We live in a diet-obsessed culture. It seems like every week a new diet makes headlines, claiming to be the best path to weight loss. From Paleo, South Beach, and Atkins, to Primal, Ketogenic, and Zone, it can be hard to decipher the best way to shed excess weight. Isn’t there a tried-and-true plan that has been around the block and back again?
Well, in fact, yes, there is! Ayurveda is a wellness system that has helped people achieve optimal health for more than 5,000 years. According to Ayurveda, as you move into a state of perfect health, unneeded pounds naturally melt away. The following seven Ayurvedic guidelines will help you to shed excess weight and feel amazing.
1. Sleep from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Every Night
Our ancestors lived in harmony with the natural rhythms of the Earth. When the sun went down, their bedtime shortly followed. Yet with the advent of electricity, humans began a gradual transition from natural rhythms to artificial ones. As a result, sleep quality and time have been compromised.
Modern researchers have identified insufficient sleep as a contributing factor in weight gain. Not only is sufficient rest important, but sleeping in harmony with the sun’s rhythms is just as vital. According to Ayurveda, the time period that is most supportive of restful sleep is between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Current research is beginning to corroborate the importance of sleeping in harmony with the sun’s cycles. To make the most of nature’s rhythms, turn off your screens and begin to wind down by 9:30 p.m. At 10:00 p.m., turn off the lights and get in bed.
2. Exercise upon Awakening
The ideal time to exercise is between 6 to 10 a.m., when the earth and water elements are high in the environment. Earth and water, when combined, create slowness, coolness, dullness, and inertia. In fact, you may have experienced those qualities upon awakening in the morning.
Exercise counteracts sluggishness, warms the body, brings fresh blood to your brain, and prepares both body and mind for a new day. Aim for 45 to 60 minutes of vigorous exercise each morning.
3. Cut Out the Snacks
To snack or not to snack, that is the question—and the answer is not to. When you eat, your body produces insulin to help shuttle sugar into cells and keep your blood sugar balanced. The sugar that enters your cells will fuel average energy needs for about three hours. Only after that time will your body begin to burn fat in order to supply its energetic requirements. If you eat every three hours, your body is never given an opportunity to dip into its fat stores. Three nourishing, balanced meals each day with no snacks in between will actually stabilize your energy levels more than frequent meals. In addition, your fat burning potential will drastically increase.
4. Include all 6 Tastes at Every Meal
Ayurveda recognizes six distinct tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent. In order to feel satisfied after eating, it is critical to include at least a small portion of each of the six tastes in every meal. Below are a few examples of foods that might be found in each taste category.
- Sweet foods build muscle and produce energy. Foods such as whole grains, dairy, meats, nuts, legumes, and sweet fruits are sweet foods.
- Sour foods are cleansing to the body. They include citrus fruits, pickled or fermented foods, yogurt, and sour cream.
- Salty foods stimulate digestion and absorption of nutrients. Sea salt, ocean vegetables, and fish are all salty foods.
- Pungent foods are those that contain spice. This taste clears the sinuses and stimulates metabolism. Included in this taste category are peppers, mustard seeds, ginger, cloves, onions, and many spices.
- Bitter foods detoxify the body. This group is comprised of dark leafy greens and vegetables, coffee, and cacao.
- Astringent foods create a drying sensation in the mouth. They tone the bodily tissues, reduce heat, and pacify inflammation. These foods include green tea, grapes, garbanzo beans, and pomegranates.
5. Eat Your Largest Meal at Noon
There is a saying in Ayurveda that you are not what you eat, you are what you digest. Digestion is a very important concept in the Vedic tradition..
To maximize your digestion, eat your largest meal at lunchtime. The noon hour is when your digestive fire, known as agni, is at its strongest. Dinner should be light and easily digestible. In addition, it is advisable to finish dinner two to three hours prior to bedtime. If you are going to bed by 10 p.m. (which is ideal) then dinner needs to be completed by 7 p.m. Not only will you sleep more soundly, your body will be able to attend to the critical tasks of detoxification and rejuvenation rather than the digestion of food.
6. Sip Hot Water or Tea Throughout the Day
Hot water is something of a health elixir in the Vedic tradition. Toxins, known in Ayurveda as ama, accumulate within the body from external sources (e.g., pollution, pesticides, poor food choices) and internal sources (e.g., stress, anxiety, anger). Ama is sticky, by nature but can be dissolved with hot water. The amount of water that you drink is not as important as the frequency with which you sip. Try to have a few sips of warm water every half an hour. You can add fresh ginger or dosha-specific herbs and spices to further enhance the beneficial qualities of the hot water.
7. Practice Meditation
Researchers have found that hormones associated with high stress can decrease your ability to lose weight, particularly abdominal weight. Fortunately, current research also shows that meditation is a powerful way to unwind and de-stress. To see results in both your life and your waistline, devote at least 20 minutes a day to meditation. Sit quietly, relax your body, and focus on your breath. Let thoughts pass by like floating clouds. Eventually the mind will quiet, and you will be able to receive all the beneficial effects of a regular meditation practice.
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*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.