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In my experience of losing weight after the birth of my son, I realized how inculcating daily habits go a long way in staying healthy. Among these, each of which I’ll lay out in this series, the most important would be my relationship with water.

I remember, growing up, my great grandfather was the epitome of healthy living. His life of simplicity and contentment has always been an ideal I strive to reach. He once told me to avoid drinking water for 30 minutes following a meal. He was a householder yogi and had a deep knowledge of yoga, Ayurveda and astrology. I began the practice when I was around 10 or 11. I just trusted the inherent wisdom in my grandpa’s words but never looked for scientific evidence to support them.

Much later in my life, when I started working and sticking to my healthy habits and exercise routine became difficult, a little flab began showing on my usually flat stomach. When I could no longer fit into my tight skirts and my jeans started to feel too snug for my usually lean frame, I knew it was time to hit the gym. But I just didn’t have the time with work taking up most of my day. So I decided to start making small changes in my lifestyle to lose the flab. The other option would have been to replace my entire whole wardrobe!

So I did two things my grandpa had advised me to do:

1. I completely stopped drinking cold water. I only drink lukewarm water as many times a day as possible. Trust me, water is a great way to hydrate the body, to get that glowing skin and flush out toxins. It’s the first step towards detoxification. Try this for a month and you will feel very light and healthy.

Start your day with a glass of lukewarm water with a dash of lemon. Lemon is a good source of Vitamin C, which is an excellent antioxidant and also neutralizes toxicity in the body.

Since I do not like drinking absolutely plain water early in the morning, I start my day with a glass of coconut water. Then, in regular regular intervals, I fill up with a couple of mugs of green tea. Flavoured water is easier to consume and green tea is packed with antioxidants.

Sustained water intake will also help empty the bowels and get rid of constipation which is a cause of many health problems that directly or indirectly contribute to flab around the midsection, and sometimes all over. It also causes lethargy, acne and heaviness in the stomach, and increases toxins in the body which could cause your stomach to bulge out even if you’re otherwise quite fit.

2. Just like during my childhood, I stopped having water during meals. It’s become such a habit that now, even if the food is spicy, I do not feel the need to drink water. But yeah, 30 minutes after the meal, I treat myself to a big mug of green tea or just a glass of water at room temperature. I especially love oolong green tea since it has numerous health benefits and aids in digestion, but any type of green tea available at the supermarket or grocery store is good enough. Chaas (buttermilk) is another good option.

If you like having something to sip while eating, try green tea or honey and ginger broth or soup. This would actually aid in digestion too.

Why is drinking cold water/beverages considered unhealthy?

So those were the Dos and Don’ts. Now we come to the scientific evidence that support such ancient wisdom.

When we drink water with food or immediately after, it is harmful for the digestive process as it dilutes digestive juices like bile and acid in the stomach. A lot of energy goes into the digestive process, from the breakdown of the food into simple molecules to the secretion of the digestive juices and enzymes, assimilation and absorption of food. This is digestive fire in action.

Digestive fire or Agni in Ayurveda, is responsible for two main processes: digestion and metabolism. This means when Agni is not functioning properly, food will not be digested and metabolism will be impaired. Defective Agni produces undigested food which causes fermentation and decay in the stomach, and consequently results in diseases and also, in many cases, weight issues.

Now, when we drink water or cold beverages during meals, it is like throwing cold water on burning logs. Iced water, normally served at restaurants, extinguishes the digestive fire. Even juice or milk right out of the refrigerator slows down digestion, as does alcohol and fizzy drinks.

How does drinking water during meals contribute to weight gain?

Habits outlined above can interfere with the natural levels of bile and acid in the stomach, slowing digestion. Reducing the ability of the digestive enzymes to properly digest food leads to the build-up of toxic waste in the body. After all, it doesn’t matter how healthy your eating habits are if the body can’t properly digest the food.

Once you get into this habit of drinking beverages at room temperature, you will notice a dramatic improvement in your digestion and the way your body feels while eating and after the meal. It may even be the first step to shedding some weight.

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