The stretch zone is the zone where we develop new habits; we "stretch" ourselves. The new activities are uncomfortable at first, but doable, and progress requires thought and work. This is the zone of growth and progress. The stress zone is where the new tasks are overwhelming and learning is not possible and the individual will seek retreat to the comfort zone, often deeming the entire event a failure.
All self development - whether it's getting healthier, or learning any new skill - follows the model: comfort, stretch, and stress. For many of my patients, the first few weeks of our program are the absolute hardest, because they are out of their comfort zone and are required to think about their food intake and plan their meal consumption. We support them tremendously during this period because we want our patients to see this as a stretch zone, not a stress zone.
The nurses and health educators at Tidewater Bariatrics are well skilled at supporting patients as they transition through the stretch zone. As our patients become more comfortable with their skills, we encourage them to up the ante to stretch again to new goals whether in trying new exercise skills, increasing their endurance, or challenging them to get through a particularly risky eating situation.
Last month over Labor Day weekend, eight of our past and present Tidewater Bariatrics patients "stretched" themselves to new heights. They either ran or walked the Rock and Roll Half Marathon. Each of these patients trained to do something new that they had never done before, either in doing a race or completing the race in less time. They did it, having lost between 40 and 120 pounds per person.
At a meeting this weekend, I was telling a cardiologist about our practice. His statement to me was that he could really tell that I love what I do. How could you not love what you do when you have individuals who are willing to "stretch" themselves to improve their health? Each of the patients at Tidewater Bariatrics is working incredibly hard to learn new skills, change their behaviors and develop skills that will change their lives. It has been my best job as a physician.