Meditation won’t make you lose weight overnight. But, with a little practice, it can potentially have lasting effects on not only your weight, but also how you approach life in general.
Sustainable weight loss
Meditation is linked to a variety of benefits from lowering blood pressure, stress, pain, improving sleep, fighting addiction, and increasing immunity. And now, many studies have found it’s an effective method for losing weight and changing eating habits as well.
Mindfulness meditation involves paying close attention to:
- where you are
- what you’re doing
- how you’re feeling in the present moment
During mindfulness meditation, you’ll acknowledge all of these aspects without judgment. Taking stock of what you’re feeling and doing regarding food and taking those actions and thoughts as just those – nothing else. Not classifying them as good or bad.
Practicing mindfulness meditation can lead to long-term benefits. According to findings in the World Obesity Federation Journal, Obesity Review, compared to other dieters, those practicing mindfulness are more likely to keep the weight off.
Less guilt and shame
Mindfulness meditation can be particularly helpful in curbing emotional and stress-related eating. By becoming more aware of thoughts and emotions surrounding food, it’s easier to recognize times when you eat because you’re stressed, rather than hungry.
It’s also a good tool to prevent that harmful spiral of shame and guilt that some people fall into when trying to change their eating habits. Mindfulness meditation involves recognizing your feelings and behaviors for what they are, without judgment.
This encourages you to forgive mistakes, such as stress-eating a bag of potato chips. That forgiveness can also prevent catastrophizing, which is a fancy term for what happens when you decide to order a pizza since you already “screwed up” by eating a bag of chips.
Where traditional weight loss programs fall short
Traditional plans usually focus on calories in versus calories out, designing meal plans, educating people about exercise and telling them what supplements to take.
If you type the words “weight loss” into Google, you’ll find endless sites on how to lose weight. Sadly fad diets, trends and pills usually only give temporary results, which often makes people feel frustrated, leading to low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. These feelings often fuel the decision to choose unhealthy foods, and perpetuate the cycle.
What traditional programs overlook is that an important barrier to any healthy lifestyle change is often ourselves. Traditional weight loss programs tell us what we should be doing, which is often not sustainable. They rarely focus on how we can change our long-term behavior.
When it comes to losing weight, most haven’t worked on the most important part of the issue- our minds. We blame and judge the ‘program’ or coach instead of looking within. The story of our weight begins with us. It can be an accumulation of internal and external experiences we’ve had throughout our lives.
The connection between weight loss and meditation
Meditation is often disregarded because people question how sitting and not burning calories can help. But our bodies are a reflection of what’s going on in our minds. If our primary focus is on losing weight, we cut ourselves off from the emotional and mental beings we are, and that prevents us from understanding why the weight is showing up in the first place.
Those who successfully lose weight and keep it off are the ones who do the inner work. They’re ready to confront their thoughts, feelings, love for self and how they perceive themselves. They’re willing to dig up emotional triggers and past traumas that have manifested into an unhealthy weight and/or their relationship with food.
Sitting quietly allows us to sift through our thoughts and explore motivations for weight loss and why we haven’t accomplished our goals. Through meditation and mindfulness, we can connect the dots to create a unique and personalized approach to keeping the weight off as well as finding peace with food and body image.
How to start
There’s no need for any special equipment or expensive classes. For many, the hardest part is simply finding the time. Try to start with something reasonable, such as 10 minutes a day or even every other day.
Make sure you have access to a quiet place even if it’s in the shower.
Make yourself comfortable in any position that feels relaxed.
Start by focusing on your breath, watching your chest or stomach as it rises and falls. Feel the air as it moves in and out of your mouth or nose. Listen to the sounds the air makes. Do this for a minute or two, until you start to feel more relaxed.
Next, with your eyes open or closed, follow these steps:
- Take a deep breath in. Hold it for several seconds.
- Slowly exhale and repeat.
- Breathe naturally.
- Observe your breath as it enters your nostrils, raises your chest, or moves your belly, but don’t alter it in any way. Just continue to focus on your breathing.
- You’ll find your mind wandering, which is completely normal. Just acknowledge that your mind has wandered and return your attention to your breath.
- As you start to wrap up, reflect on how easily your mind wandered. Then, acknowledge how easy it was to bring your attention back to your breath.
Try to do this more days of the week than not. Keep in mind that it might not feel very effective the first few times you do it but with regular practice, it’ll get easier and start to feel more natural.
How to use with meals
- Slow down your meals. Focus on chewing slowly and recognizing the taste of each bite.
- Find the right time to eat. Avoid eating on the go or while multitasking.
- Learn to recognize hunger and fullness. If you aren’t hungry, don’t eat. If you’re full, don’t keep going. Try to listen to what your body is telling you.
- Recognize how certain foods make you feel. Try to pay attention to how you feel after eating certain foods. Which ones make you feel tired? Which ones make you feel energized?
- Forgive yourself. You thought that pint of ice cream would make you feel better, but it didn’t. That’s OK. Learn from it and move on.
- Make more thoughtful food choices. Spend more time thinking about what you’re going to eat before actually eating.
- Notice your cravings. Craving chocolate again? Acknowledging your cravings can help you resist them.
Meditation, especially mindfulness meditation, can be a useful part of your weight loss plan. Over time, it can help make lasting changes to your eating habits, thought patterns, and even how you feel about your weight. The trick? Just get started.