- Pub. Date:
The mind makeover that makes over your metabolism.
Hundreds of medical studies have shown the spectacular health benefits of meditation. Now Tiffany Cruikshank, founder of Yoga Medicine, puts that scientific research to good, practical use by incorporating easy-to-use, targeted meditations into a unique weight-loss program. This 21-day plan optimizes health as well as body image by tapping the hidden strength of the mind. We learn a whole new way to lose weight; and it takes just a few relaxing and energizing minutes a day.
• How to get started: advice for new meditators (no weird positions or chants required)
• 3, 5, 7, and 10 minute meditations that bust cravings, break self-defeating habits, stress-proof the body, and reboot the brain
• What to eat—and the top 5 foods to consider avoiding
• How to continue your success after your 21-day retreat
• Bonus: 10 stress-relieving, cardio-revving yoga exercises to complement the plan
Each day of the plan in Meditate Your Weight helps you explore and release what's weighing you down physically, emotionally, and mentally—the mental blocks, thoughts, habits, and behaviors that stand in your way—to make it easier to think more clearly, make better choices, and maximize metabolism. As you lighten up on the inside, you’ll lighten up on the outside.
Less stress=less belly fat. More calm + more balance = a healthier you.
- Well+Good “The 10 Most Exciting Healthy Books to Read in 2016”
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About the Author
Tiffany Cruikshank, Lac, MAOM, an internationally acclaimed yoga teacher, author, meditation, and health and wellness expert, has a pre-med bachelor’s degree in Medicinal Plant Biology and Nutrition and a master’s degree in acupuncture and Oriental medicine with a specialization in sports medicine and orthopedics. She is the founder of Yoga Medicine and has treated more than 25,000 patients from around the world using yoga, acupuncture, nutrition, meditation and holistic health. Tiffany has been featured in Yoga Journal, Self, Marie Claire, Prevention, Forbes, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan and Redbook and on Fox News among many others.
Read an Excerpt
Meditation: The Master Habit
I will never forget working with Leslie.
Leslie was very disciplined and worked extremely hard to lose weight. She followed a clean diet. She worked out at the gym regularly. But no matter what she did, she could not get her body to let go of those last fifteen pounds she wanted to lose to feel healthy again. She’d been successful at reducing her weight in the past. But this time, no luck.
When Leslie came to my office and shared her current program with me, I was struck by all the work she’d done to lose weight. There really weren’t any additional diet- or exercise-related changes she could make--she’d been that disciplined. She was even aware that working out too hard or eating too little could stimulate counterproductive stress hormones, so she’d also been focused on striking a healthy balance between the two and on reducing stress in other areas of her life.
Leslie had done everything that I would have recommended, with the exception of one critical ingredient for success: She had not yet started to meditate.
When I suggested she begin meditation, she was skeptical but game. “I’ve always wanted to try meditation,” she said. “Even if I don’t lose weight, maybe this program will help me stick with it.”
Leslie started with five minutes a day, working up to ten minutes once she felt ready. Initially, she struggled to find the time in her busy schedule, but then she quickly came to see meditation as a highlight of her day. And sure enough, shortly after coming to see me--making no other changes to her self-care routine--Leslie had lost fifteen pounds. I continued to see her once or twice a year for a few years, and she has maintained that loss, seemingly effortlessly--looking more serene (and younger!) each time I see her.
I’ve watched many men and women spend a tremendous amount of time perfecting their diet and exercise regimes--really pushing themselves toward clean diets, yoga, high-performance athletics, and more--but remaining frustrated and unhappy with their results. Some struggle with consistency, battling inner demons they can’t seem to defeat, and get pulled back into self-sabotaging habits. Others, like Leslie, can motivate themselves to do all the right things, but they still don’t see the changes they want, and they don’t feel their best. Patients often come to me in tears, wondering what else they could possibly do to break through this frustrating plateau. Many have done everything possible to tell their bodies that they want to be at a different weight. But just like Leslie, they need to make the final, critical connection: They need to relay that message to their minds.
Leslie was still operating with outdated ideas about herself. In her mind she was an overweight woman. She hadn’t yet started to visualize herself at her target weight--and her fixed image of herself ensured that her body would hold on to those fifteen pounds, no matter what. Her brain--the master of her nervous system, the captain of the whole body--needed to believe the change was possible in order to allow the biochemical changes necessary to make it happen.
Meditation changed her perspective and helped her have faith in her image of herself as lean and vital. Her daily meditation practice and the resulting mental shift was all it took for her body to let go of those last fifteen pounds.
Whether I’m working with stressed-out college students or hard-charging executives, new moms or recent retirees, I have seen that meditation can be a very simple but transformative solution to all manner of stubborn and frustrating problems. In our quest for more vibrant health and happiness, many of us are held back by subconscious messages and long-standing patterns. We might not even know our blocks exist, even as we run headlong into them, day after day. But as little as five minutes of mindful meditation, practiced daily, can help us become aware of our blocks--which is often the first and most important step to getting past them.
