We’re all guilty of gluttony over Christmas. With copious mince pies, mulled wine and all of the Christmas dinner trimmings, it is difficult to avoid overindulging throughout the festive period. But this can leave us feeling unfit, out of shape and sluggish when the New Year begins. Mindfulness could help to combat this.
How mindfulness can help you lose weight
The Oxford Dictionary defines mindfulness as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations”. It has proven to be successful in helping people lose weight, and encompasses three broad techniques – formal meditation, informal mindfulness strategies like focusing on eating habits, and a combination of these techniques. These can help eliminate intrusive thoughts from your mind, which in turn can improve your willpower to eat more healthily.
A recent study by researchers at McGill University in Montreal supports the benefits of such techniques. Researchers underwent a systematic review of studies that have examined the potential effects of mindfulness on people losing weight. They analysed 19 studies from the last decade and found that mindfulness was moderately to largely effective in reducing weight loss and improving obesity-related eating behaviours.
How to practice mindfulness meditation
One of the key mindfulness techniques is meditation. In order to gain the benefits from this, you need to make sure you are going about it in the correct way. Firstly, you will need to find a nice, quiet spot, and a stable seat. You’ll then need to position yourself correctly, making sure your legs are either crossed comfortably or touching the floor, and that your back is straightened.
Drop your chin and gaze downward, closing your eyes if you want to. When in position, let yourself relax, and focus on your breath as it goes in and out, as well as other sensations in your body. Try not to let your mind wander, although if it does keep doing so, try not to react, and instead just get back to focusing on your breathing right away.
Aim for short bursts of 5 to 10 minutes of meditation when you first start, before eventually building up to practice for around an hour. Most people do a morning and evening session, or one or the other. It is better to do more if you can, but just meditate as much as your life permits.
If you want professional guidance on how to go about meditating, then it may be worth looking at online meditation courses such as Burgs’ audio guides. Courses like these provide comprehensive guidance that will give you the best chance of meditating effectively from the comfort of your own home.
How to practice mindfulness eating
In addition to meditation, mindfulness eating has also been proven to be effective in weight loss. One of the ways to do so is to slow down when eating. The body sends its satiation signal around 20 minutes after the brain, which often leads to unconscious overeating. However, if you slow down, you allow your body to catch up to your brain and notice the signal to eat the right amount.
You can also help yourself to eradicate binge-eating by again listening to your body’s hunger signals. Instead of eating when you get emotional signals, like, stress, loneliness or even boredom, you should listen to your body. Only eat when you get signals like your stomach growling, or when you feel low on energy or a little lightheaded.
Why mindfulness alone is not enough
Although both mindful meditation and eating methods are clearly beneficial, mindfulness alone is not enough if you want to lose weight. Much of mindfulness around weight loss is about controlling your urges to eat unhealthily, and in order to effectively carry this out you’ll need to watch your diet carefully. It will be counter productive if you are effectively controlling the amount you consume, but still eating poorly.
It is also imperative that you exercise. By burning calories from what you do eat, you’ll supplement what you are doing in terms of diet and mindfulness. Using mindfulness in combination with dieting and exercise has proven to be highly effective in weight loss. Whilst Christmas is often the catalyst for an extended waistline, it can pay to practice mindfulness to counter that post-yuletide slump.