Posted on July 01 2021
Time to Read: 10 Minutes 5 Seconds
Jainism is one of the three of the oldest religions followed in India. Based on the principles of Ahimsa (non- violence) and Aparigraha (non- possession), Jain Dharma followers are inclined towards following a plant- based lifestyle anyways.
Vegetarian diet's carry a lower risk of diabetes, coronary heart diseases, thyroid and other lifestyle diseases naturally. However, growing number of Jain Dharma followers in India continue to struggle with obesity and metabolic diseases. Not a lot of nutritionist's understand a diet centred around Jain principles and most people are even hesitant going to a professional for help.
Let's explore some of the factors which lead to obesity inspite of following a vegetarian lifestyle and how the same can be reversed. Scroll all the way till the end of you are looking for a sample fat loss plan, however, I insist you read through the entire article to understand your body and how to work towards disease reversal.
What leads to lifestyle diseases?
1) Lack of movement: Do you remember when Alibaba chairmen Jack Ma claimed that he expected his staff to work twelve hours per day and six day's a week. It caused an outrage globally but most Indian businessmen could not understand what the big deal was. This is normal in India.
While globally white- collar employees average about 45- 46 hours of work per week, Indian employees are expected to work over 50- 60 hours per week. It is worse if you are a businessmen because your work literally lasts from eyes open to eyes close. Though the Jain community tends to have the highest income per capital in India, it is a fact that people are over worked.
But how does this cause lifestyle diseases? Prolonged periods of sitting has been associated with multiple disorders including diabetes and cholesterol. Just sitting for as little as 30 minutes non- stop is enough to start dropping metabolism. Sitting for longer than 2 hours consistently starts affecting your cholesterol.
The solution is really simple- Every thirty minutes, get up for 10 minutes and take a walk. But will a one hour workout per day not be enough? Considering you follow a healthy diet it might be, but developing an unhealthy habit of sitting for long hours will still have negative implications on the body.
2) Stressful work environment: 89% of Indians statistically suffer from stress which is higher than the world's average. But what makes the condition worse in India is lack of awareness about mental health and mental wellness.
People do not hesitate to go to astrologers and tarot card readers but most will hesitate to work with a psychologist or spiritual healer. It is looked down upon men to show their weaker side or cry and generally the financial burden of the household is on men.
However the female literacy rate of the Jain community (90.6%) is highest among any other religion in India, and times are changing. More and more women are looking to balance the financial burden at home. With literacy rates increasing, the awareness of seeking professional help for mental health is also increasing.
But truth be told, we are far being when compared to the world average. Increased stress leads to hormonal imbalance in increase in stress hormones. Chronic exposure to stress has been associated with multiple lifestyle borne diseases including PCOS.
What's the solution, be open to have a stress management coach and seeking professional help when needed.
3) High consumption of dairy and ghee: Refer to the below blogs that are very detailed:
It's extremely hard to change belief's that we have been bought up with since birth. Though the above blog's have all the information plus countless research studies for you to refer to, it might seem impossible to give up dairy. Especially because we have been constantly marketed about the health benefits of the same.
But the truth is that dairy (especially the hormone loaded, chemical infused, pasteurised and adulterated form we now are sold) is toxic. Humans do not have the enzyme to digest dairy and break it down. When consumed, your body reacts to lactose (milk sugar) as a foreign substance and starts attacking the same. In the process of attacking this lactose, a lot of pancreatic beta cells are killed, leading to diabetes.
Despite being predominantly vegetarian, India is the leading diabetes capital of the world and for a reason. Dairy production and consumption in India has only increased in the past decade and so has diabetes. We do not have enough land to feed the poor but more and more forests are cut down to be converted for animal agriculture. About 3330 litres of water is used to make just one litre of milk when there are cities in India which have limited access to clean drinking water.
Environmental statistics aside, do a small experiment with yourself. If you are diabetic or have arthritis, ditch dairy for only 21 days and switch to a plant- based diet. It is only a 21 day experiment to see your condition reverse. Do not worry too much about getting enough calcium or proteins, trust me, you are getting more than required as long as you consume enough calories. Calcium from dairy in fact is counteractive, leading to osteoporosis and weak bones. Just make sure you include:
- 3 servings of ANY fruits per day (even diabetics).
- 5 servings of vegetables per day.
- 2 servings of lentils/ beans per day.
- 2 servings of grains per day.
- 1 serving of green leafy's per day.
- 2 tbsp of seeds/ nuts per day.
- Limit yourself to 1-2 tbsp or less of oil (no more) per day.
I will include a sample meal plan towards the end of this article.
4) Food habits: If you google 'Jain breakfast items', a Tarla Dalal blog with '40 delicious Jain recipes' pops up. Traditionally, Jain religion promotes food that is not only the most Ahimsa, but also Sattvic for the body (healing). We have come a long way from Khichu and muthiya's to diet chevda'a and gathiya.
Traditionally, a Jain seekers activity level was intense with prolonged periods of walking and meditation. Now however, we are eating more than ever but moving less than ever. Starting the day with oil's thepla's and puri's is very normal. This is followed by sitting in the car to AC cabins and sipping on extra sugar chai and 'fried nashta's'. Though root vegetables and spices like garlic are still avoided by the modern Jainism follower, we have replaced the same with processed foods and oil's snacks.
Look at the ingredients of your 'diet chevda' or 'baked fafda's' and you will not even recognise half of the names. but we still refuse to replace these with healthier options such as fruits because 'fruits the sugar vadhe'.
What is the solution? Go back to eating unprocessed food. What does this mean? There should be minimum steps between your food growing in the soil to your plate. If you take a grain like wheat then polish it and ship it, to then be made into a powder, to be then rolled into a dough and deep fried into a puri, you should probably avoid it and stick with rice instead. Think of using the whole grain instead of its broken down processed form.
