Historical Trauma

Lesson 5: Motivation and Energy


  • Understanding why are Fat burning, motivation and energy important


  • Do activity
  • Answer questions

Historically our people walked to certain territories where they would set up camp sites for hunting, fishing, and gathering of their foods before they would return to their wintering villages, but not all tribes moved about because some had learned to farm their lands for their staple foods.  This lifestyle kept our ancestors in very good physical and nutritional health, but today our people have adapted to sedentary lifestyles.  The nutritional foods once harvested are limited and so are the people who go out and practice the traditional hunting and fishing methods or traditional root, plant and berry harvests.

The traditional warrior lifestyle of practicing their life skills has disappeared with the onset of new technology and the industrialized food evolution has changed the diets of all people.  Warriors of today are our athletes who prepare to represent our people in physical competitions and others have joined the health field to prepare our people for the fight against chronic diseases.

Some of the technology today has placed us in a mind set of driving rather than walking.  Sitting on the beach rather than swimming in clean mountainous lakes.  Ordering our foods rather than gathering the family to prepare a nutritious meal to share our lives.  Our children don’t gather for neighborhood games of softball, volleyball, or bike riding.  We would rather spend $50 to $100 dollars to go out to a movie and eat high calorie snacks rather than take a day trip for huckleberry picking or pay to pick our own fruits.

Game night is pizza and the X box/Wii or rented movie and pizza.  Our mindset has changed so drastically that our family time is only during special occasions that call for a festive BBQ, Super Bowl Parties, Anniversaries or Birthday parties with a buffet of carbohydrates, sugared drinks, and high sodium appetizers.  This isn’t a bad thing because we get to see our families and friends but it’s all the types of foods we are choosing and the lack of healthy activities to help us metabolize those enjoyable festive foods.

We hear the same old story about exercising and good diets over and over but still we are experiencing high rates of our people being diagnosed with diabetes.  So physical activity is probably information you have already heard and if motivation for taking walks or doing some types of activities hasn’t motivated you yet, so let’s just take a look at a few things about fat and energy.

What happens when we try to lose weight?

Over the years if we don’t exercise, we get out of shape and our bodies retain fat.  It seems like we try to lose weight but the fat seems to remain and we don’t see any changes.  Like many of us who don’t exercise our minds on a daily basis, it eventually takes longer to figure things out, it’s like we forgot how to remember! Our bodies are the same way they forget how to burn fat over the years and that is why it takes more time to see visible changes.

How is this possible?

The enzymes in muscle that burn glucose are emergency enzymes, designed to be retained even if we don't use them, we don't lose our stable sugar-burning enzymes. But, we lose the fat-burning enzymes. Muscles lose their ability to burn fat, the primary fuel.

For many of us we lose our motivation, we find excuses and use them as reasons for why we can’t exercise like; we have to go to a gym or use fancy exercise equipment, we forget how good it feels after a fun physical activity, and our bodies need energy to want to move.

So how do we get the energy to feel motivated?

According to Paige Wahner, movement generates energy.  If we sit around, the more tired we feel. Our body generates energy from a variety of sources. Energy actually comes from ATP (adenosine triphosphate) which relies on glucose (i.e. carbohydrates) as its source of energy.

ATP is the fuel for our bodies. When we run out of ATP, our body shifts over to the aerobic system. The aerobic system relies on fatty acids, glucose and glycogen as its energy source. Fat produces 9 calories of energy per gram, while glucose only yields 4 calories per gram, so you can see why you'd get more energy and burn more fat with aerobic training.

The more you exercise, the better your body is at producing more ATP and, therefore, more energy. Being aerobically fit means your body stores more glycogen, which leads to improved endurance. The American Council on Exercise says: "The greater the ability to make ATP aerobically at higher exercise intensities, the more "fit" a client becomes and the greater the ability to burn fat." (AC Personal Trainer Manual, p 14).

Until we are diagnosed with diabetes many people will ignore the voices telling them to get active.  Many of the elders aren’t able to afford a gym membership or do real strenuous weight lifting but they did find a way to get moving.

From the transcripts of elder Marvella James, Umatilla, 2005

WISDOM: And then, the other big part of your program was, besides the medications, the exercise right?  You had been exercising before you found out you had diabetes?

Marvella: Not really.  Well it just, I was real active, real busy.  We’d always go up in the mountains and cut wood, or we’d go in the mountains walking.  I walked a lot.  But I did invest into Richard Simmons’ tapes.  So I used to like to work out with him. Alot.  Well, like dancing.  I like to dance and so I loved his tapes.  That was about the first amount of exercise that I got.  That I did.

WISDOM: So you don’t have to like talk yourself into coming down to workout?

Marvella: Oh no!  We come every day.  We only come three days a week.  But she and I would come, Delphine and I would come every day if we could.  Yeah.  Because shucks, we only get to spend one hour, you know, with our exercising.  It’s really not enough for me.  But then that’s good.  You know, we really feel good when we leave.  The blood pressure’s down.  And our sugar’s down.  Oh yeah, it comes down too.

WISDOM: Now, you said you do some exercises in the pool?

Marvella: Yes, I jog in the pool because I can’t run on the ground, you know, on top, on the earth.  She has a regimen of, of exercise that she does, aquatics.  I like to jog up and down the pool.  It’s tiring.

Change and starting an exercise program isn’t easy but once you get started it is beneficial in many ways.


Get paper and pencil

Make a list of the benefits of exercise and a list of health related problems associated without exercising.  This may take a little research but for the most part this also tests your knowledge about what is happening to your body and the health risks you may be at.

After completing your list ask yourself these questions:

What types of activities do you enjoy doing?

Are the activities you enjoy activities that have you moving?

Do you have a buddy who might enjoy spending healthy time together?

Have you been to a doctor lately?

What may be valid reasons for not being able to do a fun activity that gets you moving?

Do you have children or grandchildren?

If so are you willing to let them experience the pain of diabetes, high blood pressure, vision loss, nerve damage, or possible limb loss if they are ever diagnosed with diabetes and aren’t motivated to do exercises?

We are a people who protect our environments and culture for the future of our children and grandchildren, just as our ancestors and elders have done for us, so as present leaders in health we can make a difference by being an example to our families.

Share your knowledge and take some time to go out and enjoy your family start a new tradition in your family.