I often hear people suggest that the key to maintaining a healthy weight is all about eating less and moving more.
If only it were that simple.
We’re all complex individuals with unique perspectives on the world. We each have drastically different life experiences, and we each have different relationships with food and exercise.
Millions of us struggle with healthy eating and food cravings. Like me, millions of us have struggled with eating disorders. Virtually every day we’re exposed to images and ideas that give us unrealistic physical goals or shame certain body types.
If you know dieting and exercise works for you, then go for it! But the truth is, almost all of us have unhealed issues that result in us storing body fat. What’s more, our lifestyles make it very difficult to heal these issues and give ourselves a fighting chance at positive change.
Here, I’m going to share with you a healing meditation that will help you break old habits, stop emotional eating, and put you back in control of your food choices. First though, it’s useful to understand why diets and exercise often don’t work in the long term.
What’s Wrong with Traditional Weight Loss Programs?
There’s a big problem with modern weight loss programs, but no one seems to want to talk about it.
The issue is how impatient and unrealistic the diet industry has made us.
Would you like to lose 10lbs in a year? Or would you like to lose 10lbs in 2 weeks? No matter how unlikely or unhealthy it is, most people crave immediate results. This leads to a market full of fad diets, unhealthy trends, and dangerous supplements and pills.
What most weight loss programs overlook are the countless obstacles we face when we try to adopt healthier eating habits. They almost entirely neglect ways to help us change our long-term behaviors relating to food and exercise.
Stress Makes Matters Worse
One of the biggest barriers to a healthy lifestyle is stress. You might associate stress with a loss of appetite, but in fact, studies show that long-term stress boosts your hunger.
The problem starts with stress hormones, in particular, cortisol.
Cortisol is created in our adrenal glands, then released into our bloodstream. In the distant past, cortisol kept us alert (and alive!) when we faced physical threats – but now, it comes when we’re faced with more modern troubles, like work worries, personal problems, emotional upsets, and self-esteem issues.
The reason we find these things to be so exhausting is because cortisol has us on constant high alert. As a result, we face the following issues:
- Trouble sleeping
- Deteriorating muscles
- Anxiety and depression
- Digestion problems and upset stomach
- Impaired immune system
- Increased inflammation
The more worried and stressed we are, the more likely it is that our brain associates everyday events with stress, and suddenly, every day is packed with stress and panic.
In the short term, our appetite disappears. The problem is, when we eventually relax and the stress subsides, our body’s natural reaction is to replenish the calories we’ve burned during our stressful day. So, we stock up on calories, and our body holds them as fat, so we’ve got stored energy in case we run into more stress in the future.
Emotional Hunger vs Natural Hunger
The mind-body connection between emotional stress and hunger is clear, but even if we know this, it’s often difficult for us to distinguish what’s actually making us hungry.
Generally, it’s emotional eating that’s responsible for weight gain. When we’re naturally hungry, our appetite grows over hours, and we’ll look for nutritious food. When we’re responding to our emotions, we look for junk food.
Our cravings for junk food come because, when we eat it, it floods our brain with a hormone called dopamine. Dopamine is a pleasure hormone, and it gives a feel-good rush that, for a short while, makes us feel better about general life stresses and any issues we might have with our body image.
The feel-good rush we get from eating junk food is addictive, so we’ll seek out more and more junk food to keep this good feeling for as long as possible. Before you know it, feel-good binge eating becomes a habit, and the pounds creep on.
Hating Your Body Can Make You Overweight
Inevitably, overeating causes us to gain weight. Tragically though, studies show that if you perceive yourself to be overweight, the associated stress adds to existing stress, and is likely to cause even more overeating.
This goes to prove what a damaging effect ‘body shaming’ has on people. No matter what the intention, suggesting that someone is overweight will almost inevitably lead to more stress and more weight problems.
How Does Meditation Help with Weight Loss?
Now we’ve talked in some detail about the complex reasons that are so often hiding behind weight problems; you can probably see why the idea of “more exercise and fewer calories” just doesn’t cut it. For millions of us, issues with our body image and weight are deep in the subconscious mind, and no amount of fad dieting is going to change that.
