One of the most important principles in Ayurveda is that like qualities attract like qualities. This principle applies to seasonal diets, meaning that during a specific time of year, we are naturally drawn to foods that possess the same qualities as the dosha (bio-energy) of that season.
Ayurvedically, winter is a Kapha season, and kapha represents the Earth principle. Like the earth, kapha is heavy, soft, slimy, sweet, oily, stable, and cool in its qualities. Hence, it's no surprise that we are intuitively drawn to foods that contain these characteristics during winter, such as soups, stews, root vegetables, and carbohydrates. However, consuming too many carbohydrates, which are typically found in comfort foods that we crave during winter, can lead to weight gain.
Now, carbohydrates are necessary for energy and proper nutrition, but choosing complex carbohydrates like brown rice, vegetables, whole grains, and beans can make us feel fuller for longer and help maintain energy compared to simple carbohydrates like refined sugar, white bread, cakes, biscuits, and soda. Additionally, we tend to move less in winter - it's cold, wet, and often windy, at least here in the UK, and our natural tendency is to stay warm and cosy at home. This, of course, contributes to weight gain.
Whilst it will be amazing to make sure that we always eat the right diet, unfortunately, it isn't always the case. Many of us are prone to emotional eating/over-eating, and making the right choices at times of emotional distress can be hard. In addition, we are intuitively attracted to foods that resemble similar qualities to our dosha (bio-energy), especially at times of distress. This means that most Vata (air) types will be drawn to cold and dry foods like nuts, crackers and crips, Pitta (fire) types to spicy foods, and Kapha types (earth) to heavy and sweet foods like cakes, bread, and deep fried foods.
Now I want to tell you one of the reasons why I love Ayurveda so much. Ayurveda, which is a very logical science based on principles of nature, states that opposite qualities bring in balance. Applied to our diet and lifestyle, this means that choosing foods and activities opposite to our natural tendencies (based on our predominant dosha) will restore equanimity.
Weight gain during winter is very common and represents the accumulation of kapha in the body and mind, especially if you are kapha predominant in your constitution. So how do we shed all that winter weight, Ayurvedically?
Here are a few Ayurvedic weight loss tips that you can benefit from in Spring.
1. Start your day with hot water & lemon drink. This is one of the best ways to detoxify the body each day, in addition to improving digestion, aiding weight loss and improving metabolism.
2. Cut out all processed and refined foods. Replace white sugar with organic coconut sugar, jaggery (raw cane sugar) or maple syrup. Honey, in moderation, is also very good for pacifying kapha dosha. Say NO to all carbonated drinks. Cut out alcohol and caffeine for the duration of your weight-loss programme. In addition, these foods and beverages increase inflammation in the body and we want to reduce inflammation and increase metabolism when losing weight.
3. Exercise regularly. This one is very important if you are looking to lose weight. Weight training or cardio workouts are great but remember to include yoga into your daily exercise routine to maintain balance between strength training and flexibility.
4. Make sure you eat regular meals - a number of small meals throughout the day for vata predominant individuals, 3 meals per day for pitta and 2 for kapha. If you are Kapha predominant then I recommend skipping breakfast as it isn't the best meal of the day for you.
5. Focus on kapha pacifying foods and tastes - apples over bananas, beets, broccoli and squash over avocado, buckwheat and millet over oats, spelt over wheat. Focus on spicy, bitter and astringent tastes.
6. Make lunch your main meal of the day - eat a smaller meal at breakfast and dinner, and ensure your portions are the right size - do not overeat.
7. Practice conscious eating - eat slow, chew well and focus on your food without distractions. Do not eat in front of a computer or TV.
8. Walk after your meal. Just 10-20 minute walk after food will aid the digestion process and help you lose weight.
9. Use visualisation - make weight-loss your goal and use a simple visualisation technique each night before you go to sleep.
10. Make sure you get plenty of sleep - create a night-time routine and go to bed early.
These are all simple but proven and effective ways in which you can lose weight without strict dieting or calorie counting. Follow these principles and watch your weight fall off as we get into the spring season.