As meditation helps you see your blocks, you begin to understand the connection between the hidden messages you’re sending to yourself, the self-defeating patterns you unconsciously follow, and the frustrating lack of progress you’ve made toward your goals. But rather than nudging you into a self-chastising spiral, meditation helps you develop greater understanding of and compassion for yourself, foibles and all. It is in this space of peace and self-compassion that your body relaxes its defenses, opens up, and reveals its innate instinct for health--often enabling natural, automatic, even effortless weight loss.
As we make meditation a regular part of our daily lives, we experience small “aha!” moments that progress to ever-richer insights. These changes start to compound as we become stronger and less engaged with our fears. We develop the courage to turn and face the biggest problems in our lives, painful issues we may have avoided facing for years--issues that often turn out to be the very root causes of some of our most frustrating blocks.
These foundational shifts may take a while to occur, but once we address them, life suddenly seems easier, richer, more meaningful. We begin to heal lifelong injuries, reboot long-dormant dreams, and set off on paths that had previously seemed inaccessible.
And all of this begins with just a few minutes a day. When you tap the power of meditation, your quest to remove extra pounds is often just the beginning of a truly life-changing transformation.
Simple but Mighty
The practice of meditation is actually very simple: You require nothing but an intention to quiet your mind for a few moments. You don’t need any equipment or extensive training--you don’t even necessarily need a quiet space (although it is handy). As simple as meditation is, its powerful effects have been studied and validated by the most prestigious medical institutions in the world. Millions of people have been subjected to sleep studies, blood tests, brain scans, and all manner of clinical trials to chronicle its effects on our various body systems. This research has proven that meditation has a verifiable, physical effect on how our bodies manage stress; it changes our physiology, our nervous and endocrine systems, even the very structure of our brains.
Meditation can support almost any effort to improve health--including the pursuit of a healthy weight. In fact, a recent analysis of peer-reviewed studies that looked at mindfulness-based interventions to address eating behaviors related to weight gain--including overeating, binge eating, and emotional eating--found that participants in 86 percent of the mindfulness studies demonstrated improvement in their weight-related goals.1
Research shows that meditation, and especially mindfulness meditation, aids weight loss efforts in the following ways:
by teaching us to slow down and truly savor our food, so we enjoy it more and need less to feel satisfied
by helping us understand what actual physical hunger and fullness feel like, instead of eating out of habit or craving
by helping us question those cravings that seem “irresistible”
Many studies have shown that mindfulness techniques can reduce food cravings and enhance weight loss. But more awareness can also help us clearly see how our mental habits affect us: Why do we crave certain foods, whether healthy or unhealthy? Why do we have self-limiting mental patterns--and how do those patterns impact our body image, our health, our posture? How do we treat ourselves--and how do we interact with and treat others? How do we feel and live and breathe and move in our lives? All of these questions play a role in our health and our happiness, our level of connection with others and contentment with our lives. If we can start to get at the answers to those questions, the weight loss often comes naturally.
Seem too good to be true? How can simply sitting quietly have that much impact? Maybe you have your doubts about meditation--or you’ve tried it, but it doesn’t seem to work for you. Let’s look at a few of the most common myths about meditation to see if we can address those doubts and reservations.
Some Myths About Meditation--and the Truth
Though meditating is simpler to do than many believe, it is also a mysterious process--how does it work, exactly? Even scientists are not exactly sure, but they’re getting closer. That mystery sometimes causes a bit of a PR problem for meditation, but I’d love to clear up a few of those misunderstandings.
Myth: “Meditation is a spiritual practice.”
Truth: Meditation is, first and foremost, a mental practice.
Meditation is not voodoo. Meditation is not New Age or mystical. Yes, meditation has been used in many forms in religious traditions and cultures throughout history and throughout the world--but the act of meditating isn’t inherently spiritual.
At its core, meditation is a means of training your mind. It has direct physiological effects on the brain and nervous system that can be studied in the lab, tracked by sophisticated fMRI brain scanners, or analyzed with a blood test, stethoscope, or heart rate monitor. In fact, over the last twenty-five years, more than three thousand studies on meditators have been conducted at some of the most respected research institutions in the world, including Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and the universities of California, North Carolina, and Wisconsin, among many others. The data from these studies is very clear: Meditation helps people lead healthier, happier, and more fulfilling lives.
Myth: “Meditation just doesn’t work for me.” Or: “I can’t meditate.”
Truth: Meditation works for everyone, and everyone can do it.
I hear it all the time: “I can’t meditate--it just doesn’t work for me.”
Imagine if a baby who was just learning how to walk tried to take a step and fell down, then turned around and said, “Sorry, Mom and Dad--this walking thing just doesn’t work for me.”
Silly, right? But meditation is like walking--it’s an activity we learn to do in very short spurts, then continue to practice and improve upon for the rest of our lives.
