Effective weight management is a good idea. Rather than erratic and drastic dieting, weight control entails living a healthy lifestyle; well-balanced nutrition, daily exercise and, believe it or not, meditation and/or mindfulness. You’ll often hear me say to clients that meditation and/or deep breathing will not only lead to decreased feelings of stress, increased capacity to learn and memorize, heightened feelings of empathy and compassion1 but it may also contribute to fat loss and act as a buffer to fat gain.
In the 2014 book, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, author and trauma expert Bessel van der Kolk, MD, explains how the autonomic nervous system, comprised of the sympathetic nervous system (“the gas pedal”, essentially in charge of our fight-or-flight response) and the parasympathetic nervous system (“the brake”, in charge of lowering heart pressure, slowing heart rate, and stopping the stress response), influences and is influenced by emotions. Meaning, the body and mind do not exist in separate vacuums and instead, mutually influence one another.
I empower my clients to spend 15-20 minutes each day deep breathing or listening to guided meditations. Deep breathing activates the sympathetic nervous system which makes meditation a very useful skill for thriving in today’s world. We live in an era unlike any other and our lives are filled with copious amounts of data, mostly because of our advances in technology. It is because of the overwhelming, over-digitized, over-informed society we live in, that we walk around in fight-or-flight mode, our brains getting the signal to R-E-A-C-T (not R-E-L-A-X) and our bodies are compensating by constantly releasing stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. “Cortisol has been termed the "stress hormone" because excess cortisol is secreted during times of physical or psychological stress, and the normal pattern of cortisol secretion can be altered. This disruption of cortisol secretion may not only promote weight gain, but it can also affect where you put on the weight. Some studies have shown that stress and elevated cortisol tend to cause fat deposition in the abdominal area rather than in the hips. This fat deposition has been referred to as "toxic fat" since abdominal fat deposition is strongly correlated with the development of cardiovascular disease including heart attacks and strokes.”5 Basically, the world in which we live our lives is killing us. So, I’m asking you? What are you doing to stop it? Try meditating.
I first read about effects of meditation on fat loss and improved wellbeing in 2010. The Happy Body, a best-selling fitness self-help book, written by Jerzy and Aniela Gregorek, encourages anyone on a wellness journey to incorporate aromatherapy and mediation into his or her lifestyle. As a professional athlete, Aniela has won five World Weightlifting Championships and established six world records. Jerzy has won four World Weightlifting Championships and established one world record. They have become professional coaches and personal trainers and in 2000, they founded the UCLA weightlifting team and became its head coaches. Jerzy and Aniela believe meditation expedites the fat loss process. Jerzy states: “If you lose weight by being anxious all the time, you never switch from the sympathetic nervous system, which burns lean body mass as energy, to the parasympathetic nervous system, which burns fat as energy. That will cause loss of muscle mass and a reduced metabolic rate…Relaxation. You actually lose more fat when you're relaxed than when you're tense. When you are relaxed, your body burns its own fat for energy. So, whether you only want to lose weight and be youthful, or you want to become an Olympic champion, it is wise to be as relaxed as possible."2
If effective weight management is your goal, consider adding meditation or deep breathing to your wellness routine. Not sure how to do so? Consider listening to a podcast by my favorite Buddhist, therapist, and teacher Tara Brach, PhD (http://www.tarabrach.com/audiodharma.html) or try watching Dr. Andrew Weil, author and wellness expert, lead the 4-7-8 guided breath exercise (www.drweil.com).
Take care and self care,
Jessica, BeYOUtiful Minds & Fitness Owner