Thursday, February 13, 2003
posted by Julie |
Now you’re working hard to build muscle, getting some aerobic exercise, working every day to track your calories and nutrients, writing about how you’re feeling. Losing weight, learning, getting fit.
That’s a lot of work.
You deserve a reward for all that hard work. Some part of this (besides lowering your bp, strengthening your heart, getting your blood sugar under control) ought to be fun (besides fitting into smaller jeans, easily buckling the seatbelt, getting to the top of the stairs without fainting).
We’ve discussed rewards before. I’m going to pick my favorite – massage -- and go into a little more detail with the help of my very own sister, Carrie, who’s a massage therapist.
While I was losing weight I made up a reward schedule and rewarded myself for every 5-lb. loss. These rewards took many forms, but my favorite reward will always be massage. It should be more than a reward for me. I should get more massages than I do. But because I tend to be overbooked and underpaid, my dates with massage therapists are special treats.
Why should I get more massages? I won’t try to answer that myself, but let Carrie do the talking. I asked her to give us an argument for massage for people working hard to lose weight and get fit. Here’s what she wrote back:
“Well I can think of several benefits. The first is, of course, to reduce stress and pamper yourself as you undertake this difficult goal. Food is often where we get our comfort
feeling, so one needs to look for other avenues to fill that emotional need.
”Another reason massage is good for weight loss has to do with lymphatic and liver functioning. It might be interesting for your readers to read Anne Louise Gittleman’s Fat Flush Diet for her thoughts on the problems of a sluggish lymphatic system.
“Essentially, she explains that the lymphatic system is the garbage disposal of the body, ridding the body of toxic wastes, and trapped fat globules. Meanwhile, our livers have two functions: they process toxins and fats. If you can rid your body of toxins, the liver can focus on its other job: processing fats efficiently. During the period of weight loss your cells
rely more on stored fat for nourishment than the sugars, proteins and carbohydrates you may ingest (because you are decreasing these inputs). Therefore, reducing toxins means a less stressed, more efficient liver and faster weight loss.
”So where does the massage come in? Massage increases blood flow to the skin and thereby increases nourishment. It is an important cleanser of toxins that are built up through metabolic waste of the cells and tissues. Massage also improves the flow of lymph. Better lymph flow means fewer toxins in the body (go liver go!) and better chances of decreasing fat trapped in the dermis (aka cellulite).
”Massage may have a small effect on connective tissue re-shaping. Connective tissue is continuous from head to toe. It wraps each muscle (and even the compartments within muscles) and forms the tendons connecting muscle to bone. It is fabricated mostly of water and collagen with some elastin (depending on if it's "loose" or "dense").
”With weight gain connective tissue stretches to accommodate a larger form. After weight loss, we are sometimes disappointed that our connective tissues haven't bounced back to their original shape. A continuous massage program may make a small difference in how quickly connective tissue reforms to our new smaller form. (I don't want to make too much of this because I can't remember where I read it.)
”Finally, massage works very well to relieve the aches and pains that come along with your workout program. After you "feel the burn" (lactic acid build up) with your work-outs, tapes, or weight-lifting program, massage can take the burn away and keep your muscles in optimum condition.
“Your basic relaxation (Swedish) massage will take the stress away (ed note: check out Pamela Peeke’s Fight Fat after Forty for info on stress-fat connection!) and will move blood and lymph around because of the long strokes applied to muscle bellies. It may also help in re-shaping connective tissue.
”For muscle strain after exercise, you may need to seek out "deep-tissue" massage aiming at muscle tendons where they connect to the bone.
”And for those of us who are brave and experimental, Reiki and other "energy techniques" can provide profound emotional release and awareness that may help you get at the underlying issues that enabled the original weight gain."
That's my sis.
Now I can appreciate that if you’ve never had a massage before, that first massage can be a little scary. Trust me, any massage therapist will understand this nervousness and be good at putting it to rest.
Tell your massage therapist everything you can about your weight loss and health goals, about your body and its past injuries and illnesses. There is no detail too obscure, and no question too silly to ask. Many massage therapists make wellness study their life’s passion. The more open you are with these folks, the more opportunities you’ll have to get the help you need.
You should certainly tell the therapist that this is your first massage, and tell them that you feel nervous about it if you do, and ask them to explain what form of massage they have studied and where. Ask what clothes to take off or leave on. You may chatter your way through a massage or not. Your therapist may talk, or you may ask her or him to be silent. Essentially you should understand that this time is for you, and your massage therapist will accommodate your needs, your shyness, your concerns.
How to find a good massage therapist? Licensing and listings vary so much from region to region around the world that frankly I recommend word of mouth. Ask your doctor or chiropractor. Ask your friends. Ask at the gym. Ask your physical therapist. Find a nearby school that teaches massage work, and see if they have service days for students.
And try several therapists. Be picky. Find one you’re comfortable communicating with whose technique works well for you.
Then go. And bring a big bottle of water with you to drink down after your massage. And if you can, schedule some quiet downtime for yourself after your massage.
You’ve worked so hard. You deserve it,
Ann Louise Gittleman
Find a therapist or massage school online