PJ's Fitness Blog

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Lose Your Belly, Expand Your Brain

How would you like to lose your belly and expand your brain at the same time?

new study has revealed that meditation may enhance key structures in the brain responsible for learning, memory, and emotion control. This adds gray matter, but also reduces the belly due to an increase in willpower and a resulting improved ability to resist cravings normally caused by emotional eating.

One of the key structures referred to above is a part in the front of the brain called the prefrontal cortex (PFC). I have talked about this part of the brain before in older posts, because it is vital to your ability to control emotional eating and your ability to stop eating when you should. The PFC is the part of the brain that is used for:

  • Executive decision making, like the CEO of a company. An example of this is knowing when to stop eating and deciding which foods to buy at the supermarket and which foods to leave on the shelf. Properly assessing risk/reward is another important ability that falls within this category.
  • Forethought, like the founder and chairman of a company. This involves planning ahead for food the next day, scheduling workouts, setting goals, seeing the end result in the future, visualizing success, etc.
  • Willpower, like the vice president of a company. This is the part that carries out the executive decisions and follows through on the planning of forethought.

The PFC develops differently in everyone, but can be matured and honed through proper brain training techniques. We all start out life without much PFC development at all. That’s why kids do such “stupid” things and can’t seem to think past their noses sometimes. Brain development starts in the back of the brain and moves forward as we age. We get impatient with kids sometimes because we measure them by how we are now, as adults and we forget we were just like them when we were that age.

Girls finish brain development faster than boys. That’s why boys’ car insurance rates are higher until they are 25 year old. Insurance companies know that on average, most boys have a more developed PFC by then, which means they are ramping down their idiotic activities significantly. The whole brain is constantly developing our entire life by the way (if we treat it right), and brain training is a sure fire way for anyone, no matter what stage they are in, to speed that process up.

For those of us who are adults and have a more developed PFC, Meditation is a vital skill to learn. Meditation is great for kids too. It’s just a challenge to get them to do it because as you saw from the bullet points above, it’s hard for them to appreciate the benefits enough to do it without having a well developed PFC already. Kind of an unfortunate catch-22. Meditation clears out space in the PFC so it can operate properly. Meditation also develops and matures the PFC and other parts of the brain by laying down more gray matter. That makes you smarter too.

The best way I have found to meditate is through breathing properly and intense focus on certain words that take my brain to the place it needs to be – namely, good thoughts and feelings. The words I use are found in Philippians 4:8. In fact, the whole chapter is a brilliant example of cognitive physiology designed to put the brain in the optimal state for change and improvement.

Proper breathing is easy. It’s just basically relaxation breathing. Here’s how: First, I sit or lay down and find a relaxed state and position. Then I breathe in to 3 seconds, hold for one seconds and breathe out to 3 seconds. When I breathe out, I whisper one of the words in Philippians 4:8. I continue this until I feel relaxed and peaceful. Somedays that takes me 3 minutes, other days it takes up to 5 minutes, but it’s always worth it because when I’m done, I’m thinking clearly, I have a renewed attitude, all the willpower I need, and

By the way, I want to explain what having enough willpower feels like. Most people see it as having self control and being able to soldier through struggles, working hard at overcoming temptations and expending all sorts of energy to do the right thing. This isn’t what having willpower feels like at all. Those feelings means you have run out, your PFC is full and you are fighting an uphill battle. What having willpower feels like (and a clear PFC), is the ability to see things clearly without effort. It means being able to make the right decisions easily. It means having the ability to see your end goal effortlessly. Having a clear PFC and having willpower makes things easy and effortless, instead of giving you more mental muscle to fight that uphill battle. You know you have properly tapped into your willpower when the battle goes away.

Lastly, the best time to meditate is in the afternoon or evening, when you feel like “rewarding” yourself with that comfort food or dessert. The reason you feel this way more often in the latter part of the day than the morning is because your PFC has been progressively filling up with stuff through the day. Stress (good and bad), decisions, lists, to do’s, etc. all pile up in your PFC as the day goes on. Meditation is a way to empty back out some space up there. Your subconscious does a good job of that too while you sleep, so that is why you feel more willpower in the morning. This is also why you should be sure to get enough quality sleep. More on that in a previous post.

Try meditation today to expand your mind and lose your belly. It’s easy, it’s quick, and it works!