In this episode, Dr. Mary Barson welcomes Lee Holden, a Qi Gong expert, to explore the intersection of stress management and weight loss.
Lee Holden shares his background and expertise, highlighting his journey studying Qi Gong and its applications in health, digestion, metabolism, and weight loss. He explains that Qi Gong involves working with life force energy, emphasizing the interconnectedness of our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Lee describes his experiences studying in Asia and his role as a consultant for Weight Watchers, where he developed a program focused on metabolism and weight loss.
The conversation delves into the essence of Qi Gong, its potential to reduce stress and its impact on metabolism. Lee highlights the significance of managing stress, as chronic stress can hinder weight loss and overall health. Qi Gong, he asserts, is a powerful practice that can lower stress levels and improve energy, helping individuals make better choices for their health and well-being.
Dr. Mary emphasizes the importance of resilience and the habit of relaxation, noting that relaxation is the foundation for all other habits and choices in life. Lee provides practical tips for incorporating Qi Gong into daily life, emphasizing that even a few minutes of practice can yield noticeable benefits.
Towards the end of the podcast, Lee guides listeners through a simple Qi Gong exercise, demonstrating the use of acupressure points to activate and feel the flow of Qi energy in the body. He encourages listeners to explore this practice further on his website, where they can access resources and classes.
The episode concludes with Dr. Mary expressing her admiration for Lee's expertise and the transformative potential of Qi Gong in managing stress and promoting holistic well-being. They invite listeners to visit their website for additional resources and a free guided hypnosis session focused on nurturing and nourishing the body with kindness. The hosts emphasize that stress management is essential for overall health and encourage listeners to find their preferred stress-reduction tools to support their well-being.
Qi Gong Free 2-week trial: https://lp.holdenqigong.com/free-classes
Dr Mary Barson (0:11) Hello, my lovely listeners. I'm Dr Mary Barson.
Dr Lucy Burns (0:15) And I'm Dr Lucy Burns. Welcome to this episode of
Both (0:20) Real Health and Weight Loss!
Dr Mary Barson (0:23). Good morning, lovely listeners, Dr Mary here from Real Life Medicine. And today I'm excited because I've got a special guest. I have got fabulous Lee Holden here, a worldwide Qi Gong expert who's going to tell us a little bit more about this fabulous tool for health and wellness. And it's something that I am interested in and that I have, I would say, dabbled in for a while now. And I'd love to get over to you. Lee, could you tell our lovely audience a bit more about you and what you do?
Lee Holden (1:00) Mary, I just love being introduced as fabulously holding. That was really nice. I just got super pumped up about that, good. You know, as you said, Mary, I'm my specialty is in Qi Gong, I was lucky enough right out of college to go to Asia to study with some amazing Qi Gong masters and get hired to be their ghostwriter. Write eight to 10 books for them and that was my early 20s, just going back and forth to Asia and studying with all these incredible people and really having to dive in because I was writing the material. It was very different than just being a student, I had to like, be a student, and then organise my thoughts and write it up to them, present it to them, and turn them into actual books. And one of the focuses that I studied was Qi Gong for health, digestion, metabolism, and weight loss. And over the years, I've created some metabolic programs using Chinese medicine, specifically for weight loss. And I was hired by Weight Watchers, and I was their sort of worldwide consultant on things that were beyond the scale. So we created this beyond-the-scale program. It was called Chi Flow at one point, it was a mind-body program that we took out and released all across the country and then worldwide. And it was a great three-year deep dive into metabolism and weight loss and all the different facets around that presenting it to their audience, all their Weight Watchers, leaders, and creating a program specifically for Weight Watchers. So I really learned a lot about this market and this particular facet of health and wellness.
Dr Mary Barson (2:51) I've got lots of my own views on here. But first of all, tell me what is Qi Gong. What does it actually look like and what does it do for your health and wellness? That is so helpful.
