WHEN IT COMES TO HEALTH, people tend to think about food and exercise. However, there’s another area of wellbeing that’s crucial and yet often overlooked: relaxation.
In my busy GP surgery, I see stressed out patients who rarely prioritise ‘chill out’ time – most of them women. Relaxation is so important because it not only improves your sleep, but also keeps your weight down.
So it’s time to start prioritising ‘me time’. Now, I understand the challenges of modern life – many of us have children to look after, elderly parents to care for, not to mention full- or part-time jobs and housework. I remember the days when once you’d finished work, you could switch off and relax. Now though, I see people finishing one job or task and moving straight on to the next, perhaps watching TV but with one eye focused on a laptop or phone, and checking social media. Being in this ‘switched on’ mode isn’t good for stress levels and disrupts sleep if your brain is too wired, and it’s become more predominant over the past ve years.
RELAX TO STAY SLIM
In the first series of Doctor in the House, one of the women struggled to lose weight. For the first two weeks I got her and her family eating healthily – cutting out all processed foods – but while her husband lost quite a bit of weight, she stayed the same. The problem turned out not to be food-related but stress- related. This was evident from her super-high levels of cortisol – the hormone that helps your body to deal with stress. We now know high stress levels are associated with weight gain, especially around the torso, as your body thinks it’s in fight-or- flight mode so therefore holds on to energy, irrespective of what you are eating.
And because this lady was constantly on the go, her elevated stress hormones were keeping her overweight. So, I ‘prescribed’ ve minutes’ daily meditation, a magnesium supplement and a pre-bedtime bath. Without making any more diet changes, she lost a stone in weight and four inches off her waist in just a few weeks – proof that taking some ‘me time’ should be a priority.
RANGAN’S RELAXATION PRESCRIPTION
- Have at least 20 minutes of ‘me time’ every single day. This could be going for a walk or meditating.
- Once a week, treat yourself to a luxurious bath – or a massage.
- Find a hobby or activity you love, not something you do purely to ‘keep fit’.
- Switch off all electronic devices by 9pm. In the morning, leave your phone off for at least an hour to give yourself some peace before the day gets into full swing.
Dr in the House returns to BBC One early in 2017. Find out more at www.drchatterjee.com