What is body weight and how is it classified?

Human body weight is defined as the person’s body mass. It is the measurement of weight without items located on the person. A person’s weight is generally considered accurate when measured at a fixed time using the same scale (ensure calibration) and the person is on an empty stomach and the bladder and bowels are evacuated  

Persons are classified based on body weight using BMI or body mass index. Body Mass Index (BMI) is a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters 

Categorization of body weight using BMI:  

  • BMI is less than 18.5: underweight
  • BMI is 18.5 to <25: healthy weight
  • BMI is 25.0 to <30: overweight
  • BMI is 30.0 or higher: obese weight  

What is the accuracy of BMI and what are the influencing factors?

Factors affecting the accuracy of BMI are:  

  • Natural variations in body shape, which may be a healthy weight range for a particular height
  • In very active people like heavyweight boxers, weight trainers, and athletes, muscle mass is dense, and hence even with a high BMI of the obese range they are considered as in healthy weight range
  • Ethnicity and genetic factors also influence BMI and have to be evaluated before categorization 
  • Pregnancy will increase BMI. Weight gain and raised BMI are considered healthy during pregnancy 

What does Ayurveda say about Obesity and Overweight?

Overweight is termed as Sthaulya and Obesity is termed as Ati Sthaulya in Ayurveda. It is defined as the accumulation of excess fat or Medas in certain regions of the body that leads to various chronic illnesses and affects quality of life, reduced life expectancy, and/or increased health problems. 

Obesity is most of the time the precursor to lifestyle ailments like Diabetes, PCOS, Infertility, Ischemic Heart Disease, Hypertension, Ischemic Stroke, Osteoarthritis, Cancer, and others  

Atisthaulya or Obesity is the abundant accumulation of Medodhatu or the fat and adipose tissue. This leads to flabbiness of Mamsa or muscle tissue at the hips, thighs, arms, abdomen, and breast. The cause is attributed to improper metabolism or Agni, Santarpana, or sedentary lifestyle coupled with overeating  

What are the causes of overweight and obesity?

  • Indiscriminate uncontrolled consumption of carbohydrates and fats  
  • Binge eating, overeating, and Irregular food habits 
  • Stress and distress 
  • Sedentary lifestyle and lack of physical activities and energy expenditure  
  • Heredity, hormonal disorders, illnesses or age that restrict mobility, medicines, psychological illnesses 
  • Day sleep 

What are the signs and symptoms of obesity?

  1. Breathlessness even on mild physical exertion 
  2. Fatigue, sleepiness, lethargy, laziness, lack of interest in doing work 
  3. Profuse sweating and foul body odor 
  4. Excessive hunger and thirst  

What are the treatment possibilities for obesity in Ayurveda?  

Ayurveda lifestyle with Dinacharya (disciplined daily routine, Rutucharya (precise seasonal routine), Sadvrutta (active positive social and professional life), and Aharavidhi (healthy eating habits) practiced under the prescription and supervision of a qualified Ayurveda doctor is the remedy for obesity in Ayurveda. If the underlying cause is a disability or illness remedial measures for the same are also to be part of the treatment plan  

Outpatient level management of Obesity in Ayurveda includes the Shamana or Moderate treatment as: 

  • Langhan: Dieting and Intermittent Fasting 
  • Amapachana: Medical correction of indigestion and the digestive process  
  • Rukshaudwartan: Use of dry medicated powder rub before bath  
  • Inclusion of fast-breaking food such as honey, horse gram, asafoetida, garlic, garcinia, etc.  
  • Intensive Yoga and Pranayama  
  • Regular physical exercises as instructed by a trainer 
  • Hobbies, family time, friends get together, etc.  to reduce stress  

Inpatient-level management of Obesity in Ayurveda includes Samshodhana Chikitsa and Panchakarma  

  • Panchakarma for detoxification  
  • Vamana: Controlled therapeutic emesis 
  • Virechana: Controlled therapeutic purgation 
  • Lekhanavasti: Medicated enema 
  • Nasya: Nasal instillation wherever hormonal involvement is seen 

Which are the herbs and medicines generally used in the treatment of Obesity in Ayurveda

Self-medication is very dangerous to health and should never be practiced. Ayurveda medicines are individualistic based on various factors. Herbs like Guduchi, Vidanga, Musta, Sunthi, Amla, Vaca, Daruharidra, Guggulu, etc., and medicines like Trikatu, Navak Guggulu, Triphala Guggulu, Vidangadi Churna, Takrarishta, Navayasa lauha, Arogya Vardhini Vati, etc. are effective for Obesity  

How do you manage or prevent Obesity?

Prevention is always better than cure. Few tips are  

  • Eat a healthy balanced diet which is around 2200 calories for a healthy adult with a moderately active lifestyle  
  • Avoid or limit fast-cooked, frozen, deep fried or high-sugar-content food 
  • Include all food groups (carbohydrates, proteins, fats, fiber, micronutrients) and all tastes in each meal as per Ayurveda Aharavidhi 
  • Use seasonal local food 
  • Drink 3-4 liters of warm water spaced every 30 minutes 
  • Take sufficient fruits and vegetables for fiber, adopting  
  • Start an active stress-free positive lifestyle 
  • Practice Yoga and Meditation 
  • Know your health risks and take preventive measures  
  • Do mild to moderate exercise as per endurance  
  • Avoid oversleeping, day sleep, and late sleep habits  
  • Never use gadgets or TV or read while having food and while in the toilet  
  • Limit or avoid alcohol and smoking. Never use psychotropic or narcotic drugs  

Reference: Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences-CCRAS  

What are the scientific studies on the effectiveness of Ayurveda and Yoga on obesity and weight management?

  • Ayurvedic and Yogic treatments are consistent with systems-based models of obesity causality that inform optimal treatment frameworks.  Multiple causal factors mutually enhance and reinforce one another synergistically in the overweight/obese individual. Ayurveda and Yoga provide exercise, stress reduction, nervous system balance, shifting of metabolic function, and anti-inflammatory effects to address many of the root causes associated with obesity. The match between a systems approach to addressing the multiple causal factors of obesity and the systems approach to treatment inherent within Ayurvedic medicine and Yoga therapy may provide optimal therapeutic effects (Rioux J, Howerter A. Outcomes from a Whole-Systems Ayurvedic Medicine and Yoga Therapy Treatment for Obesity Pilot Study. J Altern Complement Med. 2019 Mar;25(S1):S124-S137. doi: 10.1089/acm.2018.0448. PMID: 30870013; PMCID: PMC6446167)  
  • Obesity is one of the major diseases of the modern era with continuously changing lifestyles environment and dietary habits. A healthy body is the only one media to achieve ultimate goal among the Chaturvidha Purushartha. Acharya Sushruth also told that Madhyam sharira is the best.[1] Atisthula  and Atikrisha are always affected with some complaints.[2] Acharya Charaka has quoted Sthoulya under the eight varieties of reprehensible persons as Astauninditiya Purusha.(HM Prarthana, Sandeep Desai, Conceptual study on Sthoulya with its Chikitsa Sutra. J Ayu Int Med Sci. 2022;7(1):135-141. Available From https://jaims.in/jaims/article/view/1632)