An International Epidemic
Everybody needs a certain amount of body fat to function and perform optimally, and the consensus is that the greater the disparity between the two, the more at risk a person’s health is. Being overweight or obese greatly increases the chances for one or more of a long list of serious health problems, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis and some cancers – breast and colon cancer among them. (See our Recommendations).
The number of overweight adults and children in the United States is so great that the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, the International Association for the Study of Obesity and many other organizations are calling it an epidemic of major proportions. Recent studies indicate 64 percent of American adults are overweight. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of 2003-04 found nearly 33 percent of adults aged 20-74 were obese and by 2010 that figure could grow to 40 percent. The survey showed high overweight rates among children and teens: 13.9% of children aged 2-5 years; 18.8% of 6- to 11-year-olds; and 17.4% of 12- to 19-year-olds.
Obesity poses one of the greatest public health challenges for the 21st century. … The prevalence of adult obesity has risen three-fold in many countries since the 1980s and the epidemic is spreading at particularly high rates in children.International Association for the Study of Obesity
The crisis has no borders: The International Obesity Task Force estimates 1.7 billion people internationally – that’s about one-quarter of the world’s population – aged 15 and above were overweight in 2005, with 400 million of them listed as obese. If current trends continue there will be 2.4 billion overweight and 700 million obese people by 2015.
Overweight, Stress and Your Intelligent Heart
The simple explanation for what causes overweight is more calories coming into the body than going out. Two major contributors have been the global shift to foods that are fast and high in fat and sugars, and a decline in physical activity, not only in affluent nations, but also in the developing world because of changing modes of transportation, urbanization and more sedentary types of work.
There are many factors contributing to the increase in overweight and obesity, but experts say emotional eating is the primary cause in a high percentage of cases. Today’s fast-paced and demanding world has given rise to alarming stress levels and people seek any way they can find to cope. For many that means turning to food, especially comfort food, and that largely means precisely the kinds of food that are high in fat and low in nutrition. A Harris Interactive survey reported 46% of Americans are less careful about the food they eat when stressed. And the more stressed you are, the more your body produces the hormone cortisol, which turns fat into energy, unless you regularly overeat: Then cortisol can take all that excess fat and redistribute it around your waist and hips.
The HeartMath Institute has researched stress for 16 years and has established numerous scientifically controlled studies that validate reducing stress is beneficial in our ability to manage our weight. Reducing stress begins by learning to control emotions and this is where HeartMath can help. The HeartMath System has taught thousands of people, from young children to seniors, how to replace negative emotions such as anxiety, a key contributor to overeating, with positive ones such as appreciation and caring.
One of the most important aspects of successful weight control is helping people learn to regulate their emotional balance in the rhythm of their day-to-day life.Dr. Rollin McCraty, Executive Vice President and Director of Research, HeartMath Institute
At the core of emotional management is your intelligent heart. Science shows the human heart has an even greater neurological capacity than the brain, generating 60 times the electrical amplitude. These two powerful systems act in concert with each other to keep all of your body’s systems operating smoothly. During the best of times, in what is known as a state of heart coherence – when your heart rhythms are smooth and balanced – you function at optimal levels and your emotions are under control. When you’re out of coherence – heart rhythms are irregular or disordered – your emotions can spiral out of control and you’re liable to experience decreased energy or fatigue, anxiety, anger and other negative emotions and conditions. When you’re in command of your emotions, stress levels drops and your heart produces the anti-aging hormone DHEA, which actually makes you feel younger and more energetic and lowers your cortisol to more beneficial levels.
There are dozens of food diets today and perhaps the latest one to be embraced by the popular culture may be right for you. But are you emotionally prepared? At HeartMath we believe the very best diet begins with emotional regulation. The world’s greatest diet is also the world’s worst diet for you, if you can’t stick to it, and that often occurs when you can’t control your anxiety, anger and other emotions. Researchers at HeartMath have studied what we call the “wholeness diet,” which entails regulating your emotions through heart intelligence and coherence before and after you eat. Then, your intuitive heart eventually steers you away from overeating and toward foods that are good for you.
A HeartMath TIP:
The Quick Coherence Technique®, a rapid three-step tool, is a great first step for shifting into coherence and experiencing a sense of well-being. It only takes a minute and once you’ve learned it you’ll be adding heart power to will power, giving you greater ability to change old behaviors and habits.
Time needed: 5 minutes.
When you feel stressed or have the urge to eat outside of regular mealtimes, try the following, adapted from HeartMath’s Quick Coherence Technique:
- Heart focus:
Shift your attention to the area of the heart and breathe slowly and deeply.
- Heart breathing:
Keep your focus in the heart by gently breathing – five seconds in and five seconds out – through your heart – and do this two or three times.
- Heart feeling:
Activate and sustain a genuine feeling of appreciation or care for someone or something in your life. Focus on the good heart feeling as you continue to breathe through the area of your heart.
Benefits of Losing Excess Weight
- Lower risk of heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, some cancers and many other health problems
- Feel better, look better, and live longer
- Increased energy to do more
- Emotional strength
- Feeling of empowerment, self-regulation, control over eating patterns
Tools For Managing Your Weight
Transforming Anxiety: The HeartMath Solution for Overcoming Fear and Worry and Creating Serenity: by Doc Childre and Deborah Rozman. When you consider that most people have some anxiety about themselves, family, future and for other reasons, it helps explain why overweight and obesity are so prevalent. That’s because anxiety is a leading contributor to these conditions: Millions of people try to escape their anxieties through overeating, binge-eating and consumption of comfort foods. Transforming Anxiety provides proven solutions to help you overcome your fears and worries and create more serenity and a sense of well-being in your life. Based on IHM’s 16 years of research into the physiology of emotions, the book includes the scientifically proven Attitude Breathing® tool and Cut-thru® and Heart Lock-In® techniques to help you release your anxieties and replace them with new, positive feelings.
» Learn more
Transforming Stress: The HeartMath Solution for Relieving Worry, Fatigue and Tension – Childre, Rozman, 2004. Learn more about the warning signs of chronic stress and what you should know about your “intelligent heart” and how it can help you immediately begin reducing the stress in your life. You’ll learn several key HeartMath tools and techniques, including the complete details of the Attitude Breathing® tool and step-by-step instructions on how and when to use it.
» Learn more
Learn to recognize your stressors so you can stop harmful emotional responses like binge-eating and eating too quickly. This informative book will tell you the warning signs of chronic stress and the latest research on your intelligent heart and its ability to help you immediately begin reducing your stress and start managing your emotions. HeartMath’s widely acclaimed Attitude Breathing® tool and Freeze-Frame® technique are included to help you transform your health and your life.
Calculate your BMI, body mass index, now.
Your BMI is a general assessment of how much body fat you have. All you need to know to find out BMI is your height and weight. Although the BMI is merely a guideline for measuring body fat, it is an internationally accepted standard for most people. Calculate your BMI and find out what it means at the following sites.
Centers for Disease Control: Has adult and child/teen BMI calculators.