Struggling to achieve or maintain a healthy weight? You’re not alone. Many North Americans grapple with weight issues at various times throughout their lives. And while fad diets come and go, according to Ayurveda, weak agni (digestive fire) is actually the cause of many weight-related issues.
Over time, ongoing weak agni can lead to a condition whereby even very small amounts of food tend to cause weight gain. The weak digestive fire allows ama (impurities) to be created in the physiology, which in turn accumulate in the body as fat tissue.
The Ayurvedic solution is to balance agni, increase the metabolic rate, and eliminate the ama. Here are some suggestions for how to do exactly that:
Move Your Body
Exercise helps to burn ama and increases circulation and metabolism. Walking briskly 30 minutes a day, or other activities such as dancing, swimming, biking, hiking, or weight training, are all recommended.
Follow an Ama-Busting Diet
To help rekindle your agni, try following a diet that stimulates your digestion and reduces Kapha dosha. Favor astringent, bitter, and pungent tastes and reduce salty, sweet, and sour foods, as the latter tend to increase Kapha dosha. The spices found in our Organic Kapha Churna Spice Mix can help to balance Kapha and weak agni. Sprinkle some in your stir fries, soups, and sauces for a little ama-busting flavor!
Try Digestion-Boosting Ayurvedic Herbs
You can also help balance your digestion with synergistic Ayurvedic herbs used to enhance agni. Organic Digest Tone (Triphala Plus) is a traditional herbal formulation that balances agni. Be Trim Tea is an herbal infusion that supports a normal, balanced appetite. The Ayurvedic herbs and spices in this delicious blend include gymnema sylvestre, fennel seed, cinnamon, and cardamom, which help balance fat and sugar metabolism and curb snack cravings.
Hit the Hay Early
Studies show that consistently going to bed late can lead to weight gain. Try to get to bed before 10 p.m. each night to give your body’s rest-and-repair mechanisms the best shot and “cleaning house” every night.
Ayurveda also recognizes the weight-balancing effects of following a good daily routine (called dinacharya) for maintaining a healthy weight.
Balance Your Emotions to Stave Off Emotional Overeating
Eating when you are not hungry, or looking for something sweet to pacify an unpleasant mood, are both signs of lack of a state of balance. Ayurvedic herbals can help. Stress Free Emotions and Stress Free Mind are two Ayurvedic products that help with both emotional and physical stresses. Worry Free tablets support a calm, relaxed mind and deeper sleep. Blissful Joy tablets help uplift the emotions.
Dosha-Related Weight Imbalances
Now that we’ve explored the general view on Ayurveda, ama, and weight issues, let’s take a look at how the doshas (the mind-body elements that govern every aspect of your physiology’s functioning) can cause weight imbalances—and what you can do about it.
Kapha-Related Weight Imbalance
Some individuals, even though they may eat very small amounts of food, tend to gain weight. This type of person seems to gain weight just by being around food. Two things are occurring with this type of imbalance: digestive impurities are being created, and fat tissue is accumulating in the body. Also, the formation of bone tissue is slowed down due to an increase in fat tissue. This is a very common weight problem, and the solution is to follow an ama-burning program.
You can enhance the elimination of ama by taking Be Trim Tea. Individuals on the ama-burning diet should participate in an exercise program for 30 minutes each day: brisk walking or other activities such as dancing, swimming, or weight training. Exercise helps to burn ama and increases circulation and metabolism. For the diet, eat foods that reduce Kapha, favoring astringent, bitter, and pungent tastes and reducing salty, sweet, and sour foods. A morning massage called garshana can be done with silk gloves to help stimulate digestion or agni, and increase circulation. Once a week, preferably on the weekends, a gentle laxative therapy is recommended by using Herbal Cleanse. This helps to further eliminate toxins.
Pitta-Related Weight Imbalance
Another type of weight imbalance occurs when a person has long-term ama build-up and the channels around the stomach area have been clogged, creating too much heat in the body. Here, the appetite may be very high and the individual may experience a lot of thirst. The person may also experience heartburn or other Pitta-aggravated imbalances, such as irritability and impatience.
Instead of Be Trim Tea, an herbalized water consisting of small amounts of fenugreek, coriander, licorice, and fennel should be taken during the day. The herbalized water assists the thermogenic process: fenugreek burns fat and helps absorption, coriander eliminates toxins, licorice is cooling, and fennel helps with digestion.
