Why is it important that we keep a healthy weight? And, what exactly is a healthy weight? These are both important considerations for our well-being. Ayurveda has an interesting perspective that doesn’t quite match our popular western standards or beliefs.
Why is it important that we keep a healthy weight?
Ayurveda says that being underweight is unhealthier than being overweight. In Sanskrit, the term for fat is meda. Meda represents the lipids, adipose tissue and cholesterol that exist within the body. Interestingly, Ayurveda says that it takes our bodies 16 days to form fat once our food has been digested. We hold our fat all over the body: under the skin, in and around our abdominal structures, our buttocks, breasts and all around the joints. Believe it or not, our heart and our liver are also sites for fat storage.
Fat is an important tissue for us to have. It is nourishing, it stores energy and it lubricates the body. Body fat keeps our muscles and joints lubricated during contraction and retraction. Fat provides a certain amount of strength as well as suppleness for the body. It provides us with rich hair, healthy bones and nails and it helps our bodies to retain heat.
According to Ayurveda, one is known to have a healthy amount of fat when one has: a well-built body, melodious voice, smooth and shiny hair, eyes, nails, lips and teeth and rounded and strong joints. Mentally the correct amount of fat makes us more loving, forgiving and compassionate. In some cultures, there have been beliefs that those who have more fat stored within the body have more value and are more likely to lead their communities.
How much fat is healthy?
The ancient Ayurvedic texts say that two anjalis are the correct amount of fat to have in the body…but how much is that? An anjali is approximately the amount that your two cupped hands can hold.
As I said before, Ayurveda believes that having too little fat is unhealthier than having too much fat. The signs of not having enough fat include: weakness, tiredness, weak or cracking joints, enlargement of the spleen, emaciation and brittle bones, hair, teeth and nails.
Most underweight body types have an abundance of Vata energy: which means they are mostly composed of light, dry and cool qualities. Remember like increases like. So, if you are eating a lot of salads and lighter foods, you will not be building your tissues and may not be getting enough nourishment.
What are some of the reasons that we hold too much fat?
Ayurveda would also say that being overweight is a Kapha disorder. Although this dosha energy does create a desire for food, the Kapha digestive fire is generally low and therefore foods are unable to digest properly. These undigested foods, as I have spoken of repeatedly, get stored as toxins in the form of ama and can build up to create an increase in adipose tissue or fat.
But there are other factors that can contribute to weight gain. Certain prescription drugs such as steroids, insulin and oral contraceptives are known to decrease metabolism and increase fat. There are also systemic issues such as endocrine system imbalances that can influence our weight.
When we have too much weight, we tend to feel unmotivated and unwilling to do things more often. This lack of motivation results in a lack of movement which can lead to even more fat buildup. Other disease conditions may then arise like high blood pressure and diabetes. Mentally, if you are overweight, you may feel like you are more obsessed with material things and have more feelings of fear.
On the podcast, I provide some tips for cultivating the fire within to achieve and maintain a balanced weight. Join me On Wellness Way the podcast for all the details.
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