Gastro-intestinal health and weigh-loss are the most outstanding issues pestering people in their late 40’s and onwards.
For many, it is more or less a matter of good and attractive appearance, but hiding ourselves behind fleeting beauty is to miss the crux of the problem. The impact of the belly fat isn’t only external, mostly on our apparel and self-perception, but its deeply internal, too.
Now, let us see where belly fat is harmless and where the harm begins.
Subcutaneous fat ingrained beneath the skin, also known as “love handles”, padding on the tights or buttocks, or upper arms is actually harmless. It is but natural to add more of it with age. That, of course, is also subject to inherent constitution (dosha) of vata, kapha or pitta – as they are classified in Ayurveda. The first one, vata is of airy property and it appears as a thin, bony, sometimes wired body-frame. The second is known as the heavy, oily one and has at many times shape of a pear. The last one is of fiery origin and has more of an athletic outlook. We need to keep in mind that these “types” are always in mix with each other and therefore creating many versions of body types. Usually one of them lords over the other two, though sometimes they can be more or less in balance. These proto types are very basic and they shouldn’t necessary be taken at as the “all-in-all” benchmark. Also, a long-term illness or impairing disease can mask one dosha and reveal the other in its place, thereby creating a false perception.
Considering inherent constitution (vata, kapha or pitta) our perception of perfect body should be in accordance of it. However, it is important to mention that kapha types, or people who have quite some kapha ingrained as part of their DNA, are definitely more likely to carry more belly fat, just by sheer demand of their inherent constitution.
If your waist measures 35inches (89 cm) for women and 40 inches (101 cm) for men you should know that you are carrying abdominal fat that isn’t just some cute “love handles” but is having some serious implications on your health. With the other words: the fat has become visceral, accumulating around your abdominal organs, slowing down your metabolic functions by reducing the digestive fire, in Ayurveda known as JhataraAgni.
The visceral organs, especially the liver (the seat of digestive fire), kidneys, gall bladder and spleen are the organs of fire (pitta) and therefore constantly engaged in breaking down enzymes, proteins and sugars, as well as cleaning blood, producing bile and filtering waste. When these organs accumulate fat their ability to produce powerful JhatharAgni is constricted and the body starts to accumulate waste, which, if not expelled in reasonable time, will turn toxic. The long-term toxicity creates dangerous phlegmatic disorders (shelsma rogham) in our intestines. Not to mention, that when liver and kidneys fail the heart will take a brunt of carrying it on. Developing a coronary disease is quite natural when visceral fat builds up.
The problem with visceral fat is that it can’t be just vanquished, by toning your body and abs, neither by building a six-pack. The most powerful methods come through yogic exercises, strength training, long walks and swimming, though an alternative diet should be the first thing to apply. All sugars are very potent fat builders, including those in the fruit. Eating fruit in moderation is certainly good, though overdosing on fruit and fruit juices is the sure way of building up visceral fat; the body can become highly acidic with too much fruit intake.
Correlation of visceral fat and diabetes is obvious. In Ayurveda diabetes is treated as impairment rather then illness: the fat blocks the passage for the insulin to be injected into the system. With diabetes of all types a risk to heart increases dramatically. The lack of insulin messes-up our digestive system as well and with it all the pitta (fiery) organs that are home and support to JhatharAgni – our digestive fire.
Cancer is another collateral of increased visceral fat. The visceral fat impairs the lymphatic system and colon, aggravating risk to breast and colon cancer, which can quickly spread into the liver as well. Colon is the seat of our life energy, termed in Sanskrit as prana, which simply means life. When the air doesn’t move unobtrusive in the colon, but rather builds in it and stays there, we know that some trouble is brewing. The visceral fat prevents the movement of air, because it douses digestive functions that heath up the airs. The most common symptoms include excess of gas, indigestion and the feeling of heaviness.
Lymphatic system is also very sensitive to the build up of visceral fat – it simply capitulates when fatty tissue expands.
The impact of visceral fat is nearly total. It further impacts our nervous system and in the last stages our cognitive abilities as well, which Ayurveda calls extreme disorders of air (vata). Excess of vata builds up when the other two properties (doshas) aren’t in their natural balance creating a disharmony between the three. The oil is the fuel, which fire lights and with its heath moves the air around, and the air moves both.
