I have been giving weight loss tips for 15 years. As I look back it is amazing to see that my top weight loss tip has changed several times. Years ago it was to track your food, then it changed to get support, focus on behavior modification, or separate movement from exercise. As the times have changed our challenges have evolved. We have become increasing more sedentary, battled with highly processed foods and added endless new distractions to our day through technology. In a recent interview I was asked what my number one weight loss tip would be today and I was surprised at my own answer because it has nothing to do with food or exercise. Right now, in the environment we live in, I feel that the number one thing you need to do to see more progress in your weight loss effort is start a daily meditation practice. Here is why.
Today we are battling an extremely difficult new environment full of distractions and temptations that are completely sidetracking our ability to stay focused on our longer-term weight loss goals. I hear from my newer clients that they are shocked by recent weight gain because they don’t feel they are eating that much more than they were. They also report feeling like food is controlling them and find themselves eating when they are not hungry, as if they are not able to resist. From my perspective, I am not surprised that they are unaware of what is happening to them because much of it is habitual, driven by outside forces and mindless, and mainly not in their control.
An incredible shift to the external environments that we must navigate in our daily food lives has taken place in even just the past 5 years. It was discovered that as humans we respond to food when we are exposed to it (see images of it, smell it or even talk about it) and these days we are increasingly driven by the pleasure we derive from food rather than by any actual need. Scientists refer to this type of eating in the absence of hunger as “hedonic hunger”. Stoking the fire of extra food consumption are continual food cues blasted at us throughout the day. From the moment we wake up by ads on our smartphones, to billboards along the drive to work, to the pop up ads on our computers, to commercials on TV we are drowning in food cues. Each one of them is a subtle marketing message urging you away from your intentions. They are running all day in the background of every part of our lives. I have begun cataloguing some of the most outrageous ones. It seems that you can’t even shop for clothing these days without having a virtual maze of food to wander through at check out. That is a very new development. When I grew up there were not beverages and candy sold at the checkout of the department store. These strategically placed sugar and fat laden foods are almost impossible for us to resist as we are filled with the emotional effects of our shopping trip.
Therefore, my number one weight loss tip these days is to start a meditation practice. It is the only way that I see clients begin to be able to stop the eternal background noise prompted by the hectic marketing driven world and connect with the ability to focus their attention throughout the day to find calm and clarity. The meditation will bring the awareness you need around your thoughts and actions. A few of the things that happen physically from meditation:
- Stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system (part of your peripheral nervous system that helps your body return to calm after the threat of danger)
- Leads to better quality sleep.
- Improved athletic performance by refining your ability to focus on a goal.
- Boosts your immune system by slowing the production of the stress hormone cortisol.
- Reduces anxiety and depression by enabling your body to balance its own neurochemical system.
- Better decision making and improved critical thinking.
- Breaks unhealthy habits by helping you detach emotions from the action
- Improved communication with yourself. Leading to better understanding of your thought processes and control over what you think.
The top reason I love to prescribe meditation, even over exercise these days is that you can do it anywhere. You don’t need any equipment or special shoes. You simply need a quiet spot to close your eyes. I highly recommend downloading one of many free apps on your smartphone and carrying a small pair of earphones in your bag at all times. Get started slowly, trying out shorter periods and different types of meditation. It will be a new habit to create, so set up reminders as it will not happen without dedicated intention. The results will be very subtle at first. You will likely notice that you are not as anxious about your weight loss, more confident and ultimately more in control of all of your eating and food choices. I look forward to your peaceful progress! Namaste!