If you have struggled with your body image and serial dieting in your life, you are among almost every woman I know.
So many of us have gone through a period in our lives when we were obsessing about food, counting calories, trying every fad diet, working out like crazy, and still…hating our bodies. Whether it was our mothers speaking negatively about their own bodies or the airbrushed figures of models on the cover of a magazine, we were shown that our bodies needed to be smaller, more trim and…more controlled.
It was when I found Ayurveda, the ancient holistic healing science of India, that I finally encountered a deep, unwavering sense of self love and appreciation for my body. This framework offers us the understanding that our bodies are shaped according to our unique constitution — the distinct combination of the three doshas (vata, pitta and kapha) within our bodies. This combination of elemental energies within us forms a “mind-body type” that is as special and unique to us as our thumb print — and it determines everything from how our bodies function to how our minds engage with the world.
Understanding this powerful aspect of your identity is a powerful key to unlocking a deeper sense of love for yourself and your body. You can discover your unique mind body type by taking my free ayurvedic dosha quiz. By gaining this understanding, you will also have a better sense of what the optimal weight range is for your mind body type — and here is the secret — this frees you from competing from women who are simply born with a different constitution. The truth is, each of the three mind body types offer comfort and beauty in different ways. Here are some examples:
VATA BODY | light frame, firm, flexible, dry, cool
PITTA BODY | athletic frame, muscular, strong, oily, hot
KAPHA BODY | sturdy frame, soft, high endurance, cool, juicy
The simplest way to know when you are at your optimal body weight is by tuning in and noticing when you feel light, energetic and healthy. Close your eyes and allow yourself to visualize what that feels like…and enjoy it as you do! By simply allowing yourself to tune in and feel, you are on your way to utilizing the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda to support you to find your optimal weight. Because everybody is unique, there is no goal other than to feel good. For some, this might mean shedding a few pounds, but this becomes effortless when the motivation is self-love over self-control.
A Holistic Approach to Weight Loss
The Ayurvedic approach to weight loss is slow and sustainable and has a commitment to honoring the unique individual. As you embark on your journey of discovering your ideal body weight with Ayurveda, do your best to make choices from a place of self-love, knowing that the food you are eating is nourishing the cells of your body and giving your vibrant life. We have spent far too much time and energy acting with “control” by placing restrictions upon ourselves that ultimately result in the slingshot effect — starving ourselves in one moment only to binge in another.
You’ll also notice that this approach emphasizes a wide variety of rich and nourishing foods over a mono or bland diet. This is because weight-loss purely through restricting calories, as modern dieting practices are aimed to do, can quickly lead to deep depletion. Indeed, muscle deteriorates faster than fat.
Bearing that in mind, the Ayurvedic approach is to focus on a healthy daily routine, while eating nourishing, kapha-reducing foods and spices, and integrating sustainable activity into your daily life. Consider including more meditation and yoga asana practices to reduce stress, diminish the sympathetic overdrive that drives over consumption of food, and restore balance in the body.
By following your version of the daily routine below, you will be well on your way to reaching your optimal body. Weight can be lost in a gradual and sustainable manner, leading to overall metabolic balance. Time and time again, I find that this approach yields results greater than that of diet and exercise alone.
Daily Routine for Optimizing Weight
Morning (6 am – 9 am)
o 6 am – Wake up at around sunrise
o Scrape tongue + brush teeth
o Drink 16 oz of warm cinnamon honey water
o A classical Ayurvedic weight loss formula: mix 16 oz warm water, ½ tsp honey + ¼ tsp cinnamon powder
o Have a bowel movement, ideally
o Do at least 30-60 minutes of moderate intensity exercise
o Take a warm shower or bath
o 8 am – Eat a medium-sized breakfast that contains lots of proteins and warm vegetables
Mid-Day (9 am – 5 pm)
o Engage in physically and mentally stimulating activities
o Eat largest meal of the day around 1 pm
o Go for a brisk 15-minute walk after lunch
o Spend at least 30 minutes outside in the sunlight
o Drink 4 ounces of aloe vera juice mid-afternoon (add black pepper during winter)
o Drink agni kindling beverages throughout day
o Finish work by 5 pm
Evening (5 pm – 10 pm)
o 6 pm – Eat a light dinner that consists of mostly cooked vegetables
o Go for an evening walk
o Brush your entire body with a dry skin brush
o Take a warm/hot shower or bath
o Spend 30 minutes doing an emotional wellness practice
o Read/practice Loving Kindness
o Basic meditation
o Grief spot meditation
o Listen to mantra
o Yoga nidra
o Relax in a quiet, dimly lit environment to signal your body and mind to prepare for sleep
o Massage the soles of your feet with sesame oil (add lavender essential oil if available)
o 10 pm – Turn out the lights
1-2 TIMES WEEKLY
o Skip dinner to allow your body a 20-hour fast in order to detoxify and increase agni
While the Ayurvedic approach focuses on knowing your mind body type and not on restriction, there are some simple suggestions to bear in mind as you make food choices.
It’s best not to eat or drink cold, heavy foods or beverages of any kind.
Eat only until you are full. Do pay close attention, eating only until you’re satisfied, not a bite more.
Do not sleep less than 7 hours per night. Chronic nighttime sleep deprivation is linked to obesity in studies.
Do not sleep during the day, especially after meals. If a nap is needed, be sure it lasts no longer than 20 minutes so as to not further provoke kapha.
Do not allow yourself to become dehydrated. It is very important to drink plenty of water or agni kindling teas, especially when you are trying to shed excess weight.
Do not become over-worked or stressed. Cortisol is the “stress hormone” and when it is elevated can often cause individuals to over-eat or have cravings.
Sierra Brashear, MA is a Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner, DONA-trained doula, and founder of Vibrant Souls. She has successfully supported hundreds of people through some of their most critical childbearing moments — from conscious conception through the joy of labor and birth. Inspired by the rhythms and elements of nature, Sierra weaves her knowledge of Ayurveda into the wellness education and lifestyle design she provides through her practice, Cultivate Balance.