Once you’ve mastered the basics of walking, you can go in any direction you’d like--you can run the fifty-yard dash in gym class, you can train for a 5k, you can become a marathoner. Or, like many people, you might just stick with basic walking to get you through your days. But the core mechanics involved in each of these activities is exactly the same: You put one foot in front of the other, and you move forward.
Meditation is just like that. You might just do three minutes a day; you might work up to twenty. You might fall in love with it and decide to dig deep and do a retreat. But at an elemental level, no matter where you find yourself currently, you are a meditator. From the very first moment you sit, take a breath, and notice that your mind is wandering, you’re already doing it--you’re meditating.
Myth: “The real type of meditation is [X]--and if you don’t do [X], you’re not really meditating.”
Truth: Any type of meditation is “real”; no one type is better than another.
When we start meditating, a common trap is to get caught in thinking we have to follow a specific type of meditation. When I first got into meditation back in the early nineties, people were very specific about it. I heard all kinds of dictums:
You can’t be sitting on a chair--you have to sit on a cushion.
Your legs need to be in this position.
You have to have your right thumb on top and your left thumb on the bottom.
Your right heel must be in front.
Your spine has to be right over your pelvis.
You have to chant this or think about that.
All of these might be helpful suggestions to you--or not. To use meditation to reach your health goals, there are truly no absolutes of this kind. What works for you is what works for you. It doesn’t matter if you do a visualization, or count your breaths, or simply take a moment to close your eyes and be still while riding on the bus--all of these are just tools, and all of them are forms of meditation. Anytime you take a moment to just sit there--voila, you’re meditating.
And that’s the ultimate goal of meditation: that, with practice, you will get to a level of comfort in which you can just tip back into that same relaxed, focused mental space on the drop of a dime, anytime you notice that you’re getting stressed. By developing your meditation skills, you become able to step out of the stress loop and remain cool, calm, and collected as often as you’d like.
If you’re drawn to one specific method of meditation, that’s great--stick with what works for you. Find the tool that you need and use it. But from a scientific perspective, and for the results we’re looking for in the mind and body, please know there are many “right” ways to do it.
Myth: “You have to meditate for twenty minutes or more, or it’s not worth it.”
Truth: Any amount of meditation can make a difference in your life.
The length of time you spend meditating is absolutely secondary to frequency. If you have to struggle and force yourself to stay still for twenty minutes, you’re not going to get the health benefits that you would get from simply sitting for five minutes and just paying attention to your breath. The effort you expend to sit in that spot longer than your tolerance can take will stimulate a stress response in your nervous system. I would so much rather you meditate once a day for three minutes than once a week for twenty.
Yes, that little time really does make a difference. One study found that as few as five minutes of meditation a day for four weeks significantly reduced participants’ measures of stress and anxiety and increased their perceived quality of life.2 Another study found that fifteen minutes of meditation a day reduced participants’ measures of stress by up to 36 percent.3 But even something as simple as a singular, mindful exhale can lower your blood pressure, at least for a moment or two.
1 G. A. O’Reilly et al., “Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Obesity-Related Eating Behaviours: A Literature Review,” Obesity Reviews 15, no. 6 (June 2014 ): 453–61, doi:10.1111/obr.12156.
2 Kavita Prasad et al., “Effect of a Single-Session Meditation Training to Reduce Stress and Improve Quality of Life Among Health Care Professionals: A ‘Dose-Ranging’ Feasibility Study,” Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine 17, no. 3 (May–June 2011): 46-49, PubMed PMID: 22164812.
3 James D. Lane, Jon Seskevich, and Carl Pieper, “Brief Meditation Training Can Improve Perceived Stress and Negative Mood,” Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine 13, no. 1 (January-February 2001): 38-44, PubMed PMID: 17283740.
Table of Contents
Part 1 What's Weighing You Down?
1 Meditation: The Master Habit 13
2 Busting Through Your Mental Blocks 38
3 Mind Over Metabolism 62
Part 2 Your 21-Day Retreat
4 Establishing Your Daily Practice 89
Day 1 Awareness 108
Day 2 Presence 117
Day 3 Authenticity 122
Day 4 Cravings 129
Day 5 Nourishment 136
Day 6 Food as Fuel 142
Day 7 Vitality 151
Day 8 Stress-Proofing 160
Day 9 Self-Limiting Beliefs 167
Day 10 Radiance 176
Day 11 Self-Esteem 183
Day 12 Love 193
Day 13 Feeling Capable 194
Day 14 Overcoming Perfectionism 201
Day 15 Living Your Potential 208
Day 16 Embracing Your Beauty 214
Day 17 Loving Your Body 222
Day 18 Already Home 229
Day 19 Strength 234
Day 20 Commitment 240
Day 21 Clarity and Purpose 249
5 After: What's Next? 256
Part 3 The Meditate Your Weight Tool Kit
6 Meditate Your Food 269
7 Meditate Your Movement 287