Some weight loss claims are a bit counterintuitive. One of these claims is that meditation helps weight loss. Is there truth to it?
Meditation has been around for a long time, primarily in the east. Some people claim that it has physiological effect on top of the mental effect. Find out how meditation can help weight loss.
What is meditation?
The practice of meditation is basically trying to have as few different thoughts as possible. Usually with the goal of getting better at controlling your own thought and consequently action patterns.
There are many different ways you can meditate. It’s common to divide the techniques into two broad categories:
- Focused attention meditation: this is basically trying to focus your thoughts on one object/your breathing/an image/ a word.
- Open monitoring meditation: this is trying to observe anything happening, including passing emotions and thoughts as a third person observer instead of “feeling” those things.
Both will most likely be good for mindfulness which is the psychological process of purposely bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment without judgment.
In the area of weight loss you can think of focused attention techniques as training yourself to have less thoughts of food while doing other things. Open monitoring can be more helpful to catch yourself going for that snack and analyzing why you did that so you can avoid it in the future.
As simple as it can sound, meditation can be very challenging in the beginning. The good thing is that it gets easier and easier and if you stick to it sooner or later you will crave for your meditation session.
How can it help weight loss?
The mental benefits of meditation are almost undeniable. On the other hand it can sound a little weird that it can also have physical consequences. How can mediation help weight loss?
Changing why you do things
The mindfulness you get from meditation helps you be aware about the following things:
- What you are doing
- Why you are doing it
- Is this the best thing for you to do?
So let’s say you are trying to lose weight and find yourself in the following situation: 1) grabbing a cookie, 2) because you are hungry. 3) Is this the best thing for you to do?
No, eating some of your prepare raw vegetables is a lot more filling, helps you feel better and helps more with your weight loss goals.
Some people think humans always act rationally but once you start becoming aware of it there are a lot of things you do for illogical reasons.
Less guilt and shame
Part of meditation is learning to become less emotional about the things you did and thought.
For example instead of feeling angry about yourself because you thought about cookies you just notice “Oh, I thought about cookies”. It may feel counterintuitive at first but this actually helps with thinking less about cookies. If you tell yourself not to think about something you will most likely do the opposite.
Some people fall in downward spiral of
- Feeling guilty about eating a certain thing or too much
- Going through extreme measures to “make up for it”
- Overeating again because the extreme measures made them so miserable
- Back to 1
This thought pattern is rarely a good recipe for healthy long-term weight loss.
Meditation can also help you avoid the “I already messed up, it doesn’t matter what I eat now” thinking.
Sometimes you eat more than planned, simply because you’re not paying attention.
For example you sit down on the couch with a bag of chips with the plan of eating only a little bit.
Someone turns on the tv and after the program is over you notice that bad is completely empty.
By being more aware about your actions it’s easier to catch yourself doing this and stopping it.
Does meditation speed up metabolism?
Some people go as far as claiming that meditation does things like speeding up for metabolism.
The case for that is not strong enough to assume this.
The primary way meditation helps is by better controlling what you eat, not increasing the amount of calories you burn.
Meditation can reduce stress. Less stress might also indirectly help your body’s metabolism but you can’t really count on it burning 100’s of extra calories a day. It’s hard to construct a study to measure these things exactly.
How to get started with meditation for weight loss
Anyone can get started with meditation whenever they want. 10 minutes a day is enough and if you suposedly can’t find that small amount of time you can do it while trying to fall asleep.
Preferably you want a silent location but even this is not an absolute requirement.
You can both sit and lie down, just try to find a position you can comfortably stay in for 10 minutes.
Different types of meditation
The next step depends on what type of meditation you want to try.
- Focusing on a certain word or sentence (transcendental meditation)
- Focusing on your breath (breath awareness meditation)
- Observing what thoughts pop up and trying to think less thoughts
- Completely focusing on what you are doing (some monks rake stone gardens for example)
- Listening to a guided meditation with a meditation app
It’s helpful to set a timer. In the beginning 3 minutes might feel like an eternity but ideally you want to increase the time a little more.
The ideal time to spend meditating is an ongoing discussion but 10 minutes can already help a lot.
Don’t get angry or disappointed if you find out you’ve been thinking about other stuff for 5 minutes. That’s part of meditating and it happens to almost anyone. The important part is that you catch yourself doing it and get back on track.
Other habits that can increase mindfulness
The following things can be thought of as meditation but you can add them situationally to your daily life.
- Focusing on the taste of each bite of your food
- Focusing on emotions and feelings like hunger and cravings
- Focusing on how you feel after eating certain foods (does that cookie really give you “energy”?)
- Acknowledging if you went off the rail without judging
Basically everything that gets you out of “automatic mode”.
Can you lose weight from meditation?
Meditation can potentially also increase the amount of calories you burn by reducing stress. However, the physiological link between stress and weight gain is not yet 100% clear.