The Weight is Over – Week 19: Lister’s List, From ‘Bingo Arms’ to the Big Picture

First, some of you noticed and asked about the absence of last week’s column. Merle Haggard died Wednesday, and I thought reporter Jon Lewis’ remembrance of Haggard – a big deal here in the north state – should be the top story, not my weight-loss journey.

This week, I talked with my favorite fitness/nutrition coach, Matthew Lister of Align Private Training in Redding, and asked a few FAQs – and by FAQs, I mean questions that frequently come to my mind. I have total confidence he’ll have all the answers.

Matthew Lister of Align Private Training, takes a breather to answer a few questions.

Matthew Lister of Align Private Training takes a breather to answer a few questions.

Matthew, I’ve been working out with you for four months, and this is only our second Q&A. We’re overdue! Today I have some random questions I’ve been meaning to ask you.

Q: First, can you describe your “typical” client?

My typical client is a professional in their 40s, 50s, or 60s who has some health issue, whether it is chronic pain or diabetes. Align’s service is really built for this person. The customized approach to pain-mitigation, posture, exercise and nutrition is built for people whose bodies need something unique. When you’re 20 you can do just about anything. That’s not really the case when you have injuries, wear and tear, and unique limitations.

Q: <Sigh, I remember 20.> Honestly, is there anyone who walks through your door at Align and you think, uh oh (I mean, other than me)?

Never. The harder the case the greater the transformation. This is what we love to do. We tackle the hard cases.

Q: I believe you. I’ve seen it for myself at Align, and I’m humbled by what I see.

OK, Maybe this is a silly question, but I notice that sometimes, the night after I’ve worked out really hard, I get really awful leg cramps. Is that about the actual muscle workout, or hydration, or what?

Muscle cramps are essentially a dysfunctional muscle contraction. It is a muscle cramping even though it isn’t being given the order to by your brain, barring any medical condition like seizures. So we must look at all the possible causes for a muscle to contract unhealthily. Hydration, salt, calcium, potassium, etc. are the easy answers. We must also look at tissue knotting and possible nerve impingement somewhere between the brain and the muscle. The low back and hips are the common place for impingement like this.

Q: That’s a good description of muscle cramps’ cause and prevention. In the meantime, though, I’m open to readers’ suggestions about what to do to alleviate the pain from a leg or foot cramp in the middle of one.

Here’s another question about a specific body part. A few weeks ago, while some of us were doing hamstring stretches at Align, we got talking about that most-unwanted/unflattering feature: saggy underarm skin. I know you know what I’m talking about, because I remember you once quoted someone who referred to this trouble spot as “bingo arms” – especially for women. So, about those “bingo arms” – can weight-loss and workouts ever eliminate them completely? I mean, is there an age, or a degree of weight-loss that makes it more difficult to banish the bingo arms forever?

Of course, I don’t have this problem. I’m asking for a friend.

It depends on the severity of the issue and the rebounding quality of the person’s skin, and in this case, there is also a definite genetic variable here. Some people’s skin just tightens up better than others. But there are things we can do to optimize the process naturally, like hydration, muscle-building, and ensuring there are no vitamin deficiencies.

The way I think of it is let’s optimize the natural efforts, and if you still don’t love your body when we get you there, let’s cross that bridge then.

People’s personalities and insecurities change dramatically by the time they get in amazing shape. They love themselves; sometimes for the first time in their life. It’s a remarkable process to watch.

Q: Geez, Matthew, leave it to you to take a question about bingo arms and turn it into an answer about the beauty of transformation.

OK, no segue, but without using client names, can you describe some of your most memorable success stories?

There have been so many. But some of the transformations that have really stood out to me are the ones where not only does a person’s body change, but their outlook on life changes, too. When someone transforms from seeing no reason to live, to having the world at their feet, those are the transformations I love being a part of.

Also, some of the most memorable success cases are those clients who’ve had chronic-pain transformations. There is just something special about watching someone go from withdrawn and smothered by chronic, never-ending pain, to watching as the fog lifts and as they begin to come to life. Seeing the unique personalities come to life after being suppressed for years or decades is a very special process.

