Dieting, Stress, & Meditation

By Craig Ballantyne. Imagine this. It's Friday and a week's worth of stress has piled itself onto your shoulders. But you still have deadlines to meet and errands to run on your lunch hour. How will you ever get through the day and be able to make a seamless transition into the weekend?

Meditation and proper breathing can reduce your stress, improve your health, and help your fat loss.

In one study, published in the prestigious Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers found that meditation lowers blood pressure and even improves insulin resistance - thus a big help to people at risk of heart disease.

On the other hand, stress can mean death to a fat loss program. Take this conclusion from a series of studies performed at Montclair State University, published in the journal Physiology & Behavior, "Dieters are more likely to eat more junk food when stressed. But even 1/3 of non-dieters eat too much junk food when stressed. Stressed dieters said they ate the snacks because the food makes them feel better. So stress not only makes you eat more, but also makes you choose junk food instead of healthy snacks."

I asked Dan Brown, a breathing expert, for his tips that any desk jockey can apply at any time of day.

1) First, drop your shoulders and relax the trapezius muscle. Many office workers sit with their shoulders shrugged up, putting tension on the trapezius muscle. This can lead to back aches and headaches.

So be conscious of your posture whenever possible. Simply relaxing your shoulders is one of the first steps in stress reduction. And make sure that you computer screen is at eye level. If you have to bend your neck forwards, you will end up with back pain and more tension.

2) Second, straighten your posture and take slow, deep breaths. Too often we are guilty of shallow, quick breaths - as if all the breathing is done by the upper chest.

However, it is more relaxing to breathe deeply, from the belly. Inhale through your nose and let the breath travel all the way down to your belly.

Let your belly expand as the air fills it up, and contract as you exhale; letting the breath leave the the body via the same path it entered. Breath out through your nose. Do not force the breath, but gently guide it with the mind.

Do this for a number of breaths (I.e. 12 breaths to start). Don't count time, just breaths.

And make sure that you are sitting upright, and not slouching. Not only is this important for the health of your upper and lower back, but also for your breathing.

To improve your posture, curl your pelvis forward slightly. Straighten your spine vertically such that your diaphragm is not compressed or collapsed. Keep your neck vertical and head facing straight forward, as if suspended from above.

The idea is to make your entire spine vertically erect from end to end. This alignment will help ensure your blood and breath can move uninhibited throughout your upper body.

3) And finally, Dan recommends that you take more breaks from your seated position. Stand up, stretch, and take a short walk around at least every two hours.

Use all of these methods simultaneously for best results.

Let that help you through your day. 

Craig Ballantyne is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and writes for Men's Fitness, Maximum Fitness, Muscle and Fitness Hers, and Oxygen magazines. His trademarked Turbulence Training fat loss workouts have been featured multiple times in Men’s Fitness and Maximum Fitness magazines, and have helped thousands of men and women around the world lose fat, gain muscle, and get lean in less than 45 minutes three times per week. For more information on the Turbulence Training workouts that will help you burn fat without long, slow cardio sessions or fancy equipment, visit