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Episode 77 Summary

  • Why meditation and mindfulness are so important regarding weight loss and metabolic health - not everything, but almost everything with regards to healing your metabolic health and losing weight permanently happens inside your beautiful mind.
  • What is meditation? Meditation is anything that induces a relaxation response, which is a type of trance state. It is a natural state that we can get into which gets better with practice. While we are in the relaxation response our physiology changes, and these physiological changes can actually persist beyond that period of relaxation.
  • What physiological changes take place during meditation? You are dampening down and reducing the stress pathway in your autonomic nervous system. This results in you feeling relaxed and calm, your heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen consumption reducing, your brainwaves changing, and hormonal changes such as reduced cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline. It's extremely healthful.  
  • What is mindfulness? Mindfulness is the deliberate intention to observe our minds and to observe the activity of our mind in a really non-judgemental way and then gently trying to bring your awareness back to something in the present.
  • Our brain tells us stories but that doesn't mean they are real. It doesn't mean that our thoughts are real. Our thoughts are just thoughts and if you can separate yourself from your thoughts, you can start to be a bit less reactive and more objective. And that's a really healthful place to be in and to work towards getting to.
  • The power of regular mindfulness, particularly meditation - doing some regular mindfulness, particularly meditation, literally changes your brain and your body. It changes the gene expressions that get turned on and off, it causes these healthful epigenetic changes within our bodies, literally changing your body and your mind for the better. It's powerful stuff. 
  • Why do diets fail? A lot of diets fail because they are fad diets or promote calorie restriction. Often though it is your mind, particularly in times of stress and distress. Meditation and mindfulness activate your parasympathetic or the rest and digest phase, and balances that sympathetic nervous drive, or the fight and flight that we spend a lot of time in, which will help your weight loss but more importantly, your health immensely.   

 

To find out more about our 31-day Hypnosis Program, Hypnosis for Real Health and Weight Loss, visit https://www.rlmedicine.com/hypnosis

Show notes:

Hypnosis vs meditation: part 2

Dr Mary Barson
Hello, my lovely listeners. I'm Dr Mary Barson.

Dr Lucy Burns
And I'm Dr Lucy Burns. Welcome to this episode of Real Health and Weight Loss.

Dr Mary Barson
Good morning lovely listeners, Dr Mary Barson from Real Life Medicine here and today I am joined by my fabulous Doctor colleague, Dr Lucy Burns. How are you my friend?

Dr Lucy Burns
I am super well Mares, super well. My hubby and I have bought a caravan. So we've joined the grey nomads, or in my case the blonde nomad, because one of the things that we decided last year in lockdown was that we did want to travel more, but have a little bit of independence. So we've had fun fitting it out. We've taken it for a little practice voyage and that went well. And the thing I'm most excited about is that we will be able to travel, and I can still do Real Life Medicine work because Real Life Medicine is so portable. So in these wonderful age of the internet, you can take your work with you.

Dr Mary Barson
Well beautiful woman, as your business partner and friend and colleague, I think it's great that you'll still be working on our fabulous, our fabulous Real Life Medicine, which is obviously so close to both of our hearts, and I also hope that you will also have some wonderful rest and recreation and relaxation as well as you gallivant around the countryside.

Dr Lucy Burns
It's exactly what I'll be doing, darling. Exactly.

Dr Mary Barson
Ah, sounds nice.

Dr Lucy Burns
Absolutely. Now this week, we are diving into part two. It was meant to be hypnosis versus meditation or hypnosis and meditation last week, but we got so, you know invested in our topic on hypnosis that we ran out of time to discuss meditation, so we thought we'd talk about it this week. And what we thought we'd address would be you know the similarities, where hypnosis and meditation, there is some crossover, but more importantly, the differences and the ways in which you can use meditation as a tool to improve your health.

Dr Mary Barson
Obviously one of our favourite topics because we completely ran away with it last week and spent our entire budget of time talking about hypnosis. But we can also spend a lot of time and energy discussing meditation and mindfulness. As weight loss doctors we love meditation and mindfulness because almost everything, not everything, but almost everything with regards to healing your metabolic health and losing weight permanently happens inside your beautiful mind.

Dr Lucy Burns
Absolutely.

Dr Mary Barson
And our minds are slippery, like they are difficult to manage. Would you agree that human minds are hard?

Dr Lucy Burns
They're like a wet octopus.

Dr Mary Barson
They are like a wet octopus, I like that. I was thinking a slippery fish but a wet octopus is a much better analogy, it is.

Dr Lucy Burns
Yeah, if you just think you've got it, and then an arm shoots out and takes you off on a little direction. So yes, definitely.

Dr Mary Barson
But it's a lifelong journey, learning how to work with your brain, to manage your brain, and to continue on this beautiful personal development journey that is permanent health and weight loss.

