Meditation – Can it Stop You from Overeating?
Can you say OMM? You don’t have to be a hippy or a zen master to get the benefits of 15 minutes of meditation a day. Eastern medicine has gained popularity since the 90s and has even been integrated into western medical treatments. One Eastern practice, meditation, has shown to have a positive effect on the prevention or treatment of many chronic diseases. Meditation can help us focus and be more mindful, which are important tools to avoid common health pitfalls like overeating. In today’s world, where every second counts, slowing down for a few minutes of meditation to decompress and get centered can make a world of difference for our mindset — and for our waistlines.
Meditation can come in many forms. Whether it’s taking a hike to get connected with nature, gardening to de-stress, lighting candles while taking a bath, or just finding 15 minutes to read with a cup of tea, these quiet moments can have a focusing effect on the mind. Instead of having the television mindlessly on in the background, practicing meditation can bring you into the present. And being present is one of the key skills for mindful eating.
Meditation helps you live in the present moment, decrease stress, focus better, and increase overall feelings of wellbeing. Mindfulness not only has a positive effect on your mental health but can also be beneficial to your physical health. One study showed that adults with diabetes who practiced mindful eating for 3 months increased their ability to control their eating and manage their diabetes just as well as a group in a more traditional nutrition program1. Plus mindfulness can help break the cycle of emotional eating.
Slowing down and quieting your mind can be difficult at first, especially if you’re used to being on the move all the time. Sometimes we just can’t help but go through our mental to-do list. If you’re new to meditation, try taking one minute for yourself. If intrusive thoughts keep jumping around in your mind, acknowledge them and then let them go. Sometimes a mind filled with these types of thoughts is referred to as a “monkey mind.” Having a mantra can help control it – a quick phrase that you repeat to yourself to help you focus and enjoy your “me” time. It can be as simple as “Breathe” or “I choose happiness.” Once you’re a pro at the one minute meditation, increase to 5 minutes, then to 10 minutes, and so on. You can do it!
To apply your meditation practice or just be more mindful at mealtime, apply these tips:
- For three days, track your meals and snacks as well as your emotions before and after. You might find that you’re eating out of stress or anxiety instead of hunger. By identifying current patterns, we can be mindful of them and create new, healthier patterns.
- Visual cues can stimulate overeating. Turn of the TV, close your laptop, and put down your cellphone during meals and snacks. By focusing on the flavors and sensations of eating, your body and brain will be more in tune with the amount you consume.
- Recognize your natural stopping point and hunger cues. When out with friends or eating around the table with family, you might find a lull in your eating, often when you’re about 60-80% finished with your plate. You naturally stop eating because your initial hunger has subsided. Unfortunately, we’ve all been trained to finish our plates, so we happily continue eating after this break. Get in to the habit of recognizing this stopping point, and placing a napkin over your dish and pushing it away.
- Recognize harmful thoughts as just thoughts. Thoughts like, “I’m so fat, I might as well eat this whole sleeve of cookies, it won’t make a difference,” are just thoughts. Acknowledge the thought and move on. Focus on one of your positive mantras instead and stop stress eating before it starts.
These tips just scratch the surface of meditation and the overall mind-body connection. If you’re interested in learning more, consider checking out the book 10% Happier by Dan Harris. It’s a helpful tool that can support you as you explore new ways to understand meditation that may help manage your diabetes.
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