Now that you know the WHY's of obesity, let's dive into HOW's to fix this.
The solution is simple and comes from the Jain principles. Though there are multiple lifestyle changes you can incorporate to start getting fitter, let's explore five of them that are already close to Jain philosophy:
Eat as per the sun's cycle.
Have your first meal post the sunrise and have your last meal before the sunset. We have been programmed for billions of years to follow the sun's cycle.
Jainism discourages eating at night inclined with the principles of Ahimsa and do avoid killing more Jiva's. But in today's time when we are working till late in the night, it is but normal to come home late to a comforting dinner.
But how does this transition to health? Isn't a calories just a calories no matter when you eat it? Well shockingly, NO! The exact same food eaten in the morning VS night time, digests 50% better. By just switching to a heavier breakfast and a lighter/ earlier dinner, you are giving yourself a 50% better chance at seeing results when it comes to fat loss.
By making no other changes to your lifestyle and just switching to eating an earlier dinner, you can experience a drop in cholesterol, better blood sugar level's and even obesity. I mean no change in what you are eating and no adding additional activity, just changing the timings of your food.
But what if you work late nights and cannot come home for an early dinner? Well stick to fruits! Trust me if will do wonders to your body. Avoid resorting to packed snacks or fried food. Resort to a heavier breakfast instead of dinner. Even if you are a diabetic, do not worry about resorting to fruits (drop dairy completely though).
The largest effective study ever done on hypertension was on the benefits of fasting on BP. Over 90% of the participants experienced a drop in blood pressure in this study by just following a medically supervised fast.
Inclined to the principles of Jainism, fasting is practiced as a penance and abstaining from pleasuring the five senses. We are often either working to earn our food, thinking about food or eating food. Abstaining from food and looking at it as a 'fuel' to run our body instead of enjoyment given one an opportunity to also cleanse the body while purifying the soul.
If you have a health condition, it is of course better to fast under medical supervision. However, for an average individual, any form of fasting based on their body type is suggested once a week. This could be in the form of ekashana (one meal a day), beashana (two meals a day) or an upavasa (water only fast).
Besides hypertension, fasting also improves insulin resistance. Instead of looking at this as a fat loss tool, use fasting for what it is, to practice self control and discipline. Fasting teaches us to say 'no' when we want to say 'yes' and stick with our principles.
Read the below blog for tips on successfully fasting:
Ditch fermented foods.
Human's can be manipulative in terms of the things they choose to follow and the once they blindsight themselves to. Jainism preaches to avoid fermented food and drinks due to the increased number of micro bacteria in the same. A lot of neo- Jain's do abide by the same even now.
However, many Jain's still indulge in social or casual consumption of alcohol. Any form of alcohol is fermented. Ditching fermented food but continuing to drink alcohol does no good to the body. From a health perspective, even occasional consumption of alcohol causes a hormonal fluctuation in the body. It increases the oestrogen hormone (hormone responsible to store body fat) and drops the testosterone level's in the body.
Besides this, alcohol also interferes with blood glucose absorption and leads to a fatty liver. Even limiting alcohol consumption to once a week is enough to off balance the bodies circadian cycles and through the body in a metabolic jetlag, in many cases, wiping away an entire week's worth of hard work.
Excess food consumption after drinking alcohol is another negative effect. Most people trying to lose weight stay in a caloric deficit all week long, just to have a few bad meals over the weekend and take a few steps back on their progress.
But this does not have to put a stop on your social life. Resort to low calories non- alcoholic beers which taste just like the real thing. These are great options for those who wish to enjoy a social life and yet stay away from alcohol.
Adopt one whole food plant- based meal per day.
Here is assuming you drop dairy (number one toxin for lifestyle borne diseases) from your diet. The next part would be to adopt a whole food plant- based diet. This would mean avoiding oil's, sugar's and flour's.
Your food by no means has to be boring though, but just making healthier switches consistently for atleast one meal of the day. Breakfast is easiest to switch, however, choose a meal that fit's in well with your routine. You could make a switch for lunch like trying millets instead of phulka's (mostly has oil's and is flour) or brown rice instead of white rice. Try using different cooking techniques like pressure cooking or steaming to avoid using oil's.
It is fairly easy to switch to oil- free cooking too but if it does not come naturally to you, try and replace breakfast for a green smoothie or baked aalo cutlets with chole sabzi:
Educate yourself about a whole- food plant- based diet and work towards adopting the same into your lifestyle. It quite honestly is not very hard when you start making small switches daily and work switching up your lifestyle a little bit at a time.
Including adequate fruits and vegetables.
Jain community members refrain from consuming root vegetables. This limits the vegetables one consumes by a whole lot. A lot of people thus just stick with the same 3- 4 vegetables they consume instead for months together.
This is bad for many reasons. Number one is that different vegetables have different nutritional properties. By limiting your diet to only a few vegetables, you are depriving yourself to certain nutrients, leading to deficiencies in the body. Even without root vegetables, aim to consume a variety of different vegetables weekly. Aim for 4-5 different vegetables per day and a minimum of 6- 8 different types of vegetables per week.
Besides this, aim to consume at least three cups of fruits (one cup before each meal) per day. Fruits are power packed with micro nutrients and make up for the lack of any in the body. Ask yourself, how many vegetables do you eat. Most people can just name 3- 4 they eat daily and maybe some new once when they eat out.
A great way is to include at least one salad per day or a soup twice a day. Retain the fibre in the soup and avoid juices where most of the fibre is removed.
The sample meal plan below will cover all of the points above. Even without worrying about the quantity (amount of food you eat), as long as you stick to the plan below, you will notice your body heal itself and get into shape in just a few weeks.
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