Weight for Chinese Medicine
By Shoshanna Katzman, MS, L.Ac, Dipl. Ac & CH
Chinese medicine can be of help to the millions of Americans struggling with their weight, due to how it identifies and rectifies the deeper underlying root causes of this important issue. Regardless of whether it is a matter of excessive or deficient weight, Chinese medicine works to bring the body back into balance. It establishes healing from “the inside out,” while forging a solid connection between the mind and body. As a holistic approach to weight management, Chinese medicine activates the energetics of the stomach, spleen, liver, kidney, heart, large intestine, and small intestine organ systems.
It provides a multifaceted approach that addresses the body, mind, emotions, energetic and spiritual components of an individual. This is accomplished through techniques used for centuries as a natural way to achieve these goals. These include the modalities of acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, Chinese food therapy, and the exercises of qigong and tai chi. Discussion about making appropriate lifestyle changes according to the principles of Chinese medicine is also a large part of this process.
Each of these modalities accomplishes their weight management goals through three main objectives. The first is opening the flow of qi (vital energy) throughout the body to enhance structure and activate the function, whereby strong and free-flowing qi results in a positive state of health. Alternatively, weak qi creates stuck energy and stagnancy leading to excess storage of fat in the body. Moreover, when qi throughout the body becomes unstuck, combined with the strong qi of the internal organs, the processes of digestion, metabolism, and elimination happen efficiently, together with the release of excessive amounts of fluid, fat, and toxic deposits.
Furthermore, strengthening of qi of the kidneys through Chinese medicine modalities boosts willpower and energy, providing the impetus to “get the job done.” Balancing of the qi of the heart helps to calm and relax the body, strengthen mental clarity, promote blood circulation, and help with the proper flow of feelings and emotions within the body. Using these modalities also serve to activate and balance the sympathetic nervous system, leading to an overall sense of calm. Moreover, increased flow of qi balances the endocrine system, which has a profound impact on metabolism and proper function of the entire body. When qi is vibrantly flowing, it also leads to a harmonious Shen (spirit), which helps food choices to happen in the right amount and at the appropriate time through the establishment of balance and full connection of the body, mind, and spirit.
Digestion and Metabolism
The second main objective is to boost and balance the digestion and metabolism, specifically through the strengthening of the spleen and stomach organ systems. This is based on the premise that weight issues stem from a deficiency of the spleen and stomach, due to their essential role in transformation and transportation of food throughout the body. Whereby, strengthening of these organs leads to better processing of food through improved metabolism, thereby leading to natural normalization of one’s weight. This helps with proper processing and elimination of foods, so they don’t accumulate and stagnate within the body.
Balancing and strengthening of the stomach energy also helps to curb and eliminate cravings and desire for excessive or binge eating. Additionally, spleen and stomach strengthening through Chinese medicine work to ensure that the special form of qi known as gu qi (food qi) is plentiful throughout the body. Gu qi is a by-product derived from the breakdown of food, one that serves as a major contributor of energy for the body, especially when food quality is high and spleen/stomach function is optimal.
High levels of gu qi are essential for carrying out the body’s major processes, in addition to providing ample energy for life. This is why strengthening of the ability to properly transform and transport food throughout the body is such a major component of working with weight issues. It also helps an individual to understand that it is the deficiency of their spleen and stomach function that is the underlying cause of weight accumulation, especially when eating a balanced diet.
The third objective involves promotion of the detoxification process, through the release of the buildup of toxic substances and strengthening of the body’s elimination function. This serves to establish overall health and wellbeing, increased energy, balanced mood, and release of excess fat together with toxins stored within them. The infinite wisdom of the body stores these toxins within the fat to keep them from damaging its vital organs. A detoxification process is done properly strengthens and supports the body’s organs of elimination to gently and safely release toxins from the body. Doing this slowly is essential because releasing excessive amounts of toxins too quickly can make an individual feel quite sick.
Proper release of toxins is primarily accomplished through strengthening the energetics of the liver, small intestine, and large intestine organ systems. Detoxification of the liver promotes increased flow of energy throughout the body, alleviates feelings of anger and depression, and nourishes the flow of blood. Moreover, this releases feelings of being overwhelmed and brings about good mood by releasing what is traditionally known as a condition of liver stagnation.
Working to promote the increased function of the small and large intestine organs supports the release of toxic substances from the body via their eliminative functions. This is also accomplished through adjustment of lifestyle habits involving ingestion of particular foods, drinks, and herbal supplements known for their detoxification effects. There are many such detoxification programs on the market, ones that must be thoroughly examined and chosen carefully to ensure quality and safety. Chinese medicine detoxification is also accomplished through promotion of sweating, thereby releasing toxins through the pores of the skin.
Acupuncture treatment of specific points on the ear is the traditional approach to helping an individual manage their weight, together with points needled on other aspects of the body such as hands and feet. The acupuncture experience provides a quiet time for healing, one that releases stress and physical tension, while promoting inner peace. When an individual is in a more relaxed and tranquil state, they are more able to make better choices around food, in addition to having greater acceptance of self and their situation. Moreover, acupuncture leads to healing of the whole body to create an overall sense of wellbeing.
