If you’ve ever heard of Ayurveda—yoga’s sister science—you’ve likely heard of the perks preached alongside it: disease prevention and treatment, improved mental and physical health, and overall well-being. You’ve probably also heard of people who swear by the diet portion of this ancient philosophy, which promises to strengthen digestion, clear your skin, and, yes, help you shed excess weight. I was first introduced to the concept after visiting several Ayurvedic spas (the beliefs have a direct correlation with beauty too). As a big fan of Eastern medicine and holistic wellness, I was intrigued and wanted to learn more. Coupled with the fact that I felt stuck in a bit of a food rut—and, yes, a desire to feel more confident in my bikini—I decided to spend a week following an Ayurvedic diet.
In order to figure out my dosha and get more insight as to exactly what I should be eating during my week-long experiment, I met with Yearwood for a customized consultation. Not to toot my own horn, but I am definitely a super healthy, clean eater. I regularly exceed my daily fruit and veggie quota, I genuinely dislike processed food, and am all about eating local and organic. What I’m not so good at is when I eat. I definitely don’t eat enough during the day, and I ingest, oh, about 92 percent of my calories at night (I also have a legit weakness for pizza). (If you have to eat late, follow this guide to Avoid Weight Gain When Eating at Night.) So, as Yearwood told me, changing the timing of my meals would be the biggest change I’d have to make. The goal: Up my caloric intake during the day, meaning a big lunch before 2 p.m., a super light dinner, and no eating after 8 p.m. After filling out a questionnaire about my typical mental and physical tendencies, I learned that I am a pitta, the fire dosha. As such, my personalized recommendations included cutting down on spicy foods and upping my intake of cooling foods (think things like leafy greens, cucumber, watermelon) to keep my fiery dosha in balance.
But it was hard not eating after 8 p.m. I took a barre class after work one night, got home at 7:15 p.m., and found myself frantically cooking and scarfing down food before the clock struck eight. And it’s definitely not as fun to stay up late watching Real Housewives when there’s no simultaneous snacking involved (though I did go to bed earlier as a result). Not to mention, it definitely impedes on your social life. When I met with Yearwood, I was upfront about the fact that I had unchangeable dinner plans on days four and five of the diet. Her suggestion: Eat lightly during the day (soups, juices), then have a cup of ginger tea before bed to help your digestion. And so I did, because, let’s be real, when you have to be at a birthday dinner at 7:30 p.m., there’s no way you’re going to be done eating by eight.
Did it work?
I lost a pound and a half and my digestion improved noticeably; my stomach was flatter and I felt much less bloated. But the biggest change wasn’t so much physical as it was mental—I was suddenly more mindful and cognizant about eating and my appetite.
If you want to try an Ayurvedic diet, start with these changes: Eat foods that are in season, eat your largest meal midday, eat a smaller breakfast and an even smaller dinner, and add Ayurvedic “superfoods” to your diet (almonds, ghee, raw honey, and dates). Even these small changes will make an impact, says Yearwood. If you then want to take it a step further, you can determine your individual dosha (there are helpful quizzes online) and look into more specific dietary tweaks. But at the end of the day, keep in mind that this is truly a lifestyle, a way to feel physically, mentally, and emotionally balanced, not some fad diet.