The issue of gaining weight over the holidays may have crossed your mind (it’s crossed mine!). It just seems to be the reality that at this time of year, a combination of abundant rich food, shorter days, more time inside, socializing, and holiday busy-ness produces the possibility of weight gain – and when you’re busy, it’s certainly not fun to stress out about gaining weight during the holidays.
But when is it fun to stress out about anything? In fact, maybe that’s it! Maybe it’s all about the stress! At least that’s what a National Institute of Health funded study has suggested. Weight loss is not necessarilydependent upon sweating it out at the gym or bucking up and subsisting on celery sticks – it’s also about reducing stress.
About five years ago I read about a small study from India which showed that restorative yoga can help people with metabolic syndrome lose weight. Metabolic syndrome is a combination of some serious health issues including high blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and abdominal weight gain that increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Researchers understand that abdominal weight gain is associated with increased cortisol levels – cortisol is a hormone that is released when we are under a lot of stress. Typically it’s burned up through movement/exercise, but when we are in a downward spiral of stress, it just keeps coursing through the system, telling your brain to tell your body to release more and more of the stuff. A hallmark of cortisol weight gain is excessive abdominal fat.
So how do you stop the cycle of cortisol? The study from India suggested restorative yoga – and so has this more recent one. Restorative yoga, it appears, helps people to dampen down the stress response and this is what helps the body shed stress-related weight.
Weight gain over the holidays is not inevitable. This holiday season, why not slow down and take some time for restorative yoga, Yoga Nidra, or just some long s’ava’sanas.
Your body will thank you. And maybe, if you are a little more relaxed, you’ll be a little more mindful around the crab dip.