Lee Holden (3:07) I mean, I think the hardest part about Qi Gong is like saying it. Like Qi Gong like whaaat? What is this? It’s spelled as Q-I G-O-N-G and it's pronounced Qi Gong. Now Qi simply means life force energy and Gong means work. So we're working with life force energy. What is life force energy? Well, it could really be anything. It could be the energy of our minds, the energy of our bodies, the energy of our emotions, and then really how they all are interconnected and interrelated. And so when we look at Eastern medicine, we see the connections and the relationships between these different energy systems. We look at does emotional stress affects your physical body. What is the quality of your thoughts? So somebody might come into a Chinese medicine doctor who has headaches, or a sluggish metabolism. And we might ask them, what are your stress levels like? How are your relationships? How are you sleeping, we might tie it all together and create a protocol that would help them. You know, in Western medicine, as you probably experienced, Mary, there's a lot of specialisation where we have a problem in our bodies, we see a doctor. We have a problem with our emotions, we see a psychologist. We have spiritual issues, we see a priest. But nobody's really talking.
Dr Mary Barson (4:24) It can be siloed. I do see that I'm, I'm a general practitioner. So I try and sit between those silos, but it definitely does happen. Absolutely.
Lee Holden (4:32) Right. Yeah. So now in Chinese medicine, especially we see the root cause of an illness or a problem. And we could see that as stress, some kind of stress to the system creates a big problem. Now we can also look at stress as a big connection to weight loss, or weight gain because when we're under stress, our body's in fight or flight. And when we're relaxed, your body's at rest. What we call parasympathetic, is rest and digestion. We say that for a reason because energy will go to digestion when you're relaxed. So what we're going to look at is how are you handling stress. You know, as a first and foremost thing for weight loss, let's be better at lowering our stress and bringing energy. Now what we can also do in Qi Gong is very much targeting our digestive organs. Because in Chinese medicine, we see digestion as, let's say, a fire, metabolic fire. And if the fire is weak, if you put a log on the fire, it doesn't burn, it smoulders. So the wood would be the food we eat, and your body would be the metabolic fire. So we're gonna say— okay, what kind of wood are you putting on the fire, and how strong is your fire itself. Let's strengthen the fire. And let's put better wood on the fire and you're going to convert food into energy. I think people forget that we’re eating for energy. We're not just eating because it tastes good. But eat for energy, eat for Qi.
Dr Mary Barson (5:57) I love that. We have an analogy that we use a lot, Dr Lucy and myself about the woodshed at this idea that our metabolism is a fire and that you do want to fuel it with the best fuel. And in particular, we talk about the wood being out like fat, you know, your own fat cells, in particular the energy that is out in your woodshed, and that you want to improve the quality of your foods so that your body is able to work properly and go out and access the wood in your woodshed, rather than just your high carb food, processed foods is like the kindling that you put on the fire that flashes a little bit and then dies down. So there's a nice little synergy there. But you're absolutely right, stress. When we are in a stress state when we've got that sympathetic nervous system activation, it can be detrimental to every aspect of our health. I think that high levels of stress, and chronic day-in-day-out stress are very common in the modern world. And they can be so detrimental. So how could someone out there listening, who you know think this sounds absolutely fabulous. And they would like to do something about their stress levels. And I think that Qi Gong could be a great way to do it. How could somebody start? Where would you start with this?
Lee Holden (7:18) Absolutely. And I think starting is so crucial. Now, folks, if you start your Qi Gong practice, I gotta warn you, it's kind of addicting. It feels really good to lower your stress and increase your energy. And Mary, one good definition, sort of a modern definition of Qi Gong is less stress, more energy. Think of that as a practice of lowering stress. Now, stress might be a pain, it might be tension in your neck and shoulders, or it might be work. However, we perceive and process and internalise our stress, we want to transform stress back into vitality. So Qi Gong is a process and a practice that will do it. We're going to do it through breathing exercises, we're going to do it through gentle stretching, we're going to do it through some body conditioning. And we're going to do it through getting ourselves into a flow state into moving our bodies with relaxation, as opposed to tensing. You know, relaxation takes training, because we're hardwired, to go into stress to perceive danger. And we don't have to do a podcast to teach people how to worry or become stressed. They got that wired, they got that nailed it, we have to retrain some of these things so that we can learn the tools skills have the resources to go like, you know what I'm feeling stress, my body's tightening up, my thoughts are heavier or more on the negative side. Now let's transform that particular state into relaxation and flow. Now, Qi Gong, I find one of the best ways to do that. And the best way to learn I think was just, you know, come check out in like a YouTube program of mine, or we have all kinds of conditions, specific things on our website, and we have a free two-week trial so people can just come and try weekly classes with me. Free for two weeks at Holden Qi Gong, so the Holden is my last name Qi Gong, and just come try Qi Gong for two weeks free.