The exacerbated air is no friend to the nervous system, which over the long-term neglect impairs our cognitive abilities, too.
Fat is very much needed as a fuel and lubrication of our skeletal and nervous systems. The lack of fat increases dryness (vatadisorder) of the nerves and joints, resulting in a very jittery personality and a lifetime of rheumatic illnesses. At many times we can observe two disorders – one of excess of fat, the other a lack of it – existing side by side, where belly is full of visceral fat, yet the rest of the body lacks sufficient lubrication and suffers from cranky joints, and dangerously ruffled nerves. In such cases we apply several remedies and therapies to counteract both imbalances. Mostly in the form of changed diet, oil therapies and herbal intake.
There are really no simple and straight forward answers as far as fat management goes. We can observe that in our selves or in the others. Simple and well though solutions propagated over the internet appear reasonable. Following them does bring some results to most of the people, but certainly most of the people feel left out of that promising volte change.
Lets look into several factors that shape our destiny and are a considerable roadblock to belly fat riddance.
Aging is ruthless. When the youth is at full swing, we are oblivious to it, but when aging starts to be a very noticing affair, the panic and despondency set in.
People might, in their 40’s or 50’s, weight the same as in their teens, yet the accumulation of fat is by far greater. The body in those years needs more comprehensive and impact-full exercising, and dieting to balance the subcutaneous fat, which essentially is just a hormone-like organ producing secretions (various harmful proteins) that negatively impacts the function of the before mentioned pitta (fiery) organs responsible for break down of proteins, sugars and enzymes – resulting in insulin resistance. This is a precursor to diabetes and development of high blood sugar, high blood pressure and of course, the excess of fat around the waist that lead to a cardiac risk. Having too big a waist is definitely a sure step to coronary heart disease. The bigger the waist, the greater the chance of it.
When women hit menopause and pre-menopause, their chances of developing breast cancer increases dramatically, if their waistlines are way off.
For men there is always the curse of the prostate cancer or enlargement of the prostate.
When we age, our visceral organs age, too. The JhatharAgni isn’t as strong as it was in our heydays, for the simple reason that our internal organs have aged as well and are also not in the prime of the youth, where we could digest stones and still see another day. The lower JhatharAgni, the greater amount of fat we’ll be adding, especially if our constitution is from the onset somewhat stronger, more kaphic.
The first thing that has to change is diet. That does not necessarily means going for some extreme diet watch, unless we really have to. It simply means that there will be lesser intake of sugar, out of which the white sugar can be kicked out completely. The alternative is always a pure cane sugar, in smaller amounts, if we are bend on having our tea or coffee sweet. The second most dreadful thing is definitely bread. While some are actually good for consumption in certain climates, especially if made with the sour dough, most are just brazen fillers with no nutritional benefits – like white bread and all the fluffy pastry included. The same story might be with the rice. Though there are many types of rice, some highly beneficial for weight-loss, majority of the consumed rice is the processed one. Cutting it out or substantially will do magic to your gastro-intestinal tract. And the third dreaded thing is the consumption of oils. Various cooking oils are no friend to your GI tract. Cut them to the minimum, or cut them out completely. The exemption are small amounts of ghee, the clarified butter, which acts as a vehicle for the nutrients to enter the system.
The diet is always a complex issue and in Ayurveda we look at the inherent nature first & foremost to give the right advice. There are foods that work for some, while others have no benefit from them.
One of the most important remedies, for the “aging” ones is a periodical fast. There is nothing like fasting. Fasting is good for everyone as it truly invigorates visceral organs and gives them a necessary break. If we are going off for a holidays, the internal organs should also take off for a while. In fact, fasting makes us younger – in and out.
The Genetics & Karma (destiny)
Destiny is a phantom word to some, but the reality is that it definitely exists. Sometimes, despite our best endeavors things just don’t move the way we want them, or they don’t happen at all, or the least desirable things happen to us suddenly without any provocation from our side. Lastly, our bodies and also minds are, at many times, just not up to that “perfect” standard, where we can have a clear and fair start.
