I am honestly surprised by how many people come to me for weight loss treatments. In the very beginning of my acupuncture practice, the majority of conditions treated were in regards to pain and stress, in otherwise non-overweight individuals. In the past five years, that percentage of people seeking alternative medicine to assist with weight loss has grown.
Partly, this is positive, since more of us have the resources and information to seek out this really great adjunctive therapy to a weight loss plan. Conversely, it is negative, because I see that obesity is becoming more prevalent. I particularly see it in women who struggle with stubborn weight gain either after pregnancy or during the perimenopausal years, both of which involve big shifts in hormones.
I say that acupuncture is a great adjunct for two reasons: first, it gently supports the entire system; secondly, to successfully lose weight, change one’s lifestyle and correct chronic diseases setting in, a well-rounded, all-inclusive, easily accepted and adapted plan needs to be in place. This article will discuss how and why weight gain occurs through a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) lens and what components of a weight loss plan directly support that perspective.
In the TCM view, we are dealing with two major organ systems: spleen and liver. They are on the same level, but we will focus on the spleen for this month. Spleen shares many similarities with the pancreas in this perspective, such as digestion, assimilation and metabolism of all that is eaten. Spleen is the organ that takes the best qi, or energy, from what is eaten, mixes it with qi from breathing to then make the qi that circulates throughout the body. When the spleen qi is strong, a certain uplifting energy is felt from eating the proper foods. The muscles are toned but also supple, there is minimal excess tissue, the complexion is bright, there is regular elimination, minimal inflammation, and good balance of activity and rest. When the spleen qi is weak, food often leaves us tired, the muscles are soft, there is extra tissue around the abdomen and cellulite, the complexion is yellow, digestion is upset, there are aches and pains, and likely there is too much sitting and consuming going on.
Because digestion and obtaining nutrients and making qi is a process, there are steps along the way that can get bogged down, and make the process less efficient. The starting material, or that which is being eaten, also plays a big role in how much and how effectively we are using qi to process the food. If the food is too processed, creamy, sticky, starchy or thick, the spleen really has to expend a lot of energy to digest it, and it might not even be able to digest all of it, depending on the ingredients. What’s left then is a heavy byproduct known in TCM as dampness, and more modernly termed mucus or inflammation. As dampness accumulates, it makes digestion and assimilation even more inefficient and ineffective. The digestive system is then too weak to digest the new food and move the dampness through the body, which results in storing it around the abdomen or in any bodily area that has weakness. This paves the way for chronic diseases such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and even cancer.
If this article has inspired you to strengthen your spleen qi and put cleaner foods in your body, excellent, both of those are part of the answer. A lot of weight loss can be accomplished via the foods being put in, with, of course, the omission of foods that do the most damage. The long-term success with weight loss happens after reconsidering some habitual eating tendencies. For instance, save meal times for sitting outside and relaxing or engaging in light, happy conversation with a loved one. Trying to work, read, study and even watch TV involves consuming via the eyes and ears. At the end of the day, the body and mind have to process that, along with food, and there is no need to waste precious energy trying to do all things at once.
Another key change is to make the meals as simple as possible; the fewer ingredients the better. Perhaps this looks like seven mangoes for dinner, but the spleen will feel so good and energized after traditional concepts of meals and eating may fall by the wayside as more efficient and specific practices emerge. QCBN
By Katie Borchert
To cultivate a specific weight loss plan and support your spleen qi in the process, contact Dr. Katie Borchert at 928-445-2900 or email@example.com.
Dr. Borchert has office hours daily at Partners in Health Care Naturally in downtown Prescott, 343 S. Montezuma St. She is also available for home visits, a great way to help the whole family. The clinic website is prescottnaturopathicdoctors.com and Dr. Borchert has Facebook and Instagram accounts featuring naturopathic living.