It’s been well documented that America has an obesity problem and a troubled relationship with food. And if you look around at our modern world, it’s easy to see why.
We’re more stressed than ever with constant distractions throughout the day. And it’s easy to reach for high-calorie but convenient foods on a whim.
Speedy fast food restaurants, vending machines, and continually available office snacks all make it easy to mindlessly munch when we’re feeling:
- Just short on valuable time
Mindfulness meditation has been proven to help with those underlying attributes that can lead to poor choices and impulse control problems, to be sure.
By relieving stress and anxiety, promoting better decision-making and generating an awareness of our actions, meditation naturally guides us to better actions and behaviors.
But more and more studies are making promising new links between mindfulness meditation and our inherent relationship with food.
Simply put, with mindfulness meditation:
- We have an ability to make more thoughtful food choices.
- Recognize when we’re actually hungry (and when we’re full).
- Pay attention to how much, what and why we are eating.
In addition to meditation’s ability to help combat obesity and poor nutrition, recent research suggests that meditation’s benefits can be even greater in the medical realm.
The Obesity Society
A recent research article published in the scientific journal of The Obesity Society called simply “Obesity,” found that practicing mindfulness meditation can improve glucose levels and heart health to a noticeably greater extent than behavioral weight-loss programs that do not focus on, or teach mindful eating.
During the study, the researchers divided a group of 200 obese adults into two separate groups – a control group, and a group that practiced mindfulness meditation.
Both groups were given a diet and exercise regimen to follow, but the meditation group also received additional training on how to practice mindfulness meditation.
They also learned how to develop an awareness of their feelings, thoughts and sensations when they dieted and exercised.
The groups were followed for 5.5 months, and then followed up with after the study was over. 18 months after the initial start of the study, the researchers found that the
18 months after the initial start of the study, the researchers found that the meditation group had lost approximately 4.3% of their body weight or roughly 3.7 pounds more than the control group.
This sounds like a relatively modest number to be sure, but the researchers dug deeper and found some surprising health benefits behind the numbers.
The mindfulness meditation program has a noticeably positive effect on the:
- Fasting blood glucose at the 18-month mark.
- Ratio of triglycerides to HDL-cholesterol levels at the 12-month mark.
Both of these factors have a direct link to both Type 2 Diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which means that the meditation group had a better rate of weight loss.
And arguably, more importantly, a much better improvement in their overall health.
It makes sense, too, that mindfulness meditation would help with our eating habits, and lead to making better decisions about what we put in our bodies.
The lead author of the study noted that when we’re eating snacks and “grazing,” we’re not eating because we’re hungry.
We’re munching because:
- The food looks delicious.
- We are distracted.
- We want to soothe any stress or unpleasant feelings by giving us a jolt of instant happiness.
Sugar, fat, carbs and other “filler” foods can all produce a momentary high when we’re eating. They can give us a brief feeling of temporary happiness and stress relief – that is simply addictive.
As any self-proclaimed chocoholic can attest, sometimes it’s easier to give into a craving.
Sometimes it's easier to give into that momentary temptation than it is to refuse. This is true especially if we’re sad, anxious or have a million other things on our mind.
But meditation curbs this behavior tremendously. Instead of grabbing for the chip bowl, we actually have the ability to pause and look at our actions. Then we can determine if it’s the best way to proceed.
Focused on the Present
Dieters who practice meditation often report that it’s easier to reach for an apple instead of a candy bar. They say it is simply because they are more focused on the present moment, without judgment.
So continue your meditation practice. And if you struggle with sugar or carb cravings, try to see how you feel when you do give into temptation.
If you use your focus and concentration skills that naturally build with regular meditation, you will find yourself making better choices in all areas of your life.
Having a professional teacher on your side will go a long way in getting you started. Once you’re on the path, you’ll be amazed at how far meditation will take you.