Stress is often the reason that we overeat or turn to food for comfort. When you’re feeling stressed, the idea of sitting cross-legged, doing nothing might seem silly or pointless. But what if meditation could help you resist temptation and make healthier choices?
“Results suggest that mindfulness meditation effectively decreases binge eating and emotional eating in populations engaging in this behavior.” 1
Researchers at Rush University Medical Center studied a group of 70 overweight men and women between the ages of 18 and 75. Participants were instructed in mindfulness meditation. They meditated for as little as eight minutes a day for an average of eight weeks At the end of the study, participants were better able to identify their emotional influences and were able to control their urges to binge eat.
Even if you are not into chanting or sitting in the lotus position, you can still harness the power of meditation. Meditation can take many forms, and here are three easy ways to get started on your path to will power.
There are many things we do everyday that we don’t really think about, such as listening to music, cooking dinner, or eating a meal. The practice of meditation can start with doing any of these activities mindfully. For example, instead of playing music in the background, give it your full attention. Listen to a favorite song or symphony, letting your mind soar with the music, picking out the different instruments, listening to the melody apart from any lyrics. By training your mind to be attuned to details and allowing yourself to act with thought and intention, you are preparing yourself to face any challenge the same way. When you feel the temptation to devour a bag of chips at the end of a stressful day, you will be able to separate the emotional urge from your physical needs and make thoughtful, mindful choices.
There’s a reason the phrase ‘just take a deep breath’ is so common. Breathing really does work to calm the body and the mind. Meditation can be as easy as just being aware of your breath. Here are some simple breathing techniques to try.
- Breathe deeply to a count of 4 for an inhale and 4 for an exhale. Feel the breath expanding in your belly as you inhale in and use your abdominal muscles to exhale every last bit.
- Try holding one nostril gently closed, and take several breaths in one nostril and out of the mouth. Repeat on the other side.
- Breathe in deeply through the nose and breathe out of the mouth, opening your mouth wide and making an audible ahhh sound.
Work it Out
The practice of yoga makes an excellent meditation, as many forms of yoga focus on the mind-body connection and often end with a guided meditation. But any focused physical activity can be meditative. A challenging exercise will quiet the mind, as your attention is directed toward completing the exercise. Many runners describe the sense of Zen they achieve when focused only on breathing and the form of their body.
1 Mindfulness meditation as an intervention for binge eating, emotional eating, and weight loss: A systematic review.
Shawn N. Katterman, Brighid M. Kleinman, Megan M. Hood, Lisa M. Nackers, Joyce Corsica