Other than during a fight-or-flight situation, stress has very little benefit in our lives -- especially when it comes to our weight loss efforts. Stress-related hormonal changes cause us to keep fat on our bodies, and amped-up mental states drive some of us to stress eat.
Not to mention the paradox of added stress about changing your relationship with food: We feel we have to do tons of exercises we don't like, or eat lots of "healthy" foods we may not enjoy, or obsess about what we're going to eat (or not eat) throughout the day. It's a recipe for continued bad eating habits, negative self-talk about our efforts, and a skewed body image.
Reducing stress in the body should be the starting point to any weight-loss plan. A simple breathing-and-moving practice can often start this process. When we get used to more relaxed states, we are less likely to react and set off our fight-or-flight response. We can gradually learn to deal with daily stress without our minds spinning out of control. We continue to find ways to reduce our attachments to past regrets and future fears, and we have the ability to make better choices about how we talk to ourselves, think about ourselves, and nourish ourselves.
Try this technique several times a day to teach your body to turn on your relaxation response through breath work.
- Sit in a comfortable position.
- Place your hands on your abdomen.
- Take a big breath in and hold your breath for a moment.
- Exhale and pull your navel toward your spine, so your abdominal muscles come in.
- As you inhale, simply relax your belly so it moves into your hands a bit.
- Exhale with your navel towards your spine.
- Take a few more full breaths.
- Now just let your breath go.
- Let out a few sighs.
The more you practice, the more you'll cultivate a normal breathing pattern where your belly relaxes as you inhale, and just slightly contracts as you breathe out. This will also help turn on your parasympathetic nervous system, and move you toward a more relaxed state.
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