I was talking to someone recently about weight loss – they were concerned that no matter how hard they exercised and dieted they were putting weight on not loosing it. Body image was becoming a concern for them as they crept up two dress sizes.
As usual I make no claims to expertise in this area, nor do I claim that yoga has all the answers. However here are my thoughts on weight loss, largely from personal experience – I’ve edited this from what I said to my friend.
Eat less and exercise more may help – but only you can make a judgement on that from your own assessment of lifestyle – most people with any self awareness – and that’s a dominant sense in a someone serious about their health and body image – will have a reasonable understanding of their diet and exercise and know whether these are healthy or need improvement. If they need improving then, of course, thats a starting place. That said you don’t need to go to excess – as I explain below it may be counter intuitive – so possibly leave the latest celebrity lifestyle and fitness book on the shelf. The best diet and fitness regime starts with self awareness.
However a diet and exercise solution is very much rooted in a strive and control model, which is inherently stress inducing, a modern medical science approach of fix the symptoms not the problem, and arguably the response of the “type A” personality.
There is a credible alternative approach around stress – sensed and unsensed; physical, mental and emotional – which suggests weight gain and retention may be linked to your response to stress. If this is so then it’s easy to drop into a vicious circle whereby excess exercise, dietary restriction and negative perception of the body leads to more stress, and a body in its stressed fight or flight mode that responds autonomically by conserving energy and fuel.
If that’s so then no end of exercise and diet will help, instead the stress circle needs breaking.
Think stresses in life.
- Life events – family changes like divorce and separation, bereavement, moving home, changing job or redundancy all of which are very real and possibly deep rooted sources of stress maybe effecting us for many years.
- Stress from health concerns and surgeries, you or a loved one.
- Stress from daily life like work pressure and business travel – which is unavoidable to a degree unless you “lean out” – family bickering (we all do it), the trials and tribulations of being a parent or carer.
- Countless other mental, emotional and physical stresses unique to our individual outlook on lives, psycho-emotional responses to news and social media around us.
- The stress from always being busy – doing rather than being – watching the clock, counting each minute.
Without a fundamental change in the balance of life and a conscious decision to induce systematic relaxation over a long term period, then it’s unlikely that stress response will abate. It will probably become more acute. In which case rather than exercise more, diet more, it maybe exercise less, diet less, relax more thats the key.
It sounds counter intuitive but I know that if I have a week away, relax my diet without being excessive, cease structured exercise just get in some walking and fresh air, then my weight remains stable or falls – and I don’t think thats just muscle loss in such a short space of time.
And its of course here that Yoga may help – a low key movement practice which supports rather than stresses the body, combined with mediation, breathing and systematic relaxation. Combine this with a sensible diet – including some treats – and sensible varied exercise, and maybe the tide will turn?