1. Align your diet with your dosha
While there are some general pieces of ayurvedic advice for weight loss, it will be very helpful to know your dosha.
According to Ayurveda, doshas are three substances (pitta, vata, kapha) that are present in everyone’s body. Ideally, these doshas would be in balance, but hardly anyone has a perfect balance.
So for optimal health it’s important to keep in mind which doshas are aggravated and which are suppressed in your own body, mind and spirit.
Dosha: Corresponding Element:
Pitta – Fire & A smaller amount of Water
Vata – Air & Ether (Space)
Kapha – Earth & Water
When someone is struggling to lose weight, they’re usually more kapha, either by nature or simply because they pushed their eating habits too far. But you could say that the kapha is found in excess in the body. Earth and water create a heavy and sticky substance, which is stored in the body as mucus and fat.
To reduce kapha, you need to reduce foods that are heavy, sticky and contain a lot of fat. Reducing your meat intake and replacing it with light, vata-friendly foods such as green vegetables and dry, whole grains will help. Spice these foods with hot spices like cayenne pepper which increases digestive fire and burns kapha.
But you don’t want to aggravate your other doshas too much either so it’s important to find the right balance. While eliminating heavy foods will certainly help with weight loss, it could aggravate your vata or pitta dosha. If your vata dosha becomes aggravated because you suddenly start to eat foods that are too drying, you could symptoms such as light headedness, lack of focus, anxiety etc. Aggravated pitta dosha (fire) could result in anger and frustration issues, as well as acid reflux (volcano!).
Usually a kapha reducing regime will not aggravate pitta which also benefits from reduced intake of heavier foods. But if you feel the symptoms of increased vata dosha, add some natural oils like olive oil and sesame oil into your diet to counter-balance the effect.
To learn which dosha you are, I suggest taking a quiz on one of the Ayurveda websites (all of these quizes are pretty much the same, like this one for example). They obviously aren’t hundred percent correct and you’d be better of visiting a certified Ayurveda practitioner. But they’ll give you a good idea of what you need to work on based on your symptoms.
2. Differentiate between real and fake hunger
Regardless of your dosha, you’ll want to know when you’re ACTUALLY hungry and when you’re engaging in emotional eating (symptom of dominant kapha). If you’re really unsure of the difference perform this experiment:
Wake up in the morning at a polite time, have a glass of water but don’t eat anything. Go for a walk for 2 hours in one direction and for 2 hours back home. Don’t eat anything during this time period. You can only have a small amount of water if you’re really thirsty. This will build up your hunger to a point where you can say that you are ACTUALLY hungry. Any time you’re in doubt, refer to that feeling and you’ll know if the hunger is real or not.
Extra tip: Even when you feel real hunger, ideally you would wait 15-20 minutes before actually eating. Instead of jumping straight to the meal, cut up a small slice of ginger with some lemon juice and honey and eat it at this time to prepare your digestive system for the meal you’re about to have.
3. Replace processed snacks with organic honey
Even though honey is sugary, it’s also really healthy and satiating. A teaspoon or two of honey mixed with lukewarm water has a cleansing effect on digestion and gets rid of mucus throughout the body, helping with respiratory conditions as well.
A teaspoon of honey in a glass of warm water first thing in the morning is a good way to hydrate and satiate any pangs of hunger you may be experiencing early in the day. Eat an apple or two 30-60 minutes after. This will give you enough fiber and energy to stay full until lunch with in fact little calories.
Extra tip: Never mix honey with hot liquids.
4. Drink ginger tea to speed up your digestion
Ginger is an amazing digestive aid. It can speed up your digestion and metabolism and reduce sugar cravings. Drink ginger tea in between meals. But wait 30 minutes before and after meals to drink any significant amounts of liquid in order not to dilute the digestive juices.
Peppermint and cinnamon tea are also great options, but tea from fresh ginger is the number one choice because it balances all the doshas.
5. Spice up your food
Spicy foods will improve your digestion, get rid of mucus and fill you up faster than bland, sugary and salty foods. Replace salt and sugar with more spices like cinnamon, black pepper, turmeric and cayenne pepper.
