Friday, November 26th, 2010
One of my patients had a real rough summer. Her husband died suddenly – a massive heart attack – and her young kids were at first depressed and then later started acting up…. She gained weight and understandably she was very upset.
I saw her a few days ago. I was surprised to see her look so good! She has lost weight, exercises regularly and has even started dating! The kids are doing much better too. So, I asked her how she did it.
Her answer reminded me of an old saying in medieval psychology: “treat Saturn with Jupiter.” Medieval psychology used the astrological profile of planets as metaphors to describe people and their emotions. Saturn was thought to represent depression and darkness (as well as power and money…) and Jupiter was the planet of exuberance, joy and genius (like Mozart’s music…) So, “treating Saturn with Jupiter” means that if you are depressed and have dark emotions, do not go see a sad movie, or spend time commiserating with other depressed people, instead hang out with fun people. Do not isolate yourself. Call jovial friends and family members and tell them that you have the “blues” and you need their company. Do not watch the news channels all day instead watch comedies. Sign up for group activities, so at night, you can go out to an arts and crafts, yoga, signing or other classes, and so on. Do not listen to sad music and when possible take the scenic roads while driving. You get the picture…
A Moment of Pause and Reflection
Friday, November 26th, 2010
Emerging research in neuropsychology is proving that mindfulness meditation is good for a number of medical and behavioral disorders. Recently the work a renowned Chinese scientist, Dr. Yuan Tang showed that just 11 hours of mindfulness meditation, which he calls Integrated Body-Mind Technique (IBMT; check http://www.yi-yuan.net) are enough to make changes in the structure of the brain. These changed appeared as new fibers in the areas of the brain that regulate behavior! Read more at: Chinese meditation IBMT found to boost brain connectivity (UO Press release) PNAS: Short-term meditation induces white matter changes in the anterior cingulate.
We have always known that meditation can change behaviors. But we always thought that this happened because of relaxation and stress reduction. Now, we are asking: Could it be that our brain, once “rewired” changes the release of stress, pleasure and reward regulatory hormones? Fascinating.
Here is a simple meditation that I practice: Take a gentle deep breath in and exhale it slowly relaxing from head down your throat, rib cage, belly and your lower back. Then take another gentle deep breath in and repeat the same slow exhalation. The third time while exhaling visualize a drop of rain falling into a pond. Watch the ripples; circles gently expanding out. As each circle moves out away from the center, it leaves no trace – just a pure and perfect circle of imagination. There comes the next breath and the next drop of rain followed by the next circle.
East River Fall Season
Tuesday, November 9th, 2010
Stress is a big player when it comes to weight gain. Stress causes weight gain – usually as belly fat – directly by changing our metabolism. Stress also causes weight gain indirectly by changing our eating habits, food choices and other behavioral responses. But first, one has to be able to identify the source of stress or “stressor” to then be able to work on undoing it. One way to look at stressors is to divide them into three categories. I describe them shortly here.
Stressors are either external or “on the outside of the body” such as work, home situation, money, etc. Stressors can also be “inside the body” like chronic pain, asthma, sleep apnea or other disease conditions that stress the body on an ongoing basis. Finally, stressors are often mental in nature that is they are “inside our head.” These psychological stressors can be conscious such as worries, fears, obsessions, addictions, etc. Or they can unconscious such as PTSD, personality disorders or psychiatric disorders affecting our moods such as anxiety or bipolar disorders.
In all cases chronic stress can cause weight gain. Sometimes stress causes fat build up without any change in eating habits or caloric intake. Physicians know that when they prescribe prednisone for their patients, they should advise them about changing their diet or they will gain weight. Prednisone is the synthetic equivalent of the natural stress hormone cortisol. In fact, when the body produces too much cortisol, whether due to chronic stress or a hormonal imbalance, it gains belly fat even if the caloric intake is the same. Abdominal fat resulting form excess cortisol is considered to be one of the main causes of metabolic syndrome leading to diabetes and heart disease.
Next, I will share with you my experience with “stress eating.” Meanwhile you can contemplate on how you feel stress. Are you a stress eater?
East River Reflection
Dr. Reza Yavari M.D. is a Board Certified Endocrinologist and founder of Beyond Care®, a leading preventive care and obesity center located in Guilford, CT. Learn More
IT MUST BE MY METABOLISM! offers a step-by-step course in therapeutic lifestyle change.