In a society that constantly inundates us with the next best diet, it can be difficult to stay focused and know what’s actually beneficial and effective for healthy weight loss. Stress is one of the most significant causes of weight gain in our society, so the last thing we need is to stress out about that! Is there a way to lose weight and keep it off—without losing your sanity and jumping from diet to diet, only to relapse and start the cycle again? There is—and it has been road-tested for the last 5,000 years.
Ayurveda, an ancient system of medicine developed in India, is the sister science to yoga. It seeks to prevent disease and promote health, balance, and longevity through simple guidelines that follow the natural rhythms of nature, the seasons, and the time of day.
Here are eight Ayurveda tips that can naturally and gently guide you toward holistic and healthy weight loss, without the use of chemicals, processed food, or extreme diets.
- Drink a large glass of warm water with organic lemon in it upon waking to stimulate the bowels. This boosts the entire digestive system and gives you a fresh start to your day.
- Exercising enough to break a sweat is suggested as a daily morning practice for healthy weight loss; 45-60 minutes is ideal, but even 30 will do. Find an activity that you can do for the rest of your life, or at least for the foreseeable future.
- Find five to 10—or more—minutes of peace and relaxation in the morning. Mind/body practices like yoga, meditation, and qi gong elicit a relaxation response in the body. This helps to alleviate stress, one of the main causes of weight gain. It also puts us in a more mindful and present state of mind, allowing us to be better decision-makers as our day proceeds.
- Eat three meals a day, with no snacking. Food is a fast-burning fuel, and when your body is given a constant fuel line, it forgets how to burn fat. Have breakfast, a medium-sized meal, between7:30 and 9:00 am. Have lunch, your largest meal, between 11:00 am and 2:00 pm. Have dinner, your smallest meal, between 5:30 pm and 8:00 pm, when your digestion is weakest.
- Eat with the season, and preferably the region. Through the long, hot days of summer, Mother Nature offers us high-carbohydrate fruits and fresh vegetables to keep us cool and energized. In the fall and winter, the bounty consists of root vegetables, stored nuts, seeds and fruits, heavier meats and cheeses, and stored grains to insulate us from the cold. In the damp days of spring, nature brings us berries, green leafy vegetables, and sprouts to cleanse us from the heavy and acidic winter diet. When we eat as much organic and local food as possible, and feast on seasonal, whole foods, our bodies naturally digest and assimilate nutrients.
- Experience all six tastes. In Ayurveda, we recognize six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent. Be sure to incorporate all six tastes into your daily diet. Sweet, sour and salty tastes are anabolic, or building, in nature and need the pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes, which are catabolic, or burning in nature, to balance them out. Too many sweet, sour, and salty tastes, as seen in the standard American diet, can cause fast weight gain. Foods that are bitter, such as leafy greens; pungent, such as spicy chili peppers; and astringent, such as pomegranate seeds, offer healthy counterpoints to the building nature of the sweet, sour, and salty tastes.
- Move a little after each meal. Going for short walks after each meal stimulates peristalsis and digestion. It’s most important to go for a walk after lunch, preferably 10 to 20 minutes at a moderate pace. If possible, lie on your left side after walking for 10 minutes to further aid in digestion.
- Go to bed with the sun, and rise with the sun. Tapping into our natural circadian rhythms create a major hormone-balancing effect. Anthropologically speaking, our ancestors had no reason to stay up late at night. They would have slowed down when the sun went down, and maybe sat around a fire or a candle for a while before calling it a day. The screens that we stare at late at night cause stimulation in the brain that keeps us awake and wired after our body naturally wants to slow down. Two hours before bed, start to limit your screen time. Go to bed before 10:00 pm, when we get our second wind. Obtaining a proper seven to nine hours of sleep a night gives the body time to detoxify and reset for the next day, and helps maintain healthy levels of cortisol (a stress-response hormone that causes weight gain).
These eight steps towards natural weight loss can have profound effects on your life. However, it’s vitally important to meet yourself where you are, in order to maintain sanity and not create more stress. Decide if this plan is something you want to take on full throttle, or if just a piece or two could be incorporated into your routine at this time. It’s okay to begin with small steps. Slowly but surely, the wisdom of Ayurveda can help lead you toward stress-free, healthy weight loss.
Sarajean Rudman is a Kripalu Yoga teacher and a graduate of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda Health Counselor program. She has more than a decade of experience in personal training and group fitness.
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