Written for the Art of Living Retreat Center by Dr. Harrison Graves.
As a Western physician, I have watched an endless stream of fad diets and weight loss schemes come and go over the past 30 years. The one question I am asked most often is: “What type of diet do you recommend?”
My answer is not a diet at all. It is Ayurvedic lifestyle management. An Ayurvedic lifestyle guides us gently toward successful weight management by giving us knowledge.
Many patients have told me that they have tried everything—from Atkins to the Beverly Hills Diet to the South Beach Diet. Yet, weight management remains an elusive goal. Some of the more humorous fads that have come and gone include the Grapefruit Diet, the Chocolate Cake Diet, the Blood Type Diet, the Baby Food Diet, and the Morning Banana Diet.
Hot Tip: Diets don’t work. Period.
The National Institute of Health tells us that 99 percent of all people who go on a diet gain all the weight back within five years. In addition, many diets leave us craving—often craving what the previous diet told us we shouldn’t eat if we want to lose weight.
Fad diets often make the same promises: easy, effortless weight loss. Unfortunately, the weight usually comes back, often worse than before. Dietary fads are backed up more by celebrity endorsements than solid science.
If diets won’t work, what will?
For many who have tried unsuccessfully to manage their weight, a change in lifestyle is required. That’s where Ayurveda comes in.
Ayurvedic Weight Loss Secret: What To Eat
An Ayurvedic lifestyle begins with treating food as medicine. Choose wisely. Stop all junk foods immediately. Stop all fast foods and processed foods. Eating junk food is like putting sand into your gas tank.
Instead, start a new habit of eating, the Ayurvedic way. Dr. Lokesh Rathuri, our own Ayurvedic specialist in residence, has some specific advice for Ayurvedic weight management. Have a light breakfast of fruits and hot lemon water. Then, drink hot water throughout the day, which helps to lower weight.
As an energizer two to three times daily, you can drink lukewarm water with one spoon of aged honey and a few drops of lemon juice for taste. This will give you lots of energy, so that you may not even feel like eating much. Then eat when you really feel hunger.
A yummy Ayurvedic lunch or dinner is vegetarian, loaded with fresh organic fresh fruits and vegetables. For a good start, try a nourishing vegetable soup as an appetizer, followed by an entree of veggies, tofu, and rice. Another classic Ayurvedic entree from India is rice and dahl. Spices like tumeric and ginger are used liberally for their healing properties.
Vegetarian doesn’t have to be boring, as our executive chef, Roberto, has proven week after week. His “Vegetable Wellington” has been a big hit with retreat guests and staff alike.
The Six Tastes
Another thing unique about Ayurvedic cuisine is its use of all six tastes at mealtime: sweet, sour, spicy, pungent, bitter, and astringent. A meal that contains all six is another Ayurvedic secret for reducing cravings in between meals. Those cravings are often the downfall of the well-intended dieter.
Too many sweet and salty tastes, as seen in the standard American diet (hamburger, fries and coke) cause rapid weight gain. To lose weight, Dr. Lokesh recommends emphasizing pungent (spicy), bitter (leafy greens) and astringent (pomegranate) in your diet—especially for kaphas. These tastes help reduce heaviness in the body. They offer healthy counterpoints to the weight gaining nature of the sweet and salty tastes.
When to Eat
Eat three meals a day, without snacks, to encourage more fat burning. Have lunch, your largest meal, between 11:00 am–2:00 pm. Have dinner, your smallest meal, between 5:30–8:00 pm, when your digestion is weakest.
Eating in Tune with the Seasons
If food is medicine, the best medicine comes to us from foods harvested in season. Eating local organic produce helps the body to naturally digest and absorb nutrients.
In the hot summer months, fresh fruits and veggies keep us cool and energized. These foods keep pittas from getting overheated and vatas from getting too dried out.
The cold winter months are best suited for soups, stews, root vegetables and grains, along with stored nuts, seeds and cheeses. These foods help insulate us from the cold.
Springtime, with its rains and allergy season, demands mucous reducing foods like turnip greens, spinach, and fresh berries. These foods help cleanse us from the more heavy, acidic winter meals.
Europeans are more successful with weight management than most Americans. Why? In part because they buy foods in season from local farmers and eat less fast foods from McDonald’s and KFC. The European diet has a much more have a balanced perspective when it comes to the how, when, and what to eat.
The Ayurveda Home Cleanse
A 5-day Ayurveda Home Cleanse Diet can eliminate toxins from the body while helping you to lose weight naturally. It involves five days of eating a special preparation of a soup called kitchari made of mung beans, rice, and select spices. For breakfast you may also have fruits.
In just five days, many people have lost four to six pounds. However, this cleanse should be kept for only one week at a time. If prolonged, it does not give such benefits. But you can repeat this after a month. A delicious kitchari is available daily in our dining hall. Kitchari also plays an important role in the Shankara Spa’s Panchakarma cleanse.