Yoga Can Break the Cycle of Overeating

1SHARES

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
9/10/2009 12:24 PM   :  89 comments   :  16,519 Views

Sure, yoga is good for your health. It can alleviate back pain and stress, help you sleep better, increase your flexibility and help you build confidence in yourself. Yoga can even help you learn to accept your body.

Now, research shows that yoga can also help you learn to recognize when enough is enough, thus preventing weight gain and aiding in weight loss.


While some forms of yoga (Bikram or hot yoga and Ashtanga or power yoga) can burn up to 500 calories an hour, most gentle or restorative classes don't get your heart rate up high enough to qualify as cardio (aerobic) exercise. So how does yoga help lead to weight loss?

Certainly any physical activity is beneficial when you're trying to lose weight or stave off weight gain. But the key to yoga's benefit is in the mind, not the body. Yoga teaches us to reconnect with our bodies, inside and out. By slowing down and focusing on our bodies, we have increased body awareness. In turn, this can mean that intuitive or mindful eating becomes more natural.

According to Science Daily:

"The study was prompted by initial findings reported four years ago by Alan Kristal, Dr.P.H., and colleagues, who found that regular yoga practice may help prevent middle-age spread in normal-weight people and may promote weight loss in those who are overweight. At the time, the researchers suspected that the weight-loss effect had more to do with increased body awareness, specifically a sensitivity to hunger and satiety than the physical activity of yoga practice itself.

"The follow-up study, published in the August issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, confirms their initial hunch.

"In our earlier study, we found that middle-age people who practice yoga gained less weight over a 10-year period than those who did not. This was independent of physical activity and dietary patterns. We hypothesized that mindfulness a skill learned either directly or indirectly through yoga could affect eating behavior," said Kristal, associate head of the Cancer Prevention Program in the Public Health Sciences Division at the Hutchinson Center.

The researchers found that people who ate mindfully those were aware of why they ate and stopped eating when full weighed less than those who ate mindlessly, who ate when not hungry or in response to anxiety or depression. The researchers also found a strong association between yoga practice and mindful eating but found no association between other types of physical activity, such as walking or running, and mindful eating."


Yoga teaches us to respect our bodies and practice moderation in life. Stopping when we've had enough food falls in line with that mindset.
It's interesting to note that a similar increase in mindful eating was not noted in people who practiced other forms of physical activity regularly, even though those other forms of activity likely burned far more calories than yoga did.

Does that mean that yoga is the only physical activity that we need in life? Does it mean that a few downward-facing dogs a day are sufficient exercise? For most of us, probably not. I use yoga as a supplement to my other physical activities: primarily Spinning, running, and walking. My practice is a complement to the other exercise I get, and I think of it as a Spinning class for my mind. It just helps me feel focused and happy.

Regardless of what other activity you participate in, adding some yoga (as long as you have clearance from your health-care provider) can help you reconnect your body--your stomach in particular--and your brain.

Something I noticed when I started practicing yoga regularly is that the more often I practice, the less susceptible I am to snacking and late-night eating (two bad habits of mine!). If I know I have a class after work, I choose my afternoon snack more carefully, knowing that too much food make all those folds and twists mighty uncomfortable. And when I get home from class, even though I'm tired and ready for dinner, my appetite isn't as voracious as if I had gone for a run.

Learn more about mindful eating in this article.

Have you experienced this side effect of yoga? Do you try to practice mindful eating? Would you be willing to give yoga a try?




