By now, you’ve probably tried everything to shed off those pesky pounds, from restricting your calories to intensifying your workout routine. While these efforts might be helping you shed a pound or two every few weeks, there’s something that can give you that extra boost: meditation.
This cost-free, natural, simple strategy can be very effective in helping you slim down, while also alleviating stress and anxiety. The research surrounding mindful meditation practices suggests that meditation is closely linked to weight loss.
The concepts of mindfulness and meditation can not only lower your stress levels and boost awareness. Having an attentive mind can keep you from binge eating and emotional eating. Because of this, meditation for weight loss can be a naturally healthy and effective way to lose weight and eat better.
Simply put, meditation is the act of focusing the attention on becoming more mindful. According to the American Meditation Society, during meditation, a person’s attention essentially flows inwards instead of engaging in the outer world of activity. The practice involves clearing the mind with the aim of returning to a state of calm emotions and straightforward thinking.
Some people practice meditation for only five minutes a day, though experts suggesting trying to work that up to about 20 minutes a day. For those who’re just starting out, consider taking five minutes just after you wake up to clear your mind before getting on with your day.
Close your eyes and simply focus on your breathing pattern without trying to change it. If your mind wanders, which is quite common when starting out, just guide it back to your breathing.
Link Between Weight Loss and Meditation
Intention and Motivation
The main reason why meditation can be so effective in helping people lose weight is that it aligns the conscious and the unconscious mind into agreeing on the changes that you want to apply to your behaviors. These changes include regulating cravings for unhealthy foods, changing eating habits, and finding the motivation to exercise.
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It’s therefore very important to have the mind involved in your weight loss journey because it’s where the harmful, weight-gaining habits including emotional eating are entrenched. Meditation ideally helps you become more aware of these habits and thoughts, overcome them with time, and even replace them with positive, healthy habits.
Developing a meditation routine will also help you keep the idea of weight loss alive. It essentially brings the object to the forefront of your mind and your day. This way, it’s much harder to forget, which it will motivate you to keep going.
Meditation creates a higher level of concentration and focuses on your weight loss goals. Since it’s so easy to get distracted, taking some time out of your busy day to meditate will harbor that motivation.
Meditation and mindfulness have also been shown to improve psychological health. Mindfulness has been shown to lower emotional eating, binge eating, and generally enhance the weight loss process.
Stress relief is one of the fastest benefits of meditation. It essentially takes you out of the fight-or-flight mode by lowering the levels of stress hormones in your body. Stress hormones such as cortisol usually signal the body to store more calories as fat. Because of this, high cortisol levels are going to make it much difficult for you to shed extra weight, even if you’re consistently making healthy choices.
According to a study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University, all it takes is about 25 minutes of meditation three days in a row to reduce stress significantly.1 In another 2016 study, participants showed increased relaxation, attention, mind-body awareness, calmness, and even brain activity after completing a few short meditation sessions.2 The study also stated that levels of self-control could increase with daily meditation practice.
Finally, in a recent research review, researchers evaluated that the role of meditation on weight loss, along with the behaviors that are often associated with poor eating.3 They concluded that mindful meditation could be helpful in decreasing the frequency of binge-eating and emotional eating.
Although mindfulness is quite different from meditation, the two concepts go hand-in-hand. Meditation helps you let go of the future and past. Perhaps you have had a number of failed attempts at weight loss before or you’re experiencing some anxieties about the future, such as getting rid of poor habits. Mindfulness while meditating lets you savor the present without fixating too much on these stressors.
How To Ensure that Meditation for Weight Loss Works for You
Choose the Right Practice
There are a number of different meditation styles that you can go with, though they all follow a similar basic technique of calming the mind and taking some time to breathe and becoming aware of the present moment. It’s wise to try a number of methods that sound interesting to you to find out which ones work best.
Aromatherapy has also been proven effective in calming the body, which is helpful when meditating.4 You can generally use aromatherapy for meditation in two different ways. The first is diffusing the oil into the air to encourage inhalation aromatherapy.
This can be helpful in promoting relaxation, stimulating the senses, and creating an ambient space where you can really focus. Alternatively, try inhaling essential oils from a personal aromatherapy diffuser like Zen, Vibrant, Active, or Healthy MONQ.
Additionally, essential oils can be applied topically to the skin after dilution with a carrier oil.
Hone the Practice
There are also books that teach you how to meditate. Those who are new to the concept of meditation can particularly benefit from these. If you’d be interested to try meditation in a guided group setting, consider trying out your local meditation center. Most towns and urban centers have facilities or schools where meditators of various levels come together to practice.
Mindfulness and Meditation in Action
Meditation and mindfulness are known to improve psychological health. Mindfulness has been shown to lower emotional eating, binge eating, and generally enhancing weight loss.
Chronic stress is associated with a greater concentration of fats in the abdomen, especially through the overproduction of the stress hormone cortisol, which is also linked to higher mortality. Because of this link, a study from the University of California at San Francisco focused on identifying whether lowering stress levels through meditation can actually help lower the concentration of belly fat.5
The study was published in 2011 in the Journal of Obesity and researched a group of 47 obese or overweight female participants (with an average of 31.2 bodies mass index), giving half of them a series of classes about mindfulness meditation techniques.
The classes involved coaching them on how to pay attention to sensations of food cravings, hunger, identify emotional eating triggers, learn self-acceptance, and become aware of negative emotions. The guided meditations were provided to introduce new mindful eating skills, such as paying a close attention to the taste of food as well as eating more slowly than usual.
In general, the study group received nine classes, each lasting two and a half hours, along with a silent retreat day where they were encouraged to practice their new mindful eating and meditation skills. They were also encouraged to use the mindful skills when they got home in assignments of up to 30 minutes per day during or before meals, six days a week, and to log in their meditation activity.
Both the control groups and the study group received also received a two-hour nutrition and exercise information session. At the end of the research period, all of the participants were measured for their distribution and amount of abdominal fat, along with their cortisol levels.
Two key outcomes of the study were evaluated: whether the stress reduction and mindful eating program reduced emotional eating and whether it affected the amount of belly fat in participants.
In general, the study found these practiced decreased emotional eating, reduced stress levels, increased awareness of their bodily sensations, and reduced food cravings.
Additionally, blood cortisol levels were lower in the treatment group compared to the control group. Moreover, participants who experienced the most significant improvements in their mindful eating generally had a greater awareness of their hunger sensations, were more successful at reducing their chronic stress and experienced the greatest reduction in abdominal fat—by more than 500 grams in just the 4-month period.6
The researchers assert that mindful meditation training in human beings can help people struggling with weight loss to cope better with stress and the rest of their negative emotions.7 That’s because reduced stressed can promote a better body fat distribution from relaxing more and eating healthier.
No meditation practice for weight loss can help you lose weight without changing to a healthy diet and activity plan. The bottom line when trying to lose weight often involves creating a calorie deficit. Nonetheless, a program of mindful awareness is more likely to go a long way in making the process easier, and may even help you keep off the weight for good. Plus, meditation promises to give your health a big boost and shed some weight off you without costing you a cent.