As the days shorten and holiday festivities loom, so does the prospect of seasonal weight gain. Is it possible to prevent the inevitable cycle of gain and loss, or of denial and guilty indulgence that recur time and again?
Fortunately, a balanced, systematic approach that includes acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can offer a solution.
Unlike extreme diets which can indeed result in quick weight loss, but tend to create a rebound of rapid weight gain that often exceeds the loss, acupuncture works to tune the body to run more efficiently. This is not unlike how a tune-up for your car, which ensures proper operation, can prevent problems before they occur.
There are three ways in which acupuncture can help you lose weight – and keep it off for good.
Metabolism is something frequently discussed in weight loss literature. Some people can eat endlessly and gain no weight, while others have a hard time losing weight even on the strictest diet. This is often credited to one’s metabolism. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the concept of metabolism is referred to as your “inner fire,” or Yang, a force which also helps keep your immune system strong and gives a sense of consistent energy and zest for life. People with deficient Yang are prone to depression, fatigue, low libido, constant colds, bloating, and a host of other symptoms. Boosting Yang, or stimulating the metabolism, involves keeping the digestive system “warm” and producing the enzymes that break down food into useful energy. A healthy digestive tract does not suffer from gas, bloating, heartburn or frequent belching. These symptoms, along with constantly feeling tired after a meal, are markers that your body is not processing foods efficiently and an indicator of Yang deficiency. Acupuncture and herbs can address this, toning Yang and restoring healthy metabolic function.
Secondly, acupuncture helps with weight loss by offering a paradigm shift as to what is truly healthful eating. According to TCM there are constitutional types and patterns of strengths and weaknesses from birth which are enhanced or exacerbated by life choices. Understanding constitutional type is critical to a successful diet plan. Often, patients struggling to lose weight are actually trying very hard to stick to a plan that ignores their constitutional type by including too many “cold” raw foods which sabotages their metabolic “fire.” Meal plans should be individualized with nutrient rich, rewarding, easy to digest foods which can prevent cravings before they occur. Cravings are a sign of internal imbalance rather than a lack of willpower, and are a good indicator of what is wrong internally.
Last but not least, there are well documented benefits from acupuncture of stress reduction, improved sleep and decreased pain, all contributing to improved hormonal balance and reduction of the “stress hormone,” cortisol, which is linked to weight gain. Poor sleep also decreases the body’s supplies of ghrelin and leptin, two hormones associated with appetite suppression. As an added benefit of feeling better, the habit of “comfort eating” to soothe the emotions is reduced, and cravings for unhealthy food are gradually replaced by healthier choices as the body appreciates their positive effects.
Zaynah Shabo is a licensed acupuncturist and certified nutritionist with a focus on weight loss, women’s health and pain management at AcQpoint Wellness Center in La Quinta. (760) 775.7900.