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Comments

  • 89
    I do yoga once a week. I have not noticed this side effect, however; I am willing and open to it occurring as often as possible! I have noticed when I complete the workout I feel more calm and clear. My muscles feel worked and are happy to be stretched. I am improving in my flexibility for sure. - 9/15/2010   12:35:49 PM
  • ACERENO
    88
    I tend to overeat when I am anxious. Yoga and even a good, long stretching session tend to calm me down. I am able to better focus and am more aware of what's going on around me. All that good breathing :) I am not surprised to read that yoga promotes mindful eating. Just another great reason to consistently do yoga. Thanks for the motivation! - 9/11/2010   11:04:42 AM
  • KAKIPOPUP
    87
    I started doing yoga once a week back in March (or so), and I have become much more focused on (and aware of) my body and way less on my weight; I sleep way better; and I think more clearly and calmly. This is a pretty basic yoga class - nothing fancy - this blog makes sense to me. - 8/2/2010   6:32:10 AM
  • 86
    I would so love to learn Yoga, that I can do, and that does not hurt me. I think this article and the research it shares, makes perfect sense. I need to look into this to see if there are modified yoga videos; I am sure there must be by now. - 7/6/2010   11:34:01 AM
  • 85
    Since I've started doing yoga my sleep quality and flexibility have improved a lot, not to mention the calmness that I feel at the end of every session. I absolutely love it! - 7/5/2010   7:16:21 AM
  • 84
    I have been going to yoga and tai chi for a month now and I can tell you it has made a big difference in my life. I had back surgery 4 months ago and gained a lot of weight. Yoga has helped my back and I have continued to loose weight. I certainly notice a change in my appearance and my outlook on life. I think it has helped me to make better decisions about what to eat. - 3/21/2010   11:12:39 PM
  • 83
    Perfect timing! I just signed up for an introductory yoga class at my gym today. I was waiting until I lost weight, but then I figured, what the heck, may as well try out a few classes now. It adds variety and will hopefullly bring me a step closer to my goal. I hope doing Yoga regularly helps me keep my appetite under control. That would be an awesome unexpected benefit! - 3/20/2010   6:48:43 PM
  • 82
    I try (and sometimes succeed!) to practice mindful eating. I find it works much better and feels much better to ask myself, "am I physically hungry?" than to look at my protein count for the day and say, "I'd better have some protein." I didn't realize that yoga could help me with mindful eating. I think I'll give it a try. - 3/19/2010   10:32:17 PM
  • SIKKA1
    81
    In highschool I did a bit of yoga in the morning before school. I haven't done it in a while, but now I'm thinking I should get back to it. The clarity and stress relief is much needed now-a-days. - 2/16/2010   11:18:02 AM
  • 80
    Yoga is wonderful. It gives me such a sense of well being. - 2/14/2010   12:36:34 PM
  • 79
    I truly appreciate the workout videos for bootcamp. I would also love some yoga videos on the site in fitness. Or are they there and I didn't find them? - 1/3/2010   7:19:14 PM
  • 78
    I originally started to practice Yoga to improve my ballance, but it has done so much more. I think a big part of it for me is the discipline. I go into plank and hold it, sweat dripping off my nose, all my concentraation focused on holing that pose.....all thoughts of junk food gone. - 12/28/2009   10:14:40 AM
  • 77
    I love the effects of yoga on my body and on my life in general. I find the experience of complete connection to mind, body and soul refreshing and energizing. I have come back to regular practice after avoiding it for a while. Changes in diet happened without effort. I eat less and I am more aware and carefull about what I eat. I am hooked and it feels great. - 12/27/2009   11:47:46 AM
  • 76
    Everything I do in my life is so fast pace and anxious. Yoga really helps me slow down and become aware. I love my Saturday Morning Yoga classes. - 12/14/2009   2:33:52 AM
  • SEXYSIZE_12
    75
    I think the point of what's being said is once we deal with our mental issues we are better able to cope without binge eating, which leads to obesity. Yoga is good for helping one meet the mind body connection in essence centering one. Although I'm to hyper to ever sit still for long spurts of yoga, I do it in short spurts and it relaxes me. I would agree it could possibly help with the over eating, because I feel the more centered I become from yoga or not, I'm less inclined to over eat.

    And I agree the photo is a bit rediculous, it could have been a better representation. But it just goes to show what the people who are responsible for putting that picture up think of over weight people and those who over eat those two not always being the same people. - 12/12/2009   4:38:14 PM
  • 74
    I sadly have to say I disagree, at least with regard to my experience. While I don't doubt that it is true for some people, I've been doing Bikram Yoga for 10 years and I have never found it directly or indirectly responsible for my ability to control what I eat. I continue to do Bikram because I think it's not only a great workout, but will unquestionably keep me fit and flexible my whole life. Everytime we spend 90 seconds standing on one leg in some awkward position all I can think about is how 50 years from now, I'll still have an easy time walking and balancing -- falling is a major problem as you get older after all. While I certainly encourage everyone to get some type of yoga in at least once a week and recognize it may work for some people, I'm not sure it does anything more for my diet than any other type of exercise. - 10/25/2009   2:34:41 PM
  • 73
    I'm going to give it a try. I have a DVD with a 20 minute workout. What can it hurt? - 10/19/2009   10:36:26 AM
  • 72
    yes i would consider coametic surgery... i would lose the weight i wanted and then i might consider a tummy tuck to get rid of alot of the loose skin left... if i lost most the weight i wanted but was having difficulty with the last bit of it, i might even consider liposuction then a tummy tuck. i, myself, have been looking into a breast reduction and lift. i am a 44DD and hate them. id like to be a full C. but who knows... if i had the money for only one thing... id probably chose the tummy tuck. - 10/6/2009   11:37:25 PM
  • 71
    Yoga taught me that I am a lot more athletic and graceful than I always thought. - 10/6/2009   3:11:04 PM
  • AJCOELHO
    70
    I agree with comment #46. A yoga pose would have been my preferred choice. I tried yoga when I had major surgery once and should have kept on with it. I have a few tapes and should add yoga to my fitness schedules. Any suggestions on new tapes that are good for beginners? - 9/16/2009   4:19:56 PM
  • 69
    well, when a friend phoned me late one afternoon, and I mentioned that I'd have to get off the phone to go to yoga class, she said that being in the gym during dinner hour was one way to lose weight...