Actually, I had a client tell me this morning that she was walking down a hallway and realized that she was “strutting”. Six months earlier she had to stop multiple times and rely heavily on the handrail. The impact those quality-of-life improvements have on a person is immeasurable.

Q: I can attest to noticing major physical changes in myself in these last four months, and I’m not just talking about weight-loss and smaller clothing. I feel stronger, but I also just feel more at home in my body. It’s as if I can actually feel that my body is capable of more. In fact, don’t get too excited, but the other day during a walk, I actually had a glimmer of an urge to break into a run. I may try it, just to see what it feels like. This is huge, because I’ve never been a runner, or desired running. Running is one of those things I’ve always told myself I don’t do.

Matthew, you see so many people who go from extreme dire, physical straits, to achieving great success. Seriously, do you ever find yourself in a grocery store or someplace like that, see someone with horrible posture and fight the temptation to say something, or hand them a card?

Never. Yes, I do feel an immense compassion for their struggle, but the process of transformation is such a challenging one that a person must be at a point where they are “sick and tired of being sick and tired,” to quote a popular financial adviser.

Q: I get it. That was exactly where I was when I came to see you in December. But the truth is, although I’d felt supremely miserable for quite a while, I’m not sure I would have been ready to embark on this commitment to transformation even one month earlier.

But back to my mention of posture, which is a large focus at Align. I just used the term “bad posture” as if it’s something someone can control. Is it?

Absolutely. Without question. Our bones don’t move themselves. Our muscles move our bones. But our muscles don’t move themselves. Our brain and nervous system move our muscles. And that system is highly adaptable. It is constantly changing to its environment. That’s how we ended up with bad posture to begin with. Our posture is a byproduct of our environment. To change it, all we have to do is figure out what specifically we want the body to do differently and then create movements to “spur” that change.

Q: OK, another random question, and this is regarding the weight-loss/fitness/nutrition process, and its plateaus, peaks and valleys. Is there something akin to a 7-year-itch in workouts, a time period – so many months, whatever – when people tend to start to stray, slip, or lose hope? And if so, how do you handle that?

Again, I’m asking for a friend.

Motivation is a product of success. The trick to keeping someone motivated is to intentionally keep their eye on some sort of progress at all times: the quality-of-life improvements, the body changes, the postural changes, the cardio or strength changes.

The hardest part is keeping people focused on the big vision of their transformation and how important ALL of the changes are to their quality of life. People are drawn to the scale; their body weight. That is the challenge, to keep a balanced perspective on “progress” over time.

Q: Well, you hit the nail on the head for me. I can absolutely see and feel the difference in how I feel, and even how I look.  I can see that last summer’s favorite shirt now hangs on me.
doni down 21 pounds
But damn, I do get so fixated on wanting to hear that I’ve dropped a lot more weight than my current 21 pounds. I wish it didn’t matter to me so much, but it just does.

Thanks for the reminder to keep my eye on the most important thing, which is the whole picture: the fact that my health – mental and physical – and fitness are better than they’ve been in years.

Before we go, do have any you questions you’d like to share that you hear frequently from clients, other than, “Why are you doing this to me?”

No questions, but I will leave you with this interesting observation. Hopefully it can help you – and your friend. In all the transformations I have been through and seen with people, not one person ever got to the end and said they were happiest that the number on the scale said XYZ.

What makes people the happiest is the ability to play, love, engage, feel confident, and be who their mind sees themselves as. Every single person I’ve seen transformed says that is the best part of the change. Never once has it been the scale.

Q: That’s profound, Matthew. I needed that. Thanks so much for your patience, and for taking the time to so thoroughly answer my questions.

Let’s stay focused on the important stuff. I’m incredibly proud of you for the work that you have done, the discipline you have developed, and the transformation that you have had so far.

Thank you, and I will stay focused on the important stuff. This is a good reminder that I’m still mid-transformation; that I’m a ways from arriving yet. I’m absolutely committed to this whole-enchilada transformation, however long it takes. I’m in it for the long haul. I have my eye on the end goal to be totally transformed. And when I arrive – whatever that means – I will use what I’ve learned from you to maintain my transformation. Thank you, Matthew!

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate. Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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