With so many diets out there it's hard to know which will work best for you and your body. To reach and maintain a healthy goal weight, it's important to first understand your metabolism, body type and dietary habits. Lee Holmes of Supercharged Food has written a fantastic book called Eat Right for Your Shape, which explains how your body shape affects the types of food you should eat. Her holistic approach to diet and lifestyle helps explain the Ayurvedic diet. This diet follows the Indian way of life that focuses on fresh, seasonal and whole foods. There aren't any strict rules and it's easy to incorporate into your everyday life! You'll learn how to eat for your body shape as well as simple yoga moves and meditation techniques. To find out more, I caught up with Lee Holmes to talk all about her book and Ayurvedic lifestyle!
What sorts of food should we be indulging in?
To experience the freedom of optimum health, it's important to follow the art of eating wisely. Because Ayurveda is a nature-based approach, eating real food is the key. It might seem very basic, but sometimes it can be difficult to source real food that hasn't grown up with pesticides and chemicals. Trying to find foods that are fresh and as close to their natural source as possible is fundamental to your health. Look for locally grown and in-season produce, and try to avoid leftovers, which are unbalancing to the doshas because food loses its vital energy after a night in the fridge and can become slimy and heavy. (If you would like to eat leftovers, ensure that you reheat them with ghee and black pepper.) Nature gives us the nourishment we need. When you start to eat real food, you'll be surprised at how quickly your body will respond, especially when reaching your weight-loss goals. Try to focus on seasonal produce, healthy protein and good fats such as eggs, avocado and fish. Minimise carbs such as grains, bread and potatoes.
How can staying hydrated impact our health?
On waking, drink warm water to help flush out and evacuate your bowel. Staying well hydrated will make the fasting periods much easier to get through. Sipping warm water between meals aids digestion, helps remove any buildup of toxic ama, and can reduce the compulsion to snack.
What can we do to change our idea of dieting?
Think of eating less as a self-care practice, a needed timeout for your gut for which your body and health will thank you. This is not another fad diet or period of deprivation, and you're working within your own constitution and bodily systems.
How does exercise play a role in this lifestyle?
Regular physical activity will help you achieve even better results. Practising yoga is like giving a wonderful massage to your internal organs to create harmony. Yoga can reshape your body by providing total body conditioning plus mental clarity and strength. A good time for yoga is at sunrise or whenever you first rise.
What is the best way to start?
Maybe begin with Ayurvedic fasting only one day a week, then work your way up to two days a week. If your goal is weight loss, two or three days will yield optimum results. Once you get used to it, you won't feel hungry any more, and you'll be amazed how focused, clear and energetic you are. Eat your biggest meal in the middle of the day. When you do this, your liver will be less congested and overloaded when you go to bed, so that you can enjoy a restful and healing sleep. The body's metabolic rate picks up between 10 am and 2 pm, and your digestion will be at its most powerful during that time. Eating a large meal at the end of the day will overwork your liver and you'll wake up tired and lacking in energy. Eating your lighter final meal of the day before sunset will enable you to lose weight, as you'll be giving your body space and time to process and assimilate the food. It will also give your body permission to burn fat. Remember not to drink too much water during meals, as it dilutes the gastric juices. Many of the Ayurvedic practitioners I met in India recommended filling half your stomach with solid food, a quarter with liquids, and leaving a quarter empty. In other words, try to eat only until you're three-quarters full.
How does the 80/20 rule work?
This philosophy will ensure you stay healthy but continue to enjoy life without ever feeling deprived. Eating well 80 per cent of the time and indulging in whatever you enjoy the other 20 per cent of the time ensures an 'everything in moderation' approach, keeping your body on an even keel so that you'll never feel tempted into disordered thinking or eating.
What is one piece of advice you would give to anyone starting out?
Stop trying to be perfect, already! When you stop trying to be perfect you can relax. Even if you're one of those over-achievers who got top marks at uni, it may have come at a price, and perhaps you still push yourself too hard or demand a lot from yourself. Being perfect all the time can lead to disordered eating habits. Have you ever in the past put food into the good and bad basket? This perfectionism and extreme attention to detail will not bring harmony to your life but will only make you feel bad about yourself in the long run. Remember, it's good to eat clean but not 'squeaky clean'. I encourage you to enjoy real, whole, natural foods most of the time, by following the 80/20 rule (see below). Make time for your meals and really relax and enjoy your food – it's there to nourish your body. If you make your meals the fun part of the day and start giving them a bit more attention and gratitude, you'll naturally lean towards eating more healthily and not reaching for the nearest convenience food.