In reality, holding on to weight and looking older (and feeling it) are two expressions of the same root cause: depletion. The habits we cultivate over our lives which result in depletion (vata imbalance), are the same that result in unhealthy eating and exercise patterns, and poor self care. I’m describing a primary vata imbalance with a secondary kapha accumulation of weight. For those that don’t speak ayurveda, that’s akin to saying the body holds on to everything when it knows it’s running “in the red” (energetic deficit). While addressing lifelong patterns may take a while (and a long term supportive environment), there are a few things we can do to see some quick changes in our vitality and our figures. Essentially, we need to address both vata and kapha, but moreso the primary vata imbalance. Here are my top 10 tips to looking, and more importantly, feeling younger and less heavy:
1. Drop the salad (and the dried nuts). All diet foods are vata. Overweight people are drawn to these foods because they believe they will help them lose weight. When that doesn’t happen, it’s confusing for some, but evidence of the fact that this is not a simple situation due to just eating fatty foods. Avoiding vata foods is a good way to get your body out of the sense of depletion. Favor warm, and moist foods that are also low-fat.
2. Oil your body. I recommend using an organic oil (we carry medicinal grade herbal oils without any preservatives) everyday AFTER your shower. This is a modification from traditional abhyanga for our vata culture. Again, we are reducing depletion by feeding the tissues through the skin, and reducing vata. In addition, massage stimulates microcirculation which helps to increase fat metabolism (this is why some spas claim to have slimming treatments.)
3. Go to bed on time. I’m hoping this one is self-explanatory on reducing depletion, and vata. You get bonus points if you go to bed around the same time and develop a stronger circadian rhythm to support healthy metabolism.
4. Even out your meals. The theory on having 5 small meals/day works because it is based on supporting thyroid function. If you are getting a nice steady stream of fuel to your main engine (reducing vata to the thyroid), it will work more efficiently than if you starve it for long periods of time and then flood it. This may not be the best approach for people that have low appetite in the morning. Don’t force yourself to eat if you are not hungry. Just make sure you have food available when your body is ready for it. When you are hungry eat; when you are full, stop.
5. Wake and walk. This is the best way to melt kapha, and gets your metabolism up in the beginning of the day. Just get up and move before you have the time to think about not doing it. You’ll have to force it the first few days and then it will feel so great, you’ll feel off if you don’t do it.
6. Spice your food. This is important for reducing both vata and kapha. Supporting the digestion of what you do it prevents accumulation. Also, spices help to decrease fat in the body as well.
7. Avoid any cold dairy. Ice-cream is not your friend, nor is cold yogurt or cottage cheese or a tall glass of milk, when you are in secondary kapha imbalance. If you bring in dairy, make sure it is cooked and spiced (e.g. spiced warm milk, or cheese in lasagna).
8. Personalized portion control. Cup your two hands together to form the shape of a bowl. This is your personal portion size (level, not heaping). It’s nice to find a bowl in your kitchen that is that size and use it to monitor your portions. Of course, stop eating if you feel full before finishing this amount. Try to avoid eating more than this personal portion.
9. Eat healthy sweets in moderation. Again, avoiding extremes where we deprive ourselves and then swing the other way and binge. Healthy sweets, like dates, and all sorts of goodies at health food stores are good in moderation. Give yourself a daily allowance that you feel good about and stick to it. (recent post on craving sweets)
10. Process your emotions. I laugh that this is on a “top 10” list because it can be a lot of work. It can also be as simple as journaling. The more you digest your emotions, the less you feel you need to hold on to on a subconscious level. The strong relationship between emotions and eating patterns and weight has been well established in Western medicine. In ayurveda, the fat tissues are proportional to the amount of love we need. So by loving yourself, nurturing your emotional needs, you can actually decrease your need for extra padding against the ups and downs of life.