acupuncture, traditional chinese medicine, herbs
Weight loss. What a loaded word. It comes with so many pre-conceived ideas, emotions, and maybe a little hope of a quick fix. Quick fix to what though? What do you think you will find on the other side of the goal line where you are your “perfect” weight? Usually people say happiness but I am here to tell you that the feeling you are searching for, occurs when you are in a state of balance and harmony. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), you will lose the unneeded pounds when you find your own constitutional imbalances, the “deficiencies and excesses” that have developed over time and rectify them. I will be giving you some suggestions on how to you can accomplish this.
Weight gain is only a symptom of an underlying pattern imbalance and TCM takes that along with other symptoms you might be experiencing (such as constipation, poor sleep, fatigue, etc.) and formulates a Chinese pattern diagnosis. This pattern is treated, not the symptoms. This equates to the root of the problem being treated and when the right TCM diagnosis is identified and treated, you will see all your symptoms disappearing that seemed so unrelated to the Western eye. What this means in terms of weight loss is that once we recognize the underlying pattern that is causing an individual’s imbalance, we can then use a combination treatment approach of acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and specific food suggestions for that TCM pattern to create harmony in the body. You see, there is no “one size fits all” in TCM. The foods that cause one person to gain weight can be medicine in another.
I am not promising a quick fix. I am not even promising it will be easy. It takes work and self-reflection to get to where we want to be in life. What I am promising is that you will feel really good. With consistency, a little will power, and some self-love, you can achieve that feeling of well-being. That is what is going to bring you happiness in the end and isn’t that why most people say they want to lose weight in the first place? Well-being comes through health: physical, emotional, social, and spiritual. It is all connected.
A feel a few rules need to be laid down here for the foundation to be strong. First, do not compare yourself to another human! Health comes in many different sizes and skinny does not equal healthy. Which brings me to the second rule: your goal should be health not some number! Isn’t the point to have a high-quality life where you feel good? You are not going to be feeling good calorie counting while running on a treadmill and drinking diet pop. Final rule is you need a shift in perspective. This could mean different things for different people, but for most it can be as simple as changing your goal from weight loss to health gain. For others, it can mean adding in a gratitude practice every day, sitting in silence for five minutes, or finally taking that class you have always wanted to take. We need inspiration in life so find yours.
Although specific food suggestions will vary depending on your individual TCM pattern diagnosis, I will give some TCM guidance that will be beneficial to all. It is extremely important that our digestion process is functioning very well. In TCM, this is the “Spleen” organ that we are talking about. The TCM Spleen can be thought of as a combination of the pancreas, stomach, duodenum, and small intestine in Western medicine. It is in charge of transformation and transportation. In other words, it breaks down the food we eat into Qi, blood, and nutrients and then gets these by-products to where they need to go. So, if this function is deficient, we won’t be breaking our food down well enough, absorbing sufficiently, or transporting adequately. To keep the Spleen working optimally or to restore its function, we need to eat whole foods that are cooked and not too difficult to digest. This means no raw or cold foods and drinks, even ice water. Cold taxes the digestive system. Think of throwing ice on a fire when you are trying to cook with it.
The next TCM guide post is too eat at regular times every day. The body likes routine and does best when you eat at the same times. It is best to eat three regular meals with maybe an afternoon snack and do not “graze” in between meals. The body needs rest time in between food to fully digest the food and be able to perform all its other functions. It is also advised that we do not eat food from 7pm to 7am (this is not advisable for every individual, for example babies and adults with blood sugar regulation issues). Digestive function is very low at night and eating at night can lead to “food accumulation and dampness” in TCM terms. This loosely translates to mucous and phlegm production in Western terms and can lead to symptoms such as bloating, fatigue, insomnia, cloudy mind, bowel irregularity and more.
As far as timing, Chinese Medicine is very in tune with nature, seasons, and the cycles of Earth, so advice varies by season. They recommend to eat your largest meal when the sun is highest, so this means lunch would be your largest meal, breakfast the second largest, and supper the lightest meal of the day. The seasons also affect how much sleep we need, which a lot more people can relate to. For optimal health, it is best to rise with the sun and sleep when the sun sets. Although in our modern culture, this is close to impossible, we should get more sleep in the winter and less in the summer.
Finally, get outside! In order to make good quality Qi, we first need to start with good quality food and good quality air. I am not telling you to go run five miles. Start with where you are at and if that is walking around your block once a day then that is great! The point is to be outside breathing some fresh air while moving your body. This gives us a chance to connect with nature too. We do not need to be in a forest to notice a tree. “Connecting” can just be noticing. Be kind to yourself on this wonderful Earth journey. Treat yourself and talk to yourself like you would a baby. Health on the outside starts with health on the inside.
If you would like to learn more about what your constitutional type is so you can pick the right foods for you and avoid the foods that are causing more imbalance, feel free to come to my free class on March 27th at from 12-1pm at Natural Grocers in Flagstaff. Or you can stop by our booth at the free event: “The East Side Show: The Other Art Walk” that happens the 2nd Saturday every month at 12pm for a free auricular style acupuncture treatment to get started on your way to health. So much support is available to you in this community; don’t do it alone!
Brittany Petrick, L.Ac, MSOM, BSN
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