Can Meditation Aid in Weight Loss? A Look Into the Connection

by JJ Virgin on April 6, 2023

During the pandemic, I made one big change: I started meditating consistently. 

I didn’t change my diet, exercise, or anything else. I simply sat down, followed the recorded guidance of Dr. Joe Dispenza, and meditated. While weight loss wasn’t a goal, I lost five pounds. 

When you consider the benefits of meditation, you probably think about things like inner peace. You might believe you’ll feel more focused or not get agitated as much. But losing weight? While that may not immediately come to mind, meditation can support your weight loss journey.  

That benefit comes from cultivating a strong mind-body connection, reducing stress levels, and supporting overall well-being. Those things, in turn, help you develop a healthier relationship with food.  

I saw how consistently meditating helped me lose weight, and I’ve watched it help others, too. When it comes to meditation’s benefits for weight loss, these five advantages come to mind.  

Meditation Can Help Develop Mindfulness 

Clients often tell me how they scroll through Instagram while snacking on chips or cookies—and suddenly they’re at the bottom of the bag. Mindless eating constitutes a lot of unhealthy eating! 

“Much overeating happens automatically,” says Susan Albers, Ph.D., in Eating Mindfully. “It can become so routine that you may not even be aware of it. When you start to become more mindful, you begin to see mindless behavior that you hadn’t noticed before.” 

Mindfulness, a practice rooted in Zen Buddhism, involves being completely present when you’re doing something, giving it your full attention. This evolves naturally from meditation: you take the focus of meditation (such as your breath or a particular object) and carry that presence throughout your day. 

When it comes to eating, mindfulness means that you’re fully aware of the taste, smell, texture, and appearance of food.1 You savor every bite, knowing that healthy foods nourish your body. 

Meditation enhances mindfulness, but you can also make mindfulness into a meditation. Try it the next time you eat. Be fully aware of lifting your fork, tasting the food, being present with your company, and staying attentive with your senses. You’ll likely enjoy the food more and naturally know when to stop eating, which can yield big dividends toward weight loss. 

Meditation Can Help Reduce Stress 

A little bit of stress can be a good thing, making you more resilient to the inevitable storms that life throws your way. But feeling constantly stressed can take its toll on your health and well-being, including your weight. Among its damage, uncontrolled stress can lead to emotional eating and unhealthy food choices.  

Meditation can help reduce stress and anxiety. When you meditate, your breathing slows down, your heart rate decreases, and your muscles relax. You release tension in your body. As a result, you’re less likely to use food as a coping mechanism. After all, when you’re feeling calm and focused, you’re much less likely to want or need to self-soothe with a pint of ice cream. 

Research shows that you don’t need much meditation to get those benefits, either. Thirty-three students completed five to twelve minutes of meditation, six days every week, for eight weeks. Researchers looked at differences in pre- and post-meditation stress, anxiety, mindfulness, and heart-rate variability. Even that small amount of daily mindfulness meditation, they found, could lower stress and anxiety. Longer meditation periods created even greater changes.2 

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Meditation Can Help Improve Sleep 

Ever tossed and turned when your mind was racing? Meditation can bring the calmness you need to get deep, restorative sleep.  

Sleep is the best thing you can do to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight—and the research supports it. Studies show that cultivating great sleep can help you achieve greater weight loss.3 

Meditation can help. One review of 18 trials, totaling 1,654 participants, concluded that mindfulness meditation interventions significantly improved sleep quality.4 Another study, this one among 413 healthy middle-aged participants, found that mindfulness-based stress reduction could improve sleep quality (Worth noting: moderate exercise also helped here.)5 

Great sleep doesn’t just happen. Creating a sleep ritual is critical for falling into deep, restorative sleep. A calming meditation before bedtime can help you fall and stay asleep better. Meditation can also increase the production of melatonin, your sleep hormone that promotes proper sleep/wake cycles.6 

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Meditation Can Help Balance Blood-Sugar Levels 

When your blood-sugar levels are all over the map, you’re more apt to feel antsy or spacey, have trouble concentrating, and struggle to resist the brownies in your fridge. As a result, weight loss takes a backseat to hunger and cravings. 

Meditation can help balance blood-sugar levels to keep those struggles at bay. Researchers at the University of Southern California looked at 28 randomized controlled trials and concluded that techniques like meditation could lower blood-sugar levels just as well as diabetes medications by lowering the levels of HBA1C, a measure of one’s average blood-sugar levels over the past two to three months.7 

Another study, this one with 32 diabetic participants, found that a single session of one meditation technique called Mind Sound Resonance Technique (which uses a mantra or a word that you repeat again and again) could reduce blood-glucose and anxiety levels while supporting relaxation better than people who simply rested on their backs in a supine position.8 

Balancing blood-sugar levels and maintaining insulin sensitivity starts with your diet. Meditation could be the needle mover when you’re eating by the plate and getting the right exercise, but not seeing the scale budge. 

