Our days move quickly. Modern technology keeps us constantly connected to our families, friends, to-do lists, and more. Between commutes, social media, and at-home responsibilities, it’s hard to find time for weight loss tools like exercise routines or healthy meals. (This is why “fad diets” and “quick fixes” are so popular!)
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a quarter of the United States population is inactive. Meanwhile, only 24% of the population actually exercises often enough to meet the CDC’s physical activity guidelines! As for nutrition, there are more than 6,500 food deserts in the U.S. This combines with cheaper prices of processed fast foods to result in poor health outcomes across the country.
Ayurveda approaches obesity and weight loss by acknowledging that weight gain can be caused by external factors. But it also encourages us to change the factors we have control over. These include our stress levels, nutrition, Ayurvedic practices, and overall lifestyle.
Weight Loss Pillars of Ayurveda
Rather than promote short-term diet trends or rigid fads that are challenging to maintain, Ayurveda focuses on four pillars of weight management:
- Sustainability: By building a natural lifestyle, intentional nutrition, and a sleep routine, we can promote long-term wellness of mind, body, and spirit.
- Customization: One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to weight loss. This is why all Ayurvedic therapies can be personalized to meet your specific needs.
- Empowerment: Rather than treating obesity as an untreatable disease, Ayurveda empowers individuals to utilize holistic management tools that help us move towards a more balanced life.
- Stress reduction: Whether you’re utilizing yoga, meditation, herbs, or other therapies, one of the primary goals of Ayurveda is reducing your stress levels.
Each of these four pillars appear and overlap in numerous Ayurvedic practices, all of which contribute to weight loss and holistic wellness.
If caffeinated teas or coffees are a mainstay in your day, begin by cutting back on these. They can be easily replaced by herbal teas, including teas spiced with ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, and more.
In the morning, before eating, drink 1-2 glasses of warm water – with lemon and honey added in. If you struggle with overeating, be sure to sip warm water about an hour before each meal to ensure that your stomach is around one-third full before your meal begins.
When in doubt, aim to eat local and seasonal vegetables to help your body stay aligned with nature in your geographical area. As for meal times, focus on eating the majority of your food during three regular meals. If you do want a snack, choose something like roasted seeds or dried fruit.
Be sure to eat in a peaceful environment whenever possible, and to put aside your phone and any TV while you eat. If your schedule allows it, take a short walk after your meals to help aid in digestion.
When you sit down to eat, make sure you are choosing your foods wisely. Avoid heavy foods that contain oils, and avoid intense sweet, sour, or salty flavors. Replace these with warm, bitter, and spicy flavors instead. Choose whole foods wherever possible, and avoid sweets, fried foods, and frozen meals.
Ayurveda specifically names wheat and barley as grains that naturally support weight loss. These can be paired with high-fiber vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, leafy greens, and legumes.
Bodywork can help to alleviate chronic issues that accompany obesity. These practices can also be tailored to fit your specific needs on any given day.
These include mardanam, which is a deep, dry massage that helps to improve and sustain the flow of energy through your body. It also includes swedana, an herbal steam bath that helps you expel toxins from your body.
Aerobic Exercise and Yoga
Aerobic exercise plays an important role in weight loss, especially when paired with a daily yoga practice lasting at least 15 minutes. Similarly, aerobic workouts as quick as 15-20 minutes can have significant benefits for your weight loss, so even the most busy people can find time for these practices.
Ayurveda teaches us that it’s best to exercise during kapha times of day – from 6am to 10am and again from 6pm to 10pm – because the atmospheric conditions during these hours give our bodies a bump in strength and stamina. If your schedule can’t accommodate this, know that exercise at any time will always be better than not exercising at all.
It’s critical that you get at least eight hours of sleep each night – while also maintaining a sleep routine. The same morning kapha timeframe that can be beneficial for your workouts can leave you feeling groggy if you’re not fully awake before it begins.
Overall, the Ayurvedic recommendation is to wake up by 6am in order to feel alert and best support your body’s metabolism. Keep in mind that this timeframe is only best if you’re able to maintain that morning routine and still sleep for eight hours every night.
Using Ayurvedic Practices for Weight Loss
Ayurveda teaches us that being overweight is a sign that there’s an excess of kapha dosha within us. This dosha is based on earth and water, which are dense and heavy – just like extra body weight. In order to return to balance – in kapha and in weight loss – you need to integrate opposite influences into your daily life.
Keep in mind that the goal of Ayurveda is always optimal health. You are not focusing on short-term weight loss, but on longevity. After some initial discipline and routine building, your body’s natural intelligence will take over. Unhealthy cravings can be replaced by more balanced urges, but you do need to create an environment where this type of balance is welcomed.