Ayurveda is complex and addresses many areas of the body and mind. For the purposes of simplification, we will look at how it handles the goal of weight loss. While it is in principle a way of life, you can use various aspects and techniques for specific purposes. For example, you no doubt have seen dozens of websites that promote herbal remedies touted as Ayurvedic. This is consistent with the belief in natural therapies as the panacea to problems. To be truly within this tradition, these pills and potions should be combined with other practices to truly balance the mind and spirit with the body and lead to a harmonious life—thinner, too.
Following an Ayurvedic diet is not to be confused with American crash diets taken in panic when the numbers on the scale are not to your liking. The system advocates balance of intake, that mirrors the balance of the elements of the body overall. It requires an adjustment of one’s viewpoint and new ways of meal preparation. Life’s hurdles seem less intimidating when you feel your best. The basic steps are outlined below:
Rid your meals of foods containing preservatives, artificial dyes, chemicals, etc. Fresh is better than frozen, fried or fermented no matter what the item might be. Cooking takes effort, but the results will be worth it in spades. It is a mental set as well. Think baked potato instead of fries. The one tastes as good as the other and is healthier by far.
To work best, the diet must be structured. You should have regular meals and enough time to enjoy them without distractions like cell phones and TV. Mealtime should be relaxing and a way to unwind at the end of the day. Let some fresh air in the window as you dine. You’ve probably been cooped up in the office for hours. Add some music if you like. This is something you do three times a day and nutrients are no laughing matter, so make it superbly pleasant. It is said that eating slowly and properly will boost energy and efficiency. You will soon develop better habits and lose old cravings.
The principle of “Gunas” applies to the Ayurvedic diet. They are essence, activity, and inertia said to be part of a subtle evolutionary process. Since a person can be dominated by one or the other, you can create a balance of them in your cooking. In practical terms, these Gunas can apply to specific foods as follows:
“Sattvic” foods are juicy, easy to digest, nourishing, sweet, tasty, organic, and freshly. They are ingested to stimulate a sharp and focused state of mind (thus reaching a higher state of consciousness). They give energy to the body without taxing it.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables, milk and butter, sprouted beans, grains and nuts “Rajasic” foods are bitter, sour, salty, pungent, hot and dry. You eat these to foster speed and excitement in the human organism. They are also associated with motion and pain and should not be eaten in excess. However, they do support stamina and a decisive mind.
- Eggs, caffeine, chilies, alcohol, garlic, high-quality meat, canned foods. “Tamasic” foods take a large amount of energy to eat. They can dull the mind if one overindulges. They are said to cause ignorance, doubt and pessimism. It is not that they are “bad” without question, it is a matter of degree.
- Some meat, mushrooms, onions and frozen as well as fermented foods.
Note: while Sattvic foods are ideal, you need Rajasic foods for energy. It goes without saying to avoid the Tamasic category whenever possible. Good nutrition in balance is the basic method for weight loss. This is not a calorie-counting system.
Knowing what you need for optimum balance can be tricky on your own. Ayurvedic practitioners are far more savvy and can spot subtle things in your nature. Read up on the subject and see if you can determine where you stand or get assistance at least initially. Learn to observe yourself and evaluate your needs. It can be rather abstract if you gather information without applying it. For example, there are various constitutional types that reflect the dominance of a particular Dosha. There is something called “the Dosha Test.”.
The Dosha Test assesses body weight, frame, sleep, appetite, thirst, skin, hair, activity level, stamina, personality, mood, conflicts, and emotions, among other areas. You come to discern your personal characteristics by answering questions on being restless and uneasy, or getting too little sleep. The test assesses forget fulness, impulsiveness, irregular digestion, critical and intolerant attitudes, unusual desire for spicy food, existence of hot flashes or indigestion, difficulty in forming relationships, weight gain, and feeling drowsy or sluggish. A few well-constructed queries can tell a lot about your mental states and physical being.
As you come to understand the Doshas and your individual nature, you will fine tune your diet accordingly. For example, if after eating a certain regimen you don’t feel positive and energetic, you may be lacking an element or two. Adding in the right one can take some trial and error time but you will get better weight loss and mood results. The use of herbs and spices is key and there are recipes designed for certain Dosha dominance.
Tip: A Note on herbs
You can find Ayurvedic herbs on the Internet without much difficulty. Doses and directions will come with your order.