Joe, not his real name, knew that he needed to lose weight. His blood pressure was elevated and his doctor was “threatening” to put him on medication for it. His blood sugar levels were also high, and he was diagnosed as pre-diabetic.
He was frustrated because he really tried to control his food consumption. Breakfast was a bagel and cup of coffee, sometimes consumed on the drive to work. Lunch at work was minimal. If time allowed, he might have a cup of soup and small salad while working at his computer.
Listening to him in a Wellness Coaching session, I thought, Joe must be really hungry so I asked what he ate when he got home from work. He responded, “anything that’s not nailed down.” When we are that hungry, our stress levels are off the charts and we’re not thinking clearly. In that frenzied state, do you think that we make, healthy food choices? It’s unlikely.
There’s never enough food for a hungry soul – a missing piece
What is Joe to do? The answers that we all seek in order to return to a healthy weight, however lies beyond the foods that we eat. We need to adopt a lifestyle that supports our weight goals. Certainly, we need to bring down our stress level. And, exercise and movement are important ingredients. Yet, exercise alone will not do it. Personal fitness trainers say that you can’t out-train a poor diet.
An often overlooked and yet essential piece of the success formula is our awareness, a calm mind. It supports healthy weight by being stable in the midst of stress. Then, when the going gets tough, we don’t grab for candy bars and alcoholic beverages. While these two choices along with others may dull our stress and anxiety, they come with a high price. When used routinely they add to the weight problem. They are empty calories, i.e. calories lacking nutritional value – “fake” food.
With a calm mind, one that supports expanded awareness, Joe makes better choices. For example, he’s drawn to eating an apple as opposed to a bag of cookies or potato chips.
Another benefit of lower stress levels and a settled mind is that science has shown us that digestion slows under chronic stress. The food that we eat, even if it’s healthy food, doesn’t metabolize properly when our mind is agitated. All of this promotes weight gain, and yet there is hope.
Ancient wisdom brings relief
Ayurveda, the world’s oldest system of natural medicine, tells us that when and how we eat is just as important as what we eat. We are encouraged to eat in a settled environment, with our attention on the process of eating. Our conscious awareness has power.
Rushing, watching TV, texting, or reading while eating, weakens our ability to digest and metabolize the food we are consuming. Weight gain is just one of the undesirable results of such behavior. In contrast, meals have traditionally been a time for people to gather together to eat nutritious food while participating in light enjoyable conversation. Meal time ideally nourishes our body, mind, and spirit.
The challenge is how do we make such big changes in the way we live our lives today? If having a settled, fulfilled, stable mind is at the basis of a healthy life, how do we get there? You say your mind is never still. So many thoughts, worries, and tension.
Here’s the really good news! Meditation practice will turn that around. It is an antidote for a turbulent agitated mind that is so common today.
Meditation for a healthy life – the science is in
Had Joe had a regular meditation practice, he would be more in touch with the needs of his body. With growing awareness, he would eat when he is hungry and his food choices would satisfy his need for real nutrition. This alone would significantly reduce his stress level.
Meditation is a proven foundation for a healthy live. Kulreet Chaudhary, M.D., an integrative neurologist and author discusses this brilliantly in her insightful new book, The Prime: Prepare and Repair Your Body for Spontaneous Weight Loss. She was introduced to meditation at the age of nine by her parents when her mother was being treated for a serious illness. Dr. Chaudhary has continued the practice throughout her life, saying that meditation impacts not only what she eats but who she is as a person.
While obesity is at epidemic proportions in our nation, there’s ample good news. The science on meditation is in and growing. Hundreds of rigorous scientific studies over the past 40 years have validated its impact. The benefits of meditation are today discussed in all forms of media. That was not the case when I started the practice in 1974.
If you’d like to know more about Effortless Meditation™ or wellness coaching, or if you need assistance to deepen your experience in either area, I would love to talk. Call 610-670-6700.
Director, Stress Reduction Resources