Dr Lucy Burns
Absolutely. So lovely listeners, meditation, it's a global, well it's not a global term, it's a blanket term for many techniques that you can use to induce a relaxation state. So in many ways, it does share some similarities with hypnosis. But I think what's happening at the moment again, is that people are using mindfulness and meditation interchangeably, and you can do meditation as part of your mindfulness practice. But they're also, there's some quite distinct differences that we thought we'd explore today. So Mares, could you explain to our listeners, our lovely friends, what is the difference? Like what is meditation and what is mindfulness?

Dr Mary Barson
Yeah. So meditation is really anything that induces a relaxation response. That, that's certainly one way to define it and that, that is how we choose to define it. And a relaxation response is a type of trance state that we discussed last week, trances being perfectly natural and normal. And it is a natural state that we can get into, gets better with practice, where we literally change our physiology for a period of time while we're in the relaxation response, and indeed the beautiful physiological changes can actually persist beyond that period of relaxation. And when you're in a relaxation response, lots of beautiful things happen. You feel relaxed and nice, usually a beautiful sense of wellbeing and calm comes over you, often stillness. Your heart rate goes down, your blood pressure goes down, your oxygen consumption reduces. Your brainwaves actually change, the pattern of electricity that your brain emits changes. And you get beautiful hormonal changes, your cortisol levels decrease, your adrenaline and noradrenaline levels decrease and it's extremely healthful. A shorthand way of saying it is that you're really activating the relaxation part of your autonomic nervous system, so you are entering a lovely rest and digest phase and dampening down and reducing your stress pathway in your autonomic nervous system, the fight or flight response. And it's lovely, and there's lots of ways that you can induce a relaxation response and all of those broadly, are called meditation. And it doesn't have to be sitting on a rock going “Om”, at dawn. There's lots and lots of different ways that people can induce this relaxation response. They can be still, they can be moving, there's lots of different ways.

Dr Lucy Burns
Absolutely. And yoga, it can be part of that as well, can't it.

Dr Mary Barson
Absolutely, I can get quite deep in a relaxation response when I'm really concentrating on my yoga. I'm a total yoga beginner but that doesn't mean it doesn't benefit me. And mindfulness can be a way to induce a beautiful relaxation response. That's generally what I use it for, among other things, but it's not just that. Mindfulness is, it's bringing deliberate attention to our mind. So mindfulness is the deliberate intention to observe our minds and to observe the activity of our mind in a really non judgmental way. And one way to do this is to get into a fairly nice sort of, you know, calm, relaxed state and, and watch your mind, the thoughts that you have in a really non judgmental way, and then gently try and bring your awareness back to something in the present is generally a way that it's done. So the breath, bringing your mind back to your breath, observing how your mind then wanders off to the billion things that you've got to do, to that embarrassing thing that happened yesterday, to that stressful deadline you've got looming, just watching how your mind will wander off like that, observing your thoughts and then once you notice that your thoughts have gone off, you then bring them back to your breath, for example. And then they will, your thoughts will wander off again, because that is what your brain does and then you gently bring it back again. Mindfulness is kind of like, you could define it as this sort of mental dance that you do. And doing this mental dance, concentrating on your breath, watching your thoughts wander off, and then gently bringing them back and backwards and forwards and backwards and forwards, is often relaxing, people will often get into a meditative state doing this practice. And that is called mindful meditation. It's a very accessible form of meditation for a lot of people that's got the double added fabulous benefit of mindfulness as well. But they are actually distinct.

Dr Lucy Burns
Yeah, and I guess one of the things I would just like to jump in there is expectation management. So for a lot of people, they think they start, so many people go, “Oh, I've tried meditation, I can't do it”. Because they start and their mind wanders off. And then they start again, and their mind wanders off, and they start again. And that's actually normal, like that is so normal. If your mind doesn't do that at the start, then maybe there's something going wrong. So I would be saying, expect that to happen, anticipate that will happen and be reassured that that is completely normal. And like everything though, it can feel uncomfortable. Because some of the reason we don't want to be in the present, or with our thoughts, some of the reasons that we spend all this time keeping ourselves distracted and busy, is because maybe some of our thoughts are unpleasant.

Dr Mary Barson
Yes.

Dr Lucy Burns
And maybe they're uncomfortable, and maybe they're judgmental, and maybe we don't really like them. And so meditating, when we strip back all the things that we use to distract ourselves feels really hard.

Dr Mary Barson
It really can, it comes under the auspices of self-care, and not necessarily self-soothing, to take us back a few episodes. It definitely can be self-soothing, but it's not necessarily. And certainly if you have got a really stressed out brain, like there's a lot going on for you, then the idea of sitting down with your thoughts, the idea of letting go into relaxation can be really uncomfortable, at least initially. There could be a significant barrier and resistance there.