If your kapha dosha is aggravated (it definitely is if you’re overweight) you’ll want your foods really spicy.
On the other hand, reduce your sugar intake (due to calories and insulin production) and salt (due to water retention and bloating).
6. Include sweat-inducing workouts
Definitely incorporate some exercise into your daily routine. According to Ayurveda, daily exercise should produce an outbreak of sweat on the forehead and on the back. This should be enough if you’re already lean, while for losing weight you’ll probably want to include more movement in general.
Keep in mind that weight loss will come primarily from your clean, dry and light diet. Exercise is just a healthy, and welcome addition which will help you burn more calories and speed up your metabolism. But don’t exercise so much that you feel super hungry afterwards and eat more than you usually would. This is obviously counterproductive. Beneficial types of exercises can be:
- lifting weights
- running (jogging and sprints, depending on what you prefer)
- faster types of yoga like power yoga
- martial arts
- punching and kicking a boxing bag (this is my favorite form of cardio workout; very effective for weight loss and stamina AND it’s fun)
Any movement is better than no movement so do what you can and don’t be overly concerned about it. Exercise should be something you do because you want to do it, not because someone is forcing you. If you’re just starting out, remember that the beginning is always the hardest. Progress at your own pace. If you want to get more in touch with nature, take up hiking or running cross-country. This video reveals the mental and spiritual benefits of cross-country running as well:
The reason why I’ve lost a ton of weight and have been super lean for over 10 years now is exactly because I like to exercise and eat healthy. I’ve become a master at it so now it’s second nature to me. If I felt it was a boring obligation that I had to do for the sake of social acceptance, I would’ve given up a long time ago.
7. Go to sleep earlier and don’t skip breakfast
I know that everyone is crazy about Intermittent Fasting and skipping breakfast. In fact I did it for a long time. But I realized that it’s not as healthy or effective as everyone claims it to be. Ayurvedic practitioners agree. Because when you skip breakfast it’s true that you won’t feel hungry.
However, there’s a tendency to make up for it later on in the day. So you skip breakfast but find yourself eating more at lunch and snacking more often throughout the afternoon and late in the evening. All of those calories return and in an unhealthy way.
It’s much healthier and better for weight loss to get up earlier in the morning and have a light breakfast two hours or so later. This will add fuel to your digestive fire (agni) and prime it up for lunch, which should be the largest meal in the day.
The last meal should be eaten before 6 pm. This will give your body enough time to digest the food before you hit the bed. If you plan on waking up earlier, going to bed at 10 pm or 11 pm the latest is the goal to strive for on a regular basis.
8. Light breakfast, heavier lunch, very light dinner
The reasoning behind this is twofold. Digestive fire (agni) is strongest in the early afternoon and eating at this time even a larger amount of food provides the body with enough time to digest it. A light dinner or skipping dinner altogether is beneficial because it allows the body to relax for sleep.
Digestion also works less effectively during sleep so it doesn’t make sense to fill up your stomach will a lot of nutrients before going to bed. So if you want to do intermittent fasting, skipping dinner is in fact a better way to do it than skipping breakfast. Especially from a weight loss perspective since you won’t have any time to binge eat later on, which is what usually happens to people who skip breakfast and make up for it later on in the day.
9. Fast for at least 4 hours between meals
Ayurveda is strictly opposed to snacks between meals. The only exception are small amounts of fruit, but seldom. Even then, it should be two hours after the meal and before the next one. It’s important to give your body time to digest nutrients.
By following this rule you will inevitably eat less because you’ll eliminate caloric snacks. If you feel pangs of hunger, either discipline your way through them, eat a small quantity of fruit, or drink some water or tea with lemon.
10. Chew thoroughly and eat only until you’re 70% full
Follow the ancient Ayurvedic advice: “Drink your food and eat your drink.” This means that your food should be so thoroughly chewed that it turns into a real mush in your mouth. You will know that you chewed it enough if the small gate in the back of your mouth opens automatically, inviting you to swallow the food. Instead of eating fast and swallowing forcefully.
