Our society seems to be fixated on the notion that attaining a slim figure equals health and happiness. But striving to achieve this ideal can actually cause us to drift farther and farther away from the experience of true well-being.
The ancient health science of India, Ayurveda, tells us that every individual is unique. Everyone is born with a unique ratio of elements or doshas that determine their physical and psychological characteristics.
The Air or Vata type is naturally very slim and has difficulty in gaining weight. The Fire or Pitta type is naturally moderate in build and generally maintains a steady weight with ease. A Water or Kapha type is naturally broad and larger in frame. They find it difficult to lose weight.
No type is better than any other. Each type has its inherent strengths and weaknesses. Ayurveda teaches that in order to achieve true, lasting health, we must learn to live in harmony with our nature or constitution. This also means living in harmony with the cycles of nature around us. To fight against the attributes of our constitution is to engage in a battle with Nature herself. Ayurveda says all disease arises when we lose touch with our true nature and with Mother Nature.
UN-NATURAL BEAUTY STANDARDS
On a recent plane trip, I was reading in a magazine about a new trend called the “thigh gap”. It states that the ideal weight is reached when a visible gap is seen between the thighs when the legs are pressed together.
It is these types of beauty standards that drive so many people to engage in a fight against their nature. The “thigh gap” may be natural to certain Vata types, but for a Pitta or an even larger built Kapha to strive for this standard will mean the beginning of the disease process.
Although no type is better than any other, traditionally Ayurveda extolled the stamina, longevity and calm temperament of the sturdy Kapha type. The Kapha naturally has more resilience to stress and can be “the rock”, providing stability and comfort to the other types.
The very slim Vata type, though also possessing unique strengths, is much more sensitive and prone to a host of “Air”-related ailments like dry skin, anxiety, constipation, variable energy and digestion and broken sleep.
WHAT IS HEALTH?
Clients often tell me in the course of their consultation that they feel they are healthy because they always maintain a low weight and a slender physique. Taking their case history revels they historically and presently experience many disturbing symptoms like anxiety, indigestion, fatigue and mood swings.
Is it really a sign of being healthy if you are dragging your super slim body from A to B because you are so fatigued and irritable you can hardly make it through the day? Invariably these individuals find themselves reaching for a quick fix of coffee or chocolate at that mid-afternoon mark just to survive. (Interestingly this is the time when Vata increases in the environment, Energy drops at this hour indicate a systemic Vata imbalance.)
From an Ayurvedic perspective, it is far better to carry a few extra kilos and have steady energy, healthy digestion and natural cheerfulness than be perfectly slim and be a moody, constipated grouch for the majority of the day.
Sushruta (approx 5th century BCE), the Ayurvedic physician and sage, the father of modern surgery and the author of the famous Ayurvedic treatise, the Sushruta Samhita, gave to the world a beautiful definition of health –
“The one who is established in Self, who has balanced doshas (vata, pitta, kapha), balanced agni (digestive fire), properly formed dhatus (bodily tissues), proper elimination of malas (bodily wastes), properly functioning bodily processes and whose mind, soul and senses are full of bliss is called a healthy person.”