Weight loss is a common goal for those pursuing health and aesthetic goals. In western society, obesity is a growing problem, and emaciation is rarely a concern. For many, it has become important to find ways to healthfully lower levels of fat in the body. Ayurveda offers techniques for permanent weight-loss through the lowering of body fat by healthy and balanced means.
Keep in mind that the ideal weight for you is one that is appropriate for your constitution. This means that Kapha types will be healthiest at a weight that is higher than what is currently idolized by western culture. Vata types tend toward thinness and can function well with lower levels of body fat.
Ayurveda teaches that too much fat is more problematic than too little fat. However, fat is essential for the body in proper amounts. Insufficient fat stores in the body weaken immunity and increase stress hormone levels. Ayurveda stresses the importance of attaining a weight that is optimal for your unique body. For many, striving to constantly lose weight becomes harmful to the body.
For those that truly do need to lose weight, using Ayurveda for weight loss is an optimal approach. Ayurveda offers gentle, long-term strategies that nourish the body and bring it fully into balance.
It is important that you quickly start to reduce body fat if you are overweight and suffer from all or most of the following symptoms:
- Shortness of breath even after only mild exertion
- Pendulous belly, breasts, and buttocks
- Excessive sweating even in the absence of heat
- Unpleasant body odor
- Loss of libido
- Inflammation where skin folds rub together
- Body ache
- Excess thirst
- Intense food cravings
- Lack of enthusiasm for life
If you do not suffer from most of these symptoms, it is important not to attempt severe dieting or extreme attempts at weight loss. Your body will benefit greatly from a gentle focus on bringing yourself into balance. Take your time and whatever guidance you need to ensure that you succeed.
Ayurveda for Weight Loss
Achieving weight loss with Ayurveda relies on speeding up the metabolism in healthy, natural ways. The focus is on controlling Vata while relieving the system of excess Kapha. Be aware that lasting weight loss requires patience to achieve. Your body needs time to readjust and to lower its set point for the ideal levels of fat. This takes time – be gentle with yourself and try to embrace the process.
There are several components to achieving weight loss with Ayurveda. It is best to incorporate all of these strategies together, as they complement one another and help the body to heal as efficiently as possible.
Food choices are central to using Ayurveda for weight loss. It is always important to favor the foods that balance your constitution and to avoid those that are aggravating. This is especially true when you are attempting to lose weight. If the body is aggravated, it accumulates toxins and cannot expend the energy necessary to shed excess fat. Once the body is brought into balance, fat will begin to be released as the ideal body size for your constitution begins to be realized.
Overweight is primarily the result of excess Kapha, and foods that aggravate Kapha tend to increase weight. Especially avoid the following:
- Beef and pork
- Butter, cheese, ice cream, sour cream
- Wheat and wheat products
- White sugar
- Fried foods
- Junk food and fast food
- Excessively sour or salty foods like pickles
Additional food suggestions:
- Do not salt food, instead add kelp powder or liquid amino acids
- Limit the use of sweeteners (except for raw honey, which has a mild fat-reducing effect)
- Consume foods high in fiber, which help to slow the absorption of sugars
- Avoid high protein diets, as they create extra waste in the body
- Favor carbohydrates, which calm the mind and provide quality energy
- Favor foods that help to control Kapha
- Eat your largest meal in the middle of the day and reduce the amounts you eat in the morning and evening
- Try not to eat after sunset
- Do not consume cold foods or beverages – fat acts as the body’s insulation, and if the body is regularly exposed to cold, it will hold on to fat in order to stay warm
- Exercise creates body heat and reduces the need for insulation, thereby allowing the body to shed fat without concern for becoming too cold
- Do not excessively restrict food – focus on the foods that are balancing to your constitution, and avoid those that aggravate Kapha, but eat plenty of healthful, nourishing food to keep your body healthy and energized.
Herbs and Supplements
Herbs can be a helpful supplemental tool when using Ayurveda for weight loss. It is important to keep in mind that Ayurvedic herbs are not magical weight-loss supplements that induce rapid fat loss. Nor are they appetite suppressants designed to make you eat less. Instead, they help to balance the body so that all of the systems are supported. When the body is balanced, the organs are able to detoxify, and excess fat can be released.
Bitter, pungent, or astringent herbs exert weight-reducing effects. These are some of the herbs most commonly prescribed in India for weight loss:
Guggulu – A gum that is closely related to myrrh. Guggulu also helps to reduce blood cholesterol. Triphala Guggulu is the formula most used to reduce fat.
Gotu kola – One of the most important rejuvenative herbs in Ayurvedic medicine, fortifies the immune system and strengthens the adrenals, helps reduce excess Kapha
Red Raspberry Leaf – Has a nurturing action and reduces inflammation
Saffron – Revitalizes the metabolism
Turmeric – Calms inflammation, allowing aggravated tissues to cool and come into balance
Barberry – Has special healing potency, with properties that clear toxins from the body
Black Pepper – A powerful digestive stimulant
Triphala – Especially when combined with Trikatu
Ginger – Powdered and mixed with equal parts black pepper and pippali
Chandraprabha – A compound that includes a Shilajit (a form of mineral pitch)
Regular movement is critical to achieving long term weight loss. When using Ayurveda for weight loss, is best to exercise 4 to 5 times per week. Exercise needn’t be too vigorous – a brief 30 minute walk can be very energizing and will stimulate fat loss if done regularly. If possible, walk outside in the forest to receive the benefit of forest bathing. Moderate exercise is preferable to strenuous exertion, but the best exercise is the one that you enjoy and will engage in.
It is important to be gentle with your body. Never engage in exercise as a form of punishment. Your body will be the healthiest, happiest, and most appropriate size when you care for it and pursue nourishing activities and ways of thinking. If you eat foods that make you feel heavy or unpleasant, forgive yourself and make the decisions that feel best for you the next time you sit down for a meal.
If you experience anxiety or stress, try a relaxing yoga sequence or go for a walk in the forest. This will help to calm the mind and to get the body moving to improve mood and stimulate metabolism. Strenuous massage can also be very helpful to get the tissues moving and to release endorphins.
It is extremely beneficial to find some external support while on your weight loss journey. Social support is always valuable, and especially so during times of healing. We can encounter many internal and external struggles when working through changes. Having people around you who care about you and are able to support you through your journey will make you far more likely to find success.
When using Ayurveda for weight loss, find a source of support in which you can place your trust. This may be a friend, spouse, or a group of other individuals who have experiences similar to yours. Whoever it may be, find someone who will help to guide your actions and provide assistance when you need it and who might benefit from your support as well.
The key to achieving lasting weight loss with Ayurveda is balancing the organs and nourishing the body. It is important to be patient and allow weight to leave the body at as slow a rate as is needed. Your body wants to be at its healthiest weight and if you take care of it, you will find the healthy, balanced weight that is right for you.
Please share any thoughts or questions in the comments!