Nobody enjoys dieting. It’s clouded by a sense of deprivation and even if it works temporarily, it’s not sustainable. Who has time to count calories, and more importantly, who wants to live a life of restriction? If you’re looking for a more harmonious weight loss method, ayurveda is the route for you.
How Ayurvedic Medicine Encourages Weight Loss
Ayurveda, ancient India’s timeless lifestyle and system of natural medicine, teaches that weight loss isn’t only about what you eat, but about how you eat. There’s no calorie counting; no ‘absolutely avoid’ food list.
Rather, it embraces a holistic understanding of how food relates to the body. Good digestion is emphasized, ensuring that food is converted into healthy body tissues rather than a toxic buildup that can cause weight gain.
It provides a refreshing categorization of food that has nothing to do with fat grams or nutritional profiles. And it offers lifestyle wisdom that supports the body’s natural rhythms. Once you understand the why’s behind its theories and put them into action, the pounds effortlessly melt away. Weight less becomes less of a chore and more of a natural part of your nutrition journey.
Alongside a balanced diet of whole foods, these four ayurvedic methods and philosophies should be incorporated into any weight loss program.
4 Ayurvedic Principles For Accelerated Weight Loss
1. Don’t skip lunch – ever
Some nutritionists say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, some say dinner. So, which is it? They’ve yet to agree.
Ayurveda looks to nature to understand when you should eat your main meal. It teaches that in order to understand what’s happening in the body, you simply have to observe what’s happening in nature. You are, after all, made up of the same elements as everything else in the universe. This means that you’re intrinsically connected to nature and a reflection of the world around you.
To decide which is the most important meal of the day, simply observe the sun. Your digestive fire (or agni) mirrors this cosmic fire. When it’s low in the sky in the morning, your digestive capacity is also low. This is why you probably don’t feel very hungry when you first wake up.
The same goes for evenings; the digestive fire is low as the sun sets. When it’s weak and overloaded with a big meal, food may not be properly digested. It becomes a toxic substance which ayurveda calls aama. This aama clogs the channels of the body and can lead to weight gain.
When the sun is fiery and burning brightly around midday, the same is happening within: the digestive fire is at its maximum. Hence, your biggest and heartiest meal should be your lunch. Your digestive capacity is strongest at this time of day. And when digestion is strong, food is properly absorbed, assimilated and transformed into healthy body tissues.
Eating a hearty lunch is aligned with your body’s natural rhythm and power of digestion, as is having both a lighter, easy to digest breakfast and dinner.
2. No more napping
According to ayurveda, daytime sleep is one of the main causes of diabetes, toxins, and weight gain. And if it’s weight loss you’re after, you’ll need to dial back the midday naps.
Think back to a time when you took a 1-2 hour nap in the middle of the day. How did you feel afterward? Refreshed and invigorated? Probably not. It’s more likely that you felt groggy and heavy. It may have been difficult to wake up and you perhaps felt even more tired than when you first laid down.
This can be attributed to the doshas, or vital energies that make things happen in the body. While this is a very expansive and complex ayurvedic theory, it can be simplified like this: daytime sleep increases kapha energy. Kapha is responsible for nourishment and stability. It’s heavy, slow, and thick by nature, and carries out such processes as tissue growth and joint lubrication. It’s a great thing and very much needed when in balance.
When out of balance or in excess, increased kapha causes excess nourishment: i.e., weight gain. Waking up from a nap and feeling heavy and sluggish are signs that kapha is elevated. While this is a good thing for those who are trying to gain weight, it’s definitely not for those who are trying to slim down and pursue weight loss.
Rather than making up for lost sleep with naps, make a bigger effort to get proper rest at night. Sleeping between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. is ideal, as the best rejuvenation happens at this time. With this rhythm, you’ll find that your need for naps diminishes and it’s easier to lose weight.
3. Less meat and stop over nourishment
While so many diets tout heavy meat consumption as an ideal way to chase weight loss, ayurveda teaches otherwise.
For a while, Atkin’s was all the rage, the meat-heavy diet which potentially also increased bad cholesterol. Now Paleo has taken over, which shuns grains and legumes over meat. While it’s absolutely possible to observe effective weight loss on these diets, it’s more likely due to the elimination of processed foods rather than heavy meat consumption.
Ayurveda teaches that meat is good for weight gain. It explains that “opposites balance” and “like increases like”.
For example, if you feel cold, you’d warm yourself by turning up the heat rather than the AC. Or, if you have a bucket of water and add more water, you simply end up with more water. These are simple theories that are based on the laws of nature.
What does this have to do with meat?
Visualize a cow. It’s a heavy and large animal. It moves slowly and spends 25% of its time eating. Eating its meat increases these qualities within. Remember, like increases like.
Most people who are trying to lose weight are over nourished. They don’t need additional nourishment; they need lighter foods in ample quantities. Hence, ayurveda recommends a vegetarian way of eating as a means to weight loss.
That being said, certain meat is better than others. Red meat and pork are the least optimal for weight loss—cows and pigs being heavy, sluggish animals. Chicken, goat, and fish are okay—their meat is lighter, just like their bodies and inherent nature.
Nonetheless, choosing whole grains and legumes over meat is a much speedier path to weight loss.
4. Mindful spices and flavor equals more digestive fire
Trying to lose weight by embracing a vegetarian way of eating does not mean giving up flavor. If food is tasteless, dieting becomes torture.
The ayurvedic way of flavoring food can actually enhance weight loss. More flavor means less flab! The key here is mindful flavoring. Processed condiments like ketchup, bottled salad dressings, and mayonnaise don’t really fit in the ayurvedic way of eating. But spices do.
Spices are so generously used in ayurvedic cooking for two main reasons.
Firstly, they taste good. They add depth and zest to meals. Some spices like cumin even have a salty flavor, and offset the need for additional salt.
Secondly, they have healing effects in the body. They can be considered medicinal but because they’re so mild in nature, they’re safe to use freely in the kitchen.
Most spices have a positive effect on the digestive fire. They turn up its heat, improving the body’s ability to break down, assimilate, and absorb food. Some spices even digest toxins in the body. Clove reduces the intracellular fluid content, making it especially helpful in weight loss.
Don’t be intimidated by spices if they’re not already part of your cooking repertoire. Chuck a teaspoon of powdered spices into your vegetable or grain dishes toward the end of cooking, or sauté a teaspoonful of spices in a dollop of coconut oil before adding other ingredients. While most spices combine well, cumin, coriander, and fennel are always a safe bet.
Some of the best spices for weight loss are the aforementioned cumin, coriander, fennel, and cloves; plus fenugreek, ajwain, cinnamon, black pepper, cardamom, and ginger.
Beyond what you probably already know about weight loss (like cutting out processed foods and making exercise a priority), these 4 surprising tips from ayurveda make weight loss a whole lot easier.
To learn more about what processed foods you should kick the curb, check out this talk given by nutrition expert, JJ Virgin:
Which of these ayurvedic weight loss methods appeals to you most?
Share your thoughts in the comments below!