You already know that regular exercise and a healthy diet are important for reaching and maintaining your goal weight, but did you know there are other healthy habits you can adopt to help you reach your weight-loss goals? One of them is starting a regular meditation practice.
While meditation doesn’t directly help you lose weight, a 2013 review of research revealed that meditation can promote weight loss by influencing behaviors that drive you to eat more — including binge eating and emotional eating.
What is meditation?
Meditation has traditionally had a reputation as something only hippies and monks do. But meditation is something anyone can practice and benefit from. Have you ever gone to yoga and sat quietly at the end of class? That’s meditation. Or have you ever sat at your desk in the middle of a stressful day and taken a few deep breaths to calm yourself? That’s a form of meditation, too. Meditation is simply a practice of bringing your awareness to the present moment in order to quiet the mind.
How can meditation help you lose weight?
Research has shown that meditation provides numerous health benefits: it can reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, reduce the severity of symptoms associated with respiratory disease, and may also help relieve symptoms associated with menopause. It’s also commonly recommended as a tool for reducing stress.
Meditation can also lead us to pay more attention to what and how we eat. Food cravings are often triggered by emotional stress. By helping us slow down, observe what we’re feeling, and reduce stress, meditation can help us identify if we’re actually hungry, or just reaching for a cookie because we’re feeling depressed. Studies conducted on the effects of “mindfulness interventions” (like meditation) on eating behaviors and weight loss showed that participants experienced a significant improvement in emotional eating, as well as a significant reduction in binge eating, improved stress reduction, and improved blood sugar control.
How do you meditate?
There is no one way or one “right” way to meditate. The best meditation practice for you is one that works for you at your current stage in life. However, most types of meditation include the following characteristics:
- A quiet location where you won’t be interrupted. This can be a special place in your house, or you could even choose to meditation while taking a walk on the beach.
- A comfortable posture that you can hold for several minutes. This often means sitting cross-legged on the floor or on a meditation cushion, but could also mean lying down.
- A focal point for your attention. You can simply focus on your breath going in and out, or you can choose a word or a phrase to repeat silently — known as a mantra — such as “I am healthy.” Choose something that represents how you want to feel each day. There are also numerous apps available that provide guided meditations on a variety of topics, which some people find easier than simply sitting in silence.
- An open attitude. Don’t worry if your mind wanders — this is normal! Many people will say they can’t meditate because they can’t focus, but no one is able to completely focus their mind without practice. When you catch your mind wandering, notice it without judgement, and return your focus to your breath or your mantra.
Start off meditating for 5 or 10 minutes at a time. With regular practice, you may find yourself naturally paying more attention to your own thoughts and actions, instead of going through your day on autopilot. Meditation doesn’t replace diet and exercise, but it can support those healthy habits and help give you the best chance of success for reaching your weight-loss and wellness goals!
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Medically reviewed by Jay J. Garcia, MD on April 20, 2017