Meditation can support weight loss… It sounds crazy, right?
You’re probably thinking “After all the intense workouts and serious dieting I’ve struggled through, all I needed to do to lose weight was meditate? It can’t be that simple!”
Well, you’re right.
I’m not here to promise you some magical meditation technique which will instantly melt away all the unwanted fat you have. Nor am I here to promote some quick-fix strategy to help you lose weight.
Sorry to disappoint…
However, I want to introduce you to the concept of meditation, and share how this amazing practice can substantially improve your health and fitness results, by helping you lose weight, get stronger, giving you more energy or supporting your overall wellbeing.
I’ve spent over a year working with a meditation teacher to understand and learn to practice this ancient tradition. Meditation changed my life, my mind and my body dramatically. I knew I had to share this with you, so you could experience the same incredible benefits…
I turned to meditation partly due to curiosity, as well as the need to reduce stress in my own life.
Over the following 12 months, I realised that learning to practice meditation was the beginning of what would become a daily practice, helping me feel centred, grounded and calm.
Working with a meditation teacher showed me that meditation was a practice with focused attention.
It sounds complicated, but it’s actually quite simple. Meditation is simply the act of focussing your mind on one thing, whether it be the breath, the sound of a fan, a mantra etc, for a period of time.
This intense focus is surprisingly difficult to learn and achieve.
Even as I write this, my meditation practice is a work in progress. I have days where I am completely in the zone, easily focussing on one thing during my practice, and I have other days where I just cannot sit still. And that’s okay! I have learned not to judge the quality of my practice, and instead just commit to a daily practice. Meditation is very much like a workout; it’s not necessarily how hard you work, but more about how consistent you are.
So how does meditation help with weight loss?
I read an article not too long ago by Joel Jamieson, ‘All Pain, No Gain: Why the High-Intensity Training Obsession Has Failed Us All.’ The article delved into new research showing that the body functions differently to what we previously understood. We’ve always believed that the more we move, the more energy we burn.
However the study in question, ‘Constrained Total Energy Expenditure and Metabolic Adaptation to Physical Activity in Adult Humans’ discovered that if we walk 20,000 steps in a day, we burn the same total calories as we do if we walk 10,000 steps. Essentially, it suggests that our bodies have a set amount of calories they’re able to burn, and once we exceed this amount, our bodies gather energy from other biological process to make up the difference and continue fuelling our activity.
There are 3 key areas the body priorities energy for:
1. Vital biological functions (such as breathing and pumping blood around the body)
2. Physical activity and stress
3. Tissue repair and adaptation.
Vital biological functions are the functions of the most important systems in the body, such as the heart, lungs, brain functions, etc.
Next, energy is prioritised for all your daily activities. This includes your workouts and any non-exercise activities like walking, climbing stairs, carrying kids around, lifting shopping bags, etc. It also includes the daily stresses of life, like children, financial worries and work commitments.
Finally, any remaining energy is used by your body for repair and adaptation. The purpose of our workouts is to tear and repair our muscles, so we can become faster, stronger and more efficient. The magic happens when we’re recovering, which mainly occurs while we’re asleep.
Most people are unaware of the impact stress on our body, and thus on our energy expenditure. We live in a world where we’re under a constant degree of stress. Our minds are constantly working to try to protect and look after ourselves in this busy, complex world. Essentially, any kind of stress – whether it be actual or perceived – elicits a stress response in our bodies, so even if it’s simply our minds running on overdrive, we’re burning the associated energy and tiring out our bodies as a result.
If your body has to prioritise its energy to get through your physical and mental workouts throughout the day, we’re not left with much energy for the repair and adaptation processes. This creates an energy deficit and can leave the body tired and exhausted.
This is where meditation comes in.
By reducing the mental stress we experience day to day through implementing a meditation practice, we preserve more energy for recovery and repair. This leads to better workouts, greater performance and supports a fit, active lifestyle.
Meditation helps lower the amount of cortisol in your blood stream.
Cortisol is our stress hormone, and is produced by the body in response to both physical and mental stress. While it’s an essential hormone, excessive amounts for prolonged periods of time can be problematic for the body…
Problems with high cortisol levels in the body include poor immune function, insulin resistance, carbohydrate cravings, low libido and even fat deposits around the body (especially around the tummy area).
Meditation can help reduce these symptoms by alleviating some of our stress, helping to reduce cortisol levels and keep your body happy and health.
Even better, meditation has been found to elevate the feelings of happiness, gratitude and wellbeing when practiced regularly. So essentially, you should see a spike in your energy levels, but also feel fitter and happier as you work towards your ideal weight and body composition.
Now, you have more than enough reasons to consider including this practice as part of your healthy lifestyle. Give meditation a try – it might just be the missing piece of the puzzle helping you achieve your weight loss goals.
Here’s to your meditation practice.
“All Pain, No Gain: Why the High-Intensity Training Obsession Has Failed Us All,”
“Constrained Total Energy Expenditure and Metabolic Adaptation to Physical Activity in Adult Humans”
Lara R. Dugas
Terrence E. Forrester
Estelle V. Lambert
Richard S. Cooper
Dale A. Schoeller
Published Online: January 28, 2016