It sounds so easy. Eat less and exercise more, and you will lose weight. Seems simple enough, but if you are an individual experiencing a physical disability, you may find yourself caught in a vicious cycle of limited mobility and decreased physical activity, accompanied by weight gain. The more weight you gain, the harder it becomes to exercise. The more inactive you become, the more weight you gain. And so the cycle goes; a cycle that is not only frustrating and discouraging, but one that may exacerbate your underlying disability. If you find yourself in this kind of situation, take heart. You can break the cycle and lose weight, but first you will need to formulate a plan.
Establish a Plan for Weight Loss and Exercise
Successful weight loss begins with a plan to make your health a top priority. Commit to a start date and then follow through. Set reasonable goals that are specific and attainable, taking into consideration the barriers that make it difficult for you. Keep a food diary to help you track what you eat, and log your progress or problems. Plan to start with small steps, like exercising for just five minutes per day, and cutting your calories by 100 calories per day. Small changes add up, and over time, bring rewarding results.
Exercise Resources for the Disabled
You need to consult with your physician before undertaking any exercise program. You want to boost your metabolism in a safe manner while preserving your functional capacity. Depending on your disability, you may want to start out with some basic stretching exercises using resistance bands. Resistance bands are inexpensive, portable, and can be used whether you are sitting, standing or lying down. The National Center on Physical Activity and Disability maintains a website covering 50 diseases and conditions, outlining physical activity options for each 1. They can also assist you in locating a personal trainer in your area who can help design an exercise plan appropriate for your condition or disability. The American Association of Physical Therapists and the Aquatic Exercise Association also maintain websites offering similar information and resources for the disabled 4.
Weight Loss Strategies
If you are disabled, it is critical to work with your primary health care provider to plan a diet that is safe and appropriate for your condition. In general, a healthy diet plan should include:
- three to five servings of vegetables
- two to four servings of fruits
- two to four servings of milk or milk products,
- three servings of whole grains per day
Researchers with the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, recommend behavioral techniques to help dieters avoid eating triggers that can derail weight loss 2. These techniques include eating regular meals without skipping; eating at the same time and place; portion control; keeping accessible food out of sight; eating only when you are hungry; and avoiding activities that encourage you to eat, like eating in front of the television. There are numerous websites that provide detailed information on nutrition, meal planning and calorie tracking. Lastly, be patient with yourself, and reward yourself along the way. A disability does not mean you cannot achieve your weight loss goals.
- The National Center on Physical Activity and DisabilityDisability/Condition: Multiple Sclerosis : Designing an Exercise Program
- Pennington Biomedical Research Center: Behavioral Approaches To Weight Loss
- Disabled World: Diets and Dieting Plans.
- Aquatic Exercise Association: Homepage
- American Physical Therapy Association: Move Forward: Improve Mobility.
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