Dr Lucy Burns
Exactly, but you know, here's a reframe for your friends. The best meditations, the ones in which you are training your brain the most are these ones, because your brain's running off, and you're bringing it back. And every time you bring it back, without judgement, without getting cross at yourself, without getting exasperated, every time you bring it back, that is actually the beauty, like that is the training.

Dr Mary Barson
Yes.

Dr Lucy Burns
In some ways it's a bit like walking up a mountain. You do your training when it's hard, when you're going up the hill. You can walk on the flat and that's easy, but it's not actually mountain training.

Dr Mary Barson
Yes. I've been blessed in my life to have lots of fabulous meditation teachers, coaches and mentors throughout my time. I love meditation, is something of which I am extremely passionate, and I love to teach it and I love to do it. And I've had a beautiful meditation teacher describe to me that every time your mind wanders off and you notice it, and then you gently kindly bring it back to your breath, or whatever it is that you're concentrating on, it could be looking at the flower in front of you, or it could be the sensations in your skin or whatever it is that, that mindful anchor, that you keep bringing it back to, every time your brain wanders off, you notice it and bring it back, it's like a mental push up. So that actually is the point. That is the benefit, is this dance that you do with your brain. Because it increases your ability to do a few things. One is to sort of corral and like a sheepdog kind of move and manoeuvre your thoughts into more helpful directions, which is a wonderful thing to be able to do. And also allows you to separate yourself from your thoughts, because you're not your thoughts. You and your thoughts are different and the fabulously quirky thing about human brains is that they lie to us. Just because we tell stories, we always tell stories to ourselves, to each other. You should hear the fabulous stories my daughter comes up with to explain some of her less desirable behaviour and it's very, very reasonable. We tell ourselves stories but that doesn't mean that our stories are real. It doesn't mean that our thoughts are real. Our thoughts are just thoughts and if you can separate yourself from your thoughts, you can start to be a bit less reactive and more objective. And that's a really healthful place to be in and to work towards getting to.

Dr Lucy Burns
Absolutely, and I mean we've talked a lot about this, the time between your action and your reaction, the pause, the bit in the middle, and yes you're absolutely right, the meditation or mindfulness and a combination of the both, is a great way to be able to increase that time between action and reaction.

Dr Mary Barson
To find that precious gap.

Dr Lucy Burns
Absolutely. So it's really interesting, it's meditation or mindfulness and I guess what I'm thinking of the moment is a mindful meditation. So learning to be able to sit, notice your thoughts, bring them back, notice your thoughts, bring them back. It's actually hard. Like, I'd love to say, “Oh, it's simple”. You just sit down and you can do it. It's, it is hard and it's not actually fun, so it forms again into that bracket of self-care, that self-care that's not necessarily fun. Because it does feel hard, and it does feel uncomfortable and there's thoughts that come up that we don't necessarily like. And when you are able to redirect, I love your analogy then of the sheep dog and corralling them. But I also like the analogy that people will use about your brain being the station, the thoughts can come in, you choose to whether you want to get on that thought, or whether you just step back and let it go. You're not running after the train, trying to get on it. You've let it go and it just zooms off to wherever it's going. You can't stop the thoughts coming in, you know, you'll just get run over. But you get to decide whether you want to engage with them or not and you can just let them go. And letting them go doesn't require a lot of effort. I think a lot of people try and let go by chasing them away, but in fact you just end up hanging on to them. It's just letting go and mindfulness is a beautiful tool to allow you to learn that skill. But it won't happen in the first, the first time you do it and it probably won't even happen the second time. It takes a little while. It takes a practice to do this. And I think sometimes people set themselves up for things that are a bit hard. You know, they'll sit down and they're going to do 10 minutes. But again, if you're, if you've never done it, that's like telling yourself you're going to do 100 Push ups when you've never done one. So getting back to your push up analogy there, it is, you start small, set yourself up for the win, just do the one push up.

Dr Mary Barson
Do a couple on your knees. You, I guess you could start off with a goal of doing a minute, two minutes. I'm a big fan of the three minute mindful meditation in the morning, because it's extremely doable and it honestly does make a difference. Even just three minutes a day can make a difference. And it really does make a difference. So doing some regular mindfulness, particularly meditation, literally changes your brain. Like it, it literally changes your brain and your body. It changes the gene expressions that get turned on and off, it causes these healthful epigenetic changes within our bodies. So this is literally changing your body and your mind for the better. It's powerful stuff.

