Meditation for Weight Loss: Does It Really Help?

One of the main health concerns for everyone today is excess weight. Long hours of sitting in front of digital screens have made our lives sedentary. This leads to food cravings. And to satisfy that, we binge on processed and fried food with cold drinks because nothing goes well with a bag of chips and a cold drink when watching a movie.

Another major cause of weight gain is stress, anxiety, depression, or in simple words – deteriorating mental health. We are so busy with our lives that we have forgotten to enjoy the simple things and give time to ourselves. Stress can be due to work, relationships, news, or regarding self. 

Some people have a tendency of overeating or binge eat due to stress or after experiencing an emotional episode, which is also termed “stress eating”.

There are many routines and diet plans that will be suggested to help you with your weight loss. However, if the mind is not healthy and in a calm state, all the planning, dieting, and exercising will have little to no effect on your weight loss regime. 

Meditation can help you tackle your mental front so that you are able to concentrate more on the physical aspects. It will aid in creating awareness regarding your body, keeping your mind calm, and correcting your eating habits. It may not show immediate effects like that of dieting or a physical workout but will support you internally to have a long-lasting effect on your thoughts and subsequently in your weight loss journey.

How can meditation help in weight loss?

You must have thought, how can closing my eyes and sitting in a quiet place with a calm mind helps in weight loss? What does a calm mind have to do with shedding excess weight? 

Before understanding this, you need to understand how stress or negative emotions and thoughts lead to excess weight gain.

Stress eating and weight gain

Have you noticed that you or someone you start eating when they are stressed saying that it is a coping mechanism? But ever wondered why people tend to eat in large quantities at times of tension and stress?

The answer lies in the activation fight or flight mode, or the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS). This happens when you have experienced emotional trauma, higher levels of stress, anxiety, or are under immense pressure, your body goes into survival mode.

And this mode makes the body think that you have used calories, which is not true. Cue the urge to start eating to replenish yourself.

The things you eat are also the result of the SNS mode. During times of stress, cortisol (the stress hormone) rises, leading to a rise in insulin. It further causes a decrease in blood sugar level and you crave sugary and fatty food. They are deemed as comfort food as the body is releasing chemicals associated with calmness in response to the food you eat.

Meditation helps reducing stress

It is clear from the above relation, that stress could be the main culprit in increasing our weight. 

And you must have also heard of the effects meditation has in calming the mind. Just like how the SNS is activated during episodes of stress, meditation will help you activate the PNS or Parasympathetic Nervous System. This is also called the rest and digest mode as it gradually encourages relaxation and normal functioning of the mind and body.

Meditation teaches us to alter our mindset in regards to managing stress. When you are sitting still, you are letting your thoughts come to the surface. The key point here is that you are not dwelling on those thoughts but letting them flow. You are essentially commanding your mind to quieten these negative thoughts.

This process aids in reducing stress and makes you calm. With a calm mind, you will be able to think more rationally and not turn to binge eating processed food. Or even if you crave food, you will become more aware of what you are eating, also known as mindful eating.

Some other ways meditation helps in weight loss are as follows:

  • Reduces Basal Metabolic Rate (the rate at which calories burn while resting) which leads to lower calorie intake.
  • Meditation enhances awareness of the temptation towards junk, oily, processed food. 
  • It increases your resilience and strength to follow and continue your weight loss regime.
  • It help you reduce self-judgment if you miss a step on your weight loss journey. 
  • Helps maintain your weight in the long run.

What does science says?

Even though the amount of scientific evidence around meditation and weight loss is not significant, there have been some studies conducted to prove a positive relationship between the two. 

In 2015, a study was conducted on 60 individuals whose BMI (Body Mass Index) was above 30 (obesity range) [efn_note] Effectiveness of mindfulness training and dietary regime on weight loss in obese people https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5319254/ [/efn_note]. Out of them, 15 people were given training on mindful meditation along with a diet for 8-120 minute sessions. It was observed that this group has a successful reduction in their weight compared to the others. Their weight loss was also sustained for a period of 2 months.

The research finding shows that mindfulness meditation along with dietary regulation is very helpful in weight loss, even in obese patients.

In a review analysis, 19 research papers [efn_note] Mindfulness-based interventions for weight loss: a systematic review and meta-analysis https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/obr.12623 [/efn_note] were analyzed for the efficacy of “mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) for weight loss and obesity-related eating behaviors”. It was noted that formal and informal meditation effectively reduced weight and positively impacted obesity-related eating behaviors.

Another systematic review was conducted on 14 studies [efn_note] Mindfulness meditation as an intervention for binge eating, emotional eating, and weight loss: A systematic review https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1471015314000191?via%253Dihub [/efn_note] that studied the effect of meditation on binge eating, emotional eating, and weight loss. It was observed that binge and emotional eating was significantly removed with mixed results on weight loss.

This further goes on to say that more detailed studies are required in this area. However, we also cannot overlook the fact that meditation does have an impact on reducing weight by reducing emotional eating and stress levels.

How to Do Meditation for Weight Loss

Now that we have seen how effective is meditation for weight loss, the question now arises, how does one meditate? Are there any specific techniques to follow? Do you have to take special classes for it?

