“How do I lose weight?” That is the million dollar question generating a billion dollar industry focused on ways to drop the pounds. Take a pill, do cross-fit, lift weights, circuit train, overdose on cardio, have a surgery, eat only proteins, eat only veggies, stick to complex carbohydrates, drop the dairy, increase the dairy, … and on and on and on. And the funny thing is, everything works. Every single plan, if followed religiously, will get you on your way to dropping the pounds. Problem is, our bodies, minds, and lives change so we need to learn how to adapt our eating habits to those changes while not yo-yo dieting in the process.
So why are so many still struggling with weight loss? Can meditation for weight loss be the key?
My simple answer: YES. Weight gain, for the majority of us, occurs when we eat too much or eat processed, junk foods with little to no exercise in our daily routines. There are many reasons why people overeat or eat the wrong foods but I argue that food, just like cigarettes, sex, and alcohol, has become a common coping mechanism for many individuals. Many wonderful learning tools about how to choose foods that are healthy for our body are available here at Udemy such as Weight Loss: Nature’s Way, so the information is all there. The key is to prepare our mind to let go of food as a way to deal with our fluctuating emotions and start using it for its intended purpose: to nourish our bodies.
Addicted to Food
When we hear the word “addiction” we often think of drugs or alcohol. Take it one step further, some of us may even think of ourselves as separate from those “addicts.” Drug and alcohol abuse is condemned by society and even criminal in some instances. Even though food abuse isn’t criminal it still sheds light on the addictive tendencies so many of us have and are unwilling to admit.
Addiction is defined as the continued repetition of behavior despite adverse consequences. Some addicts have a neurological chemical imbalance and that is not what I am discussing here. I am focused on behavioral patterns that can be changed through consistent work and effort. Namely, through meditation. Our mind gets stuck on the feeling that food produces; whether that is to calm our anxiety (just like a pack of cigarettes do), or when we equate a good time with consuming too much fatty foods (and/or one too many cocktails). We have trained our mind to see food as a way to produce a feeling or quell a feeling. Either way, we’re getting fatter and fatter.
Training Our Mind for Weight Loss
Just as we have trained our mind to use food as a way to deal with our emotions, we can train it to do just the opposite. Through meditation, we can train our mind to view food as nourishment and not as a coping mechanism. We can use meditation as our coping mechanism when times get tough. Once that is achieved, we can target weight loss by listening to our bodies and learning what works for us.
Meditation is a well-known mind-body practice. It has its roots in ancient religious and spiritual traditions with various techniques. It is practiced by many for a number of health related purposes. While meditating, a person learns how to focus their mind usually on their breath. By doing this, the mind is not run by anxiety producing or depression inducing thoughts. Once a person is able to calm their mind at a moment’s notice, that ability replaces eating food as a coping mechanism for stressful or uncomfortable situations.
How to Meditate
Many individuals unfamiliar with meditation think it involves some weird chanting and awkward sitting poses. Although that can be true, it doesn’t have to be. There are so many techniques. Some are stricter than others. Whatever technique you choose to practice, there are essentially four common characteristics:
- A quiet place to meditate. This is especially important for those new to meditation. Because the point of meditation is to calm your mind through directed focus, whether it be on breathing or being mindful of the sounds within your immediate environment, a quiet place is ideal.
- A specific, comfortable posture. Although meditation is normally done in a sitting position, it may also be practiced by walking, laying down, chanting, etc. Most importantly, find a comfortable position where you’re not going to be obsessively fixed on maintaining it. For example, you probably don’t want your first attempt at a full lotus position to be for an hour during meditation unless you enjoy sitting in unnecessary pain.
- A focus of attention. Focusing one’s attention is what meditation is all about. For example, the meditator may focus on a mantra (a specially chosen word or set of words), an object, or the sensations of the breath. Some forms of meditation involve paying attention to what is present at that moment and not allowing our normal mental chatter to dominate our consciousness. The focus can be on the bird chirping outside, or the cars driving by, or perhaps the hum of the air conditioner.
- Be gentle with your mind. When you are meditating, you will often find yourself getting “caught up” in the normal thoughts that race through your mind daily. “Oh, I forgot to do this…I think I’m hungry…Tania is so annoying…” and on and on. Don’t judge, just ever so gently come back to your focused attention. We put our mind on overdrive on a daily basis, so to expect it to be clear during meditation is just setting yourself up for disappointment. Be gentle.
Putting It Together
So how does this all work put together? How does clearing one’s mind help shed the pounds?! It’s all about lining up our sincere desires with our actions. Setting a goal and following through with only minor hiccups along the way. Losing weight isn’t about punishing our body or forcing ourselves to achieve a body shape we’re not supposed to have. Your body can be any shape you want it to be so long as it’s healthy. The point is having the shape you envision become a reality once and for all.
Because we have developed bad eating habits centered on how we use food to cope with various life situations, our bodies have morphed into manifestations of those situations instead of simply being healthy and a normal weight.
Using meditation to clear the mind of all the clutter enables us to let go of anxiety, anger, and other intense emotions that lead to overeating or eating too much of the wrong foods, and slowly allows us to create new ways of being. Developing a new attitude towards food will reset our mind to deal with food more as a way to nourish our bodies for optimum health.
Does that mean the end goal is to completely cut out any link to sweets, chips, etc? No. The end goal here is to take back control of your thoughts and actions and be proud of whatever shape you choose for your body. Too many people suffer from a self- hatred because they want a different body from the one they have yet they can’t understand the disconnect. They are dumbfounded by how “hard” it is to stick to any one diet and see lasting results. The problem is NEVER because of the person’s lack of will power but oftentimes we internalize these situations as “failures.” Chances are, what may one day work for your body will not work the same the second time around. Then comes the self-loathing or guilt or shame. Life is too short and too beautiful to stay on that cycle. So enjoy the meditation process, be gentle with yourself, and keep pushing!
For helpful courses on the topic, visit these wonderful courses: