For someone who wants to lose weight, is it good to drink lots of water with food to fill up the stomach and, as a result, eat less?
-S.L., Palo Alto, CA
The amount of water you drink with food depends on the type of food you are eating. According to ayurveda, as a general rule, it is not recommended that you drink a large amount of water with a meal. If you drink a lot of water, you dampen the digestive fire, or agni, and increase the possibility of creating ama, or toxins, in your system that are a consequence of improperly-digested food.
Charaka suggests in his ancient treatise on ayurveda that you take a little sip of water after every four or five bites. However, as I said at the beginning, the type of food you are eating makes a difference in the quantity of water you should drink. For example, if you are having a meal that consists mainly of liquid foods like soups, you probably don't need any additional water. If you are eating mainly dry foods, like crackers, a little water will help lubricate the system.
If you are eating lots of hot, spicy foods such as chili peppers, such foods tend to increase digestive agni, so a little water helps restore balance. Deep-fried foods need extra-high agni for proper breakdown, so lots of water should be avoided, especially if it is cold. If you need to drink water with heavy foods, it is better to choose lukewarm water, in very moderate quantity.
What is the ayurvedic view of the body's appestat, or appetite control? Which fresh juices and whole fruits or vegetables will help me lose weight? What about exercise? I'm 5' 8", 210 pounds and my constitution is predominantly Pitta.
According to Ayurvedic Medicine, a combination of four different factors regulate the appetite.
- Sadhaka Pitta regulates desire, emotion and feeling of fulfillment.
- Prana Vata governs the brain and mental activity.
- Pachaka Pitta controls the stomach acids that break down and digest food.
- Samana Vata relates to peristalsis, the movement of food through the stomach and intestines.
If any of these factors are too strong or weak, the imbalance can disrupt the appetite.
The key to weight loss is balance. When the mind, emotions, diet, digestion, metabolism and appetite are in balance, then your weight will naturally come into balance too.
Diet and lifestyle tips:
- In general, favor light, fresh foods.
- Drink fresh juice: pomegranate and pineapple.
- Make soup of split barley and mung beans.
- Use turmeric and cumin in seasoning your meals.
- A medium amount of exercise is good for Pitta constitutions.
- In general, yoga postures are the ayurvedic approach to exercise.
- There's a yoga posture called Bajarasana that's good for digestion. Basically it's kneeling down and then sitting back on your heels. The ideal is to close the eyes and sit in this position for about 10 minutes after your main meal. It helps balance digestion and appetite through the breakdown (Pachaka Pitta) and movement (Samana Vata) of food.
I am a very active Pitta-Vata person. I have a good appetite and eat heavy Kapha foods with a view to gaining weight, but have not been successful so far. What should I do?
Sometimes, when a Pitta-Vata person exercises a lot, it can overstimulate the metabolism. You could try eating sweet juicy fruits and dates, or soaked nuts, in between meals.
Black gram is also excellent for people trying to gain weight. It is sold in Indian grocery stores as urad dhal. You can cook it into a thick soup with rice and vegetables and spices. Black gram, however, is harder to digest than mung dhal. If you digest it well, it can help build muscle mass and stamina. It is also Vata-pacifying. It does increase Pitta, so you should season it with Pitta-pacifying spices such as fennel and coriander as well as turmeric.
Diet and Lifestyle tips:
- Make a slit in a ripe banana and drizzle some melted ghee into the slit. Chew well when you eat it.
- Boil some milk. When it is still warm, add a couple of chopped dates and a bit of clove to it. Blend into a frothy shake and drink once or twice a day.
- Exercise after you are done with your massage.
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