When it comes to self-improvement, many people don’t get the connection between the physical body (the outer self) and the spirit (the inner self). If you have trouble losing weight and keeping it off or getting into shape and staying that way, it may be because you’re focusing everything on your outer self and neglecting your inner self. The concept may sound new-agey, but suspend skepticism and judgment for just a moment. Remember that you really do consist of the “inner” and the “outer.” If you want to get into the physics of it all, the inner you is really more you than the outer you. Give your spirit equal time to finally get your fitness and weight loss plan off that plateau.
Meditation and/or prayer, yoga and journaling are the main contemplative practices the University of Minnesota lists as ones that are important for health. While it can be argued that people who engage in regular spiritual practices tend to make healthier choices and, therefore, are healthier, it’s not just about the choices. Including practices in your lifestyle that strengthen the inner you will improve your life and health in other, surprising ways.
Meditate On It
Don’t scoff at the thought of meditation improving your physical health. According to the U.S. News and World Report Health section, meditating can improve your blood pressure significantly enough to actually get you off blood pressure meds. That alone will enhance your cardiovascular health, but you want to know how meditation can help you lose weight. Human Kinetics shines a light on that issue by pointing out that meditating improves athletic performance allowing you to work out more effectively and focus on your goal.
Further, meditating promotes cell repair by stimulating your parasympathetic nervous system. That helps recovery and muscle building, and we all know that muscle burns fat. Another way meditation supports recovery is by clearing your mind so you can sleep better. It’s during quality sleep that your body produces human growth hormone, a vital component of muscle building and cell regeneration. Possibly the most important benefit of meditation when it comes to weight loss is that it reduces the production of cortisol, the pesky stress hormone that encourages your body to hold onto belly fat.
Don’t buy into the myth that you have to sit lotus position for hours on end and completely master emptying your mind. You’ll benefit from just 10 minutes at a time of deep, mindful breathing. Set a timer to eliminate the need for frequent interrupting peeks at the clock. Headspace.com has a terrific free program that explains meditation in unique, understandable terms and guides you through getting into the practice on a daily basis. Alternatively, there are numerous guided meditations available on the internet, MP3 and CD. Some are free, some are not, but you’ll have scores to choose from with any theme you’re looking for, including weight loss. Go ahead and start out at only 10 minutes, then build up as you get better at it, and your schedule allows. Setting aside the same time each day, such as every morning or every evening, will make it part of your routine so you’re less likely to skip it, and fall out of the habit. Some days you may only have 10 minutes to spare, and that’s OK. Do what you can when you can, and you’ll see a huge difference.
Journal Yourself Fit
If the journaling part of a health and fitness spiritual practice seems unlikely to be of any help with a weight loss plan, consider Charmaine Jackson’s story. CNN reveals that she accomplished weight loss success, dropping half of her body weight and she credits journaling with helping her reach her goal. The journal provided her with an outlet to write down her feelings and emotions and figure out that she was an emotional eater who relieved stress with food. Journaling helped Jackson realize that crunchy chips and pretzels were her go-to comfort foods and that she could get the same satisfaction from munching on crunchy fruits and vegetables that she grew in her own garden.
Journaling can do the same for anyone, and Discover Good Nutrition points out that many coaches require athletes to keep one. It keeps you accountable for your diet and workout plan; it helps you prioritize your health, fitness and weight loss; and it’s the perfect tool to monitor your progress. The beauty of a journal is the versatility and flexibility — there’s no right or wrong way to do it. If you love to handwrite and want to keep a leather-bound food and workout diary, do it. If you prefer typing, make a file on your computer and use Word to create an entry each day. You could even opt for software that’s designed specifically with journaling in mind. If you have the time and inclination to go into detail about your food, feelings and fitness regimen, by all means, do it. On the other hand, if you have minimal time and don’t aspire to any level of creative writing, keep it simple. Use a fresh page for each day and include
- the day and date
- your feelings — basic one-word descriptions are acceptable!
- exercise — include type, intensity, time of day and duration
- physical evaluation — note any pain, how tired or energized, strong or weak you feel
For the diet part, you can simply rate your overall eating and nutrition for the day using a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 meaning you didn’t exceed your caloric intake and only ate healthy nutritious foods. Take note, however, that the more detailed the food part of your journal is, the more likely you are to lose weight. Web MD reports on a study in which participants who kept detailed food records at least six days a week enjoyed double the weight loss of those who only sporadically journaled about their diet. That may mean keeping notes throughout the day so that you can include everything later in your journal but, if it results in twice the weight loss, it’s worth the effort.