Want to Lose Weight? Just Relax

By Martin Brown

For the past several weeks I’ve dealt extensively with the subject that seems to catch the attention of nearly all of as we look ahead to a new year: What can I do to get back to my ideal weight?

In previous weeks I’ve talked about controlling your urge to snack; how lifting weights can help you to drop pounds; and how stress in our lives is a principle culprit in weight gain. This week, I want to pick up on the topic of stress related weight gain by reversing it and considering how relaxation techniques can help us to drop our excess body fat.

By relaxation I don’t mean a week-long getaway to some tropical resort, however tempting that might be, particularly in a winter that has seen more than its fair share of brutal weather. No, I mean the type of holiday we can go on without ever having to leave home. A getaway of the mind, a paradise for the soul, if you will.

Mindset, mood, disposition has an incredible impact on our overall health. This is a relatively new awareness in the world of Western science and medicine, where for a very long time the mind and body were considered two very different subjects of study. Now we are awakening to the incredible impact mindfulness can have on everything from surgical recovery times to weight loss.

Researchers have followed the progress of various groups to better understand the effect of disposition on our physical condition. For example, a group of people who claimed to be pain free was followed over a six-month period. The people who in interviews with researchers revealed themselves to have bouts of depression and or low self esteem were four times more likely to complain about new aches and pains than those with a more positive view of life. The list of these studies is very long.

The Journal of Psychiatry Research published a breakthrough study: a group of 16 participants were examined before and after eight weeks of frequent meditation sessions. Another 17 participants were used as a control group, in which no meditation was done at all.

The results: With the help of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), of the participant’s brains the study found an increase in gray matter in the part of the brain the determines memory and self-awareness and a decrease of gray matter in the area of the brain that controls stress. The control group consistently showed no changes in these areas of brain composition.

Previously we knew that everything from mindset could effect blood pressure, injury and pain frequency, heart health, and much more, but now we see how meditation and visualization plays a role in actually reshaping the physical brain.

Just as stress can cause us to need additional food intake when no such need exists, therefore triggering weight gain, meditation and relaxation techniques can bring about the opposite result. Athletes have long known the power of mindset, visualizing certain outcomes and then translating those desires into actual results.

In fact blood pressure drops when people, for example, stare at fish swimming in an aquarium or watch flames dancing in a fireplace. Many of these same benefits can occur by simply closing your eyes and remembering beautiful places, or joyous occasions.

Stress is an incredibly powerful trigger for needless food consumption, dialing down that stress through a variety of relaxation techniques is a brilliant way to manage that stress and turnoff those false hunger alarms for good.


Martin Brown is the Heath Channel Editor for SingleMindedWomen.com, and co-author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Finding Mr. Right.

His latest book is Fit in 50 Days.