Weight loss is a hard journey. As you struggle to reach your goal of healthy weight, you want the results to be long term, the changes to be long term changes. Long term weight loss involves transforming your mind and your habits over time, for the good. We encourage you to start your journey of weight loss and maintaining a healthy lifestyle with transforming your mind.
If you have begun your weight loss journey, you may know how hard it is to break a habit. You may even now realize that some foods or even eating habits are now an addiction you cannot control.
Meditation is a practice, a discipline that teaches you mindfulness, self-awareness, self-compassion, acceptance, self-observation, perseverance and leads to progressive positive growth in your life. You need all these things for a long term weight loss journey. They are more essential than realizing for a fulfilled life.
The core values of meditation
- Learning to keep focusing on the present; living in the now.
- Learning to believe that there is a possibility of healing
- Learning Self-awareness
- Developing the courage to look into oneself and accept the whole of you
- Studying the course of our lives and our relationships to self, others, nature, etc.
- Learning to let go of control
- Accepting your thoughts, fears and anxieties as they come, without self-judgment
- Learning to separate who you are, your mind from these thoughts, anxieties, worries, addictions
Long term weight loss and an effective lifestyle change involve all of this. The journey of really letting go of your old self can be scary, complicated, demanding, and even full of self-sabotage moments along the way.
Here is where meditation comes in. Meditation has physical benefits too that it contributes to weight loss. Besides, for physical benefits or changes to be long term and permanent, a renewed and changed mind is needed.
Today we are going to talk about the ways meditation can help in accelerating your weight loss journey and lifestyle change, and making them permanent. We have divided these benefits according to some meditation core values, fundamentals and principles.
The different ways meditation can be beneficial to your weight loss journey and lifestyle changes.
- Breaking attachment
(Weight loss, meditation and breaking attachment)
Looking into yourself and understanding your thought process before you eat some foods can be the step you need to change your diet.
“Regard food as thy medicine, this habit can be very thoroughly disruptive, producing feelings of deprivation and anxiety. One of its purposes, however, is to reveal those attachments, to natural an inclination to be part of them, and then make that awareness evolve into freedom”
When you remove certain foods and habits like drinking, etc. from your lifestyle, you will notice anxiety, worry, unease, or even panic as time goes by. The reason for this is that sometimes when you are eating foods that are unhealthy for your body, it is because this food provides you with a particular feeling or assurance. For example, some foods give you comfort, reduce your anxieties, others like alcohol can help you sleep, make you forget whatever is troubling you. You can find that for you, chocolate is an immediate solution to sadness, or even dealing with bad days.
Sometimes we eat to distract ourselves from whatever is happening in our minds at the moment; sometimes it is because we want to feel an emptiness inside us when we are not occupied by school or work.
Sometimes it is a way we keep busy, to distract us from our loneliness and reality.
Sometimes food has a comforting feeling it gives us so that we can sleep easily and fast, without having to think about our fears and discomforting realities like loss of a loved one, break ups, etc.
Yes, we usually need that stage to mourn and cry out and release the anger and frustration that we feel from breakups, loss of a loved one, redoing an academic year, loss of your job, or any other huge failures and setbacks we face. However, we may find that with time, these foods become a replacement or solution. They give us a feeling of relief, comfort or even daily distraction, and with time, we find ourselves relying on them to feel better and escape emotional pain. We develop an attachment to these foods that we even reach a point where we forget the exact feelings we are trying to cover up, and eating these foods becomes a habit and immediate natural solution.
Meditation teaches us to look inward and discover when and why things went wrong, i.e. the moment we began using food as an emotional distraction. It teaches us to identify the cause or triggers of our unhealthy and destructive eating patterns.
This, in turn, enables us to prepare for them, to be aware when we are triggered, and to find ways we can deal with these emotions or fears without resorting to the unhealthy foods that do not support our weight loss goals. It helps us identify that the anxiety, deprivation and the feelings of depression we have after eliminate certain foods or habits is due to a deeper issue we need to deal with, and not since we need these foods.
