Meditation and mindfulness may help people to be more aware of their eating behaviors and motivations. Some research suggests that adding meditation to a weight loss strategy may be more effective than dietary changes alone.

Almost 3 in 4 adults ages 20 or older in the United States are overweight or have obesity. Experts define overweight and obesity as an increase in the size and amount of fat cells in the body. People may become overweight or develop obesity due to several factors, such as certain eating patterns, genetics, or a sedentary lifestyle.

“Meditation” refers to a variety of practices that focus on mind and body integration to enhance overall well-being and calm the mind. Some types of meditation include the practice of mindfulness, which involves maintaining awareness in the present moment without making judgments.

This article explores whether meditation may help with weight loss, how to start practicing meditation, other tips for losing weight, and when to contact a doctor.

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Evidence suggests that meditation and mindfulness may be beneficial for losing weight and managing eating behaviors.

For example, a 2018 analysis of 19 studies found that meditation and mindfulness interventions effectively helped reduce weight and improved obesity-related eating behaviors among individuals with overweight and obesity. However, the researchers highlighted that further studies are necessary.

Another 2017 review of 15 studies found an average weight loss of 4.2 kilograms (kg) in 560 individuals with overweight and obesity using mindfulness-based interventions. However, the researchers also highlighted that further high quality studies investigating the mechanisms of mindfulness-based interventions are necessary.

Further, a different 2017 study involving 46 adults with obesity suggested that mindfulness meditation and standard behavioral weight loss programs were more effective than a weight loss program alone. The mindfulness meditation enhanced weight loss by 2.8 kg, possibly through improving participants’ eating behaviors and dietary restraint.

It is important to note that meditation does not cause weight loss directly. Rather, it may encourage someone to be more mindful about what they eat or how they think about diet and exercise.

Research from 2019 indicates that mindfulness and meditation may help with emotional eating and binge eating, which is a behavior associated with binge eating disorder. In addition, depending on the program someone uses, studies suggest mindfulness may also help with the motivation to exercise.

Mindfulness and meditation programs have become more popular. The National Health Interview Survey indicates that overall meditation use among adults ages 18 and over increased more than threefold, from 4.1% in 2012 to 14.2% in 2017.

Resources for meditation are available online or in in-person groups. To start, someone may want to try a meditation that focuses on the breath.

In addition, a 2017 review outlines some steps for a mindful eating meditation that may help with weight loss. The steps are as follows:

  1. Put a single raisin in front of you.
  2. Imagine you are not from this planet and need to learn about where you are. You have never experienced anything from Earth and have no judgments, fears, or expectations. All experience is new to you. Now take a few deep breaths and relax.
  3. Look at the raisin and pick it up.
  4. Feel its weight.
  5. Examine its surface, looking for the first time at its ridges, shiny parts, and dull parts.
  6. Smell the raisin and notice how you react.
  7. Roll the raisin between your fingers and listen to hear what sound it makes. Notice any stickiness.
  8. Notice what you are feeling about the raisin.
  9. Place the raisin between your lips and hold it there briefly. What do you notice happens inside you?
  10. Let it roll back into your mouth, but do not chew it yet. Is there a taste? Do you salivate? What do you want to do?
  11. Bite down, just once. What do you notice?
  12. Slowly begin to chew, noticing what each bite brings.
  13. Chew the raisin until completely liquefied before you swallow.
  14. After swallowing, close your eyes for a few moments to notice the consequence of what you just experienced.

The review notes that mindful eating requires a commitment to behavior change. The main purpose of mindful eating is to pay attention.

The author of the review further encourages people to notice their feelings before reaching for food. Emotions such as stress, boredom, or loneliness may motivate a person to eat. By being aware of their feelings, someone may be able to make a more mindful choice instead.

Additionally, the author highlights that although there are other benefits to meditation and mindful eating other than weight loss, people who practice regularly may lose weight and maintain it.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute offers tips for people with overweight or obesity to aim for and maintain a moderate weight. These include:

  • reducing the number of daily calories they consume over time
  • choosing healthy foods
  • engaging in regular physical activities
  • getting enough good quality sleep, which equates to around 7–8 hours per night for adults

A person may also wish to speak with a doctor about weight management and other options, including:

Learn more about losing weight.

A person can speak with a doctor about whether losing weight is right for them and how to do so safely.

Losing weight should be a gradual process that helps people maintain a moderate weight in the long term. Therefore, it is best to avoid fad diets or extreme diets that may lead to adverse effects, such as malnutrition or disordered eating.

A person should consult a doctor if they are concerned about their weight but have not received a diagnosis for overweight or obesity. A healthcare professional can help people monitor their weight and provide advice for anyone who may be engaging in disordered eating behaviors.

Some evidence suggests that meditation may help individuals lose weight by changing their behaviors and raising awareness of their reasons for eating.

Meditation does not directly cause a person to lose weight. However, its effects may be beneficial — especially when using mindful meditation alongside a balanced diet and regular exercise.

People can speak with a doctor about how to lose weight safely.