Spring is almost here and everyone looks forward to spending more time outside. The winter is a hibernation of sorts when we tend to eat richer, heavier food and we are less active. The winter season is Vata time which requires the grounding of this type of food. As spring approaches, we instinctively know, we would like to lose the extra fat we have put on and lighten up. The spring is Kapha season and the recommendations for the Kapha body type can help guide us for removing the extra fat and facilitate weight loss.
By way of background, Ayurveda has three basic body types that people are classified by. The body types have both physical and emotional qualities. People can also be a combination of the types. The three types are known as Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Vata can be described as slight, thin and quick moving. Pitta is a solid, medium build with a sharp, focused mind. Kapha is softer, fuller looking and a sweet disposition.
Ayurveda and the importance of balance:
While the goal may be to lose weight, Ayurveda does not seek to treat the symptom.
Ayurveda looks to balance the whole body, mind and spirit, and allow the body to bring itself back to health. The approach is holistic in that we look to heal the whole not separate ourselves into parts. In weight loss, Ayurveda does not look to cut the calories. It is a lifestyle where we look at the what, how, when, why and who of eating. When all these issues are addressed, we are eating in a way that is suited to our body type and the season, so that our bodies can be healthy and balanced.
First, we will address what we eat. As Hippocrates says, “Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.” The food we eat has energy and qualities to it. Food is a source of energy to the body. When it gets broken down and digested, it is used to nurture the body. If the food we eat is processed, past its prime and lacks nutritional value, then our bodies do not receive the fuel it needs to function. The quality of our food matters.
Second, how we eat is important because that will affect the digestive process. We can have the best quality food, but its value will be wasted if it is not digested and assimilated into our bodies. When we eat in a calm, relaxed way, the digestive process can begin easily. Rushing around and half chewed food makes the body work harder to break down the food and assimilate it into our bodies. Make your eating experience a happy settled one.
Third, when we eat is also critical in making digestion work optimally. We should eat in a regular schedule to bolster our body’s natural rhythm. Lunch time is when digestion is strongest, so the lunch meal should be the biggest. Breakfast and dinner should be lighter. Snacking should be avoided unless the constitution is weak. Digestion is a process that can take two to three hours to complete. When food is eaten, it begins the digestive process in the mouth. The food needs to travel all the way down to the intestines with different enzymes and organs involved at different stages. When we interrupt the process by eating too soon, digestion does not work as it should. This results in less nutrients being absorbed. It also results in some food remaining undigested and becoming toxic build up. This toxic build up is known as ama and is a source of weight gain. By knowing when to eat, we can keep ourselves balanced and less likely to have excess weight.
Fourth, we should eat to nourish our body, both its physiology and spirit. When we eat as an emotional response, we are eating something else as well. Eating is physical, but if we eat to stuff down emotions of anger or sadness, we are adding “extra calories.” These emotions are another component of the meal that needs digesting, but we are hiding them in the food. This is also ama and the toxic build up of emotions can create an energetic mass for the body and weight is created. Know why you want to eat, so your food can nurture you.
Finally, the “who” is eating is also needed for healthy eating. In Ayurveda, a food’s health value is judged on who is eating the food. Food is classified by taste and each body type requires different tastes for optimal functioning. Pomegranates, for example, are a healthy fruit with high anti-oxidants. Its taste is astringent, which makes it drying. Vata needs moisture and too many pomegranates would cause an imbalance. Yet, in the spring and summer when the weather is more rainy or humid, a Vata type can eat more pomegranates than it could in the winter. Everything is a matter of balance.
Since spring is Kapha season and the Kapha body type is generally heavier, we can look to Kapha balancing lifestyle tips for guidance in weight loss. Remember if someone is slighter in build and type, then the Kapha suggestions should be balanced accordingly.
Some of the recommendations for Kapha and weight loss are:
- Eat a light breakfast or skip it entirely if you do not feel hungry
- Make lunch the largest meal of the day and avoid snacking. Dinner should be light.
- Make one day a week a liquid “fast,” by liquefying foods or eating thick soups and juiced vegetables and fruits.
- Favor tastes of astringent, bitter and pungent, while avoiding the tastes of sweet, salty and sour. The key is to avoid, not forbid.
- Get plenty of exercise which is done preferably in the morning. It should be vigorous enough to cause a sweat.
- Be mindful to eat with the purpose of nourishment and eat in a peaceful place with a calm mind.
Ayurveda approaches weight loss as a way to live a healthy life and bring you back to balance. We should not view ourselves as bad or faulty. Instead, make a commitment to honoring yourself to be the best person you can be. Each step is a process and we do not have to get to a place and then stop. Life is a journey of growth and we want to feel good while we travel.