Meditation has long been a powerful, reflective tool to help us develop a heightened sense of awareness of ourselves and our surroundings. But now, it’s possible to meditate your way to a healthy weight by using this method of self reflection to become more mindful– when it comes to eating! In many ways, mastering mindful eating is the ideal way to lose weight. Oftentimes, we find ourselves eating not necessarily because we are physically hungry; rather, grabbing a snack or a sweet treat can be a coping mechanism for dealing with a variety of emotions. Once you learn the art of meditation, this therapeutic practice can help you to understand your own physical and emotional cues so you can kick those unnecessary cravings and eat the right foods at the right time. Ultimately, this may be just the weight loss tool you’re looking for. But it doesn’t stop there! Aside from facilitating mindful eating, deep self reflection can also help you feel better about yourself, body and mind. Tiffany Cruikshank lays out the ways you can eat better and feel better simply by learning how to engage your mind in the art of meditation.
1) Meditating will help you recognize the root of your cravings.
Do you ever stop to think “why am I about to eat right now?” Are you about to sit down to a meal with friends or family? Do you have half an hour to kill and find yourself in the kitchen reaching for those chocolate chip cookies? Are you starving after a long day at work? The heightened awareness you get from meditation can serve as a spotlight on your motivation to eat. You may start to notice that maybe you’re craving sugar because you’re missing some sweetness in your life. Or you’re missing some attention from your family members, or maybe it’s because you didn’t eat all day.
Being aware of these emotional triggers helps you pause long enough to notice where the desire to eat actually comes from. Instead of just mindlessly reaching right for the chocolate bar or salty pretzels, this practice teaches you how to interrupt that reactivity cycle. Being thoughtful about our desires and motivations to eat can help us realize when we should– and should not– seek out a snack or a meal.
2) Meditation can help with binge eating.
In some cases, our emotions can get the best of us. Emotional eating can become entrenched and morph into binge eating—a more serious condition, but one that meditation has also been proven to help relieve. One pilot study at Indiana State University found that seven sessions of group meditation helped cut binge episodes by almost two thirds and significantly decreased participants’ depression and anxiety.
Another study by the same group found that meditation helped obese binge eaters develop overall greater self-regulation and balance around eating, and sustained improvement in binge eating, even four months after the end of treatment. The more meditation the participants did, the researchers found, the better they fared on their recovery.
People with binge-eating disorder react intensely to social and emotional cues and often have longstanding habits that are not easy to shake. At the same time, they tend to be disconnected from their own internal cues, especially those involving satisfaction after eating. While some of this can be attributed to genetic differences, researchers believe more likely it is the disconnection from our own internal experience that creates these patterns of mindless eating. With traditional diet programs, we may lose five or ten pounds really quickly—but their emphasis on a specific calorie restriction or “tricking” your body out of hunger further disconnects us from our internal signals. These external structures don’t allow the personal flexibility or opportunity to relearn healthy habits, and they completely ignore the intensity of the cravings binge eaters experience.
Yet by helping us reconnect to those hunger and satisfaction signals, meditation can make all the difference in regulating eating habits as well as reducing depression and anxiety—which all can lead to healthy weight loss. Healthy mind, healthy body.
3) Meditation helps you change long-held assumptions/beliefs about yourself.
No matter how much we want to change, one of the hardest things to modify is our own self-concept. The images we hold of ourselves are remarkably stable and deeply rooted. This “cognitive conservatism” often means that we can behave in ways that support and sustain an image, no matter if it’s good or bad, or whether we do so intentionally.
If you’ve been clinging to a poor self concept for a while, you may be frustrated with your inability to break this bad habit—but please know that lack of change is just your inner self’s bitter determination not to be destroyed. We humans are an odd bunch; we’ll cling to our self-image whether it’s hurting us or not, and no matter what type of self-sabotage might be required to maintain it.
The trick is to make this innate drive toward self-fulfilling prophecy work for you rather than against you. Deep self reflection may be just the answer you’re looking for to break the cycle. Meditation can help you examine your own long-held beliefs about yourself, and question them: Is this true? Am I really X, or is that just my perception of what people thought when I was growing up? More important, do I want to stay like X?
If you start to loosen the vise grip of your negative self-concept and open yourself to the idea that you are a worthy person who deserves vibrant health and happiness, you can let those magical self-fulfilling prophecies do their work, guiding your behavior toward choices that support your new, healthier self-image.
Learn more about how you can use the powers of meditation with Tiffany’s 21 day guide: Meditate Your Weight: A 21-Day Retreat to Optimize Your Metabolism and Feel Great.
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