By Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar
Perhaps nothing could be more frustrating and painful than experiencing an ongoing struggle with weight and overall wellness.
If you’re in a battle with your weight, then chances are you’re desperate for results and have probably tried the latest weight-loss trends with disappointing, and often disheartening, results.
You’ve cut calories, gone gluten-free, lowered your carbs, and tried to exercise more. Meanwhile, you’ve beaten yourself up emotionally, felt like a failure, wondered why nothing has worked for you, wished for more willpower, and lost your sense of joy and enthusiasm. You may even feel stuck and ready to give up.
My latest book, Hot Belly Diet, very clearly describes Ayurvedic strategies for not only losing weight but also optimizing health.
Everyone dealing with weight-loss issues needs to know that it is virtually impossible to make serious progress if you continue to eat large evening meals with heavy foods! As new research tells us, when we eat late, we’ll tend to gain weight.
I can’t emphasize this point too much. As Ayurveda describes, our digestion is less strong in the evening, and when we go to sleep, our digestion, metabolism, and circulation slow down even further. The body simply can’t assimilate large evening meals properly. The result is that much of the food is digested poorly and eventually creates toxins, fat, and excess weight. Even if we are eating less during the day, exercising, and taking special herbs, pills, powders and drinks, most of us will not be able to overcome this most serious of all weight-loss mistakes.
In the evening, it is especially important to avoid the following types of foods: cheese, yogurt, rich desserts, red meat, leftovers of any kind, cold foods, and processed foods. It’s also important to reduce evening consumption of fish, fowl, and starches.
Evening meals should be vegetarian, hot, light, and soupy. If you are significantly overweight, the foundation of the evening meal should be:
1) Non-cream soups
2) Complex grains cooked in water (for example, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, and barley)
3) Vegetables: steamed, roasted, or sautéed with small amounts of extra-virgin olive oil. If you must have dessert, I recommend cooked fruit desserts made with only small amounts of organic sugar.
Lunch is the time our bodies can best digest and properly assimilate larger quantities of food due to the fact that digestion is strongest at noon and we have many active hours to metabolize the food before we sleep. Lunch is the most important meal of the day and the meal we most need to plan and prepare for.
Lunch should consist of warm, cooked foods with a wide variety of tastes and dishes. Warm food is essential as it can be more easily digested and assimilated. Cold foods, on the other hand, suppress digestion (remember your chemistry ‒ cold temperatures suppress chemical reactions, and digestion is a very complex chemistry!) The result of regularly eating meals of cold foods is indigestion, the accumulation of ama (undigested molecules that clog the body’s channels), and weight gain.
Eating a wide variety of foods is essential for nutrition and for preventing the body from developing food cravings ‒ the downfall of many a well-meaning diet plan. Food cravings often occur because of imbalanced diets that include only a few food types. Diets restricted to mostly carbohydrates or protein or fat eventually lead to undernourished tissues that rightfully send hunger messages to our brain. Even though we have just finished eating a large quantity of food, parts of our body are still truly malnourished and hungry. Unfortunately, if we don’t realize this, when the hunger signals come we may reach for even more carbohydrate-rich and dense foods like desserts when actually we need green vegetables and legume-based soups.
A good, balanced lunch also helps us feel less hungry in the evening, making it easier to stick to that all-important light evening meal.
By sipping hot water throughout the day, you help cleanse the digestive tract and entire body of blockages and impurities. Hot water improves digestion and assimilation of food and helps prevent the body from becoming toxic and clogged. It also is a great aid in reducing food cravings between meals. I have known people who lost between forty and fifty pounds by following only this single recommendation.
Most people can accomplish the hot water recommendation by getting a good thermos and a small, cup-sized hot plate. You can pour your hot water in the cup, put it on the hot plate, and sip it throughout the day as you work.
The most purifying and cleansing water is water that has been boiled for about ten minutes. Boiling water for ten minutes reduces its heaviness (you will usually see a fine powder at the bottom of the pan that consists of precipitated materials from the water) and energizes the water. Drinking water from your hot-water dispenser at work is better than not drinking any at all, but is not as effective as boiled water.
Ayurveda holds that putting food back in the refrigerator after it has been cooked causes a serious deterioration of the quality of the foods and their digestibility. Even if you reheat your leftover foods after you take them out of the refrigerator, they have lost their life-giving freshness.
We get more than molecules from food. We also get freshness, life force (prana), and nature’s intelligence. Physics tells us there is a classical world of molecules but also a quantum mechanical world of vibration. The vibration of the deeper fields that comprise nature’s life force and intelligence get destroyed by cooling cooked food. As a result, leftovers easily lead to improperly digested waste products called ama, which accumulate in the body and can create toxins, blockages, and excessive weight gain. Ultimately, accumulated ama can lead to the development of many diseases.
Here is the essence of Ayurveda’s food guidelines: Eat fresh food, freshly prepared, and filled with prana, the vital life force.
In our already busy lives, taking the time to shop and prepare fresh foods can be a challenge. Yet every step in this direction will help us with weight management and overall good health.
A convenient way to get a home-cooked, nearly fresh meal of pure, wholesome ingredients for lunch each day is to cook khichadi or barley and lentils (a good fat-busting combination) overnight in a crock-pot. In the morning, add chopped vegetables and some spices sautéed in olive oil (try cumin, black pepper, fresh ginger root, coriander, and turmeric.) Put in a wide-mouth thermos and take it with you for lunch. Add some rye crackers (another fat-busting grain, according to Ayurveda) and fresh fruit for a well-balanced, pure, and nutritious lunch.
Exercise is an antidote for almost everything that ails us. It improves digestion, metabolism, elimination, complexion, muscle tone and strength, and bone density ‒ and it helps us normalize weight. Physical activity is also positive on an emotional level as it can be enjoyable, increase self-confidence, and bring us greater energy, freshness, and success throughout the day.
At a minimum, take time every day to get out and walk. Evaluate your schedule and take walks whenever you can squeeze them in. Be vigilant finding opportunities to have a brisk stroll. It is especially beneficial to walk after meals, particularly after the evening meal.
Remember, optimum digestion is the cornerstone of your health and wellbeing. Rekindle your digestive fire, rekindle your life!