I spent years holding in my stomach all day, barely taking a deep breath until I got home at night. I was so scared that my clothes would shift and look unflattering, or my stomach would look bloated, that I could barely move. I could barely think. It was all in my head — I would look down and my stomach would be flat, but the tension was so real that I could’ve sworn it had doubled in size overnight.
Because of this feeling, I put myself through countless diets, from the Master Cleanse lemon juice concoction to juice cleanses to macrobiotics. All of them “worked” temporarily, making me feel lighter and giving me the false signal that my body was OK.
Why do I say false? Because it was always OK. It never needed to be fixed or altered. The thing that needed fixing was my mindset.
It wasn’t until I started a deep spiritual practice that I finally felt OK with my body. I also lost about 10 pounds, unexpectedly. (Psst: No one noticed! When I mentioned it to people, they brushed it off and tell me I always looked great. This is probably true for you too.) It was mostly emotional weight, caused by stressful thoughts that led to cortisol production, which forces our bodies to hold on to weight.
Of more importance than the minor weight loss, I started to be able to genuinely quiet my mind and move through my day with focus and intention. I could connect with people without worrying about how they thought I looked or if my clothes were sitting just right. I could just be, and let my natural self come through.
So, what’s the spiritual tool that changed everything and helped me lose weight with ease?
Most people walk around, barely ever breathing deeply into their stomachs. In our anxiety-fueled society, most people are breathing into their chests, which sparks the stress response and causes us to produce even more cortisol, leading to pesky weight gain and/or retention, especially around the abdomen.
Diaphragmatic breathing is very simple. You simply breathe very deeply through your nose into your stomach, allowing it to inflate fully, then exhale through your mouth or nose, allowing it to deflate.
There are a lot of different styles of this breath work, but one very easy one is to place your hands in a diamond shape over your lower abdomen, your thumbs meeting at your belly button and your forefingers pointed downward. Watch your stomach rise and fall beneath your hands, and trust that you're doing something deeply beneficial for your body. Try it for five minutes every morning, and again at night, either lying down or sitting up with your feet on the ground.
When we breathe deeply, we connect with our true hunger levels and cues, allowing us to eat intuitively and mindfully, and actually feel fueled and satisfied after meals.
This removes a lot of the questions and anxiety we have about food choices. When we’re connected to ourselves, we’re able to naturally choose the best things for us, and tune out all the noise that comes from the media and other people.
This breathing is also an effective way to stimulate digestion. By bringing oxygen to the intestinal region, we allow it to do its job beautifully. I do this every morning as part of my spiritual practice, and every morning I use the restroom and feel fantastic and light for the whole day. By centering myself in the morning, I’m guided and supported to make the best choices throughout the day.
This tool is very simple, but it took time for me to find it and really embrace it daily. I resisted it strongly, like many people do.
We often resist the things we need most.
I was able to really commit myself when I started working with an amazing coach — everyone should have guidance. Try out this breathing exercise, and let me know how it goes.
Shoot me a note at lulabrownholistics [at] gmail [dot] com if you have any questions at all. I would love to serve and support you.