Meditate Your Way to a Healthier Weight
Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and focus on the natural rhythm of your breath. When your mind wanders, which it will, acknowledge the thoughts without judgment and gently guide your mind back to your breath.
There are many variations of meditation, but this is an example of mindful meditation, which is the practice of intentionally focusing on the present moment by paying close attention to your breath and, without judgment noticing any thoughts, sensations, or emotions that arise. Research suggests that regular meditation can help promote weight loss in addition to many other benefits.
While meditating itself doesn’t burn extra calories, it’s the effect that it has on your mental state that leads to positive changes.
Along with leaving you with an immediate sensation of inner calm and clarity, other positive effects of regular meditation include reduced stress, increased mindfulness, increased connection to and love for your true self, and the creation of a keystone habit.
When stressed, your body releases a hormone called cortisol, which causes a spike in blood sugar and has been associated with increased weight, especially around the midsection. Studies have shown that meditation practice can actually lower the amount of cortisol that is released.
Along with lowering stress, meditation helps us become more mindful of our actions. So not only are we slowing down a bit thanks to a decreased stress level, we are allowing for more thought before each action. This heightened state of awareness is known as mindfulness. It can be the difference between mindlessly eating the french fries someone ordered for the table and deciding to savor them slowly until you are satisfied or perhaps realizing that what you really need is an after-dinner walk. By practicing mindfulness meditation throughout your day, whether driving your car or eating dinner, you begin to get out of auto-pilot mode and instead put more thought into your words and actions.
Increased Connection to and Love for Your True Self
During mindfulness meditation, it’s not uncommon to be faced with strong emotions that you might otherwise avoid. Research shows that mindfulness meditation may be an effective treatment for binge and emotional eating.
Studies have also shown that meditation can help reduce anxiety and fear, both of which are found with disordered eating habits such as binge eating, constant dieting, and food guilt. Along with mindfulness meditation, adding a mantra or positive affirmation to your meditations or day can also help boost self-compassion. Examples of this include “I am enough” and “I am strong and beautiful.”
A Keystone Habit
Finally, establishing regular meditation can be a keystone habit. A keystone habit is one change in behavior that can cause a ripple of other positive habits. One classic example is making your bed every morning, and just like making your bed every morning, starting your day with a meditation practice sets the tone for the rest of the day. Not only will you feel clear and calm, but chances are you will also go on to make other positive behavior decisions in the hours that follow.
The best part about mediation? There are no downsides, AND it’s free. You are not given a set of rules to follow—whether for food, exercise, or even how you should meditate and you’re not taking any meditation. How you meditate is up to you, but experts agree a regular, daily practice is critical. Try starting with 5 minutes daily and then consider working up to 20 minutes for maximum benefits.
Mindfulness can be whatever you want it to be. It an be time spent focused on a single thing such as a prayer time, reading scriptures or simply being present for friends, family, co-workers or the cashier at the grocery store.
While meditating can be as simple as sitting and focusing on your breath for 5 minutes, there are plenty of resources for those who want a little extra guidance. For those who want guided meditation, there are popular apps such as Headspace or Calm and many free YouTube videos.
Ultimately, the focus is what separates meditation from traditional weight loss strategies. You quickly realize that the focus is not on what you eat or how much you exercise; it’s on centering and calming your mind while connecting with your true self, naturally causing you to be more mindful. It can help you shift your mindset from “I need to lose weight” to “I love myself and my body and want to take the best care of it that I can.”
Moreover, the body works well in a rested state. Digestion, for example, is just one of the body systems that works better in a restful state. An anxious body becomes ruled by stress hormones whereas a relaxed body is allowed to function properly.
All content of this blog is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this blog.
Kelly Sherman, MS, NC, CGP, CPT, is a licensed nutritionist specializing in empowering women to reclaim their health by cutting through misinformation and ditching the diet culture. She has a master’s degree in nutrition and is degreed in exercise science as well as a certified personal trainer. With over 20 years of experience in the field, she combines the best of both nutrition and exercise sciences to best help her clients reach their potential. To nourish is to flourish!