When DeAnne Connolly Graham’s personal trainer suggested that she add mindfulness meditation to her wellness regimen, she wasn’t buying it. “When he started talking to me about doing mediation, I said, ‘I don’t have time for that,’” Graham says. A 65-year-old business development consultant based in South Florida, Graham loves to stay up on what’s going on in her community, the country and the world. So what free time she did have she’d spend watching the news.
But the exercise plan that her trainer had prescribed was helping her get stronger and the intermittent fasting was inching her closer and closer to her weight loss goal. So, eventually she decided to turn off the TV news so she could start and end her days with meditation.
Today, Graham credits meditation with helping her to stick with her exercise regimen and diet plan. So far, she’s lost more than 100 pounds.
Today, Graham credits meditation with helping her to stick with her exercise regimen and diet plan. So far, she’s lost more than 100 pounds. “Going to sleep with affirmations and meditation is very helpful to set the stage for not giving in to the cravings that come up during the day,” she says. “And for women over 40, it helps keep us centered. So, I’m a big fan.”
Graham is not alone. No, you’re not going to melt away pounds by sitting still and breathing, but a 2017 review of existing studies found that mindfulness meditation can help change eating habits, which then helps with weight loss. Furthermore, studies also indicate that dieters practicing mindfulness are more likely to keep off the weight.
“I think of our habits as grooves on the record of our personality and over time, as we go deeper on those grooves and become accustomed to all of our habits, it can become harder to climb out of them,” says Dina Kaplan, founder of The Path, which offers meditation education at all levels, including a meditation teacher training program. “But it is possible. We can shift our habits. We can change our minds. We can change our brains and we can shift our activities.”
Meditation can help you get rid of harmful ideas about what your body should or shouldn’t look like and help you stop comparing your path to wellness to somebody else’s.
But mindfulness is about progress not perfection. So, if you do eat that piece of chocolate cake or skip a workout, don’t beat yourself up about it.
Adi Devta Kaur, a registered yoga instructor and Reiki practitioner based in Birmingham, Alabama, believes mindfulness also teaches self-love, which she thinks is essential for weight loss. “When you take time to meditate in stillness, you’re able to clear any type of negative self-talk, any type of doubt, any type of self-sabotaging thoughts,” says Kaur, the creator behind the YouTube channel, THE BLK YOGI.
Meditation can help you get rid of harmful ideas about what your body should or shouldn’t look like and help you stop comparing your path to wellness to somebody else’s. “You’re able to appreciate your body exactly where you are, which then empowers you to continue your weight-loss journey in love and kindness,” Kaur says.
During mindfulness meditation, your intention is to focus on where you are, what you’re doing and how you’re feeling in the present moment, but without judgement. This takes practice.
Kaur says meditation for you doesn’t necessarily have to mean sitting in silence. She began her meditation practice through painting. “Anything that you are 100 percent fully engaged in, that is a meditation. That is mindfulness,” she says. Eventually, yoga led her to meditating in stillness, which she does think everyone should try as it can help you release thoughts that aren’t serving you.
If you’re new to mindfulness, Kaur suggests starting with just one to two minutes or even just 45 seconds of mediation. “Little time is better than no time,” Kaur says. “If you meditate every day for 45 seconds, you’re 45 seconds into wellness.”
Over time you can build to 90 seconds, then two minutes, then five minutes and eventually you can try meditating for 30 minutes or an hour. Kaplan recommends meditating first thing in the morning, before lunch or before dinner.
To begin, sit on a couch or chair in a comfortable position with your back a bit straighter than usual and your eyes either closed or open at a soft gaze. Then just breathe. You can also lie down if you’d prefer.
If you have trouble clearing your mind and focusing on your breath, Kaur recommends silently repeating affirmations or simply thinking “I am breathing in” as you inhale and “I am breathing out” as you exhale. But don’t chastise yourself for any of your thoughts.
“Whenever a thought comes into your mind, which it will, just let that thought float away like a cloud and start again,” Kaplan says. “Just like with choosing healthy food, every second is a new opportunity to start again.”