Millions of Americans are trying to lose weight, spending billions of dollars a year on diet programs and products. People are losing 20-30 pounds in a few months and feeling good. But within a few years later, find that nearly all have regained whatever weight they lost. Why can’t millions of people who are on a diet program, lose weight permanently? Why is there so much variation in gaining or losing weight? Obesity has become a crucial health problem.
Excess amount of body fat is obesity. As we all know obese persons are at increased risk to many more health conditions than the normal person. They are more prone to chronic diseases like high blood pressure, stroke, heart diseases, diabetes, arthritis, liver diseases, gall stones, gout, infertility, and many more. Fat is an essential component to our body and is termed as “Med” in Ayurveda. It keeps the body well nourished, causes sweating, stores energy, and nourishes the bone tissue.
There are several components, which contribute to the cause of obesity:
• Genetic factors- are that which runs in families. If parents are obese, the children have the tendency towards getting obese.
• Diet and lifestyle-Home-Cooked… what? Why cook when processed foods are so easy to nuke n’serve. Super sized hamburgers, French fries, super gulp soft drinks; “All you can eat” foods may be part of the problem.
• Lack of exercise, sitting front of a TV or Computer for most of our day may add to the problem. Drive to the Gym. We were either sitting or spinning.
• Playtime=TV Time. Why run outside when you can sit and stare at the TV?
• Psychological disturbances- Food is food for the body and love is food for the soul. When you meet a loving, compassionate friend your appetite is lessened because you receive the higher food, love. When a person does not receive love he tries to receive the missing love through food, food becomes a substitute for love and over intake makes him/her obese. Obesity is a deeply rooted psychological problem both in men and women.
• Alcohol is metabolized in the liver and excess consumption of alcohol can create fatty changes in the liver, because alcohol is converted into sugar. The element of sugar is earth and water, which are the same for fat tissue. Alcohol leads to obesity as it retains the elements of earth and water
• Diseases and conditions like Hypothyroidism, Cushing’s syndrome, Depression, and certain neurological problems lead to overeating which in turn leads to accumulation of fat.
• Medicines such as steroids and some antidepressants may cause weight gain.
In the Ayurvedic perspective, there should be a major shift in awareness. The Ayurvedic approach to achieve ideal weight is based on what we put in our body everyday whether it is food, air (breathing), or thoughts. It is important to know your body constitution and becoming tuned with its rhythms. Like everything else in nature, there is so much diversity and variation in each person and “one size does not fit all”.
Overweight is usually found in Kapha predominant personalities, which have the element of Earth and water element more expressed. They tend to have low metabolism. Getting out of balance of this kapha energy creates obesity, irrespective of how much or how little you eat. When your food intake is not balanced by proper digestion.
Regulating the mind and body’s ability by calming down your nervous system, enhancing your digestive fire and regulating the storage energy of fat is the very step towards getting the weight in control.
Every person has a different action plan, as every person has a unique physiology.
Diet plays an important role – It is important to remember not only what to eat, but also how to eat and when to eat. When deciding to eat, a person should make sure to eat 4-5 smaller meals in a day rather than 2-3 larger meals in a day. This will help the body digest more foods more thoroughly, as well as to better absorb necessary nutrients.
One should have a Diet and activities as per body constitution and change these as per the season’s demands. Increase the intake of foods which are easy to digest and enhancing to your digestive fire.- ginger, garlic, cumin cinnamon, bitter greens, fenugreek etc., Consuming more of Bitter, astringent, and spicy taste which helps in reducing the fat as it contends air, space, and fire element which are lacking in an obese person.
Few simple tips to follow-
• Drink 1glass of hot water + 1 tsp of honey in the early morning, this helps to digest the toxins.
• Sip hot water throughout the day, this helps in digestion. Low digestion generates Ama – a toxin that clogs the body’s circulatory channels and increased Ama leads to symptoms of indigestion, acidity, fatigue, anorexia, dullness, and constipation
• Drink ginger tea 2-3 times in a day
• Fasting once a week helps to improve the digestive fire. It means to have fruits, vegetables, salads, and soups the whole day that are easy to digest and high in keeping your energy good.
• Black Pepper – Seasoning foods with black pepper will decrease the need for salts and fats, and will still add flavor to foods. This will also help reduce weight.
• Cinnamon- This spice can act as a low calorie sweetener to help reduce the amount of sugar needed in a recipe.
• Exercise plays an important role as does the diet- Yoga postures specifically designed for Kapha body types helps improve metabolism and burns the fat tissue. Pranayam gives a massaging action to the internal organs thereby expelling the toxins out of the system. Walking, aerobics, swimming; jogging, and outdoor games are best to keep weight on track.
Cleansing procedures and Ayurvedic therapies –
• Panchakarma are the cleansing procedures in Ayurveda. Imbalances in Doshas can be pacified by Shamana therapies (palliation methods), such as administration of herbo-mineral supplements, lifestyle changes, adopting fasting, etc., but deep rooted imbalances in Doshas can be completely eliminated by the administration of Shodhana therapies (purification methods), such as Pancha Karma, including – Vamana, Virechana, Niruha Basti, Anuvasana Basti and Nasya.
• Udvartana- Udvartana is a very good Ayurvedic massage where by dry herbal powders are used with very little oil. This mixture is sprinkled over the body and massaged. This is also popularly known as “anti cellulite” massage.
• Swedan- herbal steams is the procedure which helps in liquefying the accumulated ama (toxins), in cooling the irritated dosha, in opening the blocked body channels and in lubricating the passages of waste products.
• Herbs-With the above therapies herbs such as Amalaki, Gotukola, Guduchi, different types of Guggul combinations help to regularize the metabolism, aid the digestion, clears the Ama (toxin generated from the indigested food), opens up the channels, and help the good fat metabolism.
A Vedic sutra says, if you have right intension, you will create right attention. And right attention will bring right awareness. The inner flow of awareness becomes the pathway of the inner pharmacy. This awareness will erase the memory of your cells that are carrying the memory of obesity. Then the cravings for sweets, candy, sugar, chocolate and cookies will come to and end.
(This article is not intended to heal or cure any diseases; herbs should be taken under the guidance of an Ayurvedic physician)
Dr. Beena Vesikar (M.D. Ayurveda, Nutrition consultant)