What is meditation?
Meditation is a practice that helps to connect the mind and body to achieve a sense of calm. People have been meditating for thousands of years as a spiritual practice. Today, many people use meditation to reduce stress and become more aware of their thoughts.
There are many types of meditation. Some are based on the use of specific phrases called mantras. Others focus on breathing or keeping the mind in the present moment.
All of these methods can help you develop a better understanding of yourself, including how your mind and body works.
This increased awareness makes meditation a useful tool for better understanding your eating habits, which could result in weight loss.
We’ve partnered with WW (Weight Watchers Reimagined) to help you understand the benefits of meditation for weight loss and how to get started.
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 your thought patterns.
Sustainable weight loss
Meditation is linked to a variety of benefits. In terms of weight loss, mindfulness meditation seems to be the most helpful. A 2017 review of existing studies found that mindfulness meditation was an effective method for losing weight and changing eating habits.
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. Try to treat your actions and thoughts as just those — nothing else. Take stock of what you’re feeling and doing, but try not to classify anything as being good or bad. This becomes easier with regular practice.
Practicing mindfulness meditation can lead to long-term benefits, too. Compared to other dieters, those practicing mindfulness are more likely to keep the weight off, according to the 2017 review.
Less guilt and shame
Mindfulness meditation can be particularly helpful in curbing emotional and stress-related eating. By becoming more aware of your thoughts and emotions, you can recognize those times when you eat because you’re stressed, rather than hungry.
It’s also a good tool to prevent you from falling into the 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 judging yourself.
This encourages you to forgive yourself for making mistakes, such as stress-eating a bag of potato chips. That forgiveness can also prevent you from 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.
Anyone with a mind and body can practice meditation. 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 during these 10 minutes. If you have children, you may want to squeeze it in before they wake up or after they go to bed to minimize distraction. You can even try doing it in the shower.
Once you’re in a quiet place, make yourself comfortable. You can sit or lie down in any position that feels easy.
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.
- Continue focusing on your breath for 5 to 10 minutes.
- 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.
If you’re curious about trying other types of meditation or just want some guidance, you can find a variety of guided meditations online.
The WW app features guided meditations that can help you build a better relationship with food.
When choosing a guided meditation online, try to stay away from those promising overnight results or offering hypnosis.
Here’s a guided mindfulness meditation from psychologist Tara Brach, PhD, to get you started.
Here are a few other tips to help you take a mindfulness-based approach to weight loss:
- 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 you make lasting changes to your eating habits, thought patterns, and even how you feel about your weight. Try setting aside 10 minutes a day to get started.