Then what is it?
The genetics are in a way a set destiny that will act like a break for some things and accelerator for the other. It seems that our bodies and with it the minds are already set cages with the set trajectory.
In Ayurveda the astrological calculus is a part of the healing. The transit of the planets and their set positions play a vital role of understanding their influence on our vital organs, nervous system and the nature of the mind. No just that, the planets are the rules of visceral organs as well.
The planets do affect us greatly. It is the phases of the moon and sun that regulate the currents and tides of the water bodies, including our own bodily fluids. Menstruating women are the perfect study-case, as their periods are called monthly periods, coinciding with the days of the moon – 28 days – 14 days of waxing & 14 days of waning moon, add a Full moon and a New moon to total thirty days. The monthly period is, more or less, every 28 days and barring any illness or major stress, women can effectively manage the period schedule.
Then there are other planets that we haven’t given much credit as far as their influence goes. One that happily makes you put on the weight and accumulate visceral fat is the mighty Jupiter. The biggest of the planets. Falling under its period, or have a predominant influence in ones chart, one will, no matter what, witness accumulation of weight and fat in general around the waist. It is right opposite when Saturn rules the time or has great power in the chart – the thinness and perhaps struggle with the joints and skeletal disformity will be the issues. Athletic figure will certainly show in those with the strong Mars – they’ll lose weight and fat fast, just with a bit of workout. And the planet of love, Venus and also Moon, if afflicted, will affect health of plasma and liquids. The planetary positions reveal the intimate medical conditions pretty much in horrific detail.
The celestial positions aren’t accepted norm among the medical fraternity, but Ayurveda begs to differ. Ayurveda uses not just the herbs to heal but precious stones and metals, like iron and gold, too. The Earth is a cosmic organism, undoubtedly connected to other planets through set of trajectory and gravitational rules. The bodies of beings (micro cosmos) are part of the greater sphere (macro cosmos). Usage of precious stones in a powdered form, with the herbs, in a particular day, or days, is a common Ayurvedic way to treat imbalance of the doshas. They can be worn, too, encrusted in the ring or pendant. The precious stones and metals are connected through proprietorship of the planets, which have a dwelling within our own bodies as well.
Sleep & Exercise
Sleep is one of the prime focuses when we are set to reduce visceral fat. Make sure you sleep enough and not too much. Too little sleep forces the body to accumulate the fat as the nervous system is shattered and it craves the fatty tissue for sustenance. Too much sleep douses digestive fire and reduces the metabolic functions vital to management of fat.
Bhagavad-gita, the foremost text on yoga encasulates that under a verse:
nāty-aśnatas tu yogo ’sti
na caikāntam anaśnataḥ
jāgrato naiva cārjuna
“There is no possibility of one’s becoming a yogi, O Arjuna, if one eats too much or eats too little, sleeps too much or does not sleep enough.” Bhagavad Gita 6.16
Lastly, the inactivity is the main culprit. Being a sloth or somehow physically incapable to exercises one becomes really a repository of visceral fat. Even when physically constricted one should device ways to do some workout, or seek advice from professionals.
While dexterity of movement decreases with age, the age is no bar for any meaningful exercises. Of course, we’ll list yoga as the top method to combat the issue of visceral fat and hormonal imbalance.
Our first aim is to regulate, balance and tame life airs (prana) to forcefully set metabolism on its desirable path. With the subsequent movements (asanas), set in particular sequences we induce JhatharAgni (digestive fire), subsequent purging of waste and burning of the visceral fat. Indeed, our first focus is nothing but our visceral organs. We are working on them thoroughly; thereby giving them much needed rejuvenation and a new lease of life. It is the state of your visceral organs that will determine your overall health. Therefore, keep them alive and strong.
The regular and insightful practice of yoga does changes your composition of fluid and plasma in general and is perhaps a catalyst of changes in otherwise set destiny. With it many other changes spring up, for the better. Regular breathing exercises are another component of yogic practice that set you on the powerful self-control mode and introspection.
The diet isn’t really something hard to follow and it usually doesn’t apply turning your world on the head. It is more or less recreation of old age wisdom and an insightful guidance.