How To Use Your Brain To Lose Weight
What if being in the moment and appreciating this exact time in time and space could help you lose weight? Would you try and do it more than you do? And what if quieting your mind helped you shed pounds, would you be still more often?
If you’d like to lose weight, any amount of weight, it turns out the solution might actually be in your head.
New research indicates that if you practice mindfulness (literally, the act of being present and attentive to the moment you are in) along with some sort of meditation, it could lead to later weight loss.
Here’s what a comprehensive review of the research on this subject says.
Over the past few years, myriad studies have been conducted on the positive benefits of mindfulness and meditation, both the physical benefits as well as the mental benefits.
Many of the studies report that both mindfulness and meditation have some seriously positive benefits - at least psychologically. These positive benefits include reducing stress levels helping to increase how calm you are, enhancing willpower, keeping intrusive and destructive thoughts out of your mind, increasing energy levels as a result of mindfulness, and more.
But researchers at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, wanted to see if mindfulness would have other effects. Namely, would it help you lose weight?
*Just an aside here. It may seem as if I write a lot about weight loss. I do.
Carrying a few extra pounds might not seem like a big deal to some, but being overweight, especially being obese, is one of the most important health problems Americans deal with on a daily basis.
If more Americans were at their healthy weight, then America as a whole would have far fewer health problems.
Anyways, back to the study.
Researchers at McGill investigated whether mindfulness could help people lose excess weight as well as avoid a rebound of future weight gain.
To find out whether or not mindfulness worked for weight loss, the team looked at 19 studies from the past 10 years that featured over 1,160 participants that all focused on mindfulness and weight loss.
Mindfulness, as described by the researchers, was either a formal meditation practice, casual mindfulness training targeting eating habits, or a combination of meditation and mindfulness strategies.
In almost all of the studies, the researchers concluded mindfulness “was ‘moderately’ to ‘largely’ effective in reducing weight loss and improving obesity-related eating behaviours."
This doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for other kinds of weight loss protocols. The researchers noted that improving the diet and using exercise were effective at helping subjects lose weight.
But they failed at being as effective as mindfulness at helping the subjects keep the weight off.
The researchers said the subjects who were able to lose weight using mindfulness techniques had more stable long-term results.
Here’s a brief excerpt from the study:
In the first instance, mindfulness practitioners lost 3.3 percent of body weight, compared to the 4.7 percent weight loss experienced by the participants who only dieted and exercised.
However, at follow-up evaluations after several weeks from the interventions, participants who used mindfulness techniques continued to shed excess pounds steadily, bringing their mean weightloss to 3.5 percent.
Conversely, participants who did not engage in mindfulness did not lose further weight, and many even regained some of the pounds that they had successfully shed.
Does this mean that if you’re mindful you’re absolutely going to lose weight?
Definitely not. Practicing mindfulness and then heading down to Krispy Kreme because you don’t mind eating 6 donuts at a time is not going to get you on the path to weight loss.
However, it does support a theory that by practicing mindfulness and meditation you’re able to “rewire” how you think, and with that you can exhibit better self control so you don’t eat more than you should.
And the scientists who conducted this study think they’ve stumbled across some encouraging research. In fact, they’re soon to conduct a study to see how “mindfulness-based interventions could be effectively added to dedicated weight loss programs to enhance the benefits afforded by these initiatives.
We recommend that further research investigate how integrating mindfulness training into lifestyle-change programs improves weight loss maintenance.”