When we realize the deeper issue, we can separate it from our attachment to those foods and then find ways to deal with it, ways that support our weight loss and lifestyle change journey for example: confiding in someone you trust, communicating openly, listening to calming music, exercising, etc.
“You become less attached to things that have been troubling you when you discover them and separate them from a sense of who you are”
- Mindfulness and self-awareness
(Weight loss, meditation and Mindfulness)
“This is in a way pointing out the practicality of being ever mindful, for it is through such observation that you can ultimately learn what is appropriate for you”
Meditation teaches you how to be mindful of what is happening around you. Self-awareness helps you identify how it affects you and how you react to it. These two qualities are very important when you are trying to change your eating habits, workout habits or lifestyle.
Being mindful and aware of what is happening all the time around you helps you stay alert when you face your triggers. This is usually helpful for most emotional and stress eaters.
The knowledge of what is happening and causing this eating habits can help you be prepared when you find yourself in situations in your surroundings and reality that trigger eating habits. If you always find yourself eating junk because your roommate or partner keeps it in the house, and also every time you see it. Becoming aware of this cycle and the fact that you have been reacting to it by buying junk too or eating their junk can help you mentally prepare yourself when you are coming home, with the knowledge that you are going to be triggered. It will also help you find replacement healthy snacks, that you can it in place if the junk that delays your weight loss process.
Other similar situations can be anxieties before an exam, shopping for clothes, or work presentation.
The more mindful we are of what is around us and how it affects us (self-awareness), the more effective we become at avoiding giving into our triggers. Being mindful and self-aware can be attained through daily meditation.
- Regulating your mind
(Weight loss, meditation and regulating your mind)
You can do anything if you can regulate your mind. You can control your physical desires as well as your reaction to temptation and triggers when you can regulate your mind.
The practise of meditation teaches you to regulate your mind and learn how to control your thoughts and yourself. It also teaches you how to breathe. You can always try to engage in 15 minutes breathing meditation sessions every time you are tempted to go off track or give up on your journey
When triggered to eat wrongly, to miss your exercise routine, or to just give up on your journey, breathe in and out fifteen times, in a meditative way. Observe your thoughts, and try to separate your sense of self from your trigger.
Instead of saying: I need cupcakes and will always be out of shape,
Say: my body is craving cupcakes because I am sad. Cupcakes will not take away my sadness. Instead, they will postpone it and worsen it.
While trying to separate your sense of self from your triggers, keep breathing in and out as you collect your wandering weakening thoughts due to this trigger, and try to regulate your mind. This meditative breathing exercise gives your mind and bodies enough time to rise above your weakness (trigger) and to realize that you are in control.
When you learn how to use breathing to relax and control your mind and actions, you will be able to control your cravings and learn how to give these triggers time to let them disappear.
- The habit of visualization
(Weight loss, meditation and the habit of visualization)
“The month I remember losing the most weight and seeing a physical difference and progress in my entire weight loss journey, I remember thinking vividly about where I wanted to be in a month daily. Every time I would feel like giving up, I would sit down during my 15-minute meditation, close my eyes and see a happier healthier version of myself. I would close my eyes and see myself running 4 miles in 30minutes, instead of my usual 2miles.
I would also visualize the process. Visualize me running faster, and making my salad. During my evening 15 minute meditation, I would visualize myself going through my tomorrow routine, wearing my snickers, and running faster. I would visualize myself being tempted by that cupcake, visualize myself looking at it and then walking past it. That month, I made the 4 miles mark in the 30minutes and lost 4 inches off my waist. “”
Visualization is a powerful process/ habit. When you get into the habit of meditation, you get to realize what you want, and where you want to be. You get to identify what part of your thought process needs to be changed. You observe your thoughts as they come and go in your mind, and realize the constant goals, and constant fears that keep arising in your mind during this time.
Then you learn to visualize yourself achieving these goals and overcoming these fears. You learn to visualize yourself rising above the small obstacles and visualize the process you will need to go through to overcome them.