Don’t worry, you wouldn’t have to shell out wads of money for something as simple and relaxing as meditation. All you need is a yoga mat and a thick blanket to cover yourself while meditating. You can also perform meditation on your bed. You just need to give some time, as less as 10 minutes every day.

Further, find a quiet place in your house where you know you will not be disturbed. If not, then find out the perfect time when there is pin-drop silence in the house, which is generally at the early hours of the morning.

But before you take up meditation, you should know that meditation should not be done as a stand-alone practice. It is a way to help you stay true to your goal of losing weight along with your physical exercise and diet plan.

Practicing Mindful Meditation 

In mindful meditation, you become aware of your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. While you recognize each of them, you also learn to cope with their onslaught. 

This simple meditation yet powerful technique is done by sitting with crossed-leg, hand on your knees or thighs, and eyes closed. You just need to come into a state of peace where every thought that comes forward is being acknowledged but not been analyzed or elaborated on. 

The thoughts just flow away like a calm breeze.

You will need to bring back your focus on your breath. This will happen multiple times but every time you need to come back to your breath.

Do not judge yourself since this is what mindfulness will teach you, to stay in the present and let your mind become free.

Following a Guided Meditation

If you cannot trust yourself to not wander away with your thoughts, you can take the help of guided meditation. You will find ample guided meditations audios and videos on the internet, which will help you in addressing the issue of weight loss. 

Some guided meditation will use the visualization technique by asking you to imagine a beautiful and serene place, to relax you. Others may combine the visualization with bringing awareness to each muscle and body part of yours. By bringing awareness, you will be able to reflect on the stiffness in each area and let go of the tension gradually.

Chanting Chakra Mantras

You can also chant a mantra to support your weight loss meditation. You would want to change the way your mind thinks and reacts to stress. Though there are no specific mantras for weight loss, your can turn to chakra mantras for enhanced effects. 

Out of the 7 chakras, the solar plexus chakra can help you with weight loss. It is located just above the navel and helps with issues related to digestion and weight.

To practice a solar plexus chakra meditation:

  • Sit down in a comfortable position and take time to come to a relaxed state of mind where your thoughts no longer distract you.
  • Visualize a warm yellow light that originates around your navel. Imagine it growing in size and allowing its energy to cleanse the solar plexus chakra of any blockages. Let it grow to the size so that it engulfs your midsection.
  • Take 3-4 deep breaths from your belly and with the 5th inhale, chant VAM (the chakra’s bija mantra) by extending the ‘M’ during exhalation. Do this for at least 2 minutes and slowly bring your breathing to a normal pace. 

If you want to say affirmations, you can recite them after you have finished chanting the bija mantra. Recite the affirmation after the chanting of the bija mantra.

Meditation with Affirmation 

Affirmations are positive statements that are used to cleanse, balance, and heal blocked energy by pushing bad thoughts and emotions away from the mind. The stress-relieving and uplifting feelings you get from speaking affirmations are sincere.

Each affirmation should be repeated at least 8-10 times. You should concentrate on the words each time and urge yourself to believe them.

While choosing or creating an affirmation, you should be aware of the fact that they are realistic. Your mind will automatically reject the affirmation if you subconsciously don’t believe in them. So instead of saying, “I will reduce weight within 3 months” will not work if subconsciously you know that it is not going to happen.

Focus on body positivity, self-acceptance, better-eating habits, and overall health.

Some effective affirmations that you can use in your weight loss meditation are:

  • I accept myself completely. I accept that I have strengths, and I accept that I have weaknesses.
  • I am eating foods contributing to my well-being.
  • I take good care of my body because it does so much for me and it’s the only one I’ve got.
  • I give my feelings the attention they actually deserve and don’t eat to avoid them.
  • I love and care for my body.
  • I believe in myself and my ability to succeed. I have hope and certainty about the future.
  • I don’t aim for perfection. I accept mistakes and learn from them.
  • I exercise to enjoy a strong, toned body. I love the feeling exercise gives me.

Following Mindful Eating

Mindful eating is not a meditation technique but something that arises from mindfulness. Just like mindful meditation, you bring your awareness to cravings, feeling about the food, and experiences while eating. 

Mindful eating involves:

  • Eating slowly and without any distractions such as sitting with mobile, in front of the TV, laptop, etc.
  • Listening to your body and eating when you are truly hungry, also known as intuitive eating.
  • Eating only till you feel full.
  • Paying attention to colors, smells, sounds, textures, and flavors
  • Reducing any feelings of guilt and anxiety about food
  • How food is affecting your feelings and body
  • Appreciating your food

Paying attention to all of the above can help significantly reduce your habits of binge eating, overeating, and stress eating. Even if you have the habit of eating fast, you will learn to slow down. Eating fast tricks your body into thinking that you have not eaten enough and makes you eat more, resulting in overeating.

Conclusion

You have to keep in mind that meditation alone cannot do wonders. You need to follow a systemized weight loss schedule and complement it with disciplines meditation. Pay close attention to how you eat, when you eat, why are you eating, and how eating makes you feel subsequent.

Mind awareness is one of the key factors when it comes to following a strict regime, which can surely be achieved through meditation.

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