Laughter and Play Supports Healthy Weight Loss?

family playing in the park


Here is an article I wrote for In Balance, a weight loss program that emphasizes the necessity of healthy lifestyle and was founded by my dear mother-in-law, Brenda Wollenberg. Myself and several other nutritionist have graciously been a part of growing this program, Brenda developed (and with success has been using with her own clients for years and years), since 2010. It has been a pleasure watching and being part of its growth but also using sound and well-researched nutrition concepts set into a beautifully organized and effective program is beyond tantalizing for any nutritionist. Brenda’s book covers the entire program but with a focus on kids and teens, titled Overweight Kids in a Toothpick World. There are seven essential pillars to In Balance written as an acronym BALANCE,  this post covers L – Laughter and Play.


How much does laughter and play contribute to your losing excess weight? Besides rescuing you from a dull weight loss plan or luring you to break from a boring workout routine to watch a comedy at your local theater – while munching down on zealously buttered popcorn (we’ve all been there, right?) – laughter and play adds an interesting element when planning your weight loss goals. Here’s why it is important to schedule in some fun – like a night at the movies or an afternoon of bocce at the park – for successful results when setting real goals to accomplish real health.

The good news is research has shown that in 10-15 minutes of knee slapping belly laughs you can lose up to 50 calories worth of energy, similar to energy burned during a brisk walk.[1] And, as is mentioned in Overweight Kids in a Toothpick World, research from a professor at Stanford University, William Fry, has determined that 20 seconds of hearty laughter is comparable to three minutes of arduous rowing.[2] [3] If you ask me, this is some pretty great news, but what is even more interesting when it comes to laughter and play, is laughter is a vital force that can mitigate the effects of stress on the body. [4]

What does this have to do with weight loss? Negative or unnecessary stress – stress that brings no benefit to body, unlike positive stress coming from physical exercise or studying for an exam – increases a hormone in the body called cortisol. Cortisol is the hormone that allows the body to react efficiently in times of danger – your flight or flight hormone – and is helpful under specific circumstances; however, due to excess daily stress from strict deadlines at work, unbearable traffic or watching your kid challenge gravity from high up on the playground monkey bars, cortisol levels can reach unnecessary levels in the body. This becomes a serious challenge when trying to obtain healthy weight and wellness. Here are a few signs of cortisol imbalances:

  • Food cravings
  • Storage of visceral fat (fat surrounding abdominal organs)
  • Diabetes
  • Insomnia

With the knowledge that laughter has the potent effect of lowering cortisol levels, you can see how it is a necessary part of In Balance LM’s healthy weight loss plan. Here are our 2 main tools to incorporate fun into your weight loss goals, to keep you motivated and achieving the results you need:


    • In Balance LM Tools for Making Room for Play
      1. Being Childlike – plan game nights with board games or even a family session of Wii dance.
      2. Being Spontaneous – try something new, whether it’s a recipe, new fitness class at your community center, Hawaiian shirt day or an Iron Chef cook-off in your kitchen.
      3. Being Creative – make cooking a team effort having your child choose some of the foods for dinner from a few healthy options or a cooking playlist to listen to during food prep.
      4. Being a Play Promoter – promoting play as a parent teaches your child the importance of fun and play through the building of this healthy habit.
    • Relieve Stress through Positive Communication
      Language is a powerful tool when it comes to determining what we think of ourselves and how we learn to accept or not to accept ourselves. Rather than exclaiming “I want to be skinny,” choose language that builds you up: “I want to find my body’s best state of balance.” Or rather than saying “I’m on a diet” try choosing the words “I am changing to a healthier lifestyle,” which creates a choice to adopt a healthy lifestyle for you, rather than a temporary fix found in choosing a diet. These are conscious decisions to choose positive and proactive change.

Who knew having fun was such a crucial aspect of a sustainable weight loss plan! Keep your goals fun and interesting with our In Balance LM tips and enjoy this healthier popcorn recipe for the next time you get a hankering for a good movie . . . after one of our 15-20 minute workouts.

Home Theater Kettlecorn
(4 servings)
¼ cup organic popcorn kernels
1 medium sized pot with lid or a popcorn maker
2 Tbs of coconut oil
an additional 1 Tbs of coconut oil and 1tsp of olive oil if making popcorn in a pot rather than a popcorn maker
2 tsp of honey
½ tsp of cinnamon
½ -1 tsp of sea salt
1 large bowl


  1. Make your popcorn via pot or popcorn maker. If using a pot add 1 Tbs of coconut oil and 1 tsp of olive oil and heat pot before adding kernels and covering pot (med-high heat).
  2. Place popcorn in bowl. Now take the pot and place back on the burner. Add 2 Tbs of coconut oil and melt. When melted add honey. Stir together.
  3. Pour coconut oil and honey mixture over your popcorn. Add all other ingredients and toss. Enjoy!


[1] Sobel, D and Ornstein, R. MD (1996) The Healthy Mind, Healthy Body Handbook. NY: Patient Education Media, Inc. P. 49-59.

[2]Wollenberg, B. (2010). Overweight Kid in a Toothpick World. Langley: Choices Lifestyle Publications. P. 37.

[3] Fry, W and Lipton, Bruce.(2005) The Biology of Belief. CA: Mountain of Love/ Elite Books. P. 197.

[4] O’Brian M, ND. (2007) Successful Aging. CA: Biomed General. P. 152-153.