by Claudia Ward, L.Ac
I am living in the wrong place and
at the wrong time. What am I doing in California
in the twenty-first century? Everyone is obsessed with their
weight and looks. At six in the morning my neighbors are running
through the streets with instruments strapped to their wrists
to monitor every heartbeat and every calorie spent. The gyms
open at five in the morning, and possibly worst of all, emaciated,
anorexic movie stars are our role models.
I was born into a family where everything
revolved around food. My mother’s delicious, tempting
meals and her luscious, irresistible pastries, cakes and desserts
instilled in me a lust for cooking and a great passion for
food. As a result, I have never been super-skinny. I have
tried every diet on this planet and have become quite skeptical
about the myriads of fad diets that come and go. There is
more and more evidence that crash diets are not a solution
for long-term weight loss. Weight lost on such diets is often
quickly put back on once the dieting stops, and there is also
evidence that some crash diets can have detrimental side effects
to our health, sometimes long term.
I was therefore looking for a holistic solution
that allowed me to lose excess weight and keep it off, while
also improving my overall health. The Ayurvedic approach was
the perfect answer. I would like to share some of the Ayurvedic
principles that are helpful for losing those stubborn pounds.
Ayurvedic Suggestions For Attaining Ideal Weight Naturally
1. Improve Your Digestion:
The key to weight management is effectively metabolizing
what you eat, eliminating wastes efficiently and letting the
digestive system get a break between meals. Fasting will only
further disrupt your metabolism by putting stress on the body.
A strong digestive fire is the key to weight loss according
to Ayurveda. Using fresh ginger and spices such as fennel,
coriander, and cumin in food will result in a better digestion.
Cravings and food addictions may be tempered, as the body
receives the deeper nourishment it needs from proper absorption
and assimilation of nutrients. Sipping hot water or ginger
tea throughout the day will also eliminate cravings. Adding
grated lemon or orange zest to your dishes not only tastes
delicious and fresh but also improves digestion as well.
2. Eat according to your constitution:
Ayurveda weight gain is a Kapha imbalance, however, the root
problem is often not Kapha. Individuals with a Vata imbalance
easily gain weight when stressed, overwhelmed or overworked.
When Vata is out of balance addictions to food are common.
Vata people need regular meals, warm nourishing foods, with
warming spices and adequate amounts of ghee or healthy fats.
No protein shakes, green drinks, raw salads or coconut oil!
Even though touted as a health food, coconut oil is very cold
in nature and clogs the channels. Crackers, chips and rice
cakes should also be avoided.
Pitta individuals should never skip meals
or they will get irritable! They need regular meals that are
lightly cooked with plenty of dark green bitter vegetables,
summer squashes, asparagus, green beans and mild spices such
as fennel or coriander. Juicy pears are a good healthy treat
for Pitta’s sweet tooth.
Kapha individuals are good-natured, stable
and not easily stressed. They need to get moving, since they
tend to be a little bit lazy. Warming spices and foods are
recommended as well as bitter leafy greens and fresh herbs.
Cold drinks, coconut oil and raw salads should also be avoided.
3. What to eat when:
Breakfast should be a warm cereal or stewed apples.
Ayurvedic experts recommend eating your big meal at midday,
which will give you long-lasting energy to power past prime
craving time in the mid to late afternoon. If you're voracious
at dinner you haven't eaten enough lunch. Dinner should be
the lightest meal. I cannot over emphasize this point. Digestion
is much weaker in the evening, plus lying down to sleep a
few hours later further slows down digestion, metabolism and
circulation. The body simply cannot assimilate large evening
meals properly. The result is that much of the food is digested
poorly and eventually creates toxins, fat and excess weight.
Especially avoid in the evening: cheese, yogurt, rich desserts,
red meat, leftovers and large salads.
4. Conscious Eating Habits:
How you eat your food is even more important than what you
eat. Even foods, which normally cause imbalances, will be
digested reasonably well if the proper rules are followed.
Likewise if you eat the correct food in the wrong way your
digestion will be compromised. Agni (digestive fire) is damaged
and formation of ama or toxins will follow. I have a problem
with protein and green drinks or shakes. I call them astronaut
food. They will only slim down your wallet and may be detrimental
to your health if consumed in excess. From an Ayurvedic standpoint
they will damage agni, derange Vata and disturb the body/mind.
If you believe you do not have the time to enjoy a fresh,
lovingly prepared sit-down meal, take a look at your life
and shift priorities. Every meal should be a sacred ritual.
Take a moment to breathe, relax and say a blessing at every
meal. No phone, TV, newspaper or work while eating. Your body
digests food best when you relax, so eat slowly and sit quietly
for 10 minutes after you eat to aid digestion.
I am not in favor of juice fasts or harsh cleanses, simply
because they put the body under too much stress. Stress of
any kind triggers the fight-or-flight response. In this state,
the body not only craves carbohydrates for fuel, but also
holds on to fat, particularly around your middle. I do recommend
panchakarma, (the massage, steam treatments and internal cleansing
therapies of Ayurveda) to be done twice a year to prevent
toxins from accumulating and eliminating their buildup in
bodily tissues. Panchakarma will result in healthier eating
habits, balanced weight and increased energy levels.
Enjoy your exercise activity and it will be easier to stick
to it. Also, remember that all of us don't benefit from the
same amount or type of exercise. Choose your exercise program
according to your constitution. The ideal exercise options
to balance Vata should incorporate slow movements, not be
too tiring, and help settle the mind and body. Slow dancing,
low impact aerobics, tai chi, leisurely swimming in warm water,
walking and yoga are examples of Vata-balancing exercise activities.
While walking is universally beneficial, Pitta persons might
also gravitate towards water sports while Kapha individuals
need to add something really energetic such as brisk walking
7. Stress reduction:
There are many ways of stress reduction such as aromatherapy,
massage, acupuncture, meditation, tai chi, chi gong, breathing
exercises, and simple yoga poses that will boost your energy
and stimulate your metabolism.
8. Ayurvedic Herbs:
An Ayurvedic practitioner may suggest herb formulas that gently
detoxify the system while kindling the digestive fire, allowing
proper digestion, absorption and assimilation. Excess Kapha
in the form of fat and water can be successfully reduced as
the herbs contribute to stronger pancreatic, splenic, hepatic
and renal functions. Strengthening and cleansing these organs
may lead to a more efficient metabolism and regular elimination.
These herb formulas should always be prescribed by a licensed
health practitioner. However, the following herbs and spices
can be safely added to anyone's daily diet:
Triphala - Triphala can
be used daily for rejuvenation and detoxification. Popular
for its unique ability to gently cleanse and detoxify the
system while simultaneously replenishing and nourishing it,
this traditional formula supports the proper functions of
the digestive, circulatory, respiratory and genitourinary
systems. Most people can benefit from adding Triphala to their
Fennel removes mucus and fat from the intestinal tract, and
is a natural appetite suppressant.
Fenugreek seeds burn fat and help absorption. They are useful
for dissolving fat within the liver. Fresh fenugreek leaves
can be found at the farmer’s markets in late winter/
early spring. They are one of nature’s super-food due
to their beneficial effect on fat metabolism, blood sugar
and also their cancer-fighting properties.
Fresh Curry Leaves
Improve functioning of the stomach and small intestine. They
are mildly laxative and thus can tackle multiple digestive
problems caused by food intake. They are directly added to
food or as an extract in the form of juice added to buttermilk
and consumed at the end of lunch/dinner. Ayurvedic research
shows that curry leaves may control noninsulin dependent diabetes
mellitus. Fresh curry leaves are also known to reduce the
bad cholesterol (LDL) and increase the good one (HDL). You
can find them at the farmer’s market.
For Ayurvedic herbal and dietary recommendations
suited to your constitution, seek the advice of a qualified
Ward, L.Ac, Dipl. C.H., CAS
is a Licensed Acupuncturist
and Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist in Santa Barbara,
She specializes in nutrition based on the principles
of Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine and Western medical
research. Her treatments focus on Ayurvedic
women's health, and chronic
combines acupuncture, therapeutic massage, cupping,
essential oils, and herbal recommendations in her