Focus on What You CAN Do, Not What You CAN'T


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  112 comments   :  22,617 Views

Today I woke up, like most other days, in pain and wondering how I would make it through. I have chronic pain, so it would be easy to sit in bed and watch television all day. The problem is that, when you do that, real life passes you by, as it did when I ate my way to 460 pounds and ended up in a bedridden state.

Once bedridden, it was extremely difficult to find a way out of my situation and live again. I had to switch my thinking from what I couldn’t do to what I could do. It took a lot of feeling sorry for myself and grieving my losses to come to that point. I had to realize I could no longer do the things I once did, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t do anything. Then I came back with a renewed spirit.

Giving up my choices is actually about living an unhealthy lifestyle. I was giving up my choices by concentrating on what I couldn’t do. I set myself free by concentrating on what I could do.

So, I couldn’t stand any longer, but I could do chair exercise. I even made up some of my own cardio exercises and strength training after taking physical therapy. At first, even physical therapy had its obstacles. I couldn’t leave the house and I had to fight with insurance to pay for in-home physical therapy. Then there was the fear that it would be the same type of therapy I had always gotten, they would tell me to walk and expect that I could. Not without excruciating pain was that going to happen, and even then, not for very long. Luckily, I won my insurance argument and got in-home physical therapy and I got a therapist who realized I had to build up to walking. She also realized my pain needed to be dealt with.

Is there a law somewhere that a person has to exercise for at least 20 minutes or more to even get the slightest benefit? Nope! According to my therapist and numerous scientific studies, small bouts of fitness add up. Yes, something is always better than nothing. (See that group of people in the photo above? They're my fellow speakers at the SparkPeople Convention in Cincinnati in 2009. They're proof that you CAN do anything!) That's the SparkPeople way!

SparkPeople has a whole team dedicated to seated exercise called The Chair Exercise Team. There is also The ~Indygirl Challenge team that challenges you to make a small healthy change in your life every week, whether you are mobile or not.  Spark ON! is a team dedicated to progress, not perfection. These teams are all easy going motivational "Can Do" teams.

Dieting is another thing I can’t do. What I can do is make healthier choices and cut back at meals and snacks. Foods that make me less hungry, like ones with less sugar/ fat and more protein/ fiber are better. Less packaged meals and more fresh, natural food is better. I can also eat more often in smaller portions, a mini-meal plan. You see, I aim for better, not perfect. I can’t be perfect either. I can be better.

Sometimes people get a very black and white view of fit living. Either you are dieting and exercising or you aren’t. I have a rainbow view. I see all sorts of colors and shades in between in my view. Fit living is very individualized and often includes more than just diet and exercise. What makes one person fit may never work for another. It could be genetics, environment, or just because your lives run in completely different directions.

There is no on or off of fit living. It’s like a winding road with speed bumps, mountains, bridges, detours, vacation spots and a million other things. You are just on the road. Be a positive driver and enjoy the scenery, sing with the radio, have fun with your passengers, and find ways around the obstacles of the road. It’s even okay to stop at the vacation spots here and there.

Don’t give away your freedom to "I can’t." There are far more choices with "I can." If you hit a roadblock, don’t say "I can’t go on until this block ends…" say "What can I do from where I’m sitting now?"

What can YOU do right now?

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  • 62
    I love it, just WOW!!! What a great inspiration! Thank you so much. I'd like to read everything from your blog!!! - 7/8/2011   11:58:22 PM
  • AMBER461
    I love your blog It is very inspirational and it really let you know you can say I can often instead of saying I can't. - 7/8/2011   11:36:15 PM
  • 60
    I can STOP feeling sorry for myself and start doing what "I" can do. Extremely
    good stories like this put a fire under neath me and makes me want to "DO"!!!
    Thanks so much. - 7/8/2011   11:29:20 PM
  • 59
    WOW! Thank you so much, I really needed to read this now. I have focused on what I cannot do and life has passed me by. I only realized the other how much time I spend indoors among other losses. Thank you again for sharing. - 7/8/2011   11:09:06 PM
  • 58
    When I joined Sparks I was 214# & my back hurt so much from my fat gut, but going to the gym was a real challenge, since I knew younger people would look at me, but I went with my DD. It is so hard to "Start" but so worth it. - 7/8/2011   10:59:46 PM
  • 57
    Thank you, I needed this today! - 7/8/2011   6:50:28 PM
  • 56
    Such an amazing story!!! You are such an inspiration! Thank you so much for sharing :) - 7/8/2011   3:54:09 PM
    Thanks so much for sharing! Although my situation is different, I, too find myself saying "I can't!" far too often. I'm now inspired to look for ways I can say "I CAN!!". :-)

