, then breathe out. 

Meditation is one step to pull yourself out of the dumps.

Then a little meditation. Just a couple of minutes. I use my own guided meditations. (I’m a fan of the water, so the River and Ocean ones are my favorites.) Eyes closed, seated comfortably – and not in the Lotus position. My knees don’t move that way.

A couple of shoulder rolls followed. It was my regular workout time, so I changed and chose a really sweaty routine. I’ve written about focus enough lately that you know I was completely into the workout. (http://fitness-over-50.com/2021/04/no-one-is-watching-so-just-do-it/ ) And it was done almost before I knew it. A nice warm shower made me feel almost human again. 

And while I can’t say that I was happy after all of that, I was definitely less sad.

So, it is possible to pull yourself out of the dumps. And trying these methods is certainly more appealing than wallowing in your own tears.

Add aerobics and improve your balance

I frequently stress the importance of improving balance, especially as we age. The aging process naturally diminishes our balance since our senses tend to deteriorate. Vision and depth perception diminish, as well as the vestibular system of the inner ear. Even our sense of touch, especially the ability to feel the floor when our foot touches down, tends to diminish as we get older. All of these contribute to decreasing our balance. Strength, coordination and reaction time also diminish as we age, contributing to loss of balance. Pretty depressing, but it’s better than the alternative.

Adding aerobics to your balance exercises can increase stamina and endurance.

In addition to the balance exercises that I include in the Week of Balance download, aerobic exercise can improve your balance. Of course, movement of any kind can help with balance, but it’s very easy to just sit down and not think about moving. So a planned exercise session most days is an easy way to get our movement in if there’s nothing else on the schedule.

Increasing stamina and endurance

Personal trainer Sabrena Jo who is certified in working with seniors and is the American Council of Exercise director of research content says, “one reason people tend to trip or fall is that they have low stamina or endurance.” By adding aerobic activity we increase both cardiovascular stamina and endurance. Plus, it’s usually done to music which enhances our optimism. An added bonus is that an aerobics class can burn a lot of calories!

Aerobics also burns fat and calories

Aerobics has always been a favorite to burn fat and calories. It reduces the risk of heart disease, can help lower blood pressure, stroke and certain types of cancer. It can also improve cognition. And aerobics is a weight-bearing exercises so it can lower your risk of osteoporosis.

Of course, if you’re going to add aerobics to your exercise regimen, be sure to check with your doctor. And choose your aerobics wisely. If you have bad knees, take that into consideration.

One final note: be sure to add an aerobics exercise that you will do regularly. Once and done will do absolutely nothing for your balance, your heart, your weight or your bones. Choose an aerobic activity that you’ll look forward to doing.

As old as you feel

Don’t dwell on the numbers. They don’t matter (except for Medicare and Social Security, and taxes). You’ve heard the old saying, “You’re only as old as you feel.” Yes, some days you might feel creaky or fragile and feel like you’re a hundred and two. I know I do. But I try not to let that affect my activities for the day. I may move a little slower on those days, but I try to keep on moving.

Don’t get stuck in the ground

Because stagnation will make you plant roots. And while some roots are great – like friends and family, a home that you love or a community that keeps you grounded. But other roots will make you sluggish and slow. And make you feel that you really can’t do what you want to. Just because you’re 50, 60 or 70 – that doesn’t mean that you’re unable to reach your goals. Don’t think about the dwindling number of years you may have left. Think about all the great days ahead of you.

Workout choice to fit my feeling

Yesterday I admit that I was feeling a little funky, but I knew I’d feel guilty if I didn’t work out as I planned. I chose a favorite non-impact Pilates workout. By the time the half hour was up, I felt much better. This is a workout that focuses primarily on core strength, but uses resistance bands to really challenge you. Familiar moves like “The 100,” and “Circle Teaser” are taken to the next level with those bands. So, in addition to your core being strengthened, your arms are getting stronger too.

Side Plank Star

As old as you feel - not with the side plank star move.

When the workout was over, I felt so much better that I decided to try and do the Side Plank Star move that I had a photo done a few years ago. This move uses the core, the legs, the arms … just about everything. It’s a fun move that challenges your balance as well. Plus it looks cool. (Start in a side plank position and lift the top leg. Be sure you’re on a non-slip surface.) So yesterday, I started out feeling like I was 100 years old, but ended up much younger than that!

There’s always a modification

Don’t let the thought, “Oh, I can’t do that – it’s too hard” prevent you from doing something you want to do. Especially when it comes to exercises. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t do jumping jacks, do side toe taps with arm swings. If you can’t jump, lift your knees high. There’s always a modification.

Keep trying - full plank with one arm and one leg.

Like with this pose. It’s definitely challenging. It works your core, your legs, your balance, your arms. It works every part of your body – and your mind.

Keep practicing

But it takes practice. I certainly wasn’t able to do this the first time I tried it. But I thought it would be a fun pose to have in my arsenal, so I kept practicing.

I started with this:

Modified exercise bird-dog plank

Now, this isn’t exactly a walk in the park either. This modified plank with bird dog uses your core and your balance. You’ll definitely feel your abs fire up when you lift alternate limbs, and your balance will be shaky the first few times. (And, yes, that’s my dog’s butt at the bottom left of the picture!)

And after a few times, I got stronger and felt ready to try the full version of the pose. And that was a laugh. Good thing I was on a mat because I fell on my face.

Don’t give up!

But I didn’t give up. There were other exercises that kept me going – ones that I was comfortable with and that would strengthen my arms, my core, my legs and my balance.

And I kept doing the modified version of the pose to get my body used to a simulation of the movement. To sort of challenge my balance the way that the full version would. And ultimately I tried the full version of the pose – and succeeded!

If you’re not strong enough (yet) for a full push-up, try it from your knees. Or, better yet, on your couch or a chair. Put your hands on the seat, feet on the floor and try that. This simulates the push-up better than from your knees on the floor, but it’s somewhat easier.

The point is, don’t NOT do an exercise. Do a modification.

It’s tough getting old

It's tough getting old. So many stresses.

It’s tough getting old. In getting older, we want to stay fit and healthy so that we can enjoy our “golden years.” In order to enjoy those years, we want to reduce stress and be happy.

All those things are really hard. We’ve spent lots of years exercising and eating right. When is it our turn to go crazy? Just lie on the couch and eat junk food.

We’ve spent lots of years working. When do we get to just do what we want?

That’s harder than ever now.

Everything costs money. And everything is more expensive than it used to be. Our incomes are not going up, so we have to be creative. And that’s exhausting.

But, things are easier when they become a habit.

So, let’s create some habits we can live with and be happy about for many, many years to come.

Eating right

Meal planning can become a habit. And it’s easier when you plan out a week’s worth of meals. Pick one day and gather your favorite recipes. Decide on 21 nutritious but delicious meals (if you don’t plan on bringing meals in – we do carryout from our favorite restaurants a couple evenings a week), make a list of items you need from the grocery store, and plan your shopping trip. And plan your snacks, too – things you look upon as treats, but are still healthy. OK – maybe a tiny bit indulgent…

Exercise

I’ve written many a blog post about the benefits of exercise as we age. Here’s one: “Why Exercise?” For now, let’s just agree that it’s necessary. Pick a program and stick with it. You don’t have to spend hours a day exercising, but it should be fairly intense – for you – 30 minutes 4 or 5 times a week. The most important thing is to be consistent in your exercise. By all means mix up the kind of exercise that you’re doing, but do it.

Get happy

Money may be tight, but that’s no reason not to do things that make you happy. Every day. Read a book. Reread a favorite. Listen to music. Go outside and breathe some fresh air.