Study Says Don't Diet — Meditate Instead

Mindfulness, part of which involves meditation, has been around for a while. People have been practicing it (literally) religiously since the Stone Age — and it's been trendy in the U.S. to varying extents for seemingly almost as long.

We're glad it caught on, though, because the practice more than lives up to the hype. It's been shown to deliver health benefit after health benefit, ranging from stress reduction to hormone balancing to better social relationships. Now, it seems science has definitively proven that meditation is more effective for weight loss than even the smartest diet plans.

That's right — you can eat whatever you want, get mindful now and then, and end up healthier than you would pounding kale and green juices.

Let's get one thing straight: Dieting is a really bad idea. It's been shown in study after study to increase damaging stress hormones, cause inflammation, mess with your metabolism, induce overeating and weight gain, and even contribute to the development of disordered eating.

So really, any alternative to dieting (i.e., just not dieting) is bound to be better. But here's why meditation is a good call, and undoubtedly healthier for you than changing the way you eat.

At North Carolina State University, researchers investigated the effects of meditation on weight. They split research participants into two groups: One that would commit to a diet and one that committed to meditating every day.

The group that practiced meditation lost seven times more weight than the group of dieters.

There could be any number of explanations for this, some of which have been suggested by researchers and dietitians. Some say that mindfulness promotes healthier eating (hence the term "mindful eating") by getting people back in touch with their body's needs. Others have suggested that since mindfulness and meditation decrease the stress hormones that signal weight gain, meditation can help mitigate extra storage of fat.

Regardless of the reasons why, it's clear that relaxing meditation is more effective than the unpleasant practice of dieting.

Meditation doesn't have to entail anything crazy. You don't have to go on a wellness retreat, stop wearing shoes, or take up yoga to learn how to meditate. For some people, meditation is as simple as a five-minute silent session. For others, it's something they do in passing during their morning commute.

Mindfulness is simply a state of awareness, and meditation is a practice of increasing that awareness over time. So even if you're sitting on the bus, taking the time to become aware of the floor beneath your feet and the steady rise and fall of your breath is a form of meditation.

And that simple practice — breathing, listening, and feeling — can help you not only lose weight, but feel overall healthier in the process.