How Meditation Can Help You Lose Weight

It's all about being aware.

Meditating your way thin is not as simple as closing your eyes and making a wish — but it's close.

Recent studies have shown that meditation can help you lose weight. Study participants who practiced meditation in the months leading up to fall and winter's let's-stay-here-on-the-couch-with-hot-chocolate vibes stayed more active as cold descended than the control group—and just as active as the participants who had an established exercise regimen.

How did an introduction to meditation spur people to stay active? Jacob Meyer, an assistant professor of kinesiology at Iowa State, told The New York Times it isn't totally clear, but the key may lie in an overall awareness: Dr. Meyer suspects that both exercisers and meditators experienced an increased sense of integration with their bodies that made them more aware of whether, how, and when they moved.

"Research shows that meditation helps improve our awareness of internal hunger and signals that we are full. It also increases our ability to regulate what and how much we eat," Meditate Your Weight author and Yoga Medicine founder, Tiffany Cruikshank, told Clean Plates. "In addition, meditation can reduce unhealthy cravings, decrease the frequency of binge and emotional eating, and reduce high levels of the stress hormone cortisol—a cause of toxic belly fat. All of these factors play a role in our weight, making meditation a very effective tool in not just weight loss, but overall health."

Deepak Chopra, who offers a 21-day meditation program with Oprah geared toward meditation for weight loss, says that people sometimes lose weight without even trying when they start to meditate. If meditation can help you key into the difference between emotional hunger and physical hunger, you'll be less likely to use food as a coping mechanism for non-physical hunger, he explained. Furthermore, if meditation successfully chills you out, you'll be less likely to eat out of stress. Research reviews have shown that meditation effectively reduces both binge eating and emotional eating.

Meditation's effect on stress may play a bigger part in weight loss than seems immediately apparent. It's not only that an increased sense of calm can keep your hand out of the cookie jar as you reach for food as an emotional coping mechanism.

"In many cases, stress is a primary trigger for excessive weight gain or the inability to effectively lose weight," Doron Libshtein, the founder of Mentors Channel, a meditation platform, told Woman's World. The stress hormone cortisol affects insulin and plays a key role in metabolism; when cortisol is up, your blood sugar drops, kickstarting cravings for sugary, fatty foods. In other words, meditation can offer internal and external benefits, addressing habits and hormones.

"Mindfulness is a way to connect with yourself and ask, Am I actually hungry? What do I really want right now?" dietitian Marsha Hudnall, president and co-owner of Green Mountain at Fox Run, a retreat in Ludlow, Vermont, told Oprah Magazine.

Ideally, a meditation practice will extend beyond food and into the rest of our life, not only decreasing your waistline but increasing your quality of life.

"The purpose of mindfulness meditation is to become mindful throughout all parts of our life so that we're awake, present and openhearted in everything we do," Tara Brach, a popular meditation teacher based near Washington, D.C. told the New York Times. "Not just when we're sitting on the cushion."

Ready to get started? Here are some resources to check out: