IntroductionRather than constantly obsessing about how much weight you have to lose, Ayurveda's approach to weight loss focuses on the health of the entire body. First and foremost, it aims to boost metabolism, restore body function, and improve mental health. Weight loss then follows as a positive byproduct of whole the entire system working in balance. Weight gain can vary widely from person to person, so the approach to weight loss cannot be one size fits all. Most fad diets pile everyone into the same category and don't provide any sort of lasting results. Ayurveda, on the other hand, offers a diet that is custom fit to your unique weight loss needs and one that will support balanced weight throughout life.
The basics of weight gain is a simple mathematical equation. If you are taking in more energy, through food, than you are expending, you will gain weight. However, this equation oversimplifies weight gain; it becomes far more complex once you take the individual into account. Many factors including BMI, metabolic rate, and hormone production can all alter a person's ability to gain or lose weight to a certain degree. The same is true in relation to the quality and source of nutrients you are taking in, and the type and amount of exercise your body gets. Every body has its own specific set of circumstances.
The Ayurvedic ApproachAyurveda takes these variances into account and understands how each body type gains and loses weight in a different way. A Kapha predominant person is the most likely to struggle with weight gain. Their sluggish metabolism means they are more likely to gain weight and can also have the most difficulty losing it. Kaphas also tend to eat for emotional comfort and their slow nature means they often avoid physical movement and exercise. Pitta types generally have a balanced body build, but can gain weight due to stress, overworking and lack of time to prepare quality meals. They are also known to take their robust digestion for granted, which can lead to weight gain over time. Vatas are often underweight and can even have trouble gaining weight. They are, however, prone to eating out of nervousness, fear, worry and anxiety, and can find themselves grazing all day. If Vatas gain weight, they usually lose it relatively quickly again.
Step by Step Approach to Weight LossDespite the inherent uniqueness of each individual's weight gain, there are a number factors that are common to most people, including weak digestive strength, disordered food cravings, and high stress levels. What follows is a step by step guide guide to approach general weight loss. While these recommendations are suitable for most, they should always be customized to the individual's needs.
Balance DigestionThe first step to balancing weight is to balance digestion. In many cases, weight gain can be a result of sluggish metabolism (manda agni) as your body struggles to efficiently break down food. When digestion is slow and sluggish, toxins (ama) accumulate in the gastrointestinal tract. These toxins can confuse your natural instincts that guide you to make good food choices. This can lead to perverted cravings, causing you to eat more of the foods that exacerbate weight gain. To strengthen digestion, you need to stoke your digestive fire (agni). You can start building digestive strength by following a kitchari cleanse. This program helps detoxify the body by cleansing ama, and also resets metabolism by encouraging a diet of easily digestible foods. When agni is strong, you become a more efficient fat burner and your body is in a better position to lose weight. After a kitchari cleanse, it is important not to return to your old dietary habits, but instead introduce recipes that benefit your unique constitution (prakruti). By following a diet to suit your individual needs, you can keep weight balanced on a long term basis.
True & False HungerWhen you get a strong hunger pang, have you ever stopped to think if it is really food that your body needs? With weight gain, some of the "hunger" or cravings you are experiencing is known as a false hunger. False hunger is when you desire food, but your body doesn't actually require it for nutritional purposes. Instead, maybe you need it for emotional comfort or stress relief. Food can never satisfy these types of false hunger and can lead you to eat far more than is necessary. Eating when you're not truly hungry wreaks havoc on the digestive system and can put it under a great deal of strain. It also leads to weight gain, heavy emotions and lack of enthusiasm.
By tuning into your appetite, cravings and hunger, you can learn to decipher if the food you are eating is truly needed to nourish the body, or a quick way to provide relief in a stressful situation. To start, schedule regular mealtimes into your day such as a simple breakfast at 7am, a substantial lunch at 1pm and a light dinner between 6-7pm. This will help your body return back to its natural hunger cycles, and will also benefit digestion. To prevent false hunger, it is important for your body to feel truly nourished. Ditch the "empty" foods like sodas, bread, baked goods and processed meals that initially satisfy your hunger but don't hold any nutritional value. Reduce simple carbohydrates and grains, and instead fill up on fiber (at least half the plate should be vegetables) and good quality lean protein such as turkey, chicken, beans and legumes. By following a nutritionally dense diet, your body will get everything it needs to feel satisfied, meaning you will be less likely to binge or act on impulse when false hunger creeps in.
Ease Stress & Demanding ScheduleAt several Joyful Belly weight loss retreats, we noticed one thing that all of the people attending had in common - overworking. While it may not be true for the general population, it was enough to convince us that overworking and adrenal burnout were significant factors in many individuals weight gain. When you are overworked, you barely have enough time to consider preparing a home cooked meal. Instead, convenience food, late night snacks or skipping meals entirely become a way of life. A full schedule is challenging, but there are many ways that you can combat the negative effects of eating on the run. As much as possible, focus on eating three nourishing meals per day. This will pacify the nervous system and provide you with the energy you need to fulfil your daily tasks. Even the busiest of schedules need to allow some time for exercise. Instead of looking it as another chore, treat it as a time to release some of the stress of a demanding schedule while also benefiting weight loss.
