Over the last six months (time is flying!), for those of us fortunate enough to have homes, food and good health, we have been confined to a surreal homebound experience, waxing and waning in optimism. We have been reduced to our sweatpants, Netflix, snacks, and culinary feats in our kitchens. And for many of us, it has also meant unwanted weight gain and muscle atrophy.
To remember: you are never alone. Weight gain has been a ubiquitous side effect of Covid. Stealth pounds added, dreaded but excused. For those of us who are so fortunate to have access to nourishment, food has become an activity: food as comfort, food as project, food as relief. Recipes, culinary explorations, and making gourmet at home - cooking has been a grounding force during quarantine (for those of us who like to cook, or have recently explored that). It’s been a way of healing and keeping busy. Flour was flying off the shelves, as Americans are cooking in their homes more than ever.
Meanwhile, gyms are closed, and some parks have been limited use, parents now have their children in tow 24/7, making it difficult to find that one hour to get moving outside, do a yoga practice, or go for a run.
Not surprisingly, Instagram and emails have exploded with promises to shed the “Covid 19”. Promises of unsustainable quick fixes, and programs for ten days to a miraculous transformation. Exhausting infomercials and at home strategies. Truth is, nothing miraculous happens to the human body, an already miraculous machine - what can happen is that we stop and listen to that machine, and create sustainable small changes in our lifestyle that really are just bringing our body back into its rightful place of balance. Small realistic changes that are sustainable.
For example, accept that you like to snack - Most Americans were raised with snacks available, and it is a way of life. So instead of saying “no more snacking “ which will not be sustainable, try to find reasonable snacks AND look at when and why you snack when you do? Boredom, anxiety, in front of the TV, late at night? And implement other behaviors as options. Preferably options that involve your hands such as playing cards or yahtzee, coloring books for adults, an excruciatingly complicated puzzle. And make snacks that TAKE TIME to make - not a bag you tear open and devour, but something you have to slice, maybe even cook before you nibble. Freeze grapes. Bake chickpeas. Make homemade salsa.
One very simple dietary change to make that is sustainable is a food combination rather than an elimination or restriction diet. It is sustainable, personalized, and does not require a change in what you eat as much as when you eat it and with what other foods: just some rearranging, not a major punitive overhaul.
Sustainable strategies are the basis of the personalized programs we offer at vedaHEALTH. A telehealth appointment with Dr. Geary can help you design a simple program that will work, without expensive pills and false promises.
Ayurveda is also a wonderful way to inform your nourishment journey. The ancient Indian tradition is rooted in nutrition and the health of the digestive system, and it can provide a framework for sustainable wellness. Nutrition, balance, and self-love are the pillars of sustainable wellness. Again, there are no quick fixes, one must approach this from a holistic place, as a lifestyle.
Traditionally, in the Ayurvedic practices when you have gained weight, feeling sluggish, or anything in between - there is more than one thing going on. Often it is an increase in your Kapha dosha (when you can, please get a consultation with an Ayurvedic practitioner to learn your specific dosha balance), the earth based dosha that in good times helps people stay calm, grounded, reasonable but when out of balance can increase lethargy, heaviness, and lack of energy. We also focus on ways to increase your agni, the digestive fire. Some ingredients to encourage agni are cumin, coriander, and fennel.
Therefore it is important to eat a Kapha pacifying diet which includes and considers:
The Six Ayurvedic Tastes
Instead of looking at the individual components of foods, ie: carbohydrates, protein, fats, and calories - Ayurveda identifies six “tastes” of foods. Each taste has specific effects on the three doshas (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha). By including all six tastes in each meal we satisfy our nutritional and dietary needs without the need to count calories or consult a manual.
Kaphas should focus on eating more of the pungent, astringent, and bitter tastes (and reducing cold, moist, and heavy foods), ie: leafy greens, lentils, dried beans, pomegranates, potatoes, apples, and all digestive herbs and spices are good choices for you.
The Sweet Taste .:. earth + water
...is heavy, moist, and cool. This increases Kapha and decreases Vata and Pitta. Examples are nuts, grains, oils, meats, and most dairy.
The Sour Taste .:. fire + earth
...is heavy, moist, and hot. This increases Pitta and Kapha and decreases Vata. Examples are pickles and fermented foods such as yogurt.
The Salty Taste .:. fire + water
...is heavy, moist, and hot. This increases Pitta and Kapha and decreases Vata. Examples are sea salt, sea vegetables, and seafood.
The Pungent Taste .:. fire + air
...is light, dry, and hot. This increases Pitta and Vata and decreases Kapha. Examples are chili peppers, ginger, and black pepper.
The Astringent Taste .:. earth + air
...is dry and cool. This increases Vata and decreases Pitta and Kapha. Examples are most beans, cranberries, and pomegranates.
...is light, dry, and cool. This increases Vata and decreases Pitta and Kapha. Examples are leafy greens and herbs such as goldenseal and turmeric.
Kapha Food List:
Grains: Toasted breads are very good, as they are drier.
Best: amaranth, barley, basmati rice, buckwheat, corn flour, quinoa
Small Amounts: millet, rye
Minimize: oats, long and short grain rice
Dairy: It is best to use raw or organic and non-homogenized milk. Milk should be taken warm with a small amount of spices such as ginger and cardamom.