Visualization during meditation will give you courage and teach you how to conquer your mind. You will start to see yourself as the person you are striving to become, and not the person who is struggling to leave behind. When you see that cupcake again the next day, you will remember the image of you choosing the salad instead and realize you actually can! You do have the power! When your workout leggings feel tighter than you hoped, you visualize your healthier body and keep going for the image of yourself in your mind.
We are not talking about having a photo of your fit friend or dream celebrity body that you look at daily. We are talking about an image of yourself, of the person that you want to see in the mirror in your chosen period.
- Progressive elimination
(Weight loss, meditation, and progressive elimination)
A successful fruitful and comfortable meditation practice has some requirements. One of these requirements is an alert mind and a comfortable body. You are required to feel peaceful from within, without being tempted to sleep off or to have wandering thoughts
“As we meditate more, we become increasingly refined to the subtle and recognize that almost everything affects practice; from the food we eat to the movies we watch” _yogainternational.com
The more you meditate, the more you realize what kind of foods favour your meditation practice. The more you meditate, the more you listen to your body. You realize how different foods affect your body, mind and even moods. You get to know which foods keep you alert, which ones make you irritable and moody and which ones make you relaxed.
You get to know how different foods affect you physically too. Foods that cause gas, bloating, heartburn and general body discomfort make your meditation practise difficultly.
In a way, you are becoming more self-aware and realizing what works for the unique you. Which foods make you irritated and sad, which ones make you happier and healthier.
Realizing the physical effects of these foods also helps you notice what you are allergic to and what you should eliminate out of your system.
You can also choose to eliminate these foods from your diet before you go to exercise, or for an exam, or settle down to concentrate or decide to go to bed. In the long run, you will be able to perform more effectively in your daily activities and gain more confidence overall. These factors are important in achieving a renewed changed lifestyle. You make better choices and learn what your lifestyle and diet supports your goals and leaves you more alert and happier.
- Forgiving yourself
(Weight loss, meditation and self-forgiveness)
If you have been down the weight loss path before, you know that at some point in your journey, you backslide. Most yoyo-dieters have experienced this too.
One week you are going strong and seeing results, and another you are back to where you started and are filled with guilt and regret. The difference between people who show up to the gym the next morning after a night of binge eating and those who cover their heads and give up on the process is that the people who keep going can forgive themselves and deal with the guilt.
Forgiving yourself is a very important virtue if you are to progress in your journey. And meditation is one practice that can help you with self-guilt and self-forgiveness.
Instead of blaming and punishing yourself for backsliding, set aside 15 minutes of your day to meditate.
“Meditation is both the symbol and expression of our intention to grow. Sitting still, alone with our thoughts and feelings, we can honour missed opportunities, passing desires, remembered disappointments, as well as our inner strength, personal wisdom, and ability to forgive and love.” ― Sebastian
During your meditation, decide to look at your failures, remember the disappointment, the inches and pounds you have regained after struggling to lose them.
Then after, choose to forgive yourself. Choose to be kind to yourself. Honour the progress you had made, and celebrate the person you had become and the discipline that you had attained before you backslid. Remember the strong determined you that showed up every day to exercise, and the disciplined you that chose the healthy choices over the unhealthy ones. Celebrate that person. Celebrate you that led that progress and went past your former limits.
Then decide to start over. Know that you can be that person once again and that you can make progress once again. During this meditation, realize that this failure is something you can move past and that you will be less afraid of backsliding or failing the next time things get tough.
“I love this world because it is imperfect. It is imperfect, and that’s why it is growing; if it was perfect it would have been dead. Growth is possible only if there is imperfection. I would like you to remember, again and again, I am imperfect, the whole universe is imperfect, and to love this imperfection, to rejoice in this imperfection is my whole message.” ― Osho
Your mistakes and imperfections that led you back to where you began should be a sign that you can grow, and that choosing to start over is part of the maturity process.
