Always Tired? Want to Lose Weight? Meditate.
Quite regularly I will meet people who are really making an effort to lose weight and live healthier lives but they aren’t getting any results. They are using solid exercise programs and are eating a well-balanced diets but they are still overweight, are feeling run-down, perhaps even experiencing injuries, and are getting frustrated. What’s going on?
Looking For That Magic Formula
If only healthy living was a formula. Eat these exact foods in these specific quantities, then do this exercise routine, drink some water and you’ll feel and look great! Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Sorry, but it just doesn’t work that way.
Our bodies are complex and unique. There isn’t a simple formula that will create optimal health for all people (so be wary of anyone or any product that claims otherwise!) There are however a number of categories that we can investigate and experiment with to find a formula that works on an individual level. YOUR formula can be found by balancing the right diet with appropriate exercise, hydration, sleep, stretching…and meditation.
Meditation? (keep reading!)
You Are Too Stressed
Statistics show that about 25% of the adult population feels very stressed out on any given day. That number is likely much less than the true statistic however, since many of us have simply grown accustomed to living in a constant state of stress.
Much of our daily stress might go unnoticed because it comes in a form that we don’t typically associate with stress. Exercise is stress (i.e. physical stress on our body). Eating tasty food can be stress (i.e. a chemical stress that our body undergoes in response to certain foods). Your phone can induce stress (i.e. mental stress through constant stimulation). And of course work, family life, relationships, lack of sleep, and so many other sources of stress can begin to add up to a very stressful life.
We are stressed. We often don’t know it. Stress can wreak havoc on our bodies.
Stress And Your Body
Despite how advanced we have become mentally, technologically, and socially over the years, our bodies still work the same way they have for generations. Some quick physiology…
Voluntary vs. Autonomic Nervous Systems
The voluntary nervous system acts when we tell it to. Our brain tells our arm to move and the voluntary nervous system carries that message to our muscles to make it happen.
The autonomic nervous system works without our consent. We eat, our body digests the food. Our muscles need blood, our heart pumps it for us. We face stress, our body reacts.
Reacting to Stress
The autonomic nervous system has two branches of its own. The parasympathetic system takes care of all of the tasks that replenish and restore our body (e.g. digestion) while the sympathetic branch responds to stress in a way that breaks down our body.
Historically the sympathetic system is used as a “fight or flight” mechanism. When we are in physical danger (e.g. being attacked by a hungry bear!) our body doesn’t wait for us to think about what we should do – It simply kicks into high gear and gets us away from that danger.
How Stress Will Break You Down
When’s the last time you were attacked by a bear? Okay, likely never. But your sympathetic nervous system likely hasn’t been getting any time off. Every stress we face causes a similar “flight of flight” physiological response. Our body activates the thyroid and adrenal glands to produce energy and adrenaline to deal with the stress.
Sure, a stressful day at the office won’t produce the same response as going toe to toe with a grizzly, but our body is still defending itself and is breaking down (not building up like it does when the parasympathetic branch is working).
- Wake up to a buzzing alarm = stress = break down
- Jolt your body awake with 2 cups of coffee = stress = break down
- Work all day without even taking a lunch break = stress = break down
- Lie in bed watching TV late into the night = stress = break down
You can see how it would be easy to develop a pattern of small stressors that contribute daily to sympathetic nervous responses and therefore body break-down over time.
Always Tired, Always Overweight
If your body is constantly under stress your sympathetic nervous system is working overtime. This inhibits your parasympathetic nervous system from doing its job of building your body up. The result is often a burnt-out body that is barely hanging on (a condition known as Adrenal Fatigue).
The adrenal glands are over-worked and need a break but the stress just doesn’t stop coming. Digestion is thrown out of whack so you’re hungry all the time. Weight starts piling on but you’ve got no time for exercise (and even if you did make it to the gym your body is no condition to handle the physical stress you would be adding). Watch the video below to learn more about Adrenal Fatigue.
What the heck can you do to stop this vicious cycle? Meditate.
Slow Down, Stop, Be Healthy
When I’m working with clients who want to lose weight they will often gladly accept the exercise and diet modifications I prescribe. But, when it comes to “stopping” it is sometimes a tough sell. People don’t know how to slow down, stop, and simply rest.
We often ask our clients to set a daily goal for downtime. That can mean meditation, deep breathing, prayer, emptying the mind, or whatever else you want to call it. Sounds easy but it’s not.
A great tool we recommend is called Calm.com (you should definitely check this out!). It offers free meditation sessions that last from 2-20 minutes. You can select your relaxing music, calming scenery, and then choose whether you want to be guided through the meditation (with some really great dialogue) or do it on your own.
Even taking just a 2-minute session to stop and relax your mind and body will have a positive impact on your sympathetic-parasympathetic nervous system balance. Your body will, even for just a few minutes, stop living off adrenaline and allow itself to heal and restore.
What Results Can You Expect?
If you are always tired, can’t seem to lose any weight, feel stressed, or suffer from nagging injuries then your nervous system might be out of balance (most people’s are!). Taking time for meditation each day is a small investment that can begin to unravel the stressful lives we take as being normal.
At the very least you should feel better (not bad for a 2-minute investment of your time!). You may begin to experience better sleep, more energy throughout the day, improved digestion, weight-loss, better recovery from exercise, and the list goes on.
Is this a miracle cure that can heal all of your ailments overnight? No, of course not. How many years have you lived an over-stressed life? How long do you think that will take to reverse? It might be a while but why not start today?