Best: goat milk, skim milk, non-GMO soy milk
Small Amounts: none
Minimize: butter, buttermilk, cheese, cream, cottage cheese, ice cream, kefir, sour cream, yogurt
Sweeteners: Overuse of any sweetener will eventually cause an imbalance.
Best: raw honey (that is more than six months old)
Small Amounts: none
Minimize: fructose, maple syrup, molasses, raw sugar, white and brown sugar
Nuts and Seeds: These should be eaten slightly dry-roasted to assist digestion and be only very lightly salted, if at all. Nut butters, except for peanuts, may also be eaten.
Condiments: Condiments can be used to add one of the tastes to a meal or to balance out any heating or cooling qualities of a dish.
Avoid: margarine, canola, GMO anything (ie: soy, corn, etc.), agave nectar, high fructose sweeteners, grapeseed oil, soda, CAFO meats
Oils: Use all oils in small amounts only. Even the best oils, if overused, will aggravate kapha.
Best: corn, flaxseed, mustard, safflower, soy, sunflower, ghee
Small Amounts: none
Minimize: almond, avocado, coconut, olive, peanut, sesame
Fruits: Dried and astringent fruits are typically best for Kaphas.
Best: dried fruits as they are less sweet, apples, cherries, cranberries, grapefruit, pomegranate, prunes, raisins
Small Amounts: apricots, lemon, lime, papaya, pineapple
Minimize: sweet fruits, avocado, bananas, berries (raspberry, blackberry, blueberry, strawberry), cantaloupe, coconut, dates, figs, grapes, mango, melons, pineapple, oranges, peaches, pears, persimmons, plums, tangerines, watermelon
Spices: When spicing, the overall spiciness is more important than individual spices. Even some “minimize” spices can be used if balanced with other spices on the “best” list. For kapha, food should be spiced hot and never bland.
Best: anise, basil, bay leaf, black pepper, calamus, chamomile, caraway, cardamom, catnip, cayenne, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, fenugreek, garlic, ginger, horseradish, hyssop, marjoram, mustard, nutmeg, oregano, peppermint, poppy seeds, rosemary, saffron, sage, spearmint, star anise, thyme, turmeric. Hot spices are best. Any spice not listed is probably fine.
Small Amounts: none
Vegetables: Vegetables are best eaten raw during the summer and cooked during the rest of the year as well as during times of digestive difficulty. In general, vegetables are good and even the “minimize” group, if eaten in small amounts, will cause no harm.
Best: alfalfa sprouts, artichoke, asparagus, green beans, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, celery, chilies, cilantro, corn, kale, lettuce, and other leafy greens, mustard greens, onions, parsley, peas, hot peppers, potatoes, radish, seaweed, spinach, rutabagas/turnips
Small Amounts: mushrooms, tomatoes
Minimize: beets, cucumber, eggplant, okra, all squash, sweet potatoes, water chestnuts, zucchini
Legumes: Use legumes that have been soaked for as long as possible prior to cooking.
Best: mung beans, red lentils, non-GMO soybeans (tofu and soy milk), split peas
Small Amounts: aduki beans, black gram, black beans, fava beans, kidney beans, lima beans, pinto beans
Minimize: black lentils, chickpeas
Beverages: These are best taken at room temperature or warm and never ice cold.
Best: Two glasses of spring water per day in cool weather and three in hot weather unless doing extremely vigorous exercise and sweating. Herb teas (spicy and bitter), cranberry juice, green vegetable juices, wheatgrass juice.
Small Amounts: carbonated mineral water, coffee, tea
Minimize: apple juice, carrot juice, orange juice, soft drinks
Meats: If you choose to eat meat, limit consumption to 2–3 times per week. Meat soups can be particularly nourishing during convalescence. Kapha individuals can thrive as vegetarians.
Best: chicken or turkey (dark meat only), freshwater fish, rabbit
Small Amounts: eggs
Minimize: beef, duck, lamb, pork, seafood, shellfish, venison
* “Best” Foods can be eaten without reservation on a daily basis. These foods are the most ideal ones as they are the most balanced for this dosha. Individuals who are sick should consume only the foods on this list.
* “Small Amounts” Foods can be eaten in small portions fairly often or in larger portions once or twice each week. Eating a wide variety of these foods is better than an abundance of just one. Overreliance on these foods can cause imbalance.
* “Minimize” Foods should be eaten only on rare occasions, ie: once each month. They can significantly disturb the dosha.
Ayurvedic APPROACHES and routines for losing weight:
Eat 3 times a day, considering your specific needs
Avoid foods that stress out your system (gluten, dairy, sugar, too spicy, etc)
Eat your largest meal close to the noon hour, when the digestive fire is strongest
Ginger tea with lemon stimulates your digestive system
Don’t drink iced or cold drinks
Stop eating when you are full, look at “food intake as a sacred experience” - be intentional, and pay attention
Have a strong sleep routine
*As always, consult your Ayurvedic Practitioner before making any serious changes to your diet, or to treat dosha imbalance. Dr. Geary is available for Telehealth Ayurvedic consults. Please contact our office via text at (786) 375 - 1515