The good news is, we can tackle these underlying problems, and when we do, it’ll help you take huge steps towards a healthy lifestyle and your weight loss goals.
Mindfulness meditation to reduce stress
Meditation is the very best way to reduce stress. The truth is, our body’s stress responses are designed to help us avoid danger, and most of our daily stresses don’t involve physical danger.
When we learn to focus on our breathing or positive affirmations, we can begin to identify these unnecessary worries, and with practice, we can cast them aside. As we chip away at these anxieties, we’ll face less emotional hunger, and our desire to overeat will begin to fade.
Meditating to overcome addictions
Now we’ve explored the links between eating and dopamine; it becomes clear why some people consider junk food to be a drug. The more comfort we find in sugary, fatty foods, the more we seek them out.
The thing is, dopamine doesn’t have to come from French fries, pizza, cookies, and ice cream. Our brain naturally produces dopamine and other feel-good hormones, but we choke its ability to do so when we constantly rely on junk food to keep us happy.
When we meditate, we reduce stress, and we begin to break the links between food and pleasure. Quite quickly, this allows us to produce dopamine naturally again, without relying on quick food fixes.
Finding Compassion for Yourself Through Meditation
As well as easing stress and breaking the links between junk food and pleasure, meditation can also help us to find real compassion for ourselves and our current situation.
It’s easy to identify as someone who has an issue with food or weight, but these things don’t define you. Positive affirmations about you and your ability to change can be enormously powerful and will often fast-track that change.
When we become comfortable and accepting of who we are, we’re less likely to eat because of sadness or loneliness too.
Mindful eating is a meditation practice, but it’s one that’s slightly different to what many people consider to be ‘traditional’ meditation.
When we give our full attention to the food we’re eating, it becomes a more fulfilling experience. A mindful eating practice generally means we become more aware of how we eat and more attuned to feelings of fullness.
If, like millions of us, you’ve ever eaten a bar of chocolate or bag of chips on ‘auto-pilot’, mindful eating will reconnect you with your food, helping you become more aware of your eating habits and how food makes us feel.
My 3-Minute Weight Loss Meditation
I’ve put together a simple guided meditation that I’m certain will help you work towards your weight loss goals.
Make sure you’re hydrated before you begin, and find a quiet place where you can sit uninterrupted. If you have children, it’s a good idea to do this while they’re still asleep.
This meditation is a series of breaths. With each breath, you’ll be noticing and thanking each part of your body. This positive energy helps fat cells to let go of the weight they’ve carried for you.
- Begin by closing your eyes. Be aware of your whole body and your weight as you sit on the floor or your seat. Move around a little, so you really feel and connect with your body.
- Breathe deeply but naturally. Be comfortable.
- Wiggle your fingers and toes.
- Move your focus to your feet. Touch them and thank them. Move up to your calves, then your knees, thanking each part of your body. Do the same for your thighs and hips.
- Move on to your stomach. Thank it and rub it with loving hands.
- Bring your hands up to your chest. Give yourself a hug.
- Move your hands up to your shoulders and arms.
- Now, put your hands on the back of your neck and bring them forward, onto your jawline.
- Touch your face, then move your hands lovingly onto your scalp. Gently massage your scalp.
- Thank your whole body and give it permission to let go of any excess weight it’s been holding for you.
- Let your hands drop to your sides, then take a deep breath in and out.
- Bring your focus back to the present, then gently open your eyes.
This practice honors your body and gives appreciation for where you are right now. Issues with our weight and our body image shouldn’t be viewed as a negative; they come up for you so you can make the changes you need to be happy and whole.
Remember, my meditation isn’t designed to make you suddenly change the way you eat. In fact, you’ll notice I haven’t talked about what you should be eating through this at all. Instead, I want you to reconnect with yourself, cutting through all the negative perceptions you have of yourself and the world.
This meditation will help you achieve this. When you do, you’ll be drawn to foods that truly nourish you, rather than giving you a quick fix of dopamine.
You don’t have to jump in at the deep end. You can even start with practicing this meditation every other day.
Want more insight on why weight issues may be presenting themselves in your life?
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