Dr Mary Barson (9:16) Sounds fabulous. At what kind of changes have you seen for people who managed to get their stress down?
Lee Holden (9:23) You know, big. And people call it miraculous because all of a sudden, you've activated the natural healing power in your body. When we're parasympathetic, our body knows how to heal, it knows how to allocate energy and resources towards healing, like digestion. When we're stressed out, our body isn't concerned with internal healing when there's external perceived danger. And you know, our stress levels are often an overreaction. Just because we're sitting in traffic, or we have to give a presentation, or you got to go talk to your boss, doesn't mean your life is threatened. So we have to relax that and calm it down. So we don't chronically get placed under stress. And I don't know about you, Mary. But I read a study that 89% of primary doctor visits are stress-related. So it's really high that the reason people go to doctors is because of the root causes of stress. What do you think of that?
Dr Mary Barson (10:22) I think that stress is very pervasive and that it can be a contributor or either the cause a contributor, or a perpetrating factor in almost all presentations. It’s true that chronic stress does lots and lots of bad things for our health. A little bit is kind of normal, like, you know, if you literally are being chased by a bear, then you need to have your fight or flight response really intact. That's a good time to have that fight or flight. Definitely, even if you're sitting for an exam. Yeah.
Lee Holden (10:58) Mary, I have been chased by a bear by the way.
Dr Mary Barson (11:01) Yeah, yes. You're in Canada, yeah. Wow. My dad's Canadian, he's been chased by a bear. Okay, now you have to tell us your bear story. I'm sorry.
Lee Holden (11:09) Well, I'm 13 years old. I'm in Alaska fishing with my dad. And we're watching the salmon jump up the waterfall up the river. And out of the bushes right behind me. Huge grizzly bear! Grizzly bear's head was bigger than me. So that was my first feeling of fight or flight. I mean, I was like, you know, I feel my heart jumped into my throat and my stomach twist. And, you know, the fishing guide said, “Don't run.” But everything in my body told me to run, you know. So we slowly walked away. And that was like, so, stressed out, but so exhilarated at the same time of being face to face with wild nature.
Dr Mary Barson (11:52) Absolutely. And your fight or flight response was protecting you.
Lee Holden (11:57) It was right. And that's a good time, or when you're like, you know, standing on the edge of a cliff. You know, it's like, I'm glad I have fear right now, this is the appropriate response. So I think it's delineating those appropriate responses, fight or flight in short bursts. But not as you were saying, Mary, not chronic, not long term, not so frequent. And you know, stress is a good thing. In short bursts like exercise, we want to put up bodies under some stress, so that we become what we call Qi Gong resilient. So you train it, you use stress, but don't let stress use you.
Dr Mary Barson (12:33) Absolutely! I have to go back to the back because my dad is Canadian. He grew up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. And when he was 10 years old, he was chased by a mama bear. And he got taught bear safety in school, which I think makes great sense. And he had some clothing and some shopping with him, which he dropped because that's apparently what you do. And it worked. The bear sort of stopped to smell the shopping, and he managed to keep running. But he still talks about this, like, time slowed down, you know, that's the big adrenaline response, like possibly Australian equivalent might be saying a poisonous snake, which I have a few times but just not quite as sexiest story. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I think you probably weren't
Lee Holden (13:14) Like a great white shark maybe if you're swimming in the ocean, Yeah.
