Ayurveda: Fearing Fat No More

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When I started the Ayurvedic detox five days ago, I imagined enduring long sessions of scrubbing, sweating and sloughing, painful, palid “meals” of weepy fruits and vegetables, enough water to make me feel at home with the dolphins in the Arabian Sea, and hours of arduous yoga to contort my body into balance.

However, for the past 120 hours, we have been coated in oil inside and out (even my iPad is getting a lovely sheen.) Instead of kale juices and cayenne, we indulge, relatively speaking of course, in kitchari, an Ayurvedic superfood made of beans, rice, gentle spices and… ghee (clarified butter.) Instead of long hours of scrubbing out toxins, vigorous massage with unwieldy amounts of coconut oil is used to release tension and impurities, which we then sweat out in a sauna. Even my skincare regime has been turned on its head — I’ve learned that the acids, prescriptions and soaps I’ve been using to combat my acne are actually causing the problem, and instead I have been prescribed a mix of scrubs and face packs that let my skin’s oils do the dirty work. Yoga is gentle, deep and subtle, unlike the power classes where I typically race through the most basic level of a pose.

An oil and butter cleanse probably sounds like the love child of the Hollywood Cookie Diet and Dr. Atkins. But it’s actually simple, traditional wisdom (eat whole foods and good fats, change diet with the seasons, eat everything in moderation) not a radical change in thinking. It’s everything the Locavores, the Dilemmaed Omnivores and the Paleo Princesses talk about… but the fact that this style of eating is boxed into trends signals that there’s something fundamentally broken in our modern relationship with food and health.

Back in New York, I’ve been leading a lifestyle of skimming, stripping and substituting in pursuit of health: stringy slaps of cheese in place of a buttery Brie, concoctions of vegetables and soy (and probably a few friendly additives with indecipherable surnames) to create the illusion of a juicy burger, acids and peels on my skin to renew me back to my pre-teen years, grueling workouts whose effectiveness I gauge by my inability to walk the next day. (And of course, the victory sugar raid to reward my healthy choices.)

Now I’m not advocating turning into a french fry and living the life more coated, but I’m starting to see a new type of middle path that’s about how foods and ingredients work together and work with the body. Fat and oil aren’t the demons they’re deemed to be; from these five days, my body is functioning better, my energy is stable, my skin is clearer and softer than it’s been in a long time, and I may even be sveltening up around the edges. Through focusing on balancing and counter-balancing, instead of indulging and repenting, I can take a more delicious, joyful and effective approach to health.

Bring on the ghee and the coconut oil!

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