To Lose Weight ... Meditate?
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We’ve all heard strategies to help us shed unwanted pounds. But, could something as simple as following our breath and focusing on our senses, help us to eat less, and more fully enjoy what we choose to consume?

This might seem far-fetched, but research shows that eating with full attention— also known as “mindful eating” — can reduce cravings, aid weight loss, and even help prevent binges.

There are several ways mindful eating helps boost weight loss:  

  • When we eat mindfully, we enjoy our food more.  Research shows that taste buds’ sensitivity decreases even after we eat a small amount. Eating with full awareness allows us to enjoy the array of flavor … and notice when the pleasure begins to diminish.  
  • Slow, mindful eating allows us time to begin to feel satisfied, which is perfect because it takes the brain around 20 minutes to realize the stomach’s full. This way, we appreciate quality not quantity.
  • We gain the ability to vanquish cravings.  When we grow more mindful, we become more aware of our cravings and can even learn to pay attention to the emotions underlying these cravings - before reaching for the chocolate bar (more on this below).
  • Mindfulness buffers weight-gain associated with chronic stress.  Consistent mindfulness meditation has been shown to lower the stress hormone cortisol.   This is excellent news because high cortisol levels can cause pre-diabetes and central obesity (which is associated with heart disease).  Plus, cortisol starts a cascade that stimulates appetite, and can even gnarly cravings.    

If all of this sounds good, and you’d like to incorporate mindful eating into your life, here are 3 simple exercises to get started:

1. De-stress in three minutes. 

Stress can be associated with weight gain, and many of us know that emotions can lead us to eat unhealthy “comfort foods.”  Next time you feel stressed, take one minute to sit quietly, in an upright posture. Focus your attention on your heart, deepen your breath, and then focus your attention on the sensations of your inhale and exhale. Continue this for three minutes.  Then, thank yourself silently and continue with your daily activities.

2. Notice your cravings. 

This week, make an effort to become aware of your cravings. As each arises, take a moment to notice—without judgment—the tone of your craving, and ask yourself: What am I really feeling right now, and how can I best address that feeling? (In some cases, you may realize you’re hungry, but, in others, perhaps you'll notice boredom, fatigue, stress or other emotions.)

3. Feast slowly on one meal. 

Eat one meal this week slowly, silently, and mindfully. Pause all distractions, including television, books—and, yes, even your smart phone!  

Truly savor the appearance, scent, texture and subtle flavors of every morsel. Notice as the tastes evolve, and completely finish each bite before beginning the next. Stay aware as bodily sensations shift, and stop when satisfied. Eating this way helps you to consume fewer calories, but enjoy food more. A win-win!

Let's eat, drink and be mindful!

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To learn more about meditation, check out our video course The Essential Guide To Meditation.
About the Author

Jamie Lauren Zimmerman is a 4th year medical student at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, where she is now completing a fellowship in health and media.  Passionate about global health, Jamie has lived/worked around the world, from India, Peru, and Belize to Uganda, Zambia and Mozambique.  She has been deeply impacted by yoga/mindfulness, currently blogs for the Huffington Post on the theme of meditation medicine™and is in pre-production on a documentary about mindfulness and yoga in underprivileged communities.  During her teenage years, she worked as an actress, performing on such shows as 7th Heaven, Boston Public and The Practice.