Ayurveda, Yoga & You: The Hot Belly Diet book review
Ayurveda, Yoga and You:
The Hot Belly Diet by Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar
Dr. Suhas (as he is called by his students and colleagues) has sub-titled his new book “A 30-day Ayurvedic Plan to Reset your Metabolism, Lose Weight, and Restore your Body’s Natural Balance to Heal Itself.” And the magical diet plan he describes presents the time-honored Ayurvedic approach to diet and nutrition that is based upon sustaining a strong digestive fire. Babaji was asked myriad times over the years, “Babaji, what should I eat?” And one of his standard answers was “Eat what you can digest.” He was pointing to the fact that it’s the digesting that’s the crucial point, not so much the eating.
Dr. Suhas’ starting point, however is much broader in scope: “ . . . all roads to perfect health . . . begin with your mind-set, and your diet is the most important factor in creating that mentality. Food is information . . . it gives your body the fuel it needs . . . and helps generate the connection between what you think and do, and how you feel.” He encourages us to generate “the qualities of ‘self-referral,’ which means you’re connected to yourself in ways that allow you to optimize every aspect of yourself” . . . body-type, lifestyle, emotions, stress, relationships, and nature.
In the Foreword to “Hot Belly Diet,” Dr. Deepak Chopra presents the basic principle: “The digestive tract is the most critical system in the body, because it supplies the energy that allows cells to go through their life cycle, from birth to death, in a state of perfect balance. The key concept is agni, the digestive fire, which supplies vitality to the whole mind-body system when it is burning brightly and efficiently. Moreover, the quality of your metabolism – the process of converting food energy into bodily tissues – decides the quality and quantity of the life you experience. If you have a humming metabolism fueled by agni, you will slow down your body’s aging process and boost its overall health.”
In the hot belly diet described by Dr. Suhas, the basic idea is to re-kindle and sustain a balanced digestive fire that burns cleanly and brightly. He lays out a 30-day plan that is designed to change your whole approach to food and eating; it will reset not only your metabolism but your eating habits as well. It begins with 3-day preparation phase that detoxifies and lightens the load, so to speak. During this phase, we’ll be eliminating refined carbohydrates, red meat and full-fat dairy, white sugar, and alcohol.
The 23-day acceleration phase is firmly based in kitchari, a nourishing, easy to digest rice-dal (bean) combination that comes with endless variations. Kitchari is the main dish for lunch (and dinner if you choose), plus a non-creamy soup and steamed vegetables. Breakfast consists of either a super-food smoothie, oatmeal, or an egg-veggie scramble.
The final 4-day phase of the plan is called “Transform”, which he calls the ‘rest of your life phase,’ in which other foods are gradually re-introduced. The recipes in the Appendix give a hint about the possibilities: Kale Tabbouleh, Red Rhubarb Quinoa, Flaxseed Pesto on Spaghetti Squash, and Black Bean Tacos with Mango Salsa! Recipes for happy cooking . . . and eating!!
While the emphasis in Hot Belly Diet is on food and eating, Dr. Suhas also includes a discussion of ama (undigested food particles that clog the body’s channels), cravings, fasting, as well as guidelines for eating, the importance of warm beverages, optimal eating times, eating for your unique doshic balance.
Even if you’re not prepared for a 30-day dietary make-over, Dr. Suhas’ discussion of the Ayurvedic approach to eating . . . and digesting . . . make for fascinating reading. And most all of us can benefit from deepening our understanding of the invisible process of transformation that takes place within our bodies each and every day . . . from food to tissues & energy & the thoughts/emotions that comprise our life. Happy reading! Happy digesting!!
Pratibha Queen is a yoga instructor and Ayurvedic practitioner, who attends Salt Spring Center of Yoga retreats on a regular basis. Feel free to email with any questions that arise as you engage in health practices to support your yoga practice: pratibha.que[at]gmail[dot]com.