Improve Mental HealthUsing food to soothe emotions is tempting. Food usually does bring some instant relief from whatever negative emotion or experience you are going through. For example, something heavy and sweet like chocolate cake can make you feel relaxed and help forget your current problem. But in reality, these rich comfort foods can actually dampen your mood more, slow down digestion and even add to anxiety as a result of a sugar rush. Emotional eating on a regular basis creates a distorted relationship with food, and a cycle that can be very difficult to break out of. Not only does this increase weight, it can also lead to poor body image and low self esteem.
This type of relationship with food can result from a past trauma that was left unresolved, leading to binging or overeating. Social factors such as loneliness, relationship issues or a dysfunctional family can all push someone to seek comfort from food too. The source of this behavior should be examined, perhaps with the aid of therapy or commitment to spiritual practices, so you can move forward out of the binging cycle. Learning to eat mindfully and how to manage portion control will help build a positive relationship with food. If you find you are generally drawn to carbs, start reducing them from your diet and adding in a variety of nutritious foods, particularly healthy fats like ghee and coconut oil. Small quantities of these fats ground the nervous system and can also aid weight loss as they are easily digested, absorbed and converted into energy instead of stored in the body.
CirculationIn Ayurveda, weight gain is considered to be a circulatory problem. Thick, rich blood is common in heavier bodies, particularly in Kapha people. This type of blood is hard to circulate, and can actually depress metabolism. In some cases, low thyroid function could be the source of poor circulation and weak metabolism, but whatever the cause, circulation must be improved for balanced weight loss. The first and most important step in increasing circulation is appropriate exercise. Establish a regular, enjoyable exercise routine of walking, swimming, rock climbing - whatever you enjoy the most. Certain herbs and spices can benefit circulation too. Trikatu and ginger are cardiac stimulants that boost heart function and improve circulation. Cloves, turmeric, cinnamon and Holy Basil dilate blood vessels improve circulation where there is stagnation or congestion. Self massage (abhyanga) is another important technique to benefit circulation, particularly stagnant lymph.
ConclusionSome people battle with weight loss for the majority of their life. It can be a disheartening struggle, as many attempts don't award the desired results. Ayurveda recommends changing this perspective of working against your body and starting to work with it and its unique needs. Weight loss requires a personalized approach. It is not a one size fits all scenario and requires individual attention. However, there are many steps that you can take to benefit your whole body and balance weight. By resetting and strengthening digestion, learning to distinguish between true and false hunger, easing stress, improving mental health and boosting circulation, you take care of your whole body. In doing so, you put your body in the optimal position to stay at a balanced weight. Ayurveda is about caring for your whole body and moving away from the mindset that you have to struggle and fight to shed a few extra pounds. Ayurveda offers a sustainable and enjoyable approach to stay in good shape and health throughout life.
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DISCLAIMER: The pathogenesis of each person's condition is unique, and so the diet must be fit to the individual and the unique root causes of the condition in your body.
HOW AYURVEDA WORKSARE YOU WONDERING HOW AYURVEDA CAN HELP YOU?
WHY IS AYURVEDA THE RIGHT SOLUTION?Ayurveda strengthens the body, in addition to addressing the disorder. It take a holistic, systemic approach, instead of myopically focusing on the disorder in question. Ayurveda shows a person how to interpret signs and symptoms of imbalance, and how to address them using materials from home, so they can optimize their health on a continual basis. You can't take the doctor home with you, but you can take Ayurveda home with you. Ayurveda is the most advanced and easy to use home system for self healing with an exceptional focus on digestion.
HOW DOES AYURVEDA WORK?Ayurveda starts by identifying your body type, which identifies certain tendencies in your body to get sick (as well as identifying your strengths). It uses body type to determine the likely root causes of your disorders. Next, Ayurveda analyzes the nature of your disorder. It fits all your signs and symptoms into a pattern, expressed as a combination of gunas / qualities. For example, you may have a heat disorder, a cold disorder, or an oily disorder, etc. This simple categorical approach shows you how to correct systemic imbalances and strengthen your body as a whole.
On Joyful Belly, we've created an extensive categorization of food so you can easily match food to your imbalances (gunas). By eating an optimal diet that balances your gunas, your whole body is strengthened and the conditions that created the disorder are removed. Once the root causes of the disease are removed, the disease lessens in strength or disappears altogether. Additional remedies - such as herbs and lifestyle practices - focused on the specific disorder, can greatly enhance your healing.
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GET STARTEDTo get started on your Ayurvedic journey, we first recommend that your find your body type by taking our free quiz. In Ayurveda, every solution is based on your unique body type, so by taking this quiz, you’ll get the best results.