Chinese Herbs for Weight Loss
Chinese herbal medicine is traditionally the main component of detoxification and weight loss herbal formulas, helping to address the more internal aspects of health and healing. These herbs are traditionally taken internally in the form of teas, pills, granules, or extracts to assist in strengthening metabolism, regulating digestion, and promoting elimination. This is accomplished by increasing the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food and drink and to release waste appropriately. Chinese herbs also boost overall energy, while releasing accumulation of excessive water and phlegm. This also leads to a free flow of qi and blood, together with feelings and emotions.
Qigong and Tai Chi
Qigong and tai chi exercise are additional Chinese medicine methods to restore optimal body function to help with weight management. Acupressure is included as a qigong practice, a self-help technique providing assistance during the process of finding weight balance. The graceful, flowing movements of qigong and tai chi accomplish the three main objectives described above through diligent and committed practice, especially when done on a daily basis. Qigong and tai chi both involve a process of self-empowerment, one that deepens through consolidation, cultivation, and building of qi reserves over time. This manifests as positive attitude, nurturing behavior, healing food choices, and improved lifestyle choices.
Tai chi and qigong also open and strengthen intuitive and psychic abilities, helping one to be more trusting of self and other, as well as “in tune with” and acknowledging of their special gifts and true nature. The development and enhancement of these abilities have a direct positive effect on working with one’s weight through increased spiritual awareness and self-acceptance. This is further enhanced through its nourishment of Shen (spirit), leading to a happy heart and loving attitude toward self and others. It creates a greater love for life and living, which goes a long way to establishing healthy eating patterns. This is derived from the greater interest in the many varied aspects of life, rather than dwelling on one’s obsession with food.
Chinese Food Therapy
Chinese food therapy is an essential component of one’s holistic weight management plan. Following these principles closely helps to ensure choice of the most nutritious foods, together with those appropriate for one’s particular constitution. This is determined based on a food’s particular energetic qualities, and whether it is a match for an individual’s energetic predisposition. It is especially helpful when a detoxification program is complete, to build the body back up, ensuring optimal health and wellbeing after it has been through an elimination process.
Resolving the root cause of a problem through one of these Chinese medicine modalities or a combination of them is essential for establishing renewed patterns of behavior around food. Chinese medicine lifestyle recommendations are another essential component of the weight management process, which helps to pull everything together as it provides an overview of what one might be doing to negate or sabotage their healing process. This involves discussion about emotional and attitudinal behavior, sleep patterns, work habits and attitudes, time spent resting and relaxing, sexual activity, social behavior, and the like.
The main goal of this discussion is to find ways that an individual can modify their behavior to build upon precious reserves of vital essence, rather than depleting these qi resources. For example, qi is negatively impacted by long extended periods of poor nutrition, work overload, excessive exercise, overindulgence in sex, frequent bodily injury, too much toxicity, drug overuse, unbalanced emotions, sleep deprivation, and damaging environmental factors. Understanding the negative impact of such behavior helps to further one’s commitment and perseverance to achieve and maintain balance and moderation within the sphere of behavior in life.
Exploration of lifestyle habits must include discussion about how to nourish oneself from within as a central component of healing. This leads to a feeling of wholeness and inner peace that helps when it comes to nourishing oneself with food. Realizing the negative impact of food restriction and strictly regimented diets is important, followed by solid commitment to not allow oneself to rely on such unhealthy methods – as it only provides a temporary quick fix and has long-range deleterious effects on the body.
The better approach for lasting results is to eat a balanced diet in proper amounts and commit to establishing a healthy relationship with food and oneself. This must also include acceptance of a weight problem for what it is while accepting one’s body at the same time. This may require the support of a highly trained psychotherapist to help deep feelings surface in a safe environment, where they can be properly processed, accepted, and resolved – rather than continuing to “bury them with food.” This is an excellent component of mending the “mind, body, mouth connection,” leading to wholeness and peace from within.
Destructive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors “fuel the fire” of self-sabotage, manifesting as unhealthy food choices. These may include emotional patterns such as self-loathing, constant judging of oneself, and continual abandonment of one’s own needs in favor of taking care of everyone else. Working toward facing such behavior, being honest with self, and working hard to make balanced and healthy modifications directly relates to turning unhealthy eating and lifestyle patterns into healthy ones.
Maintaining patience and a strong sense of hope during this evolving process, such as uncovering of deep feelings around food, happens incrementally over time, when an individual is ready. Self-awareness and discovery must stem from a kind, loving perspective that fosters acceptance of past behaviors while becoming open to new and healthier patterns. Transformations and change happen via slow and steady working through what is “eating you,” combined with an internal dialogue aimed at the formation of a better lifestyle and dietary choices.
Each person has his or her own, unique mind, body, mouth issues. As mentioned, true healing is primarily derived from within. Mending and re-establishing connection within one’s self-awakens the body’s innate healing ability for the free and abundant flow of qi. This renewed flow provides the necessary fuel to carry out daily life activities with optimal efficiency. Adding the ancient wisdom garnered from Chinese medicine is an excellent way to help with management of weight and proper dