Several classical Ayurvedic texts refer to illnesses associated with obesity. Charak1 describes obesity as one of the least desirable health problems. In Western society, obesity is an ever- growing health risk, of which stress and an unhealthy diet are modifiable causes. Overall, body weight depends on all sorts of hereditary, personal, cultural and social factors, and is closely related to our physical and mental health. Thus, body weight plays an important role in every individual’s life.
In this article, obesity will be discussed from an Ayurvedic perspective. Ayurveda describes in its works the exact causes and symptoms of obesity and the complications that can result. Ayurveda clearly connects obesity to an elevated status of Agni2 and Vayu3 in the body. Treatment of obesity should begin with understanding the individual’s prakriti (original constitution) and vikruti (current state). Once this is established, obesity can be treated with lifestyle and diet recommendations, Pancha Karma4 and herbs.
OBESE OR OVER-WEIGHT?
Ayurveda defines the term Over-Weight as excessive body weight, containing fat tissue, moisture, muscle tissue and bone tissue, which may cause discomfort but not necessarily medical complications. The term Obesity on the contrary, is a serious form of being overweight with an excess amount of fat tissue and a multitude of toxins. This can result in medical complications which may decrease life expectancy. Ayurveda doesn’t determine Healthy weight and Overweight in numbers, but in terms of the individual’s exuberance, vitality, radiance, satisfaction with their body, and harmony with the three doshas as well as the three gunas. Therefore, as long as there are no medical complications, weight is a very subjective indication.
AYURVEDA AND OBESITY
- According to Ayurveda obesity is a condition which is difficult to treat because of the opposite qualities of 10 Kapha (bulk/inert) and Vata (space/movement). When the Kapha dosha in the body is therapeutically reduced, automatically the Vata quality will be aggravated. Vayu (Air) stimulates digestion, which increases the appetite, makes you eat more, and results in more bulk (Kapha). A vicious circle! Obesity is a disease which causes the body to mainly produce too much meda dhatu (fat tissue) and ama (toxin). Obesity is a typical Kapha disease, meaning that a huge amount of body weight is produced on various locations in the body. Because of the aggravated13 Kapha & Vata doshas, Pitta cannot function well. The Tridosha three-way relationship is not in balance, thus causing weight control issues.
AYURVEDIC TREATMENT FOR OBESITY
- Discuss your weight loss goals with your Doctor.
- Do not change your diet and lifestyle at once. Start with small changes in order to encourage long-term maintenance.
- Do not expect immediate results. It’s not about perfection, but about progress. Commit to your long-term vision of health.
- Return to your Ayurvedic doctor for medical guidance to check in on progress and monitor health.
AYURVEDIC DIET ADVICE
- Prepare your own fresh meals every day.
- Avoid packaged, processed and/or fast foods.
- Avoid refined sugars and desserts.
- Eat at fixed times, three times a day. Do not skip any meals. Keep 3–4 hours between meals. If this is too difficult, take 4–5 small meals with 2-3 hours in between.
- Drink a mixture of warm water + two tablespoons of lemon juice + 1 tablespoon of honey + a hint of black pepper. Drink this regularly throughout the day.
- Avoid snacks in between meals, however, eating a handful of roasted nuts, or a little fruit is ok.
- Avoid eating foods that are too salty, sweet and/or cold, as this will aggravate the Kapha dosha
- Consume food products with complex carbohydrates like wheat, quinoa, or millet, which allow a more gradual release of simple sugars into the bloodstream. Avoid simple carbohydrates such as rice and potatoes.
- Avoid milk products (cheese and butter) and high-fat animal products.
- Utilize culinary herbs, which stimulate weight loss such as: ginger, cinnamon and black pepper. Prepare a warm drink and/or cook your meals with these herbs.
LIFE STYLE TIPS
- Adhere to a regular routines in the morning and before sleeping.
- Take a 10- minute walk each morning.
- Walking will reduces stress, burn calories and increase energy.
- Use the stairs instead of the elevator in your daily activities.
- Park your car further away from your destination, so you will have to walk more.
- Make your grocery lists based on the meals you plan to cook during the week.
- Do not take naps during the day during the day.
- Prevent boredom by doing volunteer work, trying a new class, or joining a club.
- Prevent stress by regularly engaging in things which are calming and soothing.
- Speak to a Yoga Teacher about implementing a yoga practice. Some practices may include: daily Surya Namaskar, and/ or Vajrasana. Pranayama (breathing practices) may include: Bhastrika, and/or Kapalabhati.
- Some single medicinal herbs that are traditionally used for weight control: Guggulu, Haridra, Guduchi, Amalaki, Vacha, Haritaki, Kutaki.
- Please consult your doctor for advice about the medicinal use of herbs and preparations.
Ayurveda offers great insights into the cause of weight gain and obesity and provides a wide range of recommendations and effective therapies for reducing weight and leading a healthy life. This article however doesn’t claim to be a complete overview or “modus operandi” for a responsible treatment of obesity. The recommended medical and lifestyle interventions should include Pancha Karma treatments and must be exclusively provided by an Ayurvedic Doctor based on assessment of disease severity, and determination of the original and current constitution. Strength and overall vitality of the individual must always be considered. The balancing of the body, mind and soul will provide long-lasting health, happiness and well-being in all aspects of life.