There are many layers of biochemical, genetic and metabolic differences between individuals that are rarely addressed in various dietary programs. Diets like the Zone diet, South Beach Diet, Atkins, Fit For Life diet, etc. often claim to be the “right” diet for everyone, which just isn’t so. Depending on the internal workings of your body and genetic blueprint, any one of these diets may or may not work for you and if they do work, may only work for a short time.
I recently had the pleasure of participating in an intensive week long seminar on conscious eating, led by Dr. Gabriel Cousens. Throughout the course, Dr. Cousens spoke extensively about the differences in people that could impact the amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fat that each unique person requires to achieve balance and good health.
Although there are many levels to determining the optimal dietary guidelines one should follow, the first step is to begin to take notice of your own physical, mental, and emotional responses to the food you eat. A food diary that indicates when you eat, what you eat, your level of hunger and how you feel 1 hour after eating, 2 hours after eating, etc. can be very helpful in beginning to understand your own body and reactions to certain foods.
One ancient system that is very beneficial in determining your individual needs comes from Ayurveda, which originated more than 5,000 years ago in India. This is one of the oldest healing sciences that many believe influenced the healing systems that followed. The basic idea is that all of life is composed of three energy elements; air, fire and water. Depending on your particular dosha, or unique constitution, you may be predominantly vata (air), pitta (fire) or kapha (water) or a combination of 2 or all 3 (tridosha). Your constitution is genetic and greatly impacts your biological and psychological framework. There are specific dietary, medicinal and lifestyle guidelines for each dosha that can help you address imbalances that may be causing excess weight, disease, and emotional, mental, and psychological instability.
Substantial weight problems are possible for all 3 doshas, although pittas and kaphas are more prone to excess weight when imbalanced. Pittas are typically medium-framed and well proportioned. However, they are also very easily overheated and tend to lean towards anger and irritability when out of balance. It’s important that pitas reduce heat causing foods such as animal products, oil, salt and anything hot and spicy. A low protein diet is best.
Kaphas tend to have a larger body type and gain weight more easily then the other doshas as their body holds fat and water more easily. An imbalanced kapha may feel lethargic, emotionally numb, depressed or become congested and overweight. Kaphas do best on dry and warm foods. It’s also important that kaphas keep their meals light and avoid high fat foods and dairy products. A vegan diet may be ideal.
Vatas are typically thin and have a hard time gaining weight. Their skin is usually dry and they are often prone to skin problems. They are typically restless with high energy that burns up quickly. However, many people who are particularly creative are vatas as they are often quite visionary. Vatas require a heavier diet of protein and fat, both of which are completely possible on a vegetarian diet if one so chooses. Warm and lubricating foods are calming for the vata and most do best eating frequent meals throughout the day.
If you are interested in determining your constitutional type, there are many great questionnaires that can be found online or in books. Once you follow the dietary guidelines for your dominant constitution, you usually recognize a change in yourself within days. Just this last week after eating a balanced raw vegan diet during the course I took, I noticed a change in my emotions, energy, and overall well-being. The more interested you become in determining your individual needs, the closer you’ll be to finding the right diet for you. To know yourself is to love yourself.
Conscious Eating by Gabriel Cousens
Ayurveda Body Types by Institute of Integrative Nutrition
Published On: January 27, 2010