What is health and what does it mean to be healthy? The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity.” This is actually a great, holistic definition of what health is. Often health is defined by the ailment - and while getting rid of whatever ails you can be a huge step toward health, we must always consider the bigger picture in order to become truly Healthy with a capital H.
Weight Loss with TCM
TCM can help in this regard by addressing each person as an individual, in order to determine what aspects of their lives can be improved upon and brought into balance. Acupuncture alone can be used to balance and improve all aspects of physical and mental health - often in conjunction with other medical practitioners. Herbal medicine is another tool used by Acupuncturists toward this end. The social well-being aspect of health can not always be directly addressed by acupuncturists - other than by providing a safe, warm, and interactive environment in which to begin the process of achieving health. Many aspects of true health will need to be worked on in an individual's personal life.
So where does weight loss fit into the picture of health from a TCM perspective, and how can TCM help a person achieve a healthy weight? In TCM we consider the mind and gut to be very connected. Emotional issues and stress can lead to overeating, and to various food addictions, especially for sugar. Sugar addictions and cravings can be treated by working with auricular acupuncture, and working on the Spleen, Kidney, and Stomach channels. Food choices, as well as a stagnant lifestyle are the most common causes of excessive weight gain. From a TCM
perspective, liver qi stagnation may be what lies behind the stagnant lifestyle. When we are weighed down mentally by stress, our liver stops being able to keep our qi flowing smoothly. If this disharmony is not corrected, we may eventually become weighed down physically as well.
Once a person is actually overweight, a variety of issues can arise. Pain is one of the most common symptoms, due simply to the increased stress placed on our joints and bones. Another common symptom is stress. In an actual case of being overweight, excess stress is placed on many of our bodily functions - especially the cardiovascular system.
The goal with TCM, always, is to help achieve balance. Being overweight means that something is out of balance, but a skilled acupuncturist can diagnose this imbalance and help correct it. Acupuncture boosts metabolism, regulates digestive function, regulates hormonal levels and boosts serotonin and dopamine and other neurotransmitters - regulating these functions alone can help with weight loss. The actual acupuncture points used for each person will of course vary, but some common examples are auricular points such as Shen Men - to reduce cravings - Stomach points such as Stomach 36 to regulate digestion, Spleen points such as Spleen 9 to transform dampness and regulate water retention, Large Intestine points such as Large Intestine 4 to regulate digestion and facilitate elimination. As well as points to calm the heart and mind and aid in strengthening the mind-gut connection - such as Yintang and Heart 7. Abdominal points such as Stomach 25 and Ren 12 will often be used as well - these points have a direct effect on regulating the functioning of our stomach and large intestines. In addition to regulating bodily functions - each individual who wants to lose weight will need to eat less and move more. We can recommend lifestyle changes to help achieve this and help to identify triggers, cravings and dietary choices which can be changed or modified. We can also offer teas and herbal medicines to help aid digestion and elimination, and regulate other potential issues that correlate with weight gain. If overeating, in particular, is the issue - then auricular acupuncture will be used as it is the most effective in reducing cravings and helping to curb the appetite, and compulsive behaviors. \
According to Chinese Medicine, each organ’s energetic channel, or meridian, is more active during certain times of the day. For the Stomach and Spleen channels, these times are from 7am - 11am. It is optimal to have a healthy and nutritious breakfast from 7am - 9am and then allow the Spleen to transport and transform that nutrition during its time from 9am - 11am. In an ideal world we would eat sometime between 7am - 9am and then take some time to meditate during 9am - 11am. Unfortunately in our modern world this is rarely possible, but it doesn’t hurt to at least take some time to focus on our breathing and be more mindful during our morning commute and our first couple of hours at work, while we are digesting our breakfast.
Dietary recommendations made by acupuncturists will often differ from typical recommendations in that we are concerned about the temperature and energetic nature of foods people are eating. Many people think that a healthy diet consists of salads and smoothies - but from our perspective, too many cold and raw foods can have a negative effect on the digestive systems. It’s hard for our digestive organs to break down and transform foods when they are cold and raw - and this can eventually lead to an accumulation of cold and dampness in the body, which can sometimes lead to weight gain. Often our recommendation will be to add more warm cooked foods to aid our digestion process. Soups and porridges or oatmeals can often be a healthier option in general, and for weight loss in particular.
Here’s a favorite porridge recipe featuring ground black sesame, a Chinese-medicine approved superfood for longevity and Qi restoration:
Porridge: add 2 cups of your dairy-free milk of choice to a sauce pan and leave it on medium--high heat for 15 minutes. Then add 1.5 cups of dried quick oats, with 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tbsp ground black sesame, and let it simmer for 5-7 minutes. Turn off heat and 1 tbsp chia seeds, 1 tbsp goji, and honey to taste.
Pro tip - take this recipe x3 and you have your first batch of TCM-breakfast sorted!
Links to Amazon ingredients
There is a ton of information out there about acupuncture’s effectivity in aiding weight loss - here are three links to peer reviewed clinical trials showing acupuncture is an effective way to help lose weight: