Do you know that you can use meditation to lose weight?
With just 5 easy steps that takes just 5 minutes of your time you can be well on your way to sticking to that diet you can’t seem to stick to and never missing a workout again!
And you get a BIGGER BRAIN in the process.
One of the best ways to lose weight
What’s the link between meditation and weight loss?
Studies have shown that people who meditate have a greater degree of willpower and self-control. Their brains operate as highly tuned willpower machines.
This means that one of the best ways to lose weight and follow through with your fitness plans is to meditate daily as you get an extra boost of willpower.
There is no point in having the perfect workout plan and healthy meal plans to lose weight if you lack willpower in the first place. I have seen people with the most fancy fitness gears: purple neon galactic shaped water bottles, fluorescent hot pink shoes, bright green sweatbands with matching gloves etc.
But despite of all these fancy and colorful pieces they still break their diets and workout plans regularly. Read on to see how we don’t need purple neon space bottles to kick our diet and fitness in gear!
Close your Eyes and Watch Willy Grow
In a previous article we spoke about the impact of sleep on willpower. Here we are going to talk about how meditation impacts willpower.
Both sleep and meditation involves the simple blissful act of closing eyes; who would have thought that by just closing your eyes you could become fitter and healthier!
Just close your eyes and watch your willpower grow! Nothing could be more easy right?
How meditation changes the brain
Meditation makes more brain. Literally creates more brainy matter…as in brain cells located in the front part of the brain just behind the forehead.
Let me explain.
According to Kelly McGonigal the author of The Will Power Instinct, people who meditate regularly have more grey matter in the pre-frontal cortex area of the brain.
That is critical for you who want to stick to your diet and workout plans as the pre-frontal cortex plays an important role in making decisions about our food choices.
Meditation also gives us more control over the emotional or limbic part of our brains.
When we break our diets or skip our workouts it’s usually the limbic brain that is the culprit. A strengthened pre-frontal cortex has more control over the limbic brain.
Meditation increases the blood flow to the pre-frontal cortex to facilitate this creation of additional brain grey matter.
So remember the formula below:
MORE GREY MATTER = MORE WILLPOWER=ALWAYS A GOOD THING
McGonigal further states that meditation reduces stress and teaches the brain how to handle cravings and desires as well as sounds, sights and smell.
So now go forth and meditate and the smell and sight of that lovely Italian pizza would no longer tempt you!
I recently played with my nephew’s Play Dough set! This thing is so much fun that even an adult can get addicted to it. My Play Dough skills are not really top notch but it’s still fun creating all sort of funny looking shapes with it.
What about if our brains were made out of Play Dough which we can shape and re-shape into different shapes or thickness?
Maybe we can as the brain is quite malleable and changes structurally throughout our lifetimes.
Depending on what we learn, our experiences and mental states the brain changes accordingly. This concept is known as neuroplasticity or’ Neuro-Play-Dough- City’! Well let’s leave it at neuroplasticity for now.
Sara Lazar, researcher at Harvard, has shown how meditation can change the structure of different areas of the brain….almost like in a Play Dough like fashion.
The interesting thing is that these changes are all to our advantage as if Mother Nature knows what’s best for us.
For e.g. the thickness of the hippocampus which is responsible for learning and memory increased whereas the thickness of the amygdala which is responsible for stress and anxiety decreased.
Famous People Who Meditate
Before we go further I would like to say that meditation is not some farfetched’ woo woo’ thing. There are scientific studies showing the benefits of meditation as discussed earlier.
Here are just some successful people who meditate regularly:
- Marc Benioff, founder of Salesforce.com
- Jeff Weiner, CEO of Linked-in
- Oprah Winfrey
- Arianna Huffington, co-founder of Huffington Post
- Katie Perry
- Wolverine aka Hugh Jackman
Many people are resistant to meditation. In my personal experience the simplicity of the practice itself makes people think it’s not effective. A lot of people also associate it with some sort of religious or spiritual practice which it is not.
Chris Bailey, author of The Productivity Project spoke to various people as to why they are resistant to meditation. The most common reasons were:
- Meditation makes you passive. (If anything meditation makes you more resilient).
- Meditation makes you less motivated. (I can’t see how this is so!)
- Meditation makes you care less about your work. (Not unless you plan on moving to a mountain cave in India or Tibet!)
- Meditation takes too much time. (I do ten minutes daily….you can do one minute!)
- It’s hard to do. It’s not. (It is easy. Read how below).
Using Meditation to Lose Weight
There are various ways to meditate but I am going to share the technique I read from the Will Power Instinct as the author has a scientific and research background from Stanford University.
- Sit still and stay put. You can sit flat on the floor or on a chair. Make sure the chair is sturdy and your spine is straight. Put your hands on your lap. Sit still. Do not fidget. See if you can ignore any urges to fidget or itch or scratch.
- Turn your attention to the breath. Close your eyes. Begin to notice your breathing. Silently say in your mind ‘inhale’ as you breathe in and “exhale” as you breathe out. If your mind wanders then just bring it back to the breath.
- Notice how it feels to breathe and notice how the mind wanders. After a few minutes drop the labels of “inhale” and “exhale”. Try to focus on just the feeling of breathing. You might notice sensations of the breath flowing in and out of your nose and mouth. You might sense the belly and chest expanding and deflating.
- If the mind wanders bring your attention back to the breath. If you need to re-introduce the labels of “inhale” and “exhale” then do so.
- As you get more proficient you can observe your thoughts going in and coming out of your mind. Do not fight any of these thoughts. Just be aware of them.
That’s all there is to meditation! Try for 5 minutes then increase to ten minutes and then to fifteen. Or try for one minute and then increase to 5 minutes and stay at 5! It’s better than none!
I have never used a meditation app so I can’t personally vouch for them. They are popular though.
From what I have read the popular meditation apps seems to be Headspace.com, Calm.com, Buddhify.com, Smiling Mind.com and The Mind-Fullness App.
But there is one HUGE advantage to using these apps and it’s called Pre-Commitment!
Some these apps involve you paying a fee and if you pay for something then you are more likely to use it.
So in essence if you pre-commit you meditate!
I don’t think that it is absolutely necessary to use an app to meditate as people have been doing meditation for hundreds of years without an app, but it may be a good way of kick starting the meditation habit.
If you want to go the app route you can read this article discussing some of these in some detail.
If you have used any of these or any others please share your thoughts and comments on them.
The One Accessory
If there is one device I’ll recommend though for meditation it would be a meditation mat or cushion. Not only can it make you comfortable if you are sitting flat on the floor but it can serve as a visual trigger to meditate any time you see it.
Put it where it is visible so your brain can start linking the habit of meditation with the mat. So:
BRAIN SEES MAT= BRAIN WANT TO MEDITATE= ALWAYS A GOOD THING
Building the meditation habit
Research has shown that it’s easier to create a habit if it’s done right after an already existing routine. So for e.g. showering or drinking your morning coffee are already existing routines that you do every day.
What you can do is say to yourself is ‘when I am finished drinking my morning coffee I would meditate for one minute’.
Or ‘every morning when I am done showering I would meditate for 5 minutes’. Or ‘when I get on the subway from my way home I would meditate for one minute’.
This is known as habit stacking and is extremely helpful when attempting to introduce a new habit into your life.
That way it becomes a natural follow to something you already do on a daily basis as the brain would interpret the two activities (drinking coffee and meditation) as one.
Combine this with a visual trigger such as the mat and you are well on your way to meditating!
You can also incorporate meditation in other activities. Just being aware of how you chew your food can be an act of meditation as it creates self-awareness.
Now close your eyes; focus on your breath and feel those pounds melt!