By Shihan Mary Bolz
Master of Science Oriental Medicine
Doctoral Fellow, FBU
Master Martial Arts Instructor
It is estimated that two thirds of our population in the United States are considered overweight or obese, and that is with the standards of weight ranges according to the height of the individual having been increased compared to two or three decades ago. This is allowing a greater portion of the population to be considered a normal weight than previously. Overweight is not merely a cosmetic and social appearance problem. It is a real health problem, first. When you go to an Oriental medicine doctor/acupuncturist; this is how it is viewed and it is how it should be viewed by any medical practitioner and the public in general. It is not a matter of looks and discrimination; it is a matter of life!
Obesity shows what is going on inside of the person. A collection of excess; excess toxins, phlegm, water, and fat. It also creates blood stagnation, which leads to poor circulation. The excess and stagnation taxes the internal organs and diminishes their function. All the tissues in the body suffer. They cannot get enough blood, water, nutrients, and oxygen. This creates a breeding ground for disease due to the buildup of toxins, which causes a decrease in the functional ability of the body to clear them. The poorly functioning metabolic, endocrine, and distribution systems become more broken down as time goes on which leads to heart blood stagnation; that is, the heart lacks blood because the blood is stuck in the vessels. Therefore, the increased chance of heart disease and heart attacks, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, and other diseases.
The obesity problem is not a matter of getting the public to accept overweight people; it is a matter of getting the public to understand that it is not the norm for a healthy person and that it is a severe health problem. It will not cure the problem by going to weight loss clinics. While the weight loss clinics can help the person to get the weight off, it does not cure the person’s problem. Some diets and diet pills are dangerous to the person’s health. Having a surgical bypass or other surgical procedures do not solve the problem anymore than removing the gallbladder removes the real problem in the case of gallbladder stones. These are all cosmetic fixes. These are NOT solutions for health and for the prevention of serious diseases. Health should be number one, not physical appearance. Medical doctors, for the most part, do know this, and do realize the hazard; but they have either given up on the patients with the problem or they only tell the patient they should lose weight and do not tell them HOW. Medical professionals in this country must do their part in this education process.
So now that we, in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), classify obesity and overweight as health issues, i.e. a disease, let us look at how TCM or TOM (Traditional Oriental Medicine) views disease and views curing it. The following explanation is taken from “Acupuncture-A Comprehensive Text” published by Eastland Press, translated and edited by John O’Connor and Dan Bensky.
“The curing of disease depends primarily upon the body’s internal powers of resistance and only secondarily on treatment. The fundamental view of therapy in Oriental medicine is expressed in the phrase “support what is normal, expel what is abnormal” “Normal” refers to a balance within the organism, the capacity to defend and adapt itself to a changing environment. “Abnormal” refers to harmful elements, which upset the normal functioning and development of the body, thereby causing disease. Generally speaking, supporting what is normal occupies a more important place than expelling what is abnormal.”
This is consistent with the teaching in Chinese medicine and philosophy from the ancient classics that “The basic cause in the development of things is not to be found externally, but rather internally, that is, upon internal contradictions.” With its high regard to internal factors in the treatment of disease, traditional Oriental medicine focuses on the capacity of acupuncture therapy to regulate the “Qi.” “Qi” is the life-force energy, which makes up the universe and everything within it, including the animate and inanimate forms. When the Qi is regulated, one can thereby balance the Yin and Yang, i.e., the reciprocal relationships among the material and functional activities of the tissues and organs of the body. Disease is manifested by an imbalance in the system, of either Excess or Deficiency. Acupuncture effectively regulates the functioning of the body and strengthens its resistance to disease.
Acupuncture can also get rid of the excess components in the system. In the case of obesity and overweight individuals there is an excess component that needs to be gotten rid of but at the same time there is a deficiency in the Qi and in the functioning of the digestive and metabolic system. So you cannot just get rid of the excess, losing weight, fat, and toxin, but you must also build up the internal organs themselves to get them to function properly. You must also increase the nutrition in the system. Increase the NUTRITION, not the calories and fat! Most people who are overweight or obese have a severe nutritional deficiency, very poorly functioning Spleen and digestive system, and overtaxed livers. Oriental medicine understands this very well and is a beautiful medical system at applying these concepts of the dualities of the real world. In the real world, nothing is either one way or the other. It is all a combination of factors and a coexistence of dualities. Understanding that, Oriental medicine has developed the method of diagnosing and successfully treating many chronic illnesses that Western medicine cannot figure out.
