5 Daily Practices to Create the Foundation for Effortless Weight Loss Without Dieting, Deprivation, or Restriction
If you’re anything like the rest of the women I work with you want to feel amazing in your body, have radiant health, AND experience a life of freedom, ease, and full self expression. You know nourishing your body is an important part of all of that, and yet you don’t quite know how to find that middle way between rigid rules + deprivation and …. eating all the things.
If you’re not restricting, then you’re going all out. Pancakes for breakfast. Cheese, crackers, and wine at 4pm, dessert after every dinner. And all of a sudden, you’re bloated, you don’t feel good, and you can feel yourself gaining weight again. So you start counting calories, eliminating foods, or searching for that next reset or detox again.
The key to finally breaking out of the restriction/binge cycle and black and white thinking?
Relaxation, presence + inner connection.
I promise it really is that simple. It’s just not always easy.
Stress deeply impacts our health in numerous ways, but it also impacts the way in which we show up in life. The stress response is primarily controlled by the reptilian brain. The lizard or reptilian brain is all about reacting and survival-based thinking. And this reptilian brain, when in control, is constantly seeking out potential threats, and creating them when there are none.
What does this mean for you?
Chronic Stress = Survival-based living (rather than thriving), unnecessary struggle (rather than peace + joy) and a disempowered state of reacting (rather than intelligently responding) with choices that may not always be in your highest good.
Choices that arise from the reptilian brain are instinctual and impulsive. We reactively reach for behaviors and substances to dull the anxiety or to feel a quick lift from the discomfort that we are experiencing.
Think about it. You have a stressful week at work and you find yourself on Friday elbow deep in the tortilla chip bag or polishing off the last brownie in the pan.
We start to numb out and check out as a byproduct of the freeze response to stress. Ever seen a deer in the headlights? This survival response can keep you locked into patterns like overeating, chronic dieting, or zoning out in front of the tv or computer for hours. We make choices that we intuitively know are not in line with our heart’s desires, generating even more anxiety and emotional discord. Checking out and numbing out with food, tv, alcohol and work is simply a survival strategy, a coping strategy, and a way to manage discomfort.
I’m sure by now you’ve heard, “just listen to your body’s wisdom” and “follow your intuition to know what to eat.” And, sure, intellectually you know what it means and it sounds great! But on a body level, you have no felt sense of how to do this on a day to day basis.
Here’s the thing… listening to your body above all else demands that you actually be in your body. We can’t access body wisdom, body feedback, or intuition when we are disconnected, up in our heads, checked out, or numbed out - and unfortunately that’s the state a lot of us are in.
When we’re present, we bring all of our senses to the experience. We register pleasure fully and eliminate the need to eat compulsively. We gather our attention from all the places that have us feeling scattered, overwhelmed, and anxious, and we come home to our breathing bodies. Alive in the moment. Awake for the experiencing.
How do we drop into the body when we are so deeply entrained to be disconnected from the body, living inside of the mind?
When we practice conscious self-care, we allow the nervous system to deeply relax and unwind, by communicating to the body that its needs will be heard and met. When we tap into the relaxation that is possible when we are stepping up and nourishing and consciously caring for the body and soul, we begin to respond rather than react to life. In a relaxed, embodied state we are also more likely to make choices around food and lifestyle that perpetuate this harmonious, relaxed, centered state of mind.
The parasympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system governs the relaxation response and it’s really important to note that this is where digestion, healing, and renewal take place. As we begin to drop into a state of relaxation rather than chronic stress, weight effortlessly falls off, digestion improves, and energy and joy increase.
What are some areas we can start to address mindfully in order to support the unwinding of the nervous system, reconnect with the body and tune into its wisdom?
1) Start to create a relationship with your body, honoring her and her wisdom. If you’ve been on and off diets your whole life, eating by the rules or throwing all caution to the wind - then you likely have a relationship with your body that is more like a dictatorship with moments of rebellious uprising rather than a partnership with mutual collaboration. But we’ll never find a harmonious relationship with food by following externally imposed rules or trying to figure it all out in our heads. When we let the body guide the way, we liberate ourselves from this persistent and painful struggle with food.
Your body is a self-healing, intelligent, and instinctual animal - deeply connected to the greater wisdom of the universe. Want to let go of all the confusion around what to eat? Drop out of the mind and get into the body. Trust her to lead the way.
Start to tune into your body and come into communion with her way of speaking. It may come through whispers of desire, symptoms, cravings, or bursts of energy. Get quiet, get still, and pay attention.
Before meals tune in: what kind of foods would be most nourishing for your body? What would bring her pleasure and joy? Let the judgments go and eat it with all of your senses, giving yourself the gift of fully soaking in the experience with pleasure, joy and relaxation.
2.) Make time throughout the day for Breath Breaks + Heart Check-ins: During the day, make yourself a nice cup of Rose Tulsi Tea (my fave) and take a moment to reconnect with your breath. Many people unknowingly breathe in patterns that actually trigger a stress response. Start by emptying all the air in the lungs, pulling belly button to spine. Place one hand on your lower belly and one on your heart. Then take a deep inhale through your nose, filling your belly first with air and then the lower chest, followed by the upper chest. Exhale fully through an open mouth with a relaxed jaw. After about 10 breaths just like this, start to let go and begin to breathe naturally.Do a body scan for tension and areas of aliveness. Feel into the center of your heart and, if it feels right, repeat the mantra Om (inhale) Ma (exhale), filling up with the support, love and nurturance all around you - Earth and Sky.
3.) Set aside about 10 minutes each day to play some relaxing music and check in with yourself physically, energetically, mentally, and emotionally in a journal.
4.) Start to enjoy movement for movement’s sake without attachment to how it shapes your body or the number of calories burned. Instead, tune in to what your body is asking for. How can you honor your body with movement? Relish in the experience of taking time for yourself and dropping out of the head and into the body. When a woman is really inhabiting her body rather than treating it as a tool/enemy/object, it’s empowering and sexy:)
5) Ground Yourself with Essential Oils and Self Massage. Aromatherapy and self massage are wonderful tools to ground back into the present experience of the body. Add 6-12 drops of essential oil to 1 oz of carrier oil like sesame or almond oil for a relaxing self massage. In Ayurveda this practice is referred to as Abhyanga and it is one of the more effective practices for balancing hormones, and overcoming depression and fatigue. Even just a foot and hand, and arm massage is a great way to sneak in this practice each day.
Curious about my favorite oils to balance the appetite, relieve depression, nourish the nervous system and balance your feminine hormones? Learn more here.
Try these practices for one week and see if you feel a little bit more empowered around food, a little less anxious, and a little lighter in your body, heart and mind. Like all practices, they don’t require that we show up perfectly, they just demand that we show up.