Dr Mary Barson (13:18 Absolutely. Yeah. And that turns out it’s a dolphin or something like that. Yep. Yeah, I love that resilience. Because the point with good quality stress management, it's not to avoid stress, because life is going to be stressful, you know, mortgage rates are going to be unpredictable, and our kids are going to be kids. Life is going to, you know, occasionally or often be challenging. But if you can improve the way that you're able to deal with the stress, like balancing your central nervous system, spending more time in that parasympathetic, rest and digest response. Spending more time cultivating that, and like you said, getting better with practice, then your health can improve in myriad ways. These are things that we teach in our programs. We see this time and time again, for our beautiful people, that it really does help you lose weight, it really does help you reduce inflammation, it can be a useful tool for autoimmune illnesses, it can help you sleep, it can sort of trickle over and flow over to every single aspect of your life. I like what you said that the key is consistency. Like, how much time do you think people would need to invest in a lovely practice like Qi Gong to be able to reap these benefits?
Lee Holden (14:42) Yeah, and it's a great question and what I love about Qi Gong is it's so accessible. You don't have to go to the gym. You don't have to change your clothes. You can come home from work and do 20 minutes and you'll lower your stress and increase your energy. And the thing about Qi Gong practice, it will increase your energy and you are energised. You are a better version of yourself. And when you have energy, you don't get overwhelmed by the little things. So people that are depleted of energy, little things stress them out, because they're just like, I just don't have the energy to deal with one more kid crying, with one more little irritation, I'm maxed out. If your energy levels are higher, you're much more resilient, and you have much more space to hold things. This is so good for parents and working parents, because you're like, I need energy for myself to be able to be more resilient, to be able to go with the flow of life's demands, because kids are unpredictable. Life is unpredictable, stock market work, retirement, we have to hold all these things with calmness and clarity that keeps us more balanced. And so Qi Gong practice is going to give you more energy, and it's going to increase your return as well. So the more you practice Qi Gong, the more energy you get, and the less stress you have. The less stress you have, the more energy you'll get. Because stress is wearing on our system, and it's depleting. So I would say, a good solid 20 minutes of practice a day can do wonders. What I also recommend is maybe once or twice a week, do a full hour of practice. And then, you know, three or four times a week, do a 15 to 20-minute practice. That would be a great way to sustain a great practice for lowering stress and increasing energy.
Dr Mary Barson (16:34) Sounds great. And what if that sounds too hard? What if people say the idea of, you know, an hour? I just can't quite do that. Could they still dabble? Do you think they could still find a way to get regular practice with less time?
Lee Holden (16:52) Absolutely. You know, my 30-Day Challenge is seven minutes a day. So I'm basically saying, you guys just try seven minutes. That's like the push of a snooze button. You know, just seven minutes a day for 30 days, notice how you feel and people feel a lot better. Seven minutes is almost what I call a Qi break. So that's like I'm working all day, I'm been sitting at my desk, I'm gonna stand up and do my seven minutes. It doesn't even have to be seven minutes, it'd be three minutes, you know, just take a little Qi break in the middle of your day. Stop and take some slow, deep breaths, that's going to replenish your energy. So there are going to be little things you could do and sprinkle into your day when you get agitated. When you've noticed that you're really irritated in traffic, or somebody says something to you, and you just can't stop thinking about it, you need to discharge that energy so that you're not just carrying it around with you for multiple hours, and we clear it. So there are a few things we could do to clear in two or three minutes. There's, let's say, Oh man, my neck and shoulder hurt, I got a headache. You know, in class, I'll show a quick pressure point or a quick movement that will get rid of neck tension that will release wrist pain, and will do something beneficial to your health and healing.
Dr Mary Barson (18:10) As fabulous as I could say with even small investments of time, you can get really really fabulous results for yourself and your health. I think being able to find that little time of stillness, that time where you can find that calmness, have a little Qi break. Do some deep breathing, that regular habit of activating your parasympathetic nervous system, you know, through whichever way you choose through whatever kind of active relaxation that you choose. It's like the habit that makes all other habits possible. You know, what we do day in and day out is what determines our results. And like we can't control the life outside of us. We can't control what the kids are saying, what our boss is saying, what the traffic is doing, what's on the news. The only thing we can control is what we do, whether we choose to eat the chips, whether we choose to go outside for a walk, whether we choose to call our friends, whether we choose to lie on the couch or watch Netflix. But between that stimulus, you know, the boss being unhelpful, or that really triggering thing and what we do, we have this space to choose. But the more stressed you are, the more that space shrinks, and the more reactive you can become. But with a nice regular relaxation practice, that space can expand. And you can really find your own power and your freedom to choose your responses. So relaxation is the habit that makes all other habits possible. I feel very passionately about this.
