Looking to achieve a healthy weight goal? The holistic system of Ayurveda recognizes there is never just one solution.
Most people have an emotional connection to our favorite foods. The idea of needing to “diet” steers many away from even setting a weight loss goal.
Ayurveda recognizes that the best way to embrace change is not always head-on. In other words, work on lifestyle habits first and leave the food issue for later. This will help to build a strong foundation for future improvements. Here are five tips to get you started:
#1: Flip-flop lunch and dinner
Most people are accustomed to eating a hearty dinner. It’s the “big meal” of the day. And often times, with busy schedules, it is served well after 7:00 p.m. This common lifestyle practice can create challenges.
Ayurveda recognizes that your metaphoric metabolic fire (or your “Agni”) is strongest between the hours of 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. During this time, your body is better equipped to digest those dense, animal-protein-rich foods associated with dinner. This includes everything from red meat and fish to cheese to raw foods (yep, a big veggie salad is surprisingly harsh on your digestion).
Ama is a Sanskrit term that encompasses a wide range of gook, gunk and build-up in the body. It represents anything that clogs, blocks, stinks, coats or creates drag on the body’s natural processes.
The later in the evening you eat, and the heavier the meal, the harder it is for your body to process the food. Digestion and metabolism naturally slow down during sleep. If a late dinner is still hanging around as a lump in your stomach, the body is more likely to convert it to Ama (the broad Ayurvedic category for “that which does not serve you”) than to nourish your wellbeing.
What is the solution? Make lunch your “main meal” of the day and eat a light dinner as close to 6:00 p.m. as possible. In the evening, it is best to concentrate on vegetarian, liquid and hot foods. Something like a light vegetable soup is perfect. If you are a dessert lover, opt for a baked apple. Yum.
Make this simple change, and you will notice a difference in your energy levels, quality of sleep, elimination patterns and, eventually, your weight.
#2: Keep it warm
Cold foods can compromise your digestion. The result can be indigestion, irregularity and weight gain. This is counter-intuitive in many ways. We tend to think that salads are so “healthy” for dieters. A glass of cold water is so refreshing. Raw veggies are the perfect snack. Ayurveda would suggest something different. It is much better to ingest warm, comforting foods and fluids.
Where cold constricts and closes; warm opens, stimulates and soothes. This promotes digestion and the breakdown of food, helps to keep elimination regular, increases hydration, and aids in detoxification. All of these outcomes are very beneficial when trying to reach a healthy weight.
#3: Maintain a variety of tastes and foods
Ayurvedic nutrition talks a lot about the importance of bringing all six tastes into every meal. Those tastes are: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, astringent and bitter.
The body needs a vast array of nutrients to function correctly. The six tastes are a metaphor for giving the body what it needs to remain healthy. For example, in Ayurveda “sweet” represents the main building blocks of your diet (think calories or proteins, carbohydrates and fats). The other tastes are primarily descriptors of things like phytonutrients and minerals that enable specific bodily functions to occur.
Traditional diets focus on cutting carbohydrates, proteins and/or fat. This eventually leads to undernourished tissues that, in turn, send hunger signals to the brain. Ayurveda recommends focusing less on removing specific food categories and more on incorporating all six tastes into every meal.
It is easier than it sounds. Eat a large variety of foods, cook with spices, or splash your dish with drops of lemon or lime juice. There are many fun and creative ways to get there. Bottom line: by following the “six tastes” guideline, you give your body what it needs to function. This remedies some of the cravings and imbalances behind weight gain.
#4: Take a sip of hot water every 10 minutes
Sipping hot water throughout the day is one of the easiest, most beneficial habits you can establish. It gently flushes out your system. The heated water helps to hydrate you, reduces snack cravings and enables your body to let go of what is not serving you.
Simply keep a glass of hot water at your side and take a few sips every 10 to 15 minutes. This habit, on its own, can clear the way for your body to shed unwanted pounds.
#5: Stick to routine
The body was designed to live in harmony with nature. Your wellbeing is tied to circadian rhythms. The more you are able to honor these rhythms, the more efficiently your body will function. This would suggest that the more you stick to a routine, the less likely those extra pounds are to stick to you.
“Early to bed, early to rise” is Ayurvedic wisdom at its finest. Shoot for a 6:00 a.m. wake-up and a 10:00 p.m. bedtime. Combine this with the habits of taking a daily walk outdoors and eating your meals around the same time each day, and you have the start of a very strong daily routine.
There you go.
Five small habit changes that support weight loss. Ayurveda is all about leveraging your daily choices to lay a strong foundation for healthy living.