The evidence for meditation's health-boosting effects is well-documented. The ancient practice can lower blood pressure, reduce stress, improve performance, and protect your mental health.
Thanks to recent research, you can add sustainable weight loss to the positive benefits of learning how to meditate—specifically, a technique known as mindful eating, a form of mindfulness.
The review (opens in new tab) analyzed past research on mindfulness-based weight loss. The authors found that "all studies showed weight loss results when mindful eating strategies were employed."
Developing this skill could also be a way of keeping the weight off once you've lost it. The problem with diets or intense exercise plans is that they can be hard to stick to in the long run.
Partly, this is because the structural reasons for weight gain are all around us. We have to drive to get to work or school, eat the food prepared for us, and fend off junk food advertising.
According to the review, mindful eating is "non-judgmental awareness of [one's] physical and emotional sensations while eating or in a food-related environment."
In our busy lives, eating is a background activity. In the morning, we rush to grab breakfast on our way out of the door. There's no time to carve out a lunch break, leading to convenience food at your desk.
Watch Headspace's mindful eating practice
Once home for dinner, we have distractions like TVs, computers, streaming services, and our smartphones. This constant stimulation means we end up eating too much or not the best food for our bodies.
If you've not come across mindful eating or mindfulness before, both approaches focus on making you more aware of the present moment. In this way, there's a significant overlap with meditation.
Meditation is an exercise where you'll usually sit for some time and focus on your breath, parts of your body, or develop an awareness of thoughts coming and going during the session.
It's a focused form of mindfulness, a state of mind where you're aware of the present moment. Rather than sitting with your eyes closed, as in meditation, you can be mindful throughout your day.
Mindful eating is a way of applying that awareness specifically to mealtimes, snacks, and cooking. When preparing, you'd notice the smells, textures, and maybe even where the ingredients were grown.
Taking the same mindset while you eat means that you might notice certain flavors more than others, and, crucially, when you've eaten enough. It also helps you avoid snacking when you aren't hungry.
While meditation is a great way to develop mindfulness, it's not the only way. Yoga helps you connect with your body in a similar way, which is why it's sometimes called 'moving meditation.'
Fortunately, there are plenty of resources out there if you want to practice at home. Roll out one of the best yoga mats and put on a guided yoga flow for beginners for a gentle introduction to the form.
James is a London-based journalist and Staff Writer at Fit&Well. He has over five years experience in fitness tech, including time spent as the Buyer’s Guide Editor and Staff Writer at technology publication MakeUseOf. In 2014 he was diagnosed with a chronic health condition, which spurred his interest in health, fitness, and lifestyle management.
In the years since, he has become a devoted meditator, experimented with workout styles and exercises, and used various gadgets to monitor his health. In recent times, James has been absorbed by the intersection between mental health, fitness, sustainability, and environmentalism. When not concerning himself with health and technology, James can be found excitedly checking out each week’s New Music Friday releases.
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