Obesity is a state in which an individual is considerably overweight, and an excessive amount of body fat has gathered under the chin and on the belly, buttocks, and/or thighs. Though it is not a serious case in itself, it may shorten the span of life, as well as create decreased efficiency and happiness.
From the Ayurvedic point of view, the key cause is found in the lifestyle and diet choices that disturb balance. Ayurveda views weight imbalance and obesity as something that should be corrected before it can contribute to other health problem.
Ayurvedic word for digestion and metabolism is agni. Agni, when loosely interpreted, means fire. It actually signifies something much more than just fire and includes the idea of an accurate and powerful functioning intelligence. Agni has amazing transformative qualities. All the food we take in must be transformed into that which can be made useful by the body (nutrients) and that which is not required (waste). The nutrients, or most refined products of our agni, are used to create the body’s tissues (dhatus).
Hydrate with Water:
According to Ayurveda, warm water is a natural detoxifier. Warm water cleanup impurities as it travels through over-taxed digestive system, sweeping away molecules left behind from partly digested food that could be slowing down what nature planned to be an enviably swift metabolic rate. Replacing sugary beverages like soda and fruit juices with the clear warm water automatically reduces number of calories per day. Cold drinks cause the muscles and blood vessels in gastrointestinal tract to freeze and in turn vitiate digestive fire, which leads slumberous digestion. Warm water, on the other hand, relaxes the muscles and dilates the blood vessels. Dilation of blood vessels allows the digestion and absorption of the contents of the meal to occur more efficiently.
Sipping water during meal is ideal. It helps digestion, absorption and dhatu building. The rule of thumb is drink 1/4th of capacity of the stomach while eating. Drinking water before meal will dilute agni, which will hinder digestion and lead to weakness. Drinking water right after meal will increase Kapha, causing weight gain. Ideal time to drink water is right after waking up in the morning and one hour before and one hour after each meal.
Drink a cup of Hot water with a teaspoon Honey and 10 drops of lime juice added whenever feel hungry will be a good substitute for eating and will help to melt the fat.
It is observed that people who eat quickly are three times more likely to be obese than those who take their time. While eating zoning out, watching TV, talking, driving and multi-tasking erode the digestive process and counteract the effort to lose weight. Mindful eating means it is about being conscious and present while eating. When food is eaten mindfully, the brain sees, tastes, smell and feels and sends signals to the stomach to release enzymes and juices to digest the food. According to Ayurveda, you are not what you eat but what you digest.
In order to lose weight and reach optimal level of agni it is important to avoid the following:
- Avoid Overeating and/or eating heavy foods in large quantities
- Avoid tamasic foods: Leftovers, processed, canned foods, fast or food with additives and colourings
- Avoid ice cold water and drinks and cold foods
- Quit drinking alcohol and smoking
- Avoid cruciferous vegetables, fried foods and heavy foods
- Do not talk or laugh while eating. Do not eat on the run or while watching TV
In order to be healthy and increase the digestive power (Agni) while losing weight, the following steps should be followed:
- Vata – Vata reducing herbs, diet and lifestyle, complex carbohydrates (whole grains and starchy vegetables), avoidance of refined sugar, fewer hot spices and more sweet digestives like cardamom, coriander, brahmi, jatamanshi, and ashwagandha calm the mind. Guggul helps cleanse and warm the body.
- Pitta – Pitta reducing foods, avoiding meat, fish oily, greasy, or fried foods, sugars, and desserts. Raw salads, green herbs, and chlorophyll, digestive bitters and bitter laxatives are the best foods to reduce weight and counter sugar addiction. Herbs include aloe vera gel, katuka, and turmeric.
- Kapha – Kapha reducing food, avoiding refined sugars, salt, dairy, sweet fruit, bread, pastry, meat, fish, fruit juices, cold liquids, and oils. Spice teas, vegetable juices, steamed vegetables, beans, and whole grains are good. Suggestion includes less sleep, no naps, and strong, aerobic exercise. Hot digestive herbs like black pepper, ginger, turmeric, and trikatu burn up the fat and raise the digestive fire. Bitter herbs, like katuka, triphala and guggul, reduce fat and dry water.
- Eat fresh seasonal vegetables and fruit.
- Eat freshly cooked warm food. It will strengthen agni, digests food better, reduces excess Kapha and Vata.
- Eat food, which has enough oil, and is moist enough (not fried). It tastes better helps agni, builds dhatus, and increases strength.
- Do not eat food with wrong combination. E.g. Honey and Ghee when combined in equal quantities is poisonous. Mixing sour fruits and milk curdles the milk.
- Eat only when you are hungry
- Eat three meals a day and avoid snacking
- Eat light meals for breakfast and dinner and heavy meal during lunch time, have early dinner between 6:00PM and 7:30PM.
- Eat after previous food is digested
- Eat with proper frame of mind – create pleasant environment
- Eating sequence: First eat carbohydrates or sweet taste; next eat salty, sour, pungent and bitter foods. Finally eat astringent food.
Breathing and Pranayama:
Due to accelerated lifestyle many of us do shallow breathing. Practicing diaphragmatic breathing is beneficial. By simply observing the breath, we can be aware of what is happening inside. The more we become aware of breath, the disturbance, the negativity of the mind disappears and it becomes pure and peaceful. Bhasrika is a supreme Pranayama. It strengthens the heart and lungs, improves the digestion and calms the mind. Right Nostril breathing (surya bhedi) will also be helpful.
Certain gentle yoga asanas are helpful, including the Palm Tree pose, and the Triangle Pose. Also, while sitting on the floor, bend forward as far as you can, with the goal of eventually touching the head to the knees.
Panchakarma procedures remove toxins (ama) from the body & to normalize the Doshas – Vata, Pitha, Kapha.
Obesity is a common issue in India. It is mainly due to incorrect lifestyle, wrong diet pattern and lack of exercise. Above all, people do not have sense of self awareness. They are taken by external factors, by their senses and do not give importance for their existence in this universe. They don’t have mind, body and spiritual connection, and not even breathing right. Ayurvedic approach provides all the necessary tools to bring back health, harmony and peace in life. By adopting simple lifestyle and healthy eating habits anyone can enjoy the life optimally without much stress or expenses. Possible diseases like diabetes, heart diseases, stroke, and cholesterol can be prevented. So much healthcare dollars will be saved. There will be happy and healthy people in a wealthy country!!
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