    I'm looking forward to reading more of your blog! - 7/8/2011   2:54:52 PM
  • 54
    Hey Beth--- I frequently read your blogs and always enjoy them. My situation is different from yours...but I still benefit from your wise words There are so many folks living in an "I can't" world and I hope the ones that have the opportunity to hear what you have to say, will - listen because it would definitely change their lives. We all have "I can't" moments...but the ones that I hurt the most for are the folks that live that way every single day of their lives....for whatever reason. Thanks for sharing
    SlimPam - 7/8/2011   1:55:49 PM
  • 53
    Ah, this is something I was just thinking about last night as I sat in a funk of depression because if I'm watching what I can't eat then there are so many things I can't have.
    I was really down and it hit me after I went to bed that I needed to stop thinking about what I was missing and to focus on what I would gain once I lost some weight. Like being able to walk comfortably again instead of my feet and knees killing me just walking across the house. I used to love to walk. Even 50lbs overweight I would walk for hours on end with no destination in mind. It was my therapy and hobby and my greatest pleasure. Now I dread just walking to the mailbox down the street and it takes so much coercing to get my butt out of the chair to walk the mile to the store (which leaves me exhausted after).
    This confirms my new attitude of refocus and how I've been telling myself to work on adding one small step at a time. This week I'm focusing on changing eating patterns. Next week I'll add some exercise... a little at a time. - 7/8/2011   1:55:15 PM
  • 52
    Beth this is a very well written piece. One of Sparks most remarkable people, UGOGirl 57 focused on what she could do while battling a chronic and terminal illness...she passed ten months ago and was quite ill during some periods of being a member but she always focused on what she could do vs couldn't that time there wasn't much..I'm so glad you highlight teams that folks can join where progress and not perfect is the mantra...Annette made lots of progress and dropped a lot of weight but even more she had friends here on Spark that encouraged her even if her fitness was simply getting cleaned up on some mornings...these teams should be highlighted regularly...if Annette or I had known they existed and at the time some didn't I would have told her about them and joined in with her....BRAVO for continuing your work here on Spark and in your personal life....I'm guessing there are many Sparkers who would benefit from joining your teams! - 7/8/2011   1:46:18 PM
  • 51
    Nice blog, Beth. And it was fun to see our picture again. That was such a great day. - 7/8/2011   1:43:16 PM
  • 50
    I love your quote about fit living being a winding road! I have copied that and am going to hang it in my exercise room for inspiration. Thank you! - 7/8/2011   1:10:18 PM
  • NIMI1234
    Thanks for an upbeat writing piece. I like your analogy of "winding roads with bumping spots and vacation spots." It is good to be reminded that it has not to be all or nothing, even a small step helps. - 7/8/2011   12:55:25 PM
  • 48
    Thank you. I've had a recent bout of depression and get that "can't do it" feeling. It is so hard to do it without any physical support. I get support here, but not in my "real" life. I guess I just have to make the choice to believe my Spark friends are all I need. I will start making better choices. - 7/8/2011   12:48:58 PM
  • 47
    A very positive blog! Thanks for the encouragement and inspiration. - 7/8/2011   12:27:29 PM
  • 46
    Just got home from the walk in clinic with a sprained ankle and this popped up on my Facebook page......'s perfect. - 7/8/2011   12:23:14 PM
  • 45
    I had this positive attitude for a long time then I took one more hard fall, the I found my pity pot once more. Now I am working at being positive again. Your blog help reinforce my already laid plans. Thank You.. for your positive attitude and go for it attitude. God Bless Ya and all of our friends here a S P.
    - 7/8/2011   12:14:27 PM
    Your blogs are such an inspiration! Bless you. - 7/8/2011   12:02:24 PM
  • 43
    What an amazing outlook on life. I do hope you can continue to write these wonderful blogs. Thank you just does not seem like enough but it is what I have so thank you. I will be better. - 7/8/2011   11:56:10 AM
  • 42

