Ma's Personal Health Blog Part 14: Diet--calories or composition?

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bhakri served as a part of indian meal

bhakri served as a part of indian meal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Diet has certainly been a perplexing topic for me over the years. After all, I give Ayurvedic nutritional advice to others and they lose weight. Why not me?

One of the big debates I see in diet is the dichotomy of the calories in/calories out view versus the diet composition view. What's important--how much you eat or what you eat?
According to sources such as Web MD, losing weight should be pretty simple as it's just a matter of eating fewer calories than you burn. I decided to test this for myself, so for a month I used an online calorie counter. At the outset, let me
say that I do recommend this to anyone dealing with overweight or obesity, as an exercise. Many of my obese patients do in fact consume far more calories than they burn. Bags of corn chips, one pound bags of M&M's, quarts of ice cream, visits to McDonald's or Burger King, sodas etc do often form part of the diet of someone first presenting for Ayurvedic care. Although I don't eat such things myself, still I  I found it quite helpful to review my diet, look for any excess calories and make simple changes.

But what I learned for myself was that I do in fact, on a daily basis, consume significantly fewer calories than I burn. And despite cutting calories even more, I didn't lose an ounce.  This was a fascinating exercise in disproving, for myself, the calorie myth. Of course, now I could wade into other diet controversies--low fat vs low carb. etc. But, I had Ayurveda to guide me. According to Ayurveda, there is no one diet that is right for everyone. It's mandating 'one size fits al
l' that makes any diet a fad. A person's diet is determined by their constitution, current imbalance and the condtion they are dealing with. As a pitta, I've naturally gravitated to a pitta-soothing diet, focusing on the sweet, bitter and astringent tastes. I' m not into desserts or sweet baked goods, but the sweet taste includes grains such as rice and wheat, as well as fruits. Vegetables such as greens and bitter gourd provide the bitter taste, while salads and legumes are astringent. So there it was, salads, rice, dal and veggies--my perfect meal! Of course, in recent years I've cut back the quantity of rice, but still its been a staple.

Understanding that I have insulin resistance and undiagnosed PCOS has helped me appreciate that kapha is at the root of my current concerns. (It's hard, by the way, to be your own doctor. I 'm up too close to see myself in perspective). The composition of a kapha diet focuses on bitter, pungent and astringent. Now, my inherent pitta rules out much pungent, so that leaves bitter and astringent. That's most of what I already eat--except for the grains! It was a short leap from there to deciding that, with insulin resistance, I simply need to leave off the dense starches--the grains, endowed with the sweet taste.

Of these grains, wheat is the densest, heaviest and most kapha provoking, so I decided to go off wheat and gluten grains altogether and leave rice as a occasional treat (or something to eat when I'm not in charge of my own menu). Instead I'm using the lighter, astringent grain substitutes like quinoa and buckwheat.

I was happy to see that with a strict kapha-pacifying diet, the scale is actually starting to move. It was a relief to see that something can actually work and I'm not condemned to obesity as  life sentence. I recommend a grain-free diet to anyone with insulin resistance. And I'm thrilled to see that Ayurveda is yet again proved right!
English: cooked red quinoa

English: cooked red quinoa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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    About this Entry

    This page contains a single entry by Alakananda Ma published on June 16, 2012 12:40 PM.

    Ma's Personal Health Blog Part 13: Attitudes to health and sickness was the previous entry in this blog.

    Ma's Personal Health Blog Part 15: The Importance of Excellence is the next entry in this blog.

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