Simple hacks for weight loss

Our traditional practices hold key to weight loss

Even the most cynical of us will accept the fact that we live in some amazing times. Our gyms have got fancier, trainers have become more professional and we now have a wide range of workouts to choose from. Everyone seems to have an answer to how to lose weight and get fit for a fee, of course. But think of it, really, and you’ll probably realise that our grandparents were fitter than we will ever be at their age. So how did our ancestors stay fit?

Indian culture happens to have the answer to that age-old question: how to stay fit. Fitness was always considered a way of life in India. It wasn’t something you had to take the time out to do. Not eating carbs at night, avoiding red meat, opting for low-fat foods... all of these came in only because somewhere along the way we forgot the basic principles of living well. Here are four things that our ancestors did that we stopped doing:

1. They had to work for their food

Our ancestors respected the natural circadian rhythm, woke up with the sunrise and slept with the sunset. Daytime was meant for food gathering and they had to walk miles for that. There was no way one could escape this hard work because only the fit and capable could survive. Of course, we don’t have to go out hunting anymore. But the next time you need to run to the grocery store, take the stairs and walk to the store rather than taking the lift and hopping on the bike. Incorporating basic changes like these will bring about a certain discipline to your life.

2. They practised yoga

Earlier, people would begin their day with surya namaskar, a series of 12 yoga poses performed in a particular sequence that not only made your body supple but also increased overall stamina. Incorporating the basic principles of yoga in your daily life can make a world of a difference. In several ways, these very principles are the answer to the question you ask yourself every day: how to lose weight.

3. Workouts allowed natural movements

In ancient times, everyday chores were fairly labour intensive; they often involved walking for miles, lifting heavy objects and farming. Since there were no gyms back then, they just used their body weight to stay fit. The most common bodyweight exercises included squats or baithaks and pushups or dand that were great cardio workouts that also helped build muscles and burn unwanted fat.

4. They ate wholesome meals

A high level of activity required a nutritious diet, which included local and seasonal produce. Fruits and vegetables were consumed in their most natural state. Initially, wheat, rice, barley, millets and tubers formed a major part of meals, but gradually pulses and other grains also became a part of the diet. Despite consuming carb-rich meals, no one was ever overweight simply because of the amount of physical work they put in. Gradually, people started discovering herbs and spices and realising its benefits. They only associated sweetness with ripe fruits, honey and milk as there was no sign of processed sugar.

Most maintained an Ayurvedic approach towards eating as it’s designed to balance the digestive system, ensuring that people feel energised by what they eat, rather than bloated or tired. Saatvik ahaar was considered superior and involved eating foods that are easy to digest, didn’t cause lethargy, heaviness, or extreme stimulation of the body and mind and was alkaline in nature. While it may not necessarily be possible to follow the strict Ayurvedic diet, surely adopting select principles in our everyday life is possible.

(The author is an expert in Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine)

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