    I really liked this blog, i know what its like to be in pain, i've had things go wrong in my life (see my sparkpage 4 details), also my health has gone downhill from 2000-2011- present day, i hope that things turn out ok for you - 7/8/2011   11:51:18 AM
  • 41
    Love this. Thank you. - 7/8/2011   11:46:48 AM
  • 40
    Beth, you need to write a book, and become a motivational speaker!! I work at a hospital in southern Georgia where I see a lot of obese people with so many health problems. Teenagers who weigh over 300lbs! They get to see the nutritionist' here, but they don't come back for their folowing appts, (or even the first appt). Keep uo the great blogs! - 7/8/2011   11:33:50 AM
  • 39
    such a great blog I had to share it with my friends on facebook and sparkpeople! :D Thank you! - 7/8/2011   11:10:52 AM
  • 38
    Nice article...We can do anything we set out minds to doing. It's all about what we can do and not what we can't do. Small steps on a big journey. Put one foot in front of the other and go. - 7/8/2011   11:10:45 AM
  • 37
    I live with daily pain too. You're an inspiration! This is just what I needed to read today. Thanks. - 7/8/2011   11:08:52 AM
    I too suffer with chronic pain and let myself believe I couldn't. I've been trying to find the balance between exercising and fibromyalgia and your blog was so inspiring!! THANK-YOU for the reminder that every little thing adds up, even if I can't run a 5K or the exercise videos on the market hurt too much or leave me depleted for several days afterwards. I CAN!! You are such an inspiration! THANK-YOU! - 7/8/2011   10:42:18 AM
  • 35
    You are a rock star, my friend! I tell you that all the time because it's the truth! - 7/8/2011   10:29:28 AM
  • 34
    I respect you.
    - 7/8/2011   10:27:00 AM
  • 33
    thanks for a wonderful blog. I woke up thinking I feel horrible and just need a day off from everyone and everything. After reading your blog I am going to go for a walk and enjoy the day! - 7/8/2011   10:13:43 AM
  • 32
    I like it!!! "Perfect" is hard, "Better" is realistic and attainable.
    - 7/8/2011   10:09:39 AM
  • 31
    This is really encouraging, we all hit a wall even if we are not that heavy. I have been stuck for about a year now, very frustrating but when I joined SP I learned what I was doing wrong. I am starting all over again and I am seeing small changes. Thus "mwenda pole hajikwahi" he who takes it slowly won't stumble one step at a time.
    Thank you. - 7/8/2011   10:07:41 AM
  • 30
    This is so inspiring. I will definitely come back to this blog for inspiration, not just for exercise, but for life in general. I needed this message! Thanks, Beth. - 7/8/2011   10:00:51 AM
  • 29
    Thank you I really needed this today. - 7/8/2011   9:51:07 AM
    First of all, congratulations. Your blog is an inspiration to me and many other SparkPeople! - 7/8/2011   9:47:08 AM
  • 27
    Beautifully told! Wonderful message! - 7/8/2011   9:44:09 AM
  • 26
    Wow! I really needed this blog today. Thank you for sharing! - 7/8/2011   9:42:52 AM
  • LLOYDE041908
    Thank you for this message! I can focus on what I CAN do every day. - 7/8/2011   9:41:24 AM
  • 24
    Thanks so much for that, I really needed to hear those words right now. You are an inspiration! - 7/8/2011   9:35:45 AM
  • 23
    I am working out in a therapy pool now, to reduce the pressure on my joints, but still get in my strength training. Walking for exercise is difficult now, the next step will be pool walking. Baby steps all add up.

    Thanks again Beth for the encouragement we all need!! - 7/8/2011   9:34:18 AM
    Thanks for the timely reminder to do whatever I can as often as I can safely do so. - 7/8/2011   9:31:46 AM
  • PUPPYDOG0613
    "If you hit a roadblock, don’t say "I can’t go on until this block ends…" say "What can I do from where I’m sitting now?" "

    I did this without even realizing it! I injured my knee, and I thought, "Well, I can't run right now, but I CAN swim." :) - 7/8/2011   9:24:52 AM
  • 20
    Absolutely WONDERFUL blog. - 7/8/2011   9:18:05 AM
  • 19
    Wow! I really needed this today. I will remember: "progress, not perfection" Thank you! - 7/8/2011   9:15:39 AM
  • 18
    You are truly an awesome inspiration you look awesome!!!! - 7/8/2011   9:15:15 AM
  • 17
    Thank you so much for sharing your journey with all of us Sparkers. Stories like yours help me to believe that I can and I will continue on my journey to live a healthier lifestyle and to get my focus on right choices straight ;)
    You look marvelous in the picture above!!!!!!! - 7/8/2011   9:15:13 AM
  • 16
    LOVE LOVE LOVE your blog. Thank you thank you thank you.

    I remember when I was very ill in 1998 (I was 44). I literally could not get up off the couch and take care of my children. My parents had to help. . . for six months! That was probably the lowest point of my life. Here I was 44, 2 kids under 5 and needing my parents help to take care of them! It was a matter, for me, of finally finding a med that worked for my thyroid disease to get me back off the couch and able to "do" again. I literally had to learn how to walk again. I would walk a few hundred feet and was tired. Mom would say, "Just rest." But I wouldn't! My goal was to walk again, and my method was to go just a little further then the day before. Now here I am in 2011 . . . 57 yr. young (LOL!), more energy than I ever had, able to walk MILES without a problem and thank God everyday that I persevered. It was worth it. The word CAN'T is not in my vocabulary and you seem to be exactly that way too. Keep it up! You are such a motivator. - 7/8/2011   9:11:40 AM
  • 15
    Thank you for your positive words! I seem to live in a black and white world and want everything to be perfect. I am slowly learning that is't ok to not have a good day whether it's eating or exercise. I am going to start looking for my "rainbow"! Thanks and hugs! - 7/8/2011   8:59:54 AM
  • 14
    First of all I can congratulate you for such an inspiring blog. Namaste. Second, I can do my best and just keep going when I hit a bump in the road. I just love your rainbow view of things. You have made my day! - 7/8/2011   8:39:48 AM
  • ANNI101
    Love this inspiring blog. Thank you. And congratulations on perservering through chronic pain on your path to fitness. I was in constant pain from 2006 to 2008 and one thing I've learned is that no one who hasn't experienced that can really relate to it -- pushing through it and moving toward your goals is a huge accomplishment, for which you are to be congratulated!! - 7/8/2011   8:27:04 AM

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