    seriously, I love yoga, although I'm not sure how it's affecting my appetite or weight loss - 9/15/2009   5:20:05 PM
  • 68
    Thanks for reporting this wonderful study. I believe yoga practice can help balance every aspect of one's life. - 9/14/2009   7:58:57 PM
  • 67
    Thanks PRGRMRDEB, I just decided to give Yoga a try and this yoga web site looks great! - 9/14/2009   10:30:58 AM
  • 66
    I just started yoga this week. I have taken a gentle flow yoga at night which the sleep I had after was so amazing and relaxing. Then i also took a morning hot yoga class, I did enjoy it but man I still feel that one two days later! I definitely feel these two yoga classes every week will change my life, mentally and physically! I really thought I wouldnt take to it too well but I think im changed! - 9/13/2009   7:13:00 PM
  • 65
    I do practice healthy eating habits and I have tried yoga. I have a DVD by Denise Austin and Louise Solomon. - 9/13/2009   2:15:36 PM
  • 64
    I love yoga and start most days with it. I do the "Namaste Yoga" from FitTv. I DVRed all episodes and try and do all 26 in one month... that gives me 4 or 5 days off if I want to.
    The best thing? I don't have to change into exercise clothes...I do them in my jammies :) One less "obstacle" to get going first thing. - 9/13/2009   11:44:58 AM
  • 63
    I took a class in Hatha Yoga (I think that was the "type" of yoga) in high school in the 70's and really enjoyed it. I would be willing to try it again. - 9/13/2009   11:27:22 AM
  • THEMANSLAYER
    62
    I used to practice yoga. Don't anymore. - 9/13/2009   11:14:35 AM
  • ALMAMAYE
    61
    love to practive yoga
    - 9/13/2009   12:29:29 AM
  • MISSKRISMAE
    60
    Thanks for the reminder of the benefits of yoga! I've taken a few yoga classes before but never kept it up as a regular routine. I think I am going to start going again. I always felt more calm and peaceful after yoga class. - 9/12/2009   6:22:24 PM
  • 59
    I'm a Yoga beginner myself. With just doing this diet at SparkPeople. I have noticed that I am in control of my eating habits. I'm still learning some moves though from the DVD I'm doing. - 9/12/2009   3:43:54 PM
  • 58
    Yoga was developed and practiced over 5,000 years ago, so it has proved the test of time. People had no gyms to go to and no money to spend on health so they had to develop their own fitness and from that came YOGA. It works.
    RODNEY YEE has some of the best Yoga videos available as he is an Iyengar instuctor. Patricia Walden has good ones, too. - 9/12/2009   12:50:12 AM
  • 57
    Thanks PRGRMRDEB for the info on the free Yoga download. That looks to be a great site and I will be trying Yoga in the morning.
    M - 9/11/2009   10:40:52 PM
  • 56
    Anyone looking to give yoga a try or just wanting a more flexible way to practice, check out www.yogadownload.com . It's awesome!! - 9/11/2009   10:04:55 PM
  • 55
    I absolutely love yoga. I have been doing it, since my 20's. It not only helps you stay slim, it puts you in great physical shape. It works all of your muscles, and you don't need weights. You lift your own body weight. You can get cardio from the sun salutation, just do several. You don't have to keep up with anyone, you do your best, and watch yourself get better, and better. The saying is "I can't do it...YET!!! - 9/11/2009   6:51:47 PM
  • 54
    Yeesh! I guess I better get back into the habit of going to yoga class. - 9/11/2009   6:17:08 PM
  • 53
    I am just starting to be able to acutally do some of the moves and they are not easy takes a lot of practice & effort - 9/11/2009   4:24:06 PM
  • 52
    When I practiced Bikram/hot yoga or ashtanga I found I ate a lot less, which for me wasn't ideal because I have to remind myself to eat as it is.... I really appreciate SparkPeople and the nutrition tracker... Since applying myself to SP as of 4/29/09 (I signed up in Sept 08 although didn't apply myself) I am eating more and my body feels better.