Lee Holden (19:43) Yeah, absolutely. And the nice thing about Qi Gong, you train relaxation directly. You're doing flowing movements, slow meditative flowing movements, or you're embodying a state of relaxation. Because if we just say relax to somebody, they're just like, I am relaxed. You're wearing gold as earrings, you know, and they think they're relaxed, but they're not reeeaally relaxed. You got to actually train it as a skill. Put some time into it. Now, when we walk around with too much tension in our body, think about if you flex your muscles in your arms, and do that for a couple of hours, you're going to be tired afterwards, you're going to be depleted because you're holding contraction, you're actually investing your precious life force energy into holding these contractions. If you can relax, now, you're not investing energy anymore, you're saving energy, and you're gonna have a lot of energy for other things. So in relaxation, you get more energy. So it's a little bit counterintuitive for people. And that energy management is about relaxation, first and foremost. And then it's about flow. And then it's about breath. And it's about eating, and it all comes together in a really beautiful way. And I don't think people know how much energy potential they actually have. It's kind of normalised now to think life is about, you know, being stressed out, having lots of pain or tension or body problems and kind of just like getting through, it doesn't have to be that way. We can lead really healthy, vibrant, happy, fulfilling lives when we have the right tools and techniques. And I think, you know, Qi Gong is one of those resources that I think we all really need in modern life. Even though it's an ancient practice, I think it's more relevant now than ever before.
Dr Mary Barson (21:30) Yes, I completely agree. And I love how your program is called Beyond the Scales. There are things that do not completely philosophically align with us and Weight Watchers in several ways, but I love Beyond the Scales because I believe that focusing primarily on the scales, really misses the point. I believe that real health, metabolic healing, it's about your health, your wellness, your longevity, it's about your entire life, and not just, you know, counting calories, and losing weigh. So weight loss is a wonderful, happy side effect.
Lee Holden (22:09) You know, and that's why they brought me in at the time. They said, let's not just solely focus on counting calories. Because I was like, I'm not going to come to help you guys count calories. We're going to talk about stress, we're going to talk about enjoying your body. Unlike when I first came in, and I started teaching people movement, they were like, oh my god, this is the first time I've enjoyed moving my body. I don't want to go to the gym, I don't want to go to yoga class, I want to enjoy my body. And so we were doing some stuff in the chair. And people were like, I feel energy, I feel relaxed I feel then it was like very natural for them to make better choices, because automatically you've lowered your stress. What you choose, when you're stressed out often is quick fixes. High carbs, habituations, where you make that choice maker, as you were saying, Mary, when that choice is more online, towards your goals and desired results is when we're less stressed and we're feeling more balanced. And now we're like, I'm making healthy choices and it's effortless. And though that's what people were finding with this program, you know, unfortunately, in Weight Watchers, they went back to just counting calories. They kind of went back to their old model with a new CEO coming in and this that and so they kind of said like every adjacent program that we started, were stopping. So it was a great three-year run. And we made a lot of traction. But you know, it's hard to move the whole entire company philosophy in just a little bit with some, you know, some things, what they thought was, wow, this is really strange Qi Gong, but it really resonated with their audience. Yes. And so much from that experience.
Dr Mary Barson (23:55) Fantastic. Would you be able to give our beautiful listeners like a little taste of Qi Gong now, but maybe if they're driving a car, but I don't know, I'll leave it to you. Maybe they are driving a car. But let's say that they're sitting down and walking around. What could we do right now?