When an Oriental medicine doctor views a problem, he/she looks not only at the parts but also at the whole. A symptom appearing at one place in the body is often only a part of a systemic disorder. For example, abdominal pain may not only appear as local manifestation of disease in an organ of the digestive or urogenital systems, but is often found in diseases of the respiratory, circulatory, or nervous systems as well. Therefore, when treating a disease, one must consider the relationship between the parts and the whole. This holds true in the diagnostic process in Oriental medicine and it holds true in the treatment In Oriental medicine, which includes acupuncture and Chinese herbal therapy. The following passage from the ancient Classic of Internal Medicine aptly expresses this view: “Knowing the left but not the right, or the right but not the left, knowing what is above but not that which is below, or what preceded but not that which follows, the cure will not last.” When stimulating acupoints on the channels on the body in the course of acupuncture therapy, not only will there be a local effect upon neighboring tissues and organs, but also a systemic effect upon the organism in general.
The fundamental principles of traditional therapy are to strengthen or reinforce that which is deficient, and drain or sedate that which is excessive. Acupuncture serves to regulate the functioning of the entire organism. By carefully observing internal factors such as the strength of the body and the vigor of the disease, a physician may then select appropriate points along the acupuncture channels of the body, determine the direction, angle and depth of needle insertion and choose the most appropriate technique with respect to the amount and duration of stimulation desired. All of these factors, besides which points to choose, contribute to the strengthening of a deficiency or the draining of an excess condition.
With this view in mind, it is easier to see how acupuncture works effectively for weight loss. However, acupuncture, as you should now understand, is not only helping the overweight individual to lose weight, but also to increase the function of the digestive organs and endocrine system, including the liver. Traditional Chinese herbal therapy does the same thing, working internally by clearing fat and toxin and at the same time builds the weak organs. This is something that Western folk medicine has not developed. Traditional Chinese herbal therapy is a sophisticated, scientific, and wholistic medical system with 20,000 herbs in the total of the Chinese material medical. Most TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) doctors use around 450, possibly up to 1,000 herbs; which is adequate to accomplish most treatment goals. Almost all prescriptions of TCM herbal therapy are complicated formulas customized to each individuals condition and is modified as the person’s condition changes.
When you set up an appointment at an Oriental medicine clinic with weight loss as your goal, here is what should occur: You should have an initial visit, which includes a complete health evaluation just as you would for any other illness or health concern. The practitioner will interview you with many personal health questions, get information on medical tests or procedures you have had in the past and recently, get a list of all your current medications, prescribed and over-the-counter, vitamins, supplements, or herbs; and will do a complete pulse, tongue, visual and palpation diagnosis. The practitioner will give one or more TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) diagnoses. The practitioner will mentally and quickly get the acupoint prescription in their head and administer an acupuncture treatment. The treatment will consist of points anywhere on your body or head. There may be some acupoints used in the he ears. You may go home with portable skin needles or seeds in one or both ears. The practitioner will explain to you how the TCM herbal medicine works, how it is made, and how you should take it and how often. The TCM practitioner will make a treatment plan with a recommended number of treatments expected. A good practitioner will discuss dietary and exercise adjustments and will help you with the emotional backing needed for you to follow through.
Any person wanting to lose weight MUST commit to dietary and exercise habits. Learning new ways of eating, NOT “going on a diet,” but building a lifelong habit of eating holistically; is the greatest single thing that the individual can do for himself or herself. No doubt about it; you ARE what you eat. Eating fat makes fat. Eating sugar makes fat bodies and weak spleens, weak metabolism, and weak endocrine systems. A high animal food diet is NOT a healthy diet, any more than one in lots of simple carbohydrates is. A high protein and animal protein diet can be very successful in temporary weight loss; but it is not healthy and it is not the way nature intended the human beings to eat. Taking short cuts or the super-easy-way-out will inevitably end in disaster. You cannot continue the “get rich quick” method and have sound finances. Just as you cannot spend more money than you take in to stay financially healthy, you cannot take in more than you can spend to stay physically healthy. That means exercise is also an important component to include in your own health and well-being.
Foods, which cause overweight, are dairy products, meats, fried and packaged foods; pork (promotes dampness like dairy products, so are especially fat inducing.) The other main culprit in the average American diet is sugar; all the simple sugars and that include soda and diet soda. Most so-called diet products are unhealthy. Complex carbohydrates are good for you and do not cause people to be overweight. The mainstay in traditional Asia has always been rice. The Asians were never fat until introduced to the American diet. Contact your TCM practitioner for sound dietary advice and treatment.
Most of all, love yourself enough first to enable you to do what it takes to change the condition. It IS changeable the natural way. You ARE worth it! The natural way is the most sound and sure way. If you do not have a weight problem, love yourself enough to investigate your eating habits, most importantly, what and how you eat, not just how much. Decide to change first and follow through. Look forward and only look back to understand what foods caused the problem in the first place. Then always look forward, do not blame yourself. You did not know. Now you do, so go forward. Stay positive and look at the change as an exciting new path in life. Life is exciting and fun and you face your challenge as a new beginning. Wear a smile. When you do, what it takes, nature is very faithful, and your body WILL change. However, you must change your mind first.