According to the principles of Ayurveda it is possible to keep the pounds off permanently without having to suffer the deprivations of the latest fad diet. All we have to do is protect Agni and here are three simple rules to help us do just that.
RULE 1: DON’T EAT UNLESS YOU ARE HUNGRY
I know, this sounds ridiculously simple but don’t dismiss it. Often we eat out of habit; ‘It’s lunchtime therefore I must eat’. But if we take a brief look inwards we can see whether we have a real physical sense of hunger in our stomachs or whether it is just our mind playing tricks on us. We need to learn the difference between a ‘need’ of the body and a ‘want’ in the mind. If we are not actually hungry, it is because Agni, our gastric fire, is weak. If we put more fuel on a weak fire, we will make it weaker still. Any food we eat when we are not hungry cannot be properly digested and gets absorbed into our blood stream as fatty, undigested, toxic stuff called ama. Ama causes all kinds of problems; particularly fat around our middle third, plaques in our blood vessels causing coronary issues, Alzheimers and poor circulation in general, diabetes mellitus arising from blocked insulin receptors, a sluggish, depressed mind and low physical energy due to the inability of the body to derive nutrients from the food that we eat. The list is endless and all we have to do to avoid it is to stop eating when we are not hungry. So if you are not hungry at a particular mealtime, just skip the meal and wait for the next one. Meanwhile avoid snacking between meals and when you do eat be sure not to overeat. Much as a washing machine cannot get dirty clothes clean if it is overly full, so the stomach needs to be a third empty in order to churn and digest the food. So remember, if you eat until you are full you have eaten too much.
RULE 2: MAKE LUNCH THE MAIN MEAL OF THE DAY
Whatever type of diet you eat, if you make lunch your main meal of the day, you will be able to digest it far more efficiently than if you eat it at night. The reason for this is quite simple; Agni is controlled by the sun. When the sun is at its weakest especially during winter evenings, Agni is also weak. Even in our grey English winter, the sun is at its strongest at noon until about 2pm. So, if you can eat your main meal during that time and eat a far lighter meal at night (soup is ideal) not only will you digest the food better at lunchtime but you will avoid adding heavy toxins to your system. Even if you eat fish and chips, this rule will still help you lose weight.
RULE 3: DON’T DROWN AGNI
Ayurveda has no truck with the idea that we all need to drink 2 litres of water a day. After all, kapha people are dominated by water and need to drink less, vata people are generally dry and need to drink more and pitta people are somewhere in between. People with big bodies need to drink more than people with smaller bodies and people with weak Agni need to drink less still. So the advice on drinking is this. Never drink ice cold drinks; they are bound to put Agni out – hot drinks are the ideal. Sip drinks rather than gulp them; that way they can be absorbed gradually by the body rather than collect in the stomach where they dilute digestive acids and enzymes (a.k.a Agni). For the same reason, avoid drinking with meals and at least half an hour either side of food. A general rule is to sip half a cup of hot clear liquid every hour or so – but again, some will need more some will need less. Find out what works for your Agni.
THE MORNING AFTER THE DAY BEFORE
If despite best intentions you find you have gone off the rails it is really important that you know how to take remedial action. Maybe you succumbed to a late night curry and the next morning your stomach is full of fermented, undigested food. The taste in your mouth will be a stale version of whatever you had to eat and drink and your breath will smell foul. This fermentation will likely have created a sour substance that feels like burning in your stomach. This burning is often mistaken for hunger but it isn’t, it is a foul acidic substance that could burn a hole in your carpet. In this case it is unwise to have breakfast which would add to the already undigestible heap from the night before. Instead, eat nothing, sip small quantities of digestive teas* and go for a walk to get things moving. Take a teaspoon of Triphala* steeped in one inch of boiling water for ten minutes, stirred and drunk. You can buy Triphala from any Ayurvedic Practitioner* for just a few pounds - keep some in the medicine cabinet at all times. When you do get hungry, cook a little veggie soup, dal or kitchari and eat one or two small meals that day and leave it at that. Depending upon how badly you ‘sinned’, you may need to follow this routine for two or three days but you will soon feel much better.
The truth is the body is brilliantly intelligent and if we just stop abusing it, it will fix itself; all it needs is the space in which to do so. You don’t need to radically transform your diet in order to lose weight, just follow these rules and it will happen.
This article was written by Sharon Jackson, (my trusted Ayurvedic Doctor). She is one lovely lady and a wealth of knowledge. George and I are indebted to her for the guidance and support she has given us to enable us to lead healthier happier and more balanced lifestyles.
Ayurveda is translated as 'knowledge of life' and encompasses the idea of how to live wisely. If you would like to find out more about Ayurveda or book a consultation with Sharon, you can visit her website here.