As I got to the top of one of my favorite mountain bike rides here in Colorado, I realized how much my weight loss had increased my joy of riding. I felt so much lighter and could take the hairpin, tight, up-winding curves with grace and ease. These same twists and turns had been so much more challenging last year when I was “weightier.” This year, I felt so good that I took a moment to take it all in, thinking to myself “what an amazing thing this weight-loss practice has presented to me… -then the next thought came-…what if I can’t make it around the next curve?” These thoughts, as all thoughts do, took my focus off the mountain bike path and into my head. This change in my focus resulted in me not pedaling as hard as I had been, which I experienced as a feeling of heaviness, resulting in a stall on a rocky spot, and then the necessity to get off my bike or fall over. Not exactly the ending I was hoping for…
Hmm. Can a thought cause weight gain?
We are all aware of the negative impact extra amounts of fat can have on our health, but is it possible that there something much heavier and much more destructive to our health than obesity? As a matter of fact, there is something much “weightier” than excessive weight.
Have you ever noticed how heavy thoughts can be? Especially negative thoughts? Negative thoughts make me feel small and dense. The thought “…what if I can’t make it around the next curve…” caused me to take my attention away from the reality of riding my bike. I suddenly “gained weight” through thinking.
Not paying attention to reality is bad enough when it causes you to fall off your bike, but even worse than falling off of a bike, thoughts can cause our bodies to go into a stress response when there is not really anything stressful occurring. An example would be remembering something bad that has happened, like an argument or some past injury.
Let’s use the example of a past injury. Let’s pretend that on my bike ride today, not only did I fall off my bike, but I also hit my knee. At the time of an actual injury, my body would have released stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, that are needed to get me back on my bike and home to safety. These stress hormones actually cause minor damage to my body through destruction of things like muscle to generate quick energy (our body does NOT burn fat during emergencies) and temporary increase in blood pressure to get me home quickly. Once I am home safely, the stress hormones are no longer needed and repair can begin. I have a great night’s sleep and the knee feels much better in the morning.
Now let’s also pretend I go riding tomorrow. At the trailhead, I remember the pain I felt when I hit my knee. My knee is no longer actually hurting, but my thoughts go to the memory of the pain. This memory can actually trigger the same cascade of stress hormones to be released into my body as when the actual event occurred, only this time, there is no injury. The hormones cause the same minor destruction to my body, but this time there is nothing physical that needs healing.
Each time we relive an argument, an old injury, or return to negative thought patterns, our body releases stress hormones. Is it any wonder that we are sick and tired all the time? How often do you turn away from what is actually happening in front of you to remember something that is not currently happening or that might happen in the future? Activating the release of these chemicals in our body throughout the day is enormously hard on our body. Constant breakdown of important parts of our body, increase pulse and blood pressure, all lead to chronic health problems, like heart disease, stroke, and chronic pain, to name just a few.
The really good news is that there is a simple practice that teaches us the habit of paying attention to reality, or what is happening right now in front of us. By developing a habit of paying attention to what is actually happening in front of us, we no longer activate our body’s stress response at unnecessary times. Practicing the new habit of paying attention to now allows major healing to occur in our body, which leads to more energy, weight loss, better relationships, but most importantly, we gain real lasting health and a sense of peace that allows us to ride our mountain bikes like never before!!!!!
Okay, maybe YOUR goal is not to become the best mountain bike rider you can be, but if you are reading this, you must be looking for some form of weight loss in your life. Come join us here at TLC and learn simple, fun ways to regain your full health potential. We will help you learn simple fun ways to “take a load off your mind.” We look forward to meeting you!