The general rule is to chew each bite 30 times, but it can be more or less depending on the softness of the food. If you don’t chew the food properly you’re inviting a host of issues: indigestion, allergies and food intolerance, tiredness, foggy mind etc. Why does it say “eat your drink”? Because you shouldn’t forcefully swallow fluids either. Swish it around in your mouth for a bit and then swallow it in small gulps. This is especially recommended with colder drinks, because cold foods and drinks can also cause digestive issues.
The number one reason why people overeat is because they eat too fast. They eat too fast because they don’t chew for long enough. So their brains inform them that they’ve eaten enough only when they’ve eaten too much already! Ideally, you should stop eating when you get the first signs that you’re full, not when you can’t eat any more because you’re stuffed. It’s common sense, and takes some practice but it’s a great rule to follow for losing weight and it makes staying lean very easy even when you’re forced to eat foods with high calories, like during large family gatherings for example.
Extra tip: To learn more about chewing properly I recommend reading Fletcherism. Fletcher Horace was the Englishman who popularized thorough chewing in Europe during the later half of 19th and early 20th century. After years of poor health, it helped him achieve remarkable health, stamina, strength and weight loss. The results were so remarkable that he was praised by Rockefeller who also adopted his style of eating (who lived to be 98 years old).
11. Avoid processed foods (including weight loss supplements)
Any reasonable weight loss program will include this tip. However, Ayurveda would also forbid any processed weight loss-friendly supplements as well. There’s no reason to drink whey protein, which is by its very nature highly processed. Especially if it’s mixed with artificial sweeteners.
There’s no reason to use any supplements if you follow a healthy, natural Ayurvedic diet of whole foods. Also keep in mind that weight LOSS is about eating LESS, instead of filling up your kitchen cabinet with various artificial substitutes for real food.
12. Eat less flesh
Ayurveda recommends reducing intake of flesh regardless of your dominant dosha. While pittas and vatas generally function better with eating meat occasionally (2-3 times per week) because of its heavier, grounding qualities, kaphas can often thrive eating a lighter, vegeterian or even vegan diet.
Flesh is harder to digest than plant-based foods and it’s often high in fat. If you want to incorporate meat and fish in your diet, choose leaner meats like chicken and turkey instead of red, fatty meats.
I’m well aware that it’s possible to lose weight with a carnivore or a keto diet. I tried it and it works. But it’s not a reasonable long-term solution, and it’s not healthy either. Ayurveda provides a more individualized and balanced approach, because it doesn’t exclude or vilify any food or put any food on a pedestal.
Ayurvedic weight loss meal plan sample:
- Get up at 6 AM
- Drink a glass of warm water with a teaspoon of honey
- BREAKFAST: Around 8-9 AM eat 1-2 apples or a similar fruit
- Optional: Sip on water, ginger or peppermint tea till lunch
- LUNCH: Around 12-2 PM cook 100 grams of buckwheat or millet with green vegetables like cabbage or broccoli, well spiced with cayenne pepper or other hot spices. Add a tablespoon or less of olive oil if it’s too dry for you.
- Optional: Sip on water, ginger or peppermint till dinner
- DINNER: Around 5-6 PM prepare a hot vegetable soup, well spiced with cayenne pepper and/or other hot spices
- Optional: Sip on water, ginger or peppermint tea
- Go to bed at 10 PM
This is a very simple meal plan that for reducing kapha in your body and consequently losing weight. It contains very little calories but a lot of fiber, vitamins, minerals and a decent amount of protein from buckwheat or millet. If you feel like you need more protein in your diet, you can add a small-to-moderate amount of lentils or beans to your lunch or dinner.
I think it’s crucial to make your weight loss diet very simple. Use simple ingredients and recipes that are fast to prepare, especially if you’re busy throughout the day. Be consistent and you’ll see visible results in less than a week. That’s a guarantee. Hope this helps.