While weight loss strategies dress the covers of magazines and best-selling books, little is written in an effort to help people gain weight.
According to Ayurveda, it all starts with being aware of two things:
- Your body type or constitution (prakruti)
- Whether your body type is in or out of balance (vikruti)
Vata body types with a vata imbalance tend to be the most vulnerable to weight loss. Vata body types are generally on the thinner side, with a lighter frame. They are typically more sensitive—they feel everything with a strong radar, and also tend to have a more sensitive digestive system.
When vata is out of balance, one can become over-sensitive and experience bouts of anxiety and worry. They may frequently feel cold and have dry skin that just can’t seem to be soothed. The inner digestive skin can become dry, they can become occasionally constipated, food sensitive and, in many cases, lose weight and have trouble gaining it back.
All three body types, vata (winter), pitta (summer) and kapha (spring), can experience vata imbalance and have trouble gaining weight. Vata types, governed by the air element, simply lose weight more easily than pitta types, who are governed by the fire element, and kapha types, who are governed by the earth element.
Top 10 Ways to Gain Weight and Balance Vata
1. De-stress Your Gut
95% of the body’s serotonin is made and stored in the gut. This suggests that we process our stress through the gut, aka “the second brain.” (1) Meditation and/or prayer has a powerful effect on the proliferation of beneficial intestinal bacteria that support better gut health and digestive function. (2) >>> Learn my One Minute Meditation technique
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2. Feed Your Gut
The gut or large intestine is the “seat of vata” or the nervous system in the body, and in order to gain weight, the seat of vata must be balanced. Ghee shines brightly as one of the most balancing Ayurvedic superfoods for gut health. Ghee is the world’s highest food source of butyric acid—the fatty acid made by good bugs in your gut that are in charge of maintaining the health and integrity of the intestinal lining. (3) To gain weight, we must care for the intestinal wall to ensure the healthy assimilation of nutrients. You can cook with ghee, toss steamed veggies with it, mix it into nut butters, or use it in place of butter or coconut oil when baking. >>> Learn more about ghee
3. Balance Vata with Food
Vata-balancing foods are winter-harvested foods that are predominately higher in protein, fat and starch. This includes nuts, seeds, whole and unrefined grains, starchy root veggies and oils. Eat more sweet, sour and salty foods that are warm, heavy and oily. >>> Sign up for our free monthly seasonal eating guide and start eating with the seasons this winter (when the body naturally wants to gain weight!).
4. Fire Up the Furnace
Weak digestion is the main reason for the inability to gain weight, with the exception of those in disease states. The stomach, gallbladder and pancreas all team up to completely break down our food. Most digestive concerns manifest when one or more of these organs are imbalanced. My favorite way to re-kindle these three digestive organs is with ginger, cumin, coriander, cardamom and fennel. These 5 spices (LifeSpa’s Gentle Digest) are Ayurveda’s most effective, kind and gentle support for a healthy upper digestive system. You can cook with these, spice your food with them, make a tea out of them, or take them in a capsule before meals.
Once you have achieved digestive support from these 5 spices, I recommend boosting the stomach hydrochloric acid (HCI) and pepsin production with herbs like ginger, black pepper and long pepper (LifeSpa’s Warm Digest) to finish the digestive reset. Strong stomach acid is required to break down more nutritionally-dense foods and thus nourish the body in an effort to gain weight. >>> Learn more about these five digestive spices
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5. Bulk Up with the Right Fiber
Gaining weight requires a healthy microbiome with good, fiber-eating microbes. Before we can gain weight, we must help the good microbes that are in charge of digesting, assimilating and detoxing. In the winter, soluble fiber from chia or flax seeds, oats, and slimy herbs like slippery elm, marshmallow and licorice. Hunter-gatherers ate up to 100 grams of fiber each day, while modern humans eat only 15-20 grams each day. (4) One tablespoon of organic ground flax or chia seeds two times a day is a good start. If the gut is very sensitive, consider LifeSpa’s Slippery Elm Prebiotic Formula to shield and coat the entire intestinal lining from top to bottom. >>> Learn more about slippery elm
6. Eat More Nutritious Food
Until your digestive strength returns, consider eating 4 meals per day. Sit down, relax, and take time to digest each one of them. Eat slowly, until you are about 3/4 of the way full. Make lunch the larger meal, but make each meal balanced—and make them count! Once your digestion is stronger and you begin to gain weight, I suggest returning to 3 healthy, substantial and relaxed meals per day.
7. Build Ojas – Ayurveda’s Calorie-Rich, Rejuvenation Food
Ojas means vitality, virility, radiance, stamina, bliss and joy. In Ayurveda, certain rejuvenating herbs and superfoods are considered ojas-builders: ashwagandha, shatavari, ghee, raw honey, coconut, dates, saffron, milk and almonds. After each meal, mix these ingredients into one cup of non-homogenized, vat-pasteurized goat or cow’s milk (or your no carrageenan, non-dairy milk of choice) and warm the mixture over low heat until it reaches a boil. It’s okay if this takes you beyond the 3/4-full mark. >>> Learn more about our Ojas Nightly Tonic with all these ojas-building herbs and foods
8. Ayurvedic Food Combining, Eat Dessert First!
Ayurvedic food combining is simple. Eat the heaviest food first, and end with the lightest food. This ensures that you will have the digestive strength to deliver the heaviest, most nutrient-dense foods first, when digestion is the strongest. Start with dessert or the sweetest or heaviest food on your plate, then eat the meat or protein and fat, followed by grains, and finish with the veggies.
9. Dairy Works
If you can tolerate it, dairy (cow or goat) is the ideal weight gain food. Ideally, you should source non-homogenized, grass-fed, vat-pasteurized and raw (if legal in your state). It is best taken warmed over low heat. The role of milk is to help the infant or calf gain weight and grow fast. Rich in growth hormone, it is a complete food with a natural balance of carbs, fat and protein. For those who have trouble with drinking milk to the tune of 3 glasses per day (this should be used only in the case weight gain concerns), consider yogurt or hard cheese. These are fermented and pre-digested, but are loaded with protein and fat.
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10. Avoid Stimulants
Coffee, smoking, caffeine, energy drinks and dark chocolate will drive your adrenals to make energy. Caffeine has been shown to help weight loss and is contraindicated in weight gain. (5) Stimulants also deplete melatonin and disturb the natural circadian rhythms that boost digestive strength during the day and reset metabolic hormones at night.