Weight Loss and Meditation

Don’t worry, I’m not about to tell you that you need one to do the other. Far from it.

But in reflecting on my goals and process I stumbled into a concept shared by both.

I don’t have name for it — or, rather, any name I assign seems too limiting — but I can describe it.

Scale fear

Ask anyone who’s keeping an eye on their weight, and they’ll confirm: scale fear is real.

It’s that fear that when you step on the scale the number will be something other than what you really want. Somehow stepping on the scale makes something too real, and as a result you’re reluctant to do so. It’s not unlike the fear of visiting the doctor because of what he or she might tell you.

I, too, can confirm it: scale fear is real. This morning I was reluctant because my sense was that for the past couple of weeks I haven’t always been at my best, consumption-wise. The Oatmeal’s comic nails it on the head: the diet* train easily derails in the face of social obligations.

I got on anyway. It was OK.

But even if it hadn’t been, I would have been OK.

Monkey mind

“Monkey mind” is a term sometimes used to describe our minds full of random thoughts all competing for our attention while we try to do other things.

Like meditate.

A lot of people believe that meditation is all about keeping an empty mind. Focusing on nothing. Having no thoughts at all.

Nope. That’s not it at all. At least not in the literature I’ve read, or the practice I follow. Instead, it’s more like focus on something, and then deal with the distractions. My take is that it’s much more about calmly dealing with the distractions than it is anything else.

So, how do we deal with them?

Calmly accept, let go, and use

Meditation: simply notice that you’ve been distracted, let it go, and return to whatever you were focusing on. Repeat. Often. My experience is that the more I practice, the better I become at focusing and letting distractions go: both while meditating, and while not meditating.

The scale: simply notice what weight you’ve reached, let it go, and return to your normal diet. Repeat. My experience here is that the number is data that I can use adjust my diet — or more correctly my habits. Weight goes up. Weight goes down. If it’s too high, it’s motivation, nothing more.

“Letting go” is a loaded phrase, because it implies we do nothing with whatever it is we’re dealing with. In reality what I’m letting go of is its immediate, perhaps even emotional impact: the frustration of a busy brain while trying to mediate, or the disappointment of having exceeded a weight threshold.

What I’m not letting go of is its existence. What I’m not letting go of is my more thoughtful choice to use it in a way I see fit. Sometimes that might mean truly doing nothing. Sometimes it means choosing a different meal. Sometimes it means doing today’s meditation anyway, even if I don’t feel like it.

Sometimes it means remembering that acknowledging and calmly refocusing is what it’s all really about.

It seems to be working.

Weight loss chart as of 9/2/2018

*: I use the term “diet” to mean “the food that you consume”, rather than “some constraint you place on yourself to lose weight that you hope sometime to be able to do without”. The later is, in my opinion, just a path to failure.