Stress, be it physical or mental, blocks the body's natural ability to burn fat for fuel.
When we get stressed, our sympathetic nervous system, also commonly known as the fight-or-flight response, turns on. The original purpose of this thousands of years ago was to escape dangerous situations, like being chased down by a tiger. We get a surge of adrenaline, our breathing becomes shallow, and blood flow moves to our extremities, allowing us to react quickly. In this state, the body uses fast-burning glucose for fuel.
The sympathetic nervous system is extremely necessary and helpful for removing us from threatening circumstances. Problem is, the majority of us live here most of the time. Overbooked schedules, too much caffeine, and countless distractions keep our nervous systems on constant overdrive, even when there is no danger in sight.
What does this mean for our body fat?
We're having a tough time loosing it. It doesn't matter how many hours you spend grinding in the gym, a body in fight-or-flight mode always turns to burn glucose first. What's more is that as your glucose supply starts to diminish, your body craves sweet foods. This is a natural defense mechanism that signals you to replenish your tank so that you won't be left fuel-less.
So, how do we get our bodies to BURN FAT for fuel?
BREATHE. While the answer is simple, let's acknowledge that simple does not always equal easy. Taking soft belly (diaphragmatic) breaths is one of the most basic and effective ways for your body to switch from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system (the body's rest and repair part of the nervous system). And, when the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, our bodies naturally burn fat for fuel.
To begin training your body to soft belly breathe in your day-to-day life, lie on your back, bend your knees, and place the soles of your feet on the flat surface beneath you. Touch your thumbs together over your navel, and allow your pointer fingers to meet on your lower abdomen so that your hands form a heart shape over your lower belly. Inhale into your belly. Feel it blow up like a balloon. Imagine your diaphragm (the parachute-shaped breathing muscle right under your heart) contracting, moving down, as your lungs to expand. Exhale. The diaphragm relaxes, moving upward in the chest cavity.
You can also think of your soft belly breaths as ocean waves. Inhale, the wave rises, your belly expands. Exhale, your belly deflates, the wave returns to the ocean.
Take this week to experiment with soft belly breaths. Practice in bed when you wake up, and again right before you go to sleep. Use it during the day when stressful situations arise, and notice what it does for your state.
Interested in learning more about reducing stress and losing fat? Contact me for information on personalized programs, or to book your initial free consultation today!