    Now I practice a basic yoga at home (in addition to several other exercises) and although I'm burning less calories it still allows me to feel the need to eat, which is a good thing. - 9/11/2009   4:09:05 PM
  • 51
    I credit yoga with saving my life.

    When I started this process 5 years ago at 221 lbs I was severely crippled by an endless tape of negativity playing in my head. I could not get past the nasty little voice that told me over and over again that I wasn't good enough to be thin or fit or happy.

    I tried yoga as a way to do something, anything to get more activity into my life. While my early poses were comical, the "mindfulness" of the practice stopped the chatter long enough in my head to make me realize it had an off switch! It was the first time I felt quiet and I felt hope that I could find other ways to turn it off.

    I am now an incredibly active marathoner who has trouble sitting still for any length of time but I always make time for 2 long yoga practices every week and rise daily to sun salutations. My poses are now much better but, more importantly, my head is filled with gratitude, peace and serenity.

    I encourage anyone to try it.

    om shanti - 9/11/2009   2:50:24 PM
  • DARKESTYET
    50
    I agree with AJINMN (comment #46) about the photo COME ON PEOPLE!!! Thought we were at least safe here from crap like that.
    Is there anyone who could recommend a good yoga video to get started? I do have pretty bad knees but I am very interested in at least trying some yoga If you have a suggestion please reply by mail because I am new to this and dont know how to look for answers without checking this blog endlessly and I am pretty busy with work. Thanks! - 9/11/2009   12:05:45 PM
  • MIEZEKATZE
    49
    I'm not really a fan of yoga, I'm more of a go-go-go gal! The idea of yoga appeals to me, but I'm not sure if it's for me. - 9/11/2009   11:58:57 AM
  • 48
    Have you experienced this side effect of yoga? Not yet.

    Do you try to practice mindful eating? Not as often as I should!

    Would you be willing to give yoga a try? I just took my first Yoga/Pilates class at my new gym (gym is called Boost Fitness; class is called Centergy). I really hated the Pilates, but I liked the Yoga. I'd be willing to take the class again, just to try out the Yoga again! I have looked into individual yoga classes at other businesses, and found it to be kind of expensive. I bought Bob Harper's yoga DVD and a sticky mat last spring, but have pulled them out yet to try. I should put this on my To Do list! - 9/11/2009   11:42:47 AM
  • 47
    I haven't tried yoga in a few years. It was more difficult than I thought it would be. Even though I was in good shape, it used different muscles. I've been doing yoga on my iPhone app. But I will try to get to an actual class. I think it could help me overall in many areas. Thanks for thevinformation. - 9/11/2009   11:42:24 AM
  • 46
    I found the picture that went with this blog a stereotype that overweight people have to overcome constantly. A woman in curlers who sits around and eats all day! Wouldn't a better pic have been of someone in a yoga pose with her back turned away from that pile of food? - 9/11/2009   11:03:05 AM
  • RODEORHI83
    45
    I love yoga. It really does make me more mindful of my body, but also just puts me in a quieter place where I can catch the triggers of overeating before they get pulled. Both yoga and meditation give me the introspection to solve any problems in my head rather than in my larder. - 9/11/2009   10:37:58 AM
  • 44
    I've considered yoga but haven't seriously tried it. I'd like to try Bikram if I can find a class. If it will improve my appetite, I'm all for it! - 9/11/2009   10:19:52 AM
  • 43
    Eh - I'm not that hot on yoga for the mental benefits - I'm just not a believer. I still do it though. It's a nice way to wake up if I only have 15-20 mins in the morning before work and can't do a run or weights. It is an integral part of my running training because it stretches my muscles out so I'm not as sore. - 9/11/2009   10:16:08 AM
  • 42
    I think I need to sign up for yoga! - 9/11/2009   10:05:16 AM
  • 41
    Sounds like another good reason to try yoga. I've been avoiding yoga because I'm not very flexible and that's exactly why I should be doing it! - 9/11/2009   10:02:19 AM
  • GRANDMO1
    40
    Yoga does make me more mindful of my body, especially when there is too much of me to do a twist or stretch fully. It helps me to remember not to eat so much at the next meal. - 9/11/2009   9:31:18 AM

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