Most people who go on diets ultimately regain the weight they lose; as numerous studies have found, in many cases, dieters also end up gaining additional weight because the calorie deprivation and nutritional imbalances have slowed their metabolism.
Another major reason why diets don’t work is that they fail to address the emotional and spiritual aspects of our lives. Our emotions play an essential role in our eating habits. We learned early in life how putting something in our mouths soothed upset feelings. Whether it was a breast, a bottle, a pacifier, or a thumb, all of us were conditioned to associate our mouths with comfort. It’s not surprising that adults under stress resort to excessive eating, drinking or smoking.
The ancient healing system known as Ayurveda offers a holistic approach to weight that encompasses the mind, body, and spirit. Commit to these seven practices for one month, and you will begin to regain the balance, health, and happiness that you deserve.
1. Eat for your Dosha or mind-body type.
There isn’t a single nutritional plan that is right for everyone because we all have different body types or Doshas. Knowing your Ayurvedic mind-body type is essential because it will give you useful information on how to reawaken your body’s inner intelligence. You will be able to identify which foods, activities, and lifestyle choices will have the greatest benefit for you.
2. Practice meditation to manage your stress.
Meditation awakens a healthy conversation between the mind and the body. By meditating regularly, you will become more attuned to what your body needs to nourish itself, and you will more easily let go of old patterns of eating that are no longer serving you.
When you meditate, you activate the body’s “relaxation response” – your heart rate slows, your blood pressure decreases and you produce fewer stress hormones associated with weight gain, such as cortisol and adrenaline (research has found that high levels of stress hormones are associated with weight gain and difficulty in losing weight).
3. Eat mindfully.
Ayurveda teaches that how we eat is as important as what we eat. If you are not at your ideal weight, ask yourself how often you sit down in a settled, quiet atmosphere and take your time to eat food that delights your senses.
Meditation awakens a healthy conversation between the mind and the body
The emotions we are experiencing when we eat will be ingested along with the meal. Don’t eat when you are upset. Eat in a calm setting with the minimum of disturbances, pay attention to your food, not the television, newspaper, computer or road. But most of all – enjoy your meals. Don’t deprive yourself of something you really love (unless for medical reasons). Be moderate and remember that if something makes you feel totally wonderful, it can’t be completely bad for you!
4. Honor your appetite, eating only when you are hungry.
To increase your awareness around your body’s true hunger signals, use this technique: Whenever you are ready to eat, place your hand on your abdomen and bring your awareness to your stomach. Then ask yourself the question, “How hungry am I?”
Think of your appetite as a fuel gauge with 0 representing empty and 10 denoting filled to capacity. Eat only when you reach a level 2 on the appetite gauge, and stop eating when you reach a 7. This technique will help you become more attuned to your body-mind and increase your awareness of the range of hunger you experience.
Tip: Drink ginger tea or warm water before each meal. This will improve your digestion and decrease the tendency to overeat.
As we eat, our taste buds send messages to the brain informing it if we have ingested foods that provide the energy and information we need.
5. Eat the six tastes at every meal.
The human brain sends a hunger signal when it becomes aware of the need for energy and information. As we eat, our taste buds send messages to the brain informing it if we have ingested foods that provide the energy and information we need. The six tastes, known in Ayurveda as sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent, are the codes that inform our nervous systems of a meal’s nutritional content.
If we sample foods that correspond to each of these tastes throughout the day, our meals will provide a wide assortment of health-promoting nutrients. If we do not have all flavors available, the brain is not satisfied and continues to send signals to eat more. As a result, we take in too many calories but remain malnourished.
6. Exercise regularly.
Our bodies are designed for movement, yet many of us associate exercise with pain, boredom, or drudgery rather than with lightness and feelings of well-being. We may completely avoid exercise or, if we do manage to “will” ourselves to exercise, we may remain disconnected from our body and our feelings as we move.
In vivid contrast with the “no pain, no gain” mentality, Ayurveda and other Eastern healing traditions view exercise as a way to experience the pleasure of moving, breathing, and circulating our life’s energy. It’s meant to leave us feeling invigorated, centered, and ready for rest of the day.
The secret is finding some physical activities that you like and that are suited to your mind-body type, or Dosha. No matter what your current fitness level is, you can begin to move your body and breathe on a consistent basis, even if the most you can do right now is walk around the block. In addition, keep in mind that a complete exercise program includes attention to developing flexibility, strength, and cardiovascular conditioning.
Exercise offers prompt returns and within a week, you will begin to notice definite improvements in your well-being. As you continue to exercise regularly and eat mindfully, you will find yourself naturally attaining your own ideal weight.
As you continue to exercise regularly and eat mindfully, you will find yourself naturally attaining your own ideal weight.
7. Learn conscious communication skills to meet your emotional needs.
When we aren’t getting our needs met, we’re likely to feel angry, frustrated, or sad and are more likely to self-soothe with food. When we can communicate clearly, we’ll find our habits melting away. In his book, Nonviolent Communication, psychologist Marshall Rosenberg offers a powerful guide to developing the practical skills of conscious communication.
The most important principle in achieving your ideal weight is to gauge your healthiest state by personal measures, not by comparing yourself to others. We are constantly bombarded with artificial messages from the media about what the human body should look like, and it’s easy to forget that there is no need to create a “new you” in order to solve a weight problem.
As long as you are not clinically obese (defined as being 25 percent above normal weight for your height), and your weight is not creating health problems for you, what you “should” weigh is really a subjective matter. When you feel healthy, energetic, vital and comfortable with your body, you are at your ideal weight. You are the sole person who can determine this.