Summer may be the season we most focus on our bodies. Many of us have been told by health care professionals that we need to lose weight. They don’t have to, do they? We are well aware of the physical and emotional suffering our weight gain causes. We feel anxious and perhaps even ashamed of our appearance. We have also suffered through enough weight loss diets with little or brief positive results. It may seem we are in fact losing, the battle not the weight.
Trying to lose weight can be discouraging, but really, how come? We can start with the conspiracy in the food industry. Most packaged food and restaurant food is pumped full of fat, sugar and salt, which ultimately encourages cravings for more of the same. It is easy to become hooked even on certain packaged foods marketed as healthy. Will organic sugar amount to less craving than non-organic? Why must ketchup, salad dressing or yogurt contain sugar? You get my drift. Many wholesome foods carry the weight of hidden calories.
It may also seem unfair that some people can eat large quantities of food and not gain weight. It’s true. In the West we explain this by metabolic rate. Some have a faster body metabolism, and burn calories with greater speed and efficiency than others. In the East, this discrepancy between the consumption of food and weight gain is explained in a different way. Eastern medicine recognizes the effects of the elements in the body-mind and the importance of keeping these elements in balance. The elements are earth, air, and fire.
In Ayurveda, a medical system that originated in India, the expressions of these elements are known by their Sanskrit names, Kapha (earth), Pitta (fire) and Vata (air). Briefly, Kapha has the quality of the earth, it is damp and heavy, Pitta has the quality of fire, bright and hot, Vata has the quality of wind, light and dry. You can imagine from this point of view, people who are born with a Kapha constitution are going to tend toward heaviness, in other words, weight gain.
Whether we explain this predisposition for easy weight gain by the Western view of slow metabolism, or the Ayurvedic view of the effects of Kapha constitution the problem of how to keep a healthy weight remains. Besides, even people who don’t gain weight easily may battle food cravings and addictions. Cravings cause the same anxiety and out of control feelings no matter who experiences them. From appearances, food addiction goes unnoticed in thin people. This may make it even harder for them to seek help for their feelings of anxiety and loss of control. So what to do?
There are ways to increase metabolism, primarily with cardio-exercise, speed walking, jogging or running. Besides exercise, it is hard to avoid the front cover of practically every magazine at the grocery store checkout counter, announcing the latest and best weight loss diet. Sometimes the new diet offers the exact reverse direction as last month’s edition. If these diet plans worked consistently, and for the long haul, we wouldn’t find a new one on the front cover every month. I have to ask, is the answer to permanent weight loss found in what we eat or how we eat? I want to focus on behaviors that promote healthful weight and a positive relationship to food.
Cultivate loving kindness toward your body
Quietly go inside and ask your body what it needs to feel energized.
Keep a journal to record how you feel after a meal. This will give you direction about the food that your body needs and wants.
Practice guided visualization, seeing your body healthy and strong
Practice healthy habits
Eat at the same time every day. I recommend, 7am breakfast, 11am lunch, a 4pm snack,
and 6pm dinner.
Focus on your food; don’t engage in any other activity while you are eating.
Eat slowly, setting your fork or spoon down after each bite.
Enjoy each mouthful, texture, smells, and taste.
Eat on small plates and avoid second helpings.