By Kulreet Chaudhary, MD, neurologist balancing modern life with the ancient knowledge of ayurveda
As we grow older, it can be extremely challenging to lose fat just through diet and exercise. To really fight that stubborn fat, the ancient medical system of India, known as ayurveda, uses age-old techniques that target the exercise-resistant fat by igniting your digestive fire. This is the biggest difference between ayurvedic weight loss and techniques and more conventional Western methods – ayurveda focuses on why your fat cells are getting bigger and gives you solutions that work long term. These techniques have worked for thousands of years and can be performed on a daily basis.
There is a special concept used in ayurvedic medicine known as ama that is key to losing weight. Ama means “toxins.” These toxins are an accumulation of impurities in our bodies that are the result of improper diet, chronic stress, and environmental pollutants. Some of these toxins are water-soluble, making them easier to remove from the body with diet and exercise. But other toxins are fat-soluble, meaning that they become stuck deep inside fat cells. The fat cells expand as they accumulate these toxins, which leads to weight gain, especially in those hard-to-remove pockets of fat around the stomach, hips and thighs.
Ayurvedic techniques are targeted specifically at removing ama from your body, which shrinks your fat cells. The older you get, the more common it becomes to have ama in your body, but it doesn’t have to be this way. If you implement daily habits and detox programs that help remove these toxins, they don’t have to become a chronic issue leading to weight gain.
The first step is to determine if you have toxins in your body. Once you recognize that you have an accumulation of ama in your body, then it is time to take action to reduce these toxins. To learn more about ama and how it manifests in your body, take this quiz.
Each one of the following recommendations will help you to shed those extra pounds. Individually, they are helpful, but when you put them all together, you may experience impressive weight-loss results. These fat fighters will help you not only lose weight – but you’ll be able to keep it off. You can adhere to this plan indefinitely – I consider the steps life-long “maintenance” recommendations.
Remember, we are targeting that stubborn fat that never seems to go away. I’ve seen my patients lose dress sizes and some have lost up to 80 pounds! Most of these patients did not even come in to my practice for weight loss. The weight loss was just a natural byproduct of the ayurvedic programs they implemented. Now, let's get started.
Ayurvedic Fat Fighter #1
The first ayurvedic fat fighter is a special “detox” tea. It includes a combination of ingredients that help to improve digestion, break down fat, and “unclog” the channels in our body by removing ama.
Boil 4 to 5 cups of water in the morning.
Add 1/2 teaspoon of the following seeds to the water and continue to let it boil for about 5 minutes with the lid on.
- Whole cumin seeds
- Whole coriander seeds
- Whole fennel seeds
Strain out the seeds and pour the liquid into a thermos. The key is to make the tea fresh every morning, place it in a thermos, and take small sips of it throughout the day. It is best to drink it warm or hot. If the tea is too strong or if you experience some initial discomfort, reduce the amount of seeds to 1/4 teaspoon for 2 weeks, and then increase it back to 1/2 teaspoon.
Ayurvedic Fat Fighter #2
The next fat fighter is something I call the Triphala Treat. Triphala is an ancient ayurvedic herb that is composed of three dried Indian superfruits that work synergistically together: Amalaki, haritaki and bibhitaki.
- Amalaki works as a natural antioxidant and removes excess inflammation from the body. It also helps to increase lean body mass and maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
- Haritaki supports the body’s natural cleansing process by gently removing toxins that accumulate in the colon.
- Bibhitaki is particularly effective in reducing the accumulation of fat and fluids in the body.
Each one of these herbal preparations has tremendous value individually. However, when they are combined in the form of triphala, they work as an even more powerful tool to detoxify and strengthen the body, helping you to achieve your ideal weight.
You can find triphala in powder form or tablet form. Triphala powder has a strong taste, so it may be easier to use the tablets at first. I take triphala every evening, one hour before bed, as part of my weight-management regimen. For the Triphala Treat, if you find the powder has too strong of a taste for you, just take two triphala tablets.
To 1/2 cup of warm water, add the following ingredients:
- 1/2 tsp of triphala powder
- 1 tsp unflavored, uncolored psyllium fiber
- 1 tsp ground organic flaxseed
You can easily find the triphala powder and tablets online, in a health store, or Indian store for about $10 to $20.
