Column: It's My Health!
Keeping the Balance
Losing Weight the Natural Way
by Gerald Lopez, LLB; Dip.Ayurvedic Medicine
Weight problems have been with us for a very long time.
Stay Lean & Healthy
the Holistic Way...
The ancient Egyptians discussed this perplexing issue in their pictograms. Caraka, India's first medical commentator, wrote in 400 BCE that being overweight was one of the eight "unfortunate" health conditions which were hard to treat.
It is a challenging health problem because:
- It is complex in its qualities, involving all our humours or doshas - see my article on body types
- It affects the most fundamental function of our physical body – cell metabolism
- It involves all aspects of ourselves – physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual
A narrow approach, such as surgery or diet restriction, is unlikely to be successful. Unless one is slightly out of balance, weight issues and obesity are best handled with the help of professionals who will treat you holistically, that is, considering all the aspects of your self.
Being overweight involves four parts:
- Too much in – overeating, snacking, the wrong types of food
- Too little spent – sedentary lifestyle
- Faulty metabolism – poor digestion, excessive toxicity, incorrect muscle/fat balance in the body
- Mind matters – lack of clarity and focus about our needs and wants
Too much in
A study of a large number of diet programmes – low-fat, high-protein, high-carbo, etc – found one thing: it's not about the type of food you eat, it's about having too many calories.
Perhaps. But suddenly dropping your calorie intake may not help. Your body will go into "famine" mode, and will compensate by demanding more food the next time your will weakens!
Try the following natural principles:
- Eat only when properly hungry – about 3-6 hours after your last meal
- Then, eat at a moderate pace until half full, keeping the rest of the space for a little fluid and the "digestive fire"
Do this for 6 months and you will find your calorie intake slowly but steadily reducing.
Eat Delicious, Natural Foods
...and Eat Moderately
Eat foods that are freshly-made, wholesome, and satisfying. Avoid calorie-concentrated foods such as sweets and desserts, replacing them with high-water fruits and vegetables.
By "satisfying" I mean two things: your food must be delicious for you to digest it well, and it must contain a certain amount of fats. And quite often, a meal is delicious because it DOES contain a small amount of fats.
Fats is a controversial topic, and the subject of gross misinformation. Please get this straight:
- Fats are necessary for your body to work. You need a range of fats.
- Too much vegetable oils (i.e. Omega-6 rich oils) are bad for the body You need to balance them with Omega-3 oils (fish or flaxseed oils) and saturated fats. Saturated fats such as butter, coconut oil and especially ghee (clarified butter) are excellent for health in small quantities.
- Artificial fats, called hydrogenated or trans fats, have been found to cause disruption in the body, including putting on weight and heart problems They are found in margarines, commercial biscuits, cakes, crisps, just about everything that is highly-processed. STOP EATING THEM RIGHT NOW!
Research has found that when overweight people eat food with moderate good-quality fat in it, they eat less. They are satisfied earlier in comparison to those eating low- or non-fat diets, and therefore consume less calories!
Medications that claim to control obesity by stopping fats being assimilated in the gut are sheer unscientific nonsense. My message is: Eat delicious, natural foods, and eat moderately.
Too little spent
The other side of the calorie equation is expenditure – what are you doing to burn it?
Commit to Daily Exercise
The body has been built to move and work, and needs activity to stay healthy. Too often, when people get overweight, they start finding it difficult to exercise or work, and they get in a downhill spiral of inactivity as the weight increases.
Commit today to at least half-an-hour of daily exercise or work in which you start breathing more heavily, and you start to sweat slightly. Every day! And commit to do this for the rest of your life.
This may start burning excess fat, but, more importantly, you will get fitter and your muscle/fat ratio will start to change. As you increase muscles, your cell metabolism will start correcting itself.
As you get fitter, you will feel heaps better, your mood will improve amazingly, and you will become much more positive about achieving your weight goals! How good is that?
The secret is Agni
Agni – meaning fire in Sanskrit – is the ayurvedic term meaning digestion and cell metabolism. In obesity, digestive fire may be excessively high but cell metabolism may be low. According to ayurvedic medicine, when cell "digestion" or metabolism is not functioning well, improper tissue is formed as excess fat.
Keep Your Metabolism Balanced
Here are some tips to start balancing agni:
- Sip hot water throughout the day – at least every half hour.
- Follow the suggestions above about eating moderately – overeating upsets digestion, causing toxic buildup and sluggish metabolism.
- Relax before, during and after eating (see my article, "The Art of Eating"). This helps proper digestion.
- Have your main meal at lunch, and eat lightly for dinner.
- Take some digestive herbs before eating. For instance chop up some ginger, add a little salt, and have it 10-15 minutes before meals.
- Avoid drinking excessively during meals, and avoid cold drinks altogether.
- See an ayurvedic or other health professional about prescribing herbs to balance metabolism.
When your metabolism is more balanced you will start feeling lighter and clearer, your hunger and cravings will moderate, and you will steadily lose excess weight.
The mind matters
In traditional medical systems, many persistent physical problems are dealt with by treating the mental and emotional aspects of a person.
Why do some people have cravings? Why do they overeat? Why do they avoid physical activity? Why do they somehow "sabotage" their plans to lose weight?
Only the person involved can answer these questions. Only the individual can know what being overweight really means to them, and what being lean, fit and active means to them.
I suggest that if you feel overweight, you need to identify your wants and needs very, very clearly. You may need to identify and let go of any attachment you may have to being overweight, and become completely comfortable with the idea of being lean (or even healthily curvaceous).
Most of us have a history of depriving ourselves of our deepest wants. Perhaps as children we were dissallowed what we wanted. This has created a confusion, an internal conflict, about what we can and cannot have, and what we can and cannot be. Now you are grown up – know what you want, and take it, or be it, or just do it!
When you know what you want, there is no conflict, no confusion, no self-sabotage. Instead, there is clarity, focus, self-assuredness, commitment. There is integrity and authority. There is maturity. There is freedom.
Your being overweight – or your having any other major challenge in life – has brought you to this wonderful point: of being the person you really want to be, the person you really are. Know thyself.
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In the next issue, I shall talk about ageing and the ayurvedic science of longevity.
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