Your Ayurvedic Post-Holiday Recovery Plan

(Spoiler Alert: January is a bad month to start dieting)

Did you slide down the slippery slope of “just one more cookie” last month? Never fear! This is fattening-up season, and not just because you made all those pies and somebody had to eat them…

Ayurveda explains that the time between November 14 and March 14 is when we nourish and strengthen our bodies for the rest of the year. That doesn’t mean that the world is our 24-hour buffet, but it does mean that gaining a couple pounds in December is a natural –and even healthy– occurrence. This is the season of forgiveness, after all, and thankfully that includes your stomach.

This is not a time for juice cleanses, or any heavy-duty weight-loss in general (March — May is far better for that). However, it can be helpful to make a few adjustments so you don’t find yourself in full weight-gain free fall. And if you over-nourish with sweet, cold, heavy foods during January and February, you’ll feel the effects in April taking the form of allergies and spring colds.

Here are a few 5000-year-old, time-tested strategies for bringing your body back to a balanced state and weight without compromising your health:

Ayurvedic Fasting

In Ayurveda, fasting doesn’t mean not eating. Eating nothing, or only drinking water, would not be recommended as a regular health practice. When fasting is mentioned in Ayurveda, it implies a type of langhan therapy, or lightening of the body with reduced food intake. The focus is on reducing digestive load, thereby increasing digestive capacity, thereby reducing quantity of bodily tissues.

A few options for Ayurvedic fasting:

  1. One day per week: eat only warm, non-cream-based soup or broth for each meal

  2. If your hunger is generally low, and you don’t wake up hungry, eat just two regular meals a day at approximately 11am-12pm and 5pm-6pm.

  3. Notice quantity as well as quality. Bring your two hands together, as though you’re drinking water from a faucet. Use this as a measurement for your portion-size. (And, by the way, measure by your hands, not your giant Uncle Marcus’ hands.)

Exercise: essential for winter digestion

Exercise supports digestive capacity as well as increasing both mental and physical strength. Having trouble focusing? Still eating a bit extra? Feeling physically sluggish? Exercise.

But if you hate going to the gym, don’t go to the gym: snowball fights, shoveling, dancing, gardening, helping your friend move their sofa down four flights of stairs, and sex (good sex, anyway) all count as exercise. In fact, ancient Ayurvedic texts specifically suggest digging wells and having sex (probably not at the same time) as excellent choices for reducing the size of the body.

While you’re at it: make sure you‘re exercising as appropriate for your body. If you’re a heavier person, you’ll need to get a bit of a sweat going for exercise to be most effective. Small, thin people: walking is perfect for you.

Focus on the Little Things

  1. Don’t snack if you’re not hungry. Habitual snacking is a root cause for many illnesses and a leading cause of weight gain and digestive overload. Your hunger is an essential sign that your body is ready to digest. If you’re constantly adding food to your stomach, there is no opportunity for your digestion to refresh and your body will not be able to properly break down the food, leading to a toxic buildup.

  2. Avoid cold drinks and cold/raw food. When you eat cold or raw food, you’re asking your stomach to do the work of cooking it. If your digestive capacity is already low, cold foods will diminish it further and make it more difficult for your body to adequately and efficiently break down nutrients, resulting in weight gain, digestive discomfort, and winter cold-type symptoms.

Last but not least, offer yourself some perspective: you haven’t fallen off the wagon. You ARE the wagon. Seasons have their ebbs and flows, as do our lives, minds, and habits. We are continually re-anchoring intentions, learning, integrating, re-learning, re-integrating. Keep going: you’re doing great.