Yoga Can Break the Cycle of Overeating

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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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THINCPL2004 6/16/2021
Great article Report
EVIE4NOW 6/7/2021
thanks Report
BLOND1E 2/28/2021
I find yoga to be dreadful exercise. Report
RAZZOOZLE 12/5/2020
thank you Report
CECELW 11/28/2020
I don't mind doing yoga once in a while. It's just boring to me Report
CATNAP6291 9/12/2020
great article Report
Good info Report
exercised with yoga today Report
Thanks Report
An excellent Article! Thanks for sharing! Report
thanks for sharing Report
I enjoyed all the comments and the article. I have wanted to start a yoga program for longer than I care to admit. I am going to really get to it now! Report
I have practiced yoga off & on. A weekly class after work certainly calms the mind & relieves stress which can help curb the appetite. I hadn't noticed it helping with mindful eating although I am trying to develop that habit. Something else to consider for my future sessions. Report
Thank you Report
Great information Report
Great article Report
Great article Report
Great article Report
Great article. I just bought DVDs for yoga. Report
a bit simplistic Report
Good ******.

Okay, this just broke my heart.

I love this site, I love that it avoids clichés like overweight people being slow, lazy, dumb-witted, slothenly... and stuffing their faces with cream-filled cakes all the time.

The last cliché was, I think, particularly virulent in the 90ies and maybe late 80ies. It was so wide-spread, it basically was the face of obesity: women stuffing their faces.

And I think I remember reading, a decade back, a post on this site (!) by a woman who was being harassed and yelled at in an ice cream parlor for being about to buy ice cream for herself and her son. For that matter, I once got a really hurtful comment from a stranger in a train because I ate a single, 5 gramm (about 1/5 ounce) of chocolate.

I haven't seen this stereotype around as badly in the past decade and certainly didn't miss it. And there she again - the overweight, unfashionable, unattractive, woman who lives of cream cakes.

Incidentally, a link to a study about obese women often doing the physically demanding, underpaid jobs because companies don't want them to be in a job where the public can see their (overweight) faces has been linked to _right_ _under_ this blog entry.

I gotta say, the irony in _that_ helps a bit against this awful, awful sense of déjà vu trop souvent.

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. Report
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! Report
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. Report
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. Report
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! Report
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. Report
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! Report
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. Report
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. Report
Yoga is wonderful. It gives me such a sense of well being. Report
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? Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
I'm going to give it a try. I have a DVD with a 20 minute workout. What can it hurt? Report
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. Report
Yoga taught me that I am a lot more athletic and graceful than I always thought. Report
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? Report
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 Report
Thanks for reporting this wonderful study. I believe yoga practice can help balance every aspect of one's life. Report
Thanks PRGRMRDEB, I just decided to give Yoga a try and this yoga web site looks great! Report
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! Report
I do practice healthy eating habits and I have tried yoga. I have a DVD by Denise Austin and Louise Solomon. Report
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. Report
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. Report
I used to practice yoga. Don't anymore. Report
love to practive yoga