To make the water, boil 1 quart of water and pour it into a thermos. Add 2 pinches ground fenugreek, 2 pinches licorice root, ¼ teaspoon whole coriander seeds, and ¼ teaspoon fennel seeds. Drink throughout the day.
This program calls for moderate exercise, about 30 minutes 3-4 times a week. It is recommended that this type of person choose his or her exercise from the following: brisk walking, yoga, swimming, and lightweight training. Eat lots of sweet, juicy fruits. These individuals should be on a Pitta-pacifying diet and include squash, warm milk, and homemade buttermilk in their diet. Stewed prunes and figs can be eaten on the weekends to provide a gentle laxative therapy without disturbing Pitta. A self-massage called abhyanga with Soothing Massage Oil will help to further balance Pitta. The Council also recommends using a spice mixture of 1 part turmeric, 2 parts cumin, 3 parts coriander, and four parts fennel to be cooked with vegetables or legumes.
Beating Back Stress is Always Important
Common to both Kapha and Pitta weight imbalances is overeating due to emotional stress. This can manifest as eating when you are not hungry or looking for something sweet to pacify a bad mood. If this is the case, The Council recommends taking Blissful Joy to uplift the emotions, or Worry Free tablets and Worry Free Tea to help avoid overeating due to anxious thoughts. A teaspoon of Organic Rose Petal Spread, Be Trim Tea, one date, or a little lassi will also help if you experience sugar cravings. Practicing stress-reducing techniques such as Transcendental Meditation®, or doing yoga asanas, is also effective. Receiving massage therapy once a week, regular exercise, and surrounding yourself with positive people are other practical tips mentioned by The Council to overcome emotional overeating.
Maharishi AyurVeda also recommends avoiding commercial protein powder drinks. Instead eat live protein filled with the intelligence of nature from almonds (no more than 10 per day), walnuts, legumes, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and milk products.
Additional Guidelines for Healthy Weight Management
The Council of Maharishi AyurVeda Physicians suggests the following very practical, general recommendations regarding weight management:
- Limit fat intake to two teaspoons of ghee or olive oil per day (one teaspoon at lunch and one teaspoon at dinner).
- For lunch and dinner, eat 50% vegetables; 20% power grains such as quinoa, whole barley, oats, millet, or amaranth; and 30% protein, such as lentils, panir, and nuts.
- Two (2) cups of hot or warm milk a day are recommended, and a small cup of lassi at lunch to help with vitamin B-12, if you are a vegetarian, and to help balance Sadhaka Pitta.
- Barley water or kanji water is recommended during the day to help cleanse the system, give energy, and help with hunger.
- Avoid cold beverages, aged cheese, potatoes, yeasted breads, butter, cookies, cakes, ice cream, chocolates, deep-fried foods, and cream sauces, and reduce your intake of rice.
- Eat your largest meal at lunch, and have a smaller dinner eaten before 7:00 p.m. Do not eat anything after 8:00 p.m.
- Eat good, organic fats such as olive oil. The amount will depend on your body weight or doshic makeup. Vata types can have more oil due to their tendency to dryness. Pitta should have less, and Kapha no more than two teaspoons a day.
- Eat more organic, fresh vegetables, and focus on whole grains like quinoa, whole barley, oats, millet, or amaranth. Also include good protein, such as dhal, lentils, and nuts.
- A cup of digestive lassi after lunch will help maintain those billions of good bacteria in your gut. For a recipe, click here.
- Barley or kanji water can be a big help in maintaining fluid balance, reducing cravings, and assisting in the removal of toxins. See a recipe here.
- Generally cut back on or avoid cold foods and drinks, aged cheese, potatoes, yeasted breads, butter, cookies, cakes, ice cream, chocolates, deep-fried foods, and cream sauces, and reduce your intake of rice.
- For breakfast try some stewed apples and/or pears with a few raisins and a little cardamom and cinnamon.
- Fasting or skipping meals is not recommended, as this can lead to weakened agni and binge eating.
As with so many things in life, the key to achieving a healthy weight is balance. When the mind, emotions, diet, digestion, metabolism, and appetite are in balance, then your weight will naturally come into balance too. Be easy on yourself as you try to incorporate some of these diet and lifestyle recommendations into your routine. A little bit of attention goes a long way!
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