Is Your Busy Life Making You Fat?

obese man holding double cheeseburger

(BlackDoctor.org) — According to a new study, trying to balance too many unrelated tasks can result in self-discipline sabotage. As a result, you may find it harder to control your temper, resist fattening foods, or stick to your exercise routine.

Why?

Because doing things like compulsively checking your smartphone every two minutes as you help your kids do their homework, or frequently shifting between different tasks on the job, can exhaust the “executive function” of the brain.

The researchers behind the study, which is published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, have concluded that our brains are only wired to shift mental gears a limited number of times before the intellectual resources required for self control are exhausted. After a certain point, people become more prone to such behavior as emotional outbursts or cheating on their diet.

How does multi-tasking undermine healthy eating?

In one experiment, the volunteers were asked to think abstractly about one topic, think in more concrete or technical terms about another, or combine the two types of thought. Afterwards, the volunteers were offered a bitter-flavored beverage and told of its health benefits. Those who switched back and forth between concrete and abstract thought drank one-third the amount of the bitter beverage than did volunteers who were only asked to use one type of thought, thus demonstrating less self-control in healthy eating than did non-multi-taskers, the study found.

This finding could also apply to sticking to a weight-loss diet, which requires daily self-discipline, the researchers point out. Multi-tasking could make you more prey to the temptations of distracted eating, a common problem when people are stressed out by a hectic, juggling lifestyle.

What’s the effect of multi-tasking on physical fitness?

In another experiment, a group of bilingual volunteers were either asked to answer questions in one language or switch between two languages. The participants were then asked to perform a physical task: squeezing a handgrip as long as possible. People who answered questions in one language were able to endure for twice as long, suggesting that they had much greater self-control to tough it out on a physical level because their brains weren’t exhausted by the demands of thinking in two different languages.

Physical endurance and sustained mental motivation are both key elements for sticking to a workout routine, noted researcher Ryan Hamilton of Emory University.

So…what should you do?

“It’s smart to focus on one task at a time, instead of shifting back and forth between activities,” says Kathleen Vohs, one of the study’s authors. “It helps to conserve mental energy to do the tough stuff, such as staying motivated to stick your diet and work out regularly, despite the many frustrations, temptations, and obstacles that make sustaining a healthy lifestyle over the long haul so daunting.”

And from a business perspective, the researchers note, self-control and single-minded focus, even in the face of the tedious tasks and myriad distractions that pop up during the workday, can boost your job performance.

The bottom line on multi-tasking? Reducing the frequency with which you bounce from task to task to task can help make you healthier, wealthier…and thinner.

Are You Breathing Right?

African American Black woman older meditating breathing peaceful(BlackDoctor.org) — If you know how to breathe in the right way, it can encourage relaxation and a calm, and a more focused mindset that will help you throughout your entire day…no matter the situation. On the other hand, if you breathe in a shallow, constricted way, you will not get the full benefit from your life…including when you exercise.

The most important part of most exercises, particularly yoga, is breathing.

How Can I Breathe Better?

The best way to work on improving your breathing is to rest on your back. If your physical condition makes getting down to and up from the floor difficult, do this on your bed. Some people may want to roll up a blanket and place the roll behind their knees to relieve lower back strain.

1. Permit your face to point toward the ceiling; if you have a tendency for the neck to form an exaggerated arch, place a folded blanket or small pillow at the back of your head.

2. Close your eyes so your focus can remain focused on your breathing, letting the process of inhaling and exhaling move from the background to the foreground of your consciousness.

3. Place one hand on your lower abdomen, beneath your navel but above your groin.

4. Breathe deeply so your feet your hand rise and fall as it rides the wave of the inhalation followed by the exhalation.
Practice belly breathing as long as you need to until it feels natural and you notice yourself becoming calmer. Next, you will augment belly breathing with diaphragmatic breath…

5. Place one hand on either side of your body so you feel your rib cage. Your hands will move further apart and then closer together as you engage the diaphragm for the inhalation and exhalation cycle. Observe how the diaphragm portion of the breath adds a note of energy to the grounding effect of the belly breath.

6. Continue to absorb the feeling of engaging both belly and diaphragm for each breath.

7. Now place one hand between heart and collarbones. Many people do not realize that the top of the lungs peeks out over the top of the rib cage. When we fail to breath with the top of our lungs, we lose the opportunity to let the lungs gently massage the shoulders as well as the heart. So, breathe a few times using the top of the lungs.

8. Now rest both hands by your sides again, and continue to actively involve all three parts of the breath with each inhale-exhale cycle.

Keep Practicing!

Do not worry if, at first, this feels odd. Most people have a lifetime of bad breathing habits and require practice to establish a new, healthier style of breathing. As you continue to practice the 3-part breath system, you will notice that you require fewer breath cycles per minute but that you are actually oxygenating the body more completely. Take some time to practice yoga breathing, and you will have a skill you can use to diffuse your tension even in very stressful situations, as well as gaining a feeling of calmness which remains with you through each day.

By Julia Bower, BDO Contributing Writer

Julia Bower is a certified yoga teacher as well as an experienced freelance writer specializing in alternative health topics. As a yoga teacher, she adaptive yoga, making yoga accessible to all people, regardless of age and body type, as well as on using yoga to heal specific mind-body health challenges.   In future weeks, she will provide write more about yoga, as well as various alternative healing modalities, including herbal healing, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda and more.