There are countless benefits to meditating—more focus, less stress, and a clear mind. But what you may not know is that it can also help you take control of your weight. Here's how:
1. Meditating will help you recognize the root of your cravings.
The awareness you get from meditation can serve as a spotlight on your motivation to eat. You 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 comes from. Instead of just reaching right for the chocolate bar or salty pretzels, this practice teaches you how to interrupt that reactivity cycle.
2. Meditation can help with binge eating.
But sometimes 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 long-standing habits. At the same time, they tend to be disconnected from their own internal cues, especially around feeling satisfied 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.
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 budge is our own self-concept. The images we hold of ourselves are remarkably stable. 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. 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.