Eat Right For Your Shape is a wellbeing how-to written specifically for you. We are all unique and so is our path to wellbeing. This book will help guide you down yours.
In her latest book, nutritionist Lee Holmes focusses on an Ayurvedic approach to health– a practice that aims to prevent disease, encourage wellbeing and promote longevity. The best part is, simply by determining your “dosha”, you can begin nourishing your body as a whole to find the specific foods and daily routines that work best for you. We’ve got an excerpt from the book to help you get started, along with three our our favourite recipes – one for each dosha type.
FINDING YOUR DOSHA
Take the dosha quiz to find out your dominant type. Once you’ve established your own dosha, you can start fine-tuning your diet to balance that dosha. Look through the list of foods and lifestyle suggestions on the following pages, and start incorporating them into your life. If you’re kapha-dominant, the Ayurvedic diet will introduce more warmed foods and fewer cold foods; if you’re mainly pitta, then cooling, raw foods will work best for you; and if your overriding dosha is vata, then warming foods are optimal.
THE DOSHA QUIZ
By taking into account your physical characteristics and your nature, this quiz will help you determine your dominant dosha: vata, pitta, kapha, or perhaps a combination of two, or even an equal combination of all three. Taking the quiz can help you identify and fine-tune your Ayurvedic constitution, and you can use this information to make diet and lifestyle choices that will help you reach your goals and intentions.
For each characteristic in the table opposite, choose which of the three options best describes you. Just try to be as honest as you can when choosing an alternative, and focus on your overall natural tendencies rather than how you might be feeling right now. Make a note at the bottom of each column of how many answers you have chosen in that column.
WHICH DOSHA ARE YOU?
If most of your answers are in one column, that indicates your dominant dosha. If you have none or a few in one column but a more or less equal number in the other two, then you’re vata–pitta, pitta–kapha or vata–kapha. If you have roughly equal numbers of all three, you’re one of the rare vata–pitta–kaphas.
UNDERSTANDING THE DOSHAS
Ayurveda classifies people into three main categories according to their constitution or prakruti, which relates to their genetically inherited physical, mental and emotional qualities, laid down at the moment of conception. Prakruti is made up of a combination of the three doshas – vata, pitta and kapha – and these can be roughly interpreted as representing the qualities of air, fire and earth respectively.
vata air – cold, dry, light and mobile
pitta fire – warm, oily and intense
kapha earth – damp and slow
We all have each one of the three doshas as part of our constitution and usually one or two dominate, but the proportions are unique in each of us.
Dosha proportions determine your physiological and personality traits, characteristics and preferences. If you’re a vata (i.e. vata-dominant) like me, for example, you’d prefer a hot climate to a cold one, because vata characteristics are cold and a holiday in a warm place would bring this into balance. If you’re a pitta, then cooling foods and juices would work for you. If you’re a kapha, you’ll be slow by nature and might therefore crave spicy foods to bring yourself into balance.
In Ayurveda, there are seven types of prakruti, depending on which dosha (or doshas) is dominant: vata, pitta, kapha, vata–pitta, pitta–kapha, vata–kapha and vata–pitta–kapha. Many of us have a dominant dosha. As I said, I’m vata-dominant, but some people have two equally dominant doshas (bi-doshic) and, in rare cases, some have all three doshas in equal proportions (tri-doshic).
The condition of our prakruti changes throughout our life for various reasons: an unhealthy diet and poor nutrition, emotional upsets and imbalances, an overload of stress or anxiety and/or a lack of physical activity. While each dosha plays an individual role in our body, complete wellness is only achieved when all three are in balance. Once you have an understanding of your dominant dosha and your unique proportions of vata, pitta and kapha, you’ll be able to correct these imbalances and enable your body to feel calm, relaxed and in shape, but best of all in harmony.
WHAT IF ONE DOSHA IS NOT DOMINANT FOR YOU?
We’re all mixtures of doshas, but for most of us one dosha will usually dominate, which means we can follow the advice for that dominant dosha most of the time. Occasionally, though, we may find that our secondary dosha is high. A vata-dominant, for example, might come home from work one day and realise that their pitta is high – they’re feeling stressed or overheated. In this case they should choose foods that will bring their pitta into balance.
If you have an equal quantity of two doshas – you’re bi-doshic – or a balanced blend of all three doshas – you’re tri-doshic – then eat according to the daily lifestyle factors you’re experiencing and in line with the seasons.
If you’re bi-doshic, you may be feeling split. In times of stress or change, one dosha may dominate. If you’re a vata–pitta or vata–kapha dosha, during autumn (which is a vata season) you should try to decrease the amount of vata. In effect, this means you’d be following a higher pitta or kapha diet during that season. This is how to manage a bi-doshic prakruti through the seasons.
A tri-doshic person can be very stable, robust and sturdy when in balance, but when out of balance their characteristics can become unstable and rigid. If you’re tri-doshic, it’s important to listen intently to your body and home in on its signals arising from emotional, environmental or dietary imbalances, and then use counterbalancing strategies to bring your body back on an even keel. For example, following a pitta-balancing regimen in summer (a pitta season) and a vata-based approach in autumn will help balance the three doshas.