Mindfulness and Weight Gain

How You Think is Affecting Your Body and Your Health

It is not news that the growing trend of obesity in the United States over recent decades is an epidemic problem to our collective health as a country. Individually, each obese person is likely to incur approximately $1500 more in medical expenses per year, contributing to the $190 Billion annual increase in U.S. medical expenses that is due solely to obesity. These expenses, no doubt, include the resulting heart attacks, diabetes, and death that go hand-in-hand with chronic obesity. Unfortunately, decreases in those statistics are not expected.

The Connection Between Weight Gain and Mindfulness

Mindfulness and weight gain are closely linked. In this article you'll learn how your thoughts affect your health.

At the Pritikin Longevity Center and Spa, healthy weight loss is an important component to achieving long-term health goals for our clients. Healthy diets and nutritional choices, along with physical activity are longstanding methods of weight control—but other less-practiced remedies exist for consideration. Here’s one: Mindfulness—how one’s mood, outlook, and ability to stay mindfully calm in the present moment can prevent unwanted weight gain and benefit overall health.

Being mindful includes the ability to control our reactions to ongoing, and often stressful, life events.  Most would agree that we spend far too much time worrying about what has already happened in the past or what we fear may happen in the future. While this response is an automatic reaction based on subconscious, limiting beliefs accumulated through life experience, many don’t realize the huge impact that stress has on our health and even on our weight.

Stress triggers the body’s release of the hormone, cortisol. The intended role of this hormone is a good one—to protect the body from a perceived impending danger—as signaled by a state of stress. Unfortunately, it is released whether a real physical danger exists or not. When too often we create the level of stress that unleashes the ‘fight or flight syndrome’ for our protection, this hormone becomes a registered belly-fat creator, and over time distributes extra layers of fat around our middle to protect our organs from some perceived danger.

This worked well for cavemen facing menacing dinosaurs in their hunt for food. But today, this process is actually dangerous to our health because it surrounds our organs with stubborn visceral fat that can prevent proper functioning of our vital processes. With continued stress from the many “dinosaurs” we have to slay daily and overuse of this protective mechanism, our immune system is weakened, rendering it less effective in fighting real dangers to our health, like cancer and other chronic disease.

If we were able to practice the present-moment awareness that is achieved through mindfulness, the idea is that we would control our thoughts and reduce unnecessary stress. One benefit is that the faulty need for cortisol production would be reduced. How we allow our minds to deal with the stress-causing frustrations of life affects not only unwanted pounds showing up on our bodies, but ultimately, it affects our overall health and the quality of our lives, as well.

When we learn to make a practice of restricting our thoughts to what we can and need to actually control in the moment, we are able to maintain an equilibrium of emotions that eliminates unnecessary stress and its effect on our bodies. This is not to suggest that we ignore the human condition and realities of life—it is simply that we adopt better ways to manage those issues that is important. The good news is that this can be achieved. According to an article in Psychology Today by psychotherapist, Melanie Greenberg, an expert in mindfulness, “neuroscientists have confirmed that our mind is constantly rewiring and reconditioning itself.” What that means is—we can change the way we think!

“How to Wake-Up” by Toni Bernhard, a Buddhist-inspired author, gives us insights and tools to practice self-compassion and mindfulness. Through the use of meditation and other mind-body connection tools, mindfulness becomes an achievable means of preventing weight gain, while improving overall health and longevity.

At Pritikin, we already have many tools in place to assist you on your journey toward a more mindful state of being and a healthier, fuller life of joy. Come, join us!

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