"It's more important to know what sort of person has a disease than to know what sort of disease a person has".
How many times have you wondered how your friend can eat whatever she wants, or party all night, or juggle twelve things at once, and then thought “why can’t I be like that?” For better or worse, we’re all guilty of comparing ourselves to others. But here’s a secret: knowing yourself – your inherent likes and dislikes, personality, triggers, and limits – is the key to understanding your health. Like a fingerprint, your constitution is unique to you and it's one of the most important pieces of your wellness puzzle.
Your Constitutional Type
Short, tall, lanky, big-boned, prone to pudge, whip thin; our body types are something we’re born with, like hair colour or your mother’s smile. But here’s what you probably don’t know. Body type usually goes hand in hand with certain health patterns. Furthermore, personality traits are often reflected in your constitutional type!
It may come as a surprise to learn that how we react to stress, the health problems we’re prone to, our very filter on the world, come down to constitution as much as to any personal choices we make. In all my years of learning about wellness, I have found that this knowledge is at the very core of everything else. I often know how people will react before they do, and I know what illnesses they will be prone to. It’s not magic, it’s not voodoo. It’s a system of medicine that’s thousands of years old. It’s called Ayurveda.
Ayurveda, meaning ‘the science of life’, originated in India. This ancient philosophy remains the medical basis for much of the world’s population. It’s founded on the idea that the individual must be treated rather than the disease (incidentally, Hippocrates, the founder of modern medicine, also knew this to be true).
Ayurveda broadly categorizes people into three types, or 'Doshas': Air, Fire, and Earth. It’s easily remembered if you think of the 60’s band ‘Earth, Wind, and Fire’.
Lean, fine boned, joints often make popping or cracking noises.
Creative, quick, love change.
Have trouble keeping a regular schedule because they crave constant variety.
Low threshold for cold.
When not in balance, prone to insomnia, anxiety, chest infections, and exhaustion.
Medium frames, wiry to muscular build.
Leaders, trailblazers, competitive, pragmatic.
Hold strong opinions, which they don’t mind voicing.
Low threshold for heat.
When not in balance, prone to inflammation, heart disease, and workaholism.
Large boned, wide hips and/ or shoulders.
Strong, caring, sensitive, ‘earth mothers’.
Tend to gain weight easily, especially in the hips.
Low threshold for damp, humid environments.
Family oriented, have lots of friends, and are loyal to a fault.
When not in balance, prone to constipation, depression, sinus infections, and laziness.
Most of us are a blend of the three types, but one usually predominates and determines how we live our lives. To identify yourself, imagine this scenario: a conflict occurs, say a heated argument. The first instinct of ‘Air’ types is to get away from the situation as quickly as possible; to literally to run in the other direction. ‘Fiery’ types: watch out! They’ll go toe to toe and give as good as they get (they probably started it in the first place). ‘Earth’ types, meanwhile, will be deeply hurt by the exchange and will ruminate on it for days.
Ayurveda is admittedly a broad system of categorization, and there are millions of individual brushstrokes that make us unique within these constitutional types. However, who we are at a cellular level does determine much of our unconscious behavior. Knowing your constitution can help to decipher what foods, activities, and relationships are right for you. This system does not have to define you, but can help to understand your inner workings and deepest urges, and manage them accordingly. Take the quiz below for insight into how the pieces of your puzzle fit together, and to give you dietary tips to match.
Oh, and one more thing. Embrace your uniqueness: flaws, brilliance, talents, and pitfalls. It's what makes you YOU.