In general Ayurveda doesn’t care what your weight is if everything is working properly (but it doesn’t take much to have weight issues to make us feel less vigorous). Much of what Ayurveda says about what we would call ‘the issue of weight’ is actually about building weight and strength. 2000 years ago people were more likely to be over-active and undernourished than us moderns. But as Classical Ayurveda (what was written down) primarily addressed the courtly and warrior classes there is also knowledge about how to avoid excess heaviness. The rich have always suffered from overly rich food, more psychological than physical stresses, and laxity in daily routine (it’s hard to be a lazy serf!).
5 Things to do if you want to (healthily) gain weight (don’t do these things if you want to lose!):
1. Sleep in the afternoon, especially after eating. Napping increases bulk (ie Kapha) — generally over-sleeping increases weight.
2. Drink liquids after you eat: liquid dilutes your digestive fire (agni) and slows down the digestion process.
3. Eat heavier, sweeter, starchier, more nourishing foods. This is the diet of a person who does a lot of physical activity and is trying to build tissues and especially muscles. Foods to prioritize:
- meat (especially chicken, fish, beef, and pork)
- wheat products, and other refined grains
- Urad dhal: a tasty small black bean used in many south Indian snacks like idly and dosa, also used in the light bean soup called dahl. Also known for making your bosom bigger.
- raisins: considered good for muscle development.
(note: many of these food requirements are also aphrodisiac as healthy weight is required to be fertile and sexual).
4. Drink beer. Actually the texts say drink sura or varuni. Both are sweet beverages said to be like beer (perhaps bubbly) made of rice, herbs, and dates or jaggary. Unlike the sharp, heating, & light drinks like vodka or whisky which in small doses increase digestion and assimilation sweet drinks are said to increase fat weight.
5. Don’t exercise so actively — or even move around very much. If you are a thin fidgety person and you want to build weight channel your kinetic energy into strength building exercise like weight lifting, Iyengar - type Yoga or other vata calming activity.
7 Things to do if you want to (healthily) lose weight:
1. Make Honey your main sweetener. Get rid of all other sweeteners (especially artificial!) and use a dab of honey when you need a bit of sweet. Honey is light and a bit astringent so very good for countering overweight conditions. Just remember never to heat your honey—it becomes a poison over 125 degrees or so.
2. Stop consuming anything cold. This especially applies to iced beverages but also any other cold food.
3. Drink hot water instead. Ginger and tumeric tea will be especially helpful. But don’t drink too much liquid: pay attention to your thirst and don’t overdo it. Most overweight people are carrying a lot of water weight and swelling due to being incapable of digesting all the liquid they consume to dampen their hunger.
4. Have more sex. I know a Vaidya who insists on patients having sex when working on weight loss. This may seem like putting the cart before the horse (ie I’ll have more sex after I lose weight) but sex is the best exercise for losing weight so get started today!
5. Don’t snack. Sit down at a table and eat as much healthy, delicious food as you need to feel satisfied, then have a pinch of fennel seeds (try an unsweetened mukvas from an Indian store) and don’t put another thing into your mouth until the next meal 3-6 hours later. It is important not to eat any less than 3 hours before bed too.
6. Wake up earlier—take advantage of the active Vata time of the early morning and get up at 6 am or earlier.
7. Don’t eat breakfast. When you do get hungry have a light snack of tea and toast with ghee. Make lunch time your largest meal of the day & use the agni or fire of midday to help metabolize your meal quickly and efficiently.