If you’ve ever found yourself stuffing tasteless salad leaves into your mouth while wishing there was an easier way to lose weight, you’re in luck. According to author and trainer Patrick McKeown, in order to slim down, all you need to do is breathe better.
The breathing specialist talks about the difference taking in the right amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide can make to your life in his new book, The Oxygen Advantage.
“The quantity of the air you breathe has the potential to transform everything you thought you knew about your body,” says McKeown.
“Air isn’t exactly something you can binge on at the kitchen table at night, or take too many swigs of over the weekend,” he continues.
"But what if, in a sense, it was? What if healthy breathing habits were just as important as healthy eating habits?”
McKeown maintains the biggest obstacle to your health and fitness is overbreathing – so if you find yourself breathing through your mouth, snoring, sighing a lot or just breathing more heavily than you should, changing the way you take in air could make a huge difference.
According to The Oxygen Advantage, only 5% of our diet is made up of ‘breathing-friendly’ food – fruit, vegetables and plain water – things that the body finds easy to digest. The other 95% is all acid. Processed foods such as dairy, meat, bread, sugar, coffee and tea all fall into this category, and are apparently causing us to overbreathe.
“Over time, the brain adjusts to this larger intake of air, and overbreathing becomes a habit,” states McKeown.
Practising breathing techniques can kick-start the blood’s oxygen levels, suppress appetite and encourage a more efficient processing of food.
How to start breathing better and losing weight
First up, you need to find your BOLT score by taking this Body Oxygen Level Test…
1. Take a small, silent breath in through your nose and allow a small, silent breath out through your nose.
2. Hold your nose with your fingers to prevent air from entering your lungs.
3. Count the number of seconds until you feel the first definite desire to breathe. (At this desire to breathe in, you may also feel the first involuntary movements of your breathing muscles - your abdomen may jerk and the area around your neck may contract.)
4. Release your nose and breathe in through it. (Your inhalation at the end of the breath should be calm.)
5. The number of seconds you counted is your BOLT score.
0-10: Your breathing is likely to be noisy, irregular and heavy, with no natural pauses between breaths.
10-20: Your breathing is heavy but regular.
20-30: Your breathing is calm, gentle, soft and quiet.
40: Breathing is effortless, calm and minimal. With a BOLT score of 40 seconds, it is difficult to see breathing movements. This is what we should be aiming for to optimise weight loss.
Breathe light to breathe right
In his book, McKeown recommends overweight patients practise this exercise for 10 minutes between three and six times a day (the lower your BOLT, the more you should do this).
1. Place one hand on your chest and the other just above your navel to help you to follow your breathing.
2. Breathe in and gently guide your abdomen outward.
3. Breathe out and gently guide your abdomen inward.
4. Observe your breathing pattern, noting the size and depth of each breath.
5. Apply gentle pressure with your hands to slightly reduce your breathing movements. It should feel as if you are breathing against your hands.
6. Encourage the depth of each breath to reduce.
7. Take in a smaller or shorter breath than you would like.
8. Allow a relaxed breath out, exhaling gently, slowly and easily.
9. Bring a feeling of relaxation to your breathing.
10. Do not tense your body, hold your breath or pause your breathing. Continue to breathe smoothly but take in less air than before.