Instead of beating yourself up for backsliding, celebrate the opportunity it gives you to start over and the room for progress that failing leaves you with. Then get back on your journey stronger and ready to move past your mistakes
Meditating daily can help you a lot with backsliding. Every day, you find that you are tempted to binge eat or do things that do not support your journey, and sometimes you give in to these triggers/ temptations. Decide to meditate daily to recognize your progress on the days you do not give in, and to forgive yourself and refuel your mind, self-esteem and attitude on the bad days (the days you give in).
- Perseverance and building a habit
(Weight loss, meditation and perseverance)
“Beginners find that sitting practice is very uncomfortable. Some may even continue to feel that way long past the time that they qualify as beginners. What keeps them coming back is perseverance”
As you grow older, you will realize that everything that happened to you, or every stage you went through, and everything you did had a purpose in shaping your character. It is beneficial if you do today things that will shape your character positively. The character (for example discipline and perseverance) you build when doing these things, for example, things meditation, will spread to other areas of your life, and help you shape who you are.
In meditation practice, just like in your weight loss journey, not every day is the same. Habit and perseverance help you keep going even when the days are not favourable or comfortable for you. Development of habit and perseverance is one of the core virtues if you are to gain and maintain a healthy weight. It can be hard to practice this perseverance using workouts or eating plans. However, gaining this discipline in other areas of your life while developing some habits can give you confidence and naturally teach you to persevere in your diet as well.
The progress in your practice can also push you to believe you can be good at something and hence increase your courage to try harder in other areas of your life, e.g. weight loss and changing your lifestyle.
- Insomnia and binge eating
(Weight loss, meditation and insomnia)
Meditation affects our sleep, and our inability to sleep positively.
When you fail to sleep at night or wake up In the middle of the night regularly, it is advisable to meditate. Lack of enough sleep usually causes unhealthy eating habits throughout the next day. However, it is believed that most meditators can survive on those three or five hours and still have a deep feeling/ sense of calm and relaxation to take them through the day without binge eating or going off their weight loss routine.
When you find yourself too busy to get your needed 8 hours, set aside time to meditate before you continue with your day. This will help you avoid taking a lot of caffeine, eating lots of sugars and foods to replace your energy or reduce feelings of anxiety. The meditation time will give you a sense of inner renewed energy, clear focus on your goals like the healthy lifestyle goals, and give you a sense of balance and comfort.
- Better sleep
(Weight loss, meditation, and improved sleep)
Practising meditation in the evening can be very good for improved sleep. You should make it part of your winding down routine before going to bed or while in bed. It will help you collect your thoughts, free your mind of anxiety and worry and wandering thoughts, and balance your entire body. Besides, the fact that meditation demands a comfortable relaxed body will force you to eat a healthy light appropriate dinner to avoid discomfort or negative moods while practising meditation.
There are a lot of meditation apps and free CDs that can help you wind down at the end of the day. Some apps are dedicated to improving the ease with which you fall asleep. Get yourself a free or premium meditation app or CD for better sleep.
Better sleep improves the rate at which you see results and get a healthy body. Also, better sleep clears your mind and gives you a renewed positive sense of self each morning to stay on track and ultimately achieve your goals.
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Meditation practice can change your life for the better. There are many forms of meditation, and many levels too.
For beginners, you can always ease into this practice on your own, or get yourself a free meditation app or meditation CD to guide you through.
This article was written focusing on weight loss. However, these principlescan be applied to other areas of your life that you want to change or improve. Things talked about like “the habit of visualization”, “insomnia and binge eating”, ‘self-forgiveness”, etc. can apply to your work life, relationships, healing journeys and even school life.
You do not have to get a quiet space and sit in a specific position to benefit from meditation; with the busy life today and the inability to find an empty quiet space, there are many meditation guides for meditation on the go or meditation for busy mothers and even different time sessions.
There are many blogs today that help with the meditation practises too.
We wish you all the luck in trying to change your body and lifestyle starting from the mind!
We have written more articles to help with your meditation practice and those for having a faster and easier weight loss journey on this blog.
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