Today’s article on weight loss yoga features Brandt Passalacqua, the creator of Peaceful Weight Loss™ through Yoga. I asked Brandt to share his experience of regaining health and attaining his ideal weight through weight loss yoga.
Brandt, please tell us how you got started with yoga.
About 9 years ago, I had a serious autoimmune illness and I was 100 lbs. overweight. I wanted to get my health back and my girlfriend at the time introduced me to yoga. I got really into it for rehab. I did regular yoga practice and deep relaxation exercises. I started losing weight and I became really aware of how my lifestyle was affecting my health.
What was your lifestyle like then?
I was eating more food than my body needed. I was also using food to suppress emotion. I was smoking 4 packs per day. I was doing everything I could to not be present…it was self-medication. I was in a constantly anxious state but I wasn’t aware of it. I ran five miles every day but I wasn’t losing weight. I was overweight and unfit and running hurt. Because I was an athlete in high school, all my models for health were abusive. I didn’t yet know a better way. But I started doing yoga every week and my mental clarity improved. I went to class once weekly and because I was a musician, I thought you were supposed to come home and practice throughout the week, so that’s what I did. I didn’t find out until later that not everyone thought you were supposed to practice but musicians are just used to the idea of practice as expected and normal. At first, I wasn’t taking it super seriously but it felt so good, I kept doing it. At first I couldn’t even touch my toes but I got better as I practiced. Over time, the physical benefits kept me motivated to keep going and then I started to see other benefits. Eventually, I lost all of the 100 extra lbs. I weigh 160 lbs. now.
How often do you practice yoga now?
I practice asanas 5-6x per week and I do daily meditation. For awhile in the past, I practiced yoga for 2 hours per day but then I became a parent and my schedule changed. The length of time, however, isn’t important. The key is very regular practice. When I teach clients who want to lose weight, I coach them to do 15-20 minutes per day.
How long did it take to start losing weight?
It was a long road. Once I began feeling better, I noticed that some foods made me feel ill. I went from eating a pound of cheese to not eating it because it didn’t feel good. I stopped bingeing. I gained the big awareness that I shouldn’t hurt myself with food. Food became a way to nurture rather than hurt. I realized that I had a choice in the matter. It took several years to lose the weight but it steadily happened.
Did you do any other exercise to lose weight or just the yoga?
Only yoga. I stopped running. I like the Time article that explains why exercise is a bad way to lose weight. I believe that most exercise promotes weight gain because people tend to eat more when they exercise. People tend to reward themselves. Also, too many people get stressed out about exercise and anything that causes more stress can cause weight gain. Many people have a negative relationship with exercise.
Many people are in life situations where they have long commutes, demanding jobs, young children at home, etc. What advice do you have for people who want to practice yoga but are having difficulty with scheduling it?
Find a way that you like to do yoga and do a very short practice very regularly, like 15 minutes in the morning or 15 minutes before dinner. The key is stress reduction. For weight loss, that’s the key. You need to lose the idea that you can “work it off.” The traditional advice of “eat less and exercise more” doesn’t work for most people because they interpret the exercise advice to be something intense. This bad advice just causes most people to lose weight and then gain it back when they can’t keep up the punishing regimen they used to lose the weight. Success isn’t losing weight and then gaining it back…success is losing weight and keeping it off. For weight loss, it is all about reducing stress, getting regular mellow exercise, and reducing food intake.
Describe a typical day of eating for you.
Everybody should have a different diet. It won’t help you to eat what I eat.
Agreed. But people love to hear what the experts eat.
OK, here’s a sample day: Eggs and Ezekiel bread in the morning. Fruit mid-morning. Lunch might be brown rice and beans or tofu and greens. Maybe some nuts and cheese. Mid-afternoon more nuts. Sometimes tempeh, quinoa, or broccoli. Fruit in the late evening. A bite of chocolate. I’m borderline hypoglycemic so I eat regularly to keep my blood sugar steady. But here’s an important note…when I was losing weight, I didn’t eat like this. I ate all different sorts of foods. In the beginning, I lived on fast food. I lived in New York City and my options were endless. I ate a lot of meat and fried foods and bagels and breads. At one point, I was eating lamb sandwiches or roast beef sandwiches at 3 am.
In your eBook, you mention that you don’t eat some foods for energetic and/or ethical reasons. Can you explain what you mean?
I stopped eating red meat, then chicken, then fish. Eating red meat made me feel bad and it interfered with my energy flow and my yoga practice. Also, I developed a strong ethical belief that you shouldn’t eat much meat. Basically, I evolved toward a “whole foods diet” but remember that you can only get there by realizing that it makes you feel so much better. When I coach people, I help them to figure out what makes them feel better and what makes them feels worse. The point of yoga is to build body awareness. I support clients while they make better food choices and yoga is the best way I know to make this process happen.
Can you say more about how you help clients?
I believe that you can’t think your way out of an eating problem. Everyone has had years of therapy and it hasn’t helped them to lose weight, so I am not a fan of talk therapy for weight loss. I get clients who have practiced yoga and they still have food issues. Working your ass off in yoga is not going to change things. A lot of yoga classes are just like going to the gym, just as stressful. That’s not beneficial. If clients are local to where I live (Northampton, Massachusetts), we meet and do private yoga sessions and we work on the food issues. We meet once weekly or twice monthly for an hour. I teach simple yoga postures. If the clients don’t live near me, I do telephone sessions using Skype video conferencing. I also do seminars.
You mentioned that you were a musician in your previous career. How did you transition into being a yoga instructor?
After I got into doing yoga, I took teacher training and trained specifically as a structural yoga therapist. I wrote a book on peaceful weight loss. I also trained as a massage therapist. I’m always learning.
Thank you, Brandt.
For more information about Peaceful Weight Loss™ through Yoga, please visit PeacefulWeightLoss.com.