Our culture is dominated by fad diets that somehow each year new diets roll out. Each one is marketed as the holy grail to weight loss. The problem is that these diets work temporarily and most are not sustainable. Some deprive you of foods or others are imbalanced in their core food list. Even if you do lose weight it comes at a cost of other health issues.
I was thinking today how is that we Americans are always looking for the next “it” thing? Is it because there has never been ancestral diet that we have followed exclusively given the melting pot history?
The problem with fad diets with the Keto or Atkins is that they work for a period of time, they are a “one fit all solution”, supposedly. Ayurveda looks at the person, their imbalances and suggests a diet best suited to correct these imbalances. The approach is completely personalized to ensure that through a balanced state we can be disease-free and at an ideal weight that will support our health optimally. When we respect the optimal weight for our health to thrive, then we are striving for our balance both in the mind and body.
Dosha Specific Weight Gain
Let’s look at the doshic types and how they affect weight gain and loss.
Vata types have a tendency to be on the thinner side, and naturally will be lean. They might have a hard time gaining weight. It will take while of continuing with bad diet choices before they notice the weight gain.
Pitta types are muscular in nature and they tend have a strong appetite. Their initial weight gain may not be noticeable as it may look like just more bulk to their body and not fat.
Kapha types are broader and naturally a bit heavier. They tend to gain weight very easily and have a difficult time losing it. It will only take a week of eating poorly to notice the weight gain on their bodies.
Even though intermittent fasting and the Keto Diet have some of their roots in Ayurveda, there are other factors to consider such as the actual diet and lifestyle of the individual. Ayurveda’s framework for weightloss is beyond intermittent fasting. If you are interested in learning more about the Ayurvedic perspective on the keto diet, read Dr. Douilliard’s article as he explains in great detail how the Keto compares to Ayurvedic principles.
When our bodies are aligned with the cycles of nature, we enable it to work more efficiently. The same five elements (ether, air, fire, water, and earth) in nature is what is within our body and mind. Living in tune with the cycles of nature can really work for us or against us. By default, there is a 14 hour gap between dinner and breakfast. Moreover, lunch is the largest meal, and dinner is a light meal. With a larger gap between dinner and breakfast, the body is able to digest dinner but also clean, filter and tune itself to keep the necessary and get rid of unnecessary. When we do not allow the body to do what it needs to, then is it not functioning optimally to get rid of ama (toxins) as necessary. If you are finding it difficult to lose weight, then you most likely have ama that is preventing you from losing weight.
Living in tune with the rhythms of nature is fundamental in Ayurveda. This daily regimen is called dinacarya. Here is what a dietary Ayurvedic daily regimen looks like:
- wake up before sunrise
- exercise or stretching
- breakfast at around 8am
- lunch around 12pm (largest meal of the day)
- dinner at sunset, around 6pm
- no snacking in between meals
- bedtime at 10pm
Some of this sounds basic, but consistently following dinacarya and making lifestyle changes take time.
Dosha Appropriate Foods
Depending on what dosha you are, or dual dosha, it is best for you to follow that food list. Accessing on surface level if you are a vata, pitta or kapha is easy with a 15 question quiz, but if you are looking for a more accurate evaluation then best to meet with an Ayurvedic Health Consultant.
The diet for vata, pitta and kapha individuals is different in terms of what foods are emphasized and which are to be avoided.
Vata needs to focus more on grounding foods.
Pitta needs to focus on more cooling foods.
Kapha needs to focus more on lighter foods.
Eating Your Size Portion
Our stomach is roughly the size of both of our hands cupped together. In Ayurveda, we call this one anjali. Each individual will have a different volume and this is the maximum amount of food we should consume during each meal. Keep in mind that this should not be overflowing on the top, it should be leveled off at the thumbs.
Eating According To Your DNA
I can say that most of my 20s I enjoyed eating different cuisines every day. I found it eye opening when I learned how should be eating according to our DNA. Meaning, we should take time to understand who we are, who are ancestors were and how they lived and ate. Our DNA and who we essentially are can help guide which foods have inherently been a part of us and our wellbeing. For example, I am of 100% indian origin and my ancestors came from a part of northwest indian not too far from the dessert. They were primarily businessmen and traders, possibly a few generations in agriculture too. Understanding this puts a lot of about their diet and lifestyle into perspective. Vegetables and fruits were likely scarce or any available during certain times of the year. They likely had pitta health issues and ate pitta balancing foods to counter the hot desert climate.
Now, this doesn’t mean that I should eat everything my ancestors ate, because I was born and raised here in the U.S. and I need to eat according to the seasons and weather where I live. But, understanding what foods were dominant in their diet and how it was prepared over across many generations in the same dessert like region, is inherently a part of me. I experimented with incorporating more of those foods and to my surprise I lost weight and had much better digestion.
Where To Start?
These are 5 ways of looking at losing weight with Ayurveda. Obviously, it is not an easy fix or super straightforward but hopefully these 5 ways will help to see how Ayurveda views weight loss. Ayurveda looks at each individual to have their unique blueprint and therefore each person has their own optimal mind and body balance point. Instead of aiming to reach a certain weight, Ayurveda dissects the digestive system and root cause of imbalances.