Lee Holden (24:12) Yeah, one of the things now if you're driving and just kind of want to wait till you're not driving, the thing you can do while you're driving is just do some deep breathing. And let's just talk about what's the best way to breathe. The best way to breathe in and out is through your nose, in and out through.T the majority of the time we breathe through the nose, nose for breathing mouth for eating. So good, kind of like Qi Gong thing. As so much science is coming out about breathing through the nose and the benefits of it. So you can do your own little research on that. But breathing slowly, for a second to five-second inhale, a four to five-second exhale. So just a real slow breath and a real slow exhale. What's going to do it's going to lower stress kind of bring in that parasympathetic, it's going to replenish your energy. So if you take a pause and do a four or five-second inhale with the four or five-second exhale, then that's going to get you in tune with your choice maker, then make a decision from that kind of clarity, you're going to make better decisions for your overall health or your goals. Now, let's feel a little Qi, I'm going to show your audience a little pressure point sequence, to feel what she feels like in your body. So take your fingernails and just rub them together like that. So if you're just listening, you take your fingernails, touch them, and then rub back and forth, so your fingernails and maybe the knuckle just above your fingernails, or rubbing vigorously back and forth. These are acupressure points at the ends of the meridian lines, the energy pathways where acupuncture acupressure points are located. Now take one of those big deep breaths like we were just doing inhale through your nose, exhale through your nose. Maybe we did that for 30 seconds or so put your hands down in your lap. See, if you feel some energy in your hands. buzzing or tingling, electricity. You know, Qi is your bioelectricity, we call it the animating power. So whether it's voluntary action, like we just did, rubbing our fingernails together, or involuntary action like your heartbeats or your digestion, Qi is what's going to animate everything in your body. So it's the life force energy that we want to activate. And we want it to run smoothly. And so these exercises promote an activation of energy and a smooth flow of that energy. So all the systems in your body are powered up.
Dr Mary Barson (26:45) Wonderful. I think you are fabulous!
Lee Holden (26:51) Thank you, Mary. I think you're fabulous, too.
Dr Mary Barson (26:54) Thank you. Thanks so much for coming on our podcast today, sharing your expertise and sharing that lovely exercise. If people want to find you, how can they best find you on the interwebs?
Lee Holden (27:09) You can find me at www.holdenqigong.com, and yeah, come try that two-week trial and see if you want to do Qi Gong with me. You could do it live on that trial, or it's always recorded. So the classes are always on the website, in that description area.
Dr Mary Barson (27:31) Fantastic. Thank you so much. We'll make sure that link is in the show notes. And I always point downwards, there's some people who can't see me. They're just listening to me. But for people who just imagine me pointing down to the show notes on your listening device. All right, thank you so much. It's very early in the morning for me, but it's I believe it's the middle of the day for us to have a fabulous evening. And yes, we shall have to keep in touch. Thank you so much.
Lee Holden (27:58) Let's keep in touch, Mary. Fantastic.
Dr Mary Barson (28:01) Gorgeous ones. You have heard a lot today about the vital importance of managing your stress and balancing out your beautiful central nervous system by spending some time in that lovely relaxation response. And Qi Gong is a fabulous and powerful way to get into that beautiful, relaxed state. So is hypnosis and we have got a lovely, free guided hypnosis that you can download and use to nurture yourself and to spend some very important time in that lovely, relaxed state. This guided hypnosis has the added benefit of really having beautiful, powerful suggestions about nurturing and nourishing your body, nourishing your body with lovely real food and nurturing your body with kindness. And you can get that fabulous guided hypnosis at www.rlmedicine.com/nurture and the link will be in the notes. Thank you so much for listening.
Dr Lucy Burns (29:19) So my lovely listeners, that ends this episode of Real Health and Weight Loss. I'm Dr Lucy Burns…
Dr Mary Barson (29:26) and I'm Dr Mary Barson. We’re from Real Life Medicine. To contact us, please visit rlmedicine.com
Dr Lucy Burns (29:37) And until next time…
Both (29:38) Thanks for listening!
Dr Lucy Burns (29:39) The information shared on the Real Health and Weight Loss podcast, including show notes and links, provides general information only. It is not a substitute, nor is it intended to provide, individualised medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, nor can it be construed as such. Please consult your doctor for any medical concerns.