Meditation Can Help Increase Self-Awareness 

Unhealthy eating can result when you avoid feeling or expressing your emotions. You’re probably familiar with the need to have an uncomfortable conversation with a coworker or family member. Stifle those feelings and you’re more likely to distract yourself by visiting your favorite bakery before work.  

Self-awareness means becoming more aware of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and identifying underlying causes of overeating. 

Research shows that increased self-awareness—in this case, being aware of healthy lifestyles—can help you make a positive attitude change regarding eating habits and physical activity. And the outlook is pretty good—the study’s participants maintained their positive approach a year later.9

By becoming more in tune with your body, you recognize when you’re genuinely hungry, versus when you’re eating out of habit or emotion. You can then make more conscious choices about what and how much you eat. 

Finding a Meditation Practice That Works for You 

You’ll find many types of meditation that can help cultivate mindfulness, reduce stress, and improve your overall wellbeing—all of which can help you lose weight.  

Transcendental Meditation involves repeating a mantra (a designated word given to you by a teacher) for 20 minutes a day, twice daily. Other methods, such as breath meditation, focus on something specific for a period of time. Alternatively, you might choose to focus on an external object, such as a candle flame, to center your attention. Numerous apps also provide guided meditations that you may find helpful. My favorite meditation teacher is Dr. Joe Dispenza. 

The key is to find a style that resonates with you. If you’re new to meditation, try a few different apps or Google and experiment with a few practices. While it can initially feel overwhelming, the search is worth it. 

Once you find something that works, commit to a consistent practice. Be patient and make it part of your morning routine. I often say that weight loss doesn’t happen overnight. Neither do the benefits of meditation reveal themselves so readily.  

But you’ll soon find increased focus, better sleep, and a greater sense of peace and calm when you stick with it. And if you notice the scales favorably budge… well, consider that a nice bonus! To further help you, I’ve compiled some of my favorite meditation sources below: 


  1. Nelson JB. Mindful Eating: The Art of Presence While You Eat. Diabetes Spectr. 2017 Aug;30(3):171-174. doi: 10.2337/ds17-0015. PMID: 28848310; PMCID: PMC5556586. 
  1. Burgstahler MS, Stenson MC. Effects of guided mindfulness meditation on anxiety and stress in a pre-healthcare college student population: a pilot study. J Am Coll Health. 2020 Aug-Sep;68(6):666-672. doi: 10.1080/07448481.2019.1590371. Epub 2019 Apr 2. PMID: 30939081. 
  1. Kline CE, Chasens ER, Bizhanova Z, Sereika SM, Buysse DJ, Imes CC, Kariuki JK, Mendez DD, Cajita MI, Rathbun SL, Burke LE. The association between sleep health and weight change during a 12-month behavioral weight loss intervention. Int J Obes (Lond). 2021 Mar;45(3):639-649. doi: 10.1038/s41366-020-00728-8. Epub 2021 Jan 7. PMID: 33414489; PMCID: PMC7914147. 
  1. Rusch HL, Rosario M, Levison LM, Olivera A, Livingston WS, Wu T, Gill JM. The effect of mindfulness meditation on sleep quality: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2019 Jun;1445(1):5-16. doi: 10.1111/nyas.13996. Epub 2018 Dec 21. PMID: 30575050; PMCID: PMC6557693. 
  1. Barrett B, Harden CM, Brown RL, Coe CL, Irwin MR. Mindfulness meditation and exercise both improve sleep quality: Secondary analysis of a randomized controlled trial of community dwelling adults. Sleep Health. 2020 Dec;6(6):804-813. doi: 10.1016/j.sleh.2020.04.003. Epub 2020 May 22. PMID: 32448712; PMCID: PMC8157793. 
  1. Nagendra RP, Maruthai N, Kutty BM. Meditation and its regulatory role on sleep. Front Neurol. 2012 Apr 18;3:54. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2012.00054. PMID: 22529834; PMCID: PMC3328970. 
  1. Sanogo F, Xu K, Cortessis VK, Weigensberg MJ, Watanabe RM. Mind- and Body-Based Interventions Improve Glycemic Control in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. J Integr Complement Med. 2023 Feb;29(2):69-79. doi: 10.1089/jicm.2022.0586. Epub 2022 Sep 7. PMID: 36070591. 
  1. Wen X, Saoji AA, Metri K, Mohanty S, Vijayakumar V. Immediate effect of a meditation technique on blood glucose, state anxiety and relaxation in patients with type 2 diabetes: a pilot randomized crossover study. J Complement Integr Med. 2021 Oct 27. doi: 10.1515/jcim-2020-0359. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34706404. 
  1. Ben-Arye E, Lear A, Hermoni D, Margalit RS. Promoting lifestyle self-awareness among the medical team by the use of an integrated teaching approach: a primary care experience. J Altern Complement Med. 2007 May;13(4):461-9. doi: 10.1089/acm.2007.6313. PMID: 17532741. 

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. Products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The views in this blog by JJ Virgin should never be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. Please work with a healthcare practitioner concerning any medical problem or concern.