By Dr. (Shihan) Bolz
Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
Master of Science Oriental Medicine
Master Martial Arts Instructor, 6th Degree Black Belt
You may be tired of hearing this if you are overweight, but think positive. It is possible to lose weight and to keep it off. All possibilities are in your hands. In one way, it is so simple, yet in another, it is so difficult. Years and years of the same habits in eating, living and thinking seems so hard to change. Not really. No matter what you want to do in life to meet your dreams and your goals, you must imagine it first. Imagine! Yes, thought! Thought is very, very powerful. Imagination and thought is what has created our current social world and lifestyle, thought by certain human beings. Automobiles, airplanes, computers, etc…..all were original thoughts in someones head, otherwise they would not be existing today. Health is no different. YOU create or destroy your own health.
With your desire and understanding that you can change, then you need some guidance. There are so many diets and thoughts (yes, pun intended) on food and what people should be eating, with many different products for optimizing health and for losing weight; yet the struggle for overweight people goes on. Also the struggle for good health goes on. Health and weight are not different conditions. Being overweight is a health concern just as any other health problem. It is one of the diseases. That is why, when you come to Oriental Medicine with the chief concern of overweight, you are diagnosed and treated according to the same medical principles as any other disease.
In acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, basic principles. universal natural principles, are used that do not change with the era or with fads. Tools may change, but the universal principles of nature do not change. In allopathic medicine and Western dietary theory, the truths and theories change constantly. What was once true, is no longer true. What was once bad for you is no longer bad. Coffee is bad one decade and good the next. That is why people are so confused. It does not matter how much technology we have or how we have changed economically; nature does not care. Can we make it rain with all the technology we have now? Can we stop the flooding and storms we have now? How useless our technology is for the really important basics for our health, happiness and survival. We can use and enjoy technology and our modern lifestyles, but we must not forget the basic truths of nature and how we must interact with other species and the earth as a part of the cosmos.
Some modern therapies include extreme diets like the Atkins diet or protein shakes, other quick fixes which are not fixes at all. There is behavior therapy, pharmacotherapy whereby medications are used, even weight-loss surgery. All of these have some side effects and negative consequences. There is always some negative outcome sooner or later, with any kind of surgery. It is the most unnatural. One should also avoid the over-the-counter pills in health food stores and grocery isles. While less dangerous, they could be, and most of all, they rarely work.
The traditional Chinese medical approach to weight loss is to treat each patients underlying cause of the manifesting disease. What is the underlying mechanism for this accumulation of phlegm, dampness and turbidity? (These accumulations are always present in an overweight or obese individual.) In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), there is never a one-size-fits all treatment. When you come to the Oriental Medicine doctor, a very thorough evaluation is done using inquiry and physical examination. Once the doctor understands the individuals condition, then the treatment is based upon that pattern discrimination using the treatment principles according to the TCM theory. TCM treatment principles are based upon the laws of nature and include the understanding of the relationships in nature, based on yin and yang, hot and cold, excess and deficient, etc. Overweight patients often present with other diseases, though many do not, at least in the early years or earlier stages of overweight. Some other conditions commonly associated with obesity are hypercholesterolemia, diabetes, hypertension, osteoarthritis, back or knee pain, depression, hypothyroidism or other hormonal imbalances, and heart disease. Oriental medicine can treat it all.
The first approach is to change the diet. The TCM doctor can make individualized dietary recommendations for each person as well as general dietary guidelines. The doctor can give specific recipes using whole foods. This is another factor that the patient should understand, all your weight loss can and should be obtained by eating whole and nutritious foods; NOT prepackaged food instead of cooking and eating a meal. This is already the wrong concept. Quick, easy, out of a box; this sets the patient up for doom and failure. While these methods can instigate immediate weight loss, and a considerable amount of weight loss sooner, these are also the methods that help the patient to remain in their current state of overweight because these methods do nothing to change the thinking, diet and lifestyle. Thought! Remember, it is very powerful. The cravings must be dealt with to be permanently nonexistent, the thinking that one needs a certain food they know is not good for them, the stress, the negativity, must all be dealt with. Also, the idea that there is a quick fix must be wiped out. The thinking that one is creating a whole new life and transforming themselves into a new balanced self is very important. Even different from their friends or even family, in how they view food. A person must realize that the old ways are not working and only real change will change them.
Most people are unable to change their diet overnight and it seems to take time, so when a patient comes to TCM, acupuncture and Chinese herbal therapy is started right away. The doctor should then make dietary recommendations for the patient to start working on.
In general, the following steps are quite usual in treating overweight people with Oriental medicine:
The doctor must: Differentiate the underlying pattern imbalances in each person and make a TCM diagnosis. Understand the treatment principles to treat these imbalances. Construct an acupoint prescription quickly in their head and administer acupuncture. Design a customized herbal formula based upon the determined treatment principles for each individual. Adjust the acupoint prescription and herbal formula along the course of treatment according to the patients changes.
Differentiating the pattern means seeing the cause of the imbalances inside the individual, i.e. correctly diagnosing the patient.
The treatment principles used are based upon these discriminating patterns and are according to TCM theory and practice as derived from centuries of study and practice with good outcomes. Though allopathic medicine may claim that TCM and acupuncture are not evidence based. what better evidence is there than the change in the health of the person for the better, rather than only a few, often biased, clinical trials? A modern day TCM practitioner has had years of formal training in medical school to understand these principles and methods, so this can not be covered here.
In the acupoint prescription there are points that can help to expel the excesses and help to improve the digestive system and metabolism. Their are acupoints that can also help cravings, psychological imbalances, and stress.
A good TCM herbal formula is paramount to accompany the acupuncture in most cases. Again, just as the acupoints are not the same for each person, the herbal formulas are not the same. There are almost unlimited herbal formula combinations; each is designed according to each individuals needs at that time. Typically, an herbal formula will be modified each week or each time the patient is seen, depending on their condition. Some things will be improved and some not. As the condition of the persons body changes, so must the formula. TCM is a dynamic medicine. This is one of the reasons it is so effective for myriad conditions and diseases.
Of course, diet must be addressed and the patient must make the changes. The acupuncture, herbal formulas, and the doctor will all help the patient to make this transition. The doctor is your coach and guide, and the real doctor is YOU!
Deep breathing and self-abdominal massage can help and it is something that can be done at home.
A breathing exercise:
Lie on your back Put one hand on your lower abdomen just below the navel. Inhale and exhale a few times normally. Now, start controlling your breath by inhaling through the nose deep into the abdomen. The abdomen should rise and expand with the inhalation. Exhale through the mouth very slowly, making your exhale 7 to 20 times longer than your inhale. Your abdomen should contract and sink as you exhale. Do this in a regular manner every day for 10 minutes or so. Notice how much better you feel!
in summary, overweight and obesity according to TCM theory is due to former heaven natural endowment insufficiency (deficiency occurring when the person was formed inside the womb, and present at birth), addiction to fatty, sweet, thick, slimy foods, lack of movement by lying down or sitting too much either because of the work or a predilection for non-movement, and insufficient exercise, and the thinking which causes much of this.
The first thing needed by the individual is an awakening that their condition of overweight is not alright. It is not natural nor normal. It is another disease. The second thing needed is the realization that it is in their own power to change it all, even if there is a natural endowment insufficiency. The cycle can be broken. The next step is to get a good guide and coach of which a TCM doctor can be. You have the power to change your life. It is simple, but not easy. Get on the path and then have no doubt.