Ayurvedic Fat Fighter #3
Here it is: Eat 50% of your daily calories at lunch. This is what’s incredibly unique about ayurvedic fat fighting: Instead of cutting calories first, you just have to change when you are eating most of your calories. According to ayurveda, lunch is the most important meal of the day because it is when your digestive fire, agni, is the strongest. You should eat the least number of calories at dinner, which should be before 7 p.m. If it sounds too good to be true, here is an experiment for you to do at home: Measure the number of calories that you are currently consuming on a daily basis. Don’t reduce the total number of calories you are eating, but eat the majority of your calories at lunch (at least 50%). Without any additional effort, you should begin to lose weight. Who doesn’t love that?
A typical day’s meals should look like this:
- Breakfast should be easy-to-digest foods like hot oatmeal, hot cereal, or fresh fruit. Don’t eat egg yolks because it’s hard to digest – just egg whites.
- Lunch should be your largest meal when you eat the heaviest foods – cheese, eggs, meat and desserts.
- Dinnertime is when your digestive fire is the weakest, so this should be your smallest and lightest meal. Dinner should consist of small proportions of easy-to-digest foods such as soups or cooked vegetables. Dinner shouldn’t be eaten after 7 p.m. because your body’s digestion gets weaker at night and cannot process food as well; undigested food is turned into toxins and often stored in your fat cells.
Ayurvedic Fat Fighter #4
Add curry powder to each meal. Ayurvedic medicine recognizes six tastes – sweet, salty, sour, bitter, astringent and pungent. In order to feel satiated at a meal and eat less, you have to have all six tastes present in your food. These six tastes also help to improve your digestion and melt fat in your body. The average American diet usually only has three of these six tastes – sweet, salty and sour. Curry powder is an easy way to incorporate the six tastes into every meal. You can either cook with it so that your food gets the full flavor of the curry powder or just add a small amount as a condiment. You can even keep it in a saltshaker on your dining table and sprinkle it on your food.
When you go shopping for curry powder, avoid the traditional ones that you see at most grocery stores. These may be too spicy and overpower the other tastes. Instead, you can look online for Ayurvedic churnas. These churnas have an equal blend of the six tastes. Even better, make your own! My favorite curry powder recipe comes from my Aunt Indra. It takes only a few minutes to make.
Curry Powder Blend
In a coffee grinder, grind the following ingredients together:
- 5 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
- 1 large bay leaf
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
- 1 small (1 1/2 inch) cinnamon stick
- 5 cloves
After you grind the above ingredients together, add:
- 2 tsp turmeric powder
Ayurvedic Fat Fighter #5
A raw silk glove massage, called gharshana, is an easy and inexpensive home spa treatment that fights fat. This type of massage helps to energize and detoxify the body. It’s specifically designed to help with weight loss, cellulite and water retention by improving lymphatic drainage and circulation. This helps to move toxins and fat out of your body and stimulates digestion.
The three main areas for the massage are the arms, abdomen, and legs. For the arms, begin with circles on the shoulder and proceed down the upper arm with back and forth strokes covering all surfaces. Make circles on the elbow and then back and forth strokes on the forearm. Resume making circles on the wrist. On the hand, make back and forth movements emphasizing the spaces between each finger. Repeat the same sequence on the other arm.
For the stomach, you start with a clockwise motion first, which supports the natural direction of digestion. Then massage the abdomen using horizontal strokes with hands moving in opposite directions. Next, use up and down strokes on the sides of the torso.
The last area is the legs. Using circular strokes, massage the buttocks and hips. Move back and forth on the thigh using both hands and covering all surfaces. Use circular strokes on the knee using both hands. Return to the back and forth strokes on the lower leg using both hands. Then use circular strokes on the ankles. The feet require back and forth strokes. Emphasize the sole of the foot and the spaces between each toe. Repeat on the other side.
Raw silk gloves are easily found online for about $20. You can do the raw silk massage daily and it doesn’t require any massage oil. You can also have the massage done at an ayurvedic spa.