WHY A HIGH FAT DIET ISN’T FOR EVERYONE| AN EASTERN MEDICINE PERSPECTIVE
The other day someone asked me why I prefer to go low fat when it comes to a lot my food choices. I wrote them a detailed explanation why and I’d like to share my reply here. Firstly, I’d like to acknowledge the fact that fat seems to be all of the rage these days. Plenty of people are into eating styles like paleo and the ketogenic diet, and these diets pretty much encourage a moderate to high fat diet. The thing is, a high fat diet isn’t for everyone, and it certainly isn’t for me. The reality is, healthy fats are fine in moderation or in very limited quantities depending on one thing. Your physical constitution. My physical constitution or what’s called a Dosha (in Ayurveda) is kapha or a damp constitution. Kapha comprises the elements of both earth and water. It’s a very yin (cooling) constitution. The other doshas ( there are three of them) are called pitta and vata. Pitta comprises the elements of heat and fire aka yang (heating) whereas vata comprises the elements of wind and air. In Ayurveda, each person is made up of a mixture of all three doshas, but one dosha is particularly prominent in every person. My prominent dosha is kapha. While being of a Kapha dosha does have its many positives when in balanced, like being very nurturing, loving, grounded, and having a lot of physical strength and stamina, being an out of balanced Kapha is a complete nightmare. Trust me, I’ve been there!
For one thing, kaphas are particularly prone to retaining water and fat, especially in the cooler months without the heat from the summer to burn off the extra water. In addition to being prone to obesity, this excess water can also manifest itself physically in an imbalanced kapha as too much mucus production in the body. Think of someone who talks with a low deep gargled voice like their nose is always stuffy. That’s me! Since, by nature, kaphas are also comprised of structure and stability, another sign of an imbalanced kapha is rigidity and inflexibility. A kapha out of balance is extremely stubborn and almost impossible to move both physically and mentally. This also means that in the cooler months, like water that freezes on the ground and turns into ice, kaphas are more prone than other doshas to stagnation (stuck energy), less movement/laziness, and feeling stuck in life. This stagnation can manifest itself mentally as depression if not properly addressed quickly with the right food and lifestyle choices.
Ayurveda and Traditional Medicine work on the principle that like attracts more like and that opposites balance each other out. This means that since my prominent dosha is kapha, which is a cool yin restful constitution, naturally I’d lean more towards things that are kapha or yin like. For instance, laziness, inactivity, and procrastination. Likewise, if I had a more yang constitution (yang is hot, active, expansive) I’d lean more towards movement and actually getting things done. We’ve all seen those yin people. These people usually feel cold to the touch, especially their hands and feet. They also naturally walk slower, talk slower, and they carry more weight because of their slower metabolisms. Likewise, we’ve all met those people who embody more yang energy. Their bodies are warmer to the touch. They talk faster, move faster, and are sometimes prone to hyperactivity. They also have faster metabolisms so they naturally have slimmer builds than kapha.
According to the principles of like attracts like and opposites balance each other out, doing more yin things would quickly make me too yin and throw a kapha person like me out of balance, eventually leading to things like stagnation, overeating, more stubbornness, laziness, etc. On the flip side, doing more yang things would balance out the yin and make a kapha dosha feel balanced and complete in mind, body, and spirit. Getting to the meat (pun intended) of this blog post, foods also have yin and yang properties. In fact, every single thing in the universe is made up of yin and yang! By nature yin is heavy and dense and yang is light. Just as well, some foods have heavy/dense properties and some foods are light. Not only is it important for a kapha like me to stay active to help burn off excess water and stave off weight gain (especially in the cooler months), it’s also important for me to eat less heavy/dense foods so that I can feel lighter in mind, body, and spirit.
An example of foods that are heavy and dense would be too much meats, too much fats, and too much cold foods as these are all things that can easily stagnate ones energy (especially a kapha) if eaten in excess. On the flip side, it’s best for kaphas to favor lighter warmer foods like cooked fruits and veggies, properly prepared grains and legumes, warming spices, and limited quantities of meats and fats to help balance out the already heavy/dense nature of kapha. Basically, when I eat more cooked fruits and veggies, grains, beans, warming spices, and less fats, meats, and cold foods, I feel a lot more energized and in balanced overall. The difference in my energy levels and in my overall health really is night and day when I eat for my predominant dosha. This is why I choose to go low – moderate fat. It’s not really a choice that I have, but a must if I want feel my best.
Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine are two truly amazing ways to reach our optimal physical, mental, and spiritual well-being, and I believe that everyone should learn more about them if they truly want to live this life as their best and healthiest self. Eastern medicine in general is a million miles ahead of western medicine in just about every way, and all it is in a nutshell, is healing with nature and with the power of our own energy. Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda recognize that everything that happens in nature also manifest itself within the human body in different people and in different ways. They’re both a form of holistic health that takes into account not only a persons body but their mind, spirit, and emotions in the quest for optimal health and wellness.
Eastern medicine really is all about total wellness rather than picking apart the body and separating it from the mind and emotions like how western medicine often does. They’ve both helped me tremendously in my journey towards optimal health and I know that one day energy healing and holistic health will be the standard form of healing in our world.
If you’re interested in holistic health, eastern medicine, and healing with energy than I’d suggest you start by finding out your dosha (in Ayurveda) or your physical constitution (in Traditional Chinese Medicine). Some people are hot natured, cool natured, damp natured, etc,. Some people are more vata, pitta, or more kapha and that will end up determining the best food and lifestyle choices for their health. There’s no one size fits all approach in Eastern medicine and that’s one of the things that I love about it. Some people’s health can thrive off of one thing while another person’s health can decline off of the same thing.
So find out your dosha and begin empowering yourself and your health today. There are plenty of free quizzes online to help you find out your prominent dosha. As always though, I’m not a licensed professional and neither is a quiz, so it’s always best to consult with a Doctor of oriental medicine, a licensed acupuncturist, an Ayurveda practitioner, or a doctor of holistic medicine for the best results. Besides that, I strongly believe in self empowerment so do your own due diligence and research research research. By comparing your symptoms and natural tendencies to the research you find, you’ll eventually realize your predominant dosha.