Dr Lucy Burns
It is. And you know, I think the things I love about it is it's, it's portable. Because you can take your brain and your breath wherever you go, or your brain in the back of your eyelids. Some people use the colours on the back of their eyelids as their anchor. You can take it wherever you go. Once you learn the skill, it's you know, you don't need any equipment, maybe a chair. You don't even need a chair, you can lie down. Don't have to have a fancy cushion, you don't need a special meditation room. You can do it wherever you want, whenever you want. Maybe not driving, but.

Dr Mary Barson
No, not driving.

Dr Lucy Burns
Yeah. There's so many ways to do it. One of the offers that we have for people who may be interested in doing mindful meditation, is in May we have a course coming and it really steps you through mindful meditation in a very gentle way, starting with one minute.

Dr Mary Barson
Perfect.

Dr Lucy Burns
So every day, yes. And the idea being that every day you build on this skill by one minute. So by the end of May, 30 minutes, which is a lot. You don't necessarily have to do that but you could. If you wanted to get to the point of doing a 30 minute every day, you build on it by minute, a minute a day. So easy.

Dr Mary Barson
If you're doing 30 minutes a day, beautiful healthful changes are happening at the cellular level in your body, improving your detoxification pathways, improving all manner and aspects of your health and wellness, and your mental fitness. So it is a beautifully safe and powerful tool. Lucy, it could be useful just to take a moment now. Why are we on a podcast called Real Health and Weight Loss, banging on about meditation and mindfulness?

Dr Lucy Burns
For so many reasons, so many reasons. So if we want to focus solely on weight loss as a goal, we know that the majority of people who lose weight put it back on, in fact it has been proven that 95%, over 95% of diets fail. So why do they fail, and they fail, well there's multiple reasons. A lot of them are because they're ridiculous diets like the Israeli army diet that I once did, where you ate two days of apples and two days of cheese. It was just a crazy diet. So a lot of them fail because they're fad diets. A lot of them fail because they're calorie restriction. But let's put that aside and say that people who are wanting to do a low carb real food diet and find they just can't keep doing it. The thing that is stopping them is not the food. It's their mind. It's managing their mind in often times of stress and distress. So learning to manage your mind in a way that you can use helpful tools to self-soothe is one part of it. The second part is that we know that most of you are living, you're not lying around being lazy. You are living extremely busy, hectic, stressful lives and chronic low grade stress increases low grade inflamation, you know alters our whole metabolic pathway, activates your cortisol, increases insulin resistance and a whole lot of things that you've heard me bang on about. So if you can learn to activate your parasympathetic or the rest and digest phase, and balance that sympathetic nervous drive, or the fright and flight that we spend a lot of time in, then that will help both your weight loss but more importantly, your health immensely.

Dr Mary Barson
I couldn't have said it better myself.

Dr Lucy Burns
Oh, good. I was about to say, is there, have I missed anything?

Dr Mary Barson
Nup, encapsulated it beautifully.

Dr Lucy Burns
Yeah. So lovelies, I think this is it. I mean we're, we're all looking for tools. Remember as humans, one of our big drivers is we all want to feel better. We all want to feel better and we want to feel better in the moment and that's why sometimes we'll use tools that are unhelpful to soothe. But learning this tool, particularly once you've practised it and become very good at inducing that relaxation state quickly and easily, bringing your mind back, the benefits to your health are enormous. There are tangible, enormous benefits.

Dr Mary Barson
It can make all your moments, better moments.

Dr Lucy Burns
Absolutely. Mindfulness, it's hard. If it was easy, we'd all be doing it. We'd all be walking around in blissful state of you know, mindfulness. It's actually hard so I get it. And there's lots of reasons that we attempted away from it and lots of stories that our brain will say. It will tell you it's too hard. It'll tell you do it later. It'll tell you, “Oh, I'm too busy to do it now, I haven't got time”. They're all the stories it'll put up. And part of that is because you know what, the mind actually loves just running amok, loves running on thinking about its own thing and here you are offering part of your mind a solution, a way to sort of just calm.

Dr Mary Barson
That's right, to calm the wet, slippery octopus.

Dr Lucy Burns
Yes. But you know, again all the arms just want to pop out.

Dr Mary Barson
Yeah.

Dr Lucy Burns
Alright lovelies, we will link our meditation program, it will start first of May. We will link that in the show notes as well. If you're interested in starting on a journey with us, one minute a day, increasing slowly, calmly, setting you up for success so that by the end of May, you can do 30 minutes, then hop on in. We will see you soon. Bye bye everybody.

So my lovely listeners, that ends this episode of Real Health and Weight Loss. I'm Dr Lucy Burns.

Dr Mary Barson
And I'm Dr Mary Barson. We're from Real Life Medicine. To contact us please visit https://www.rlmedicine.com

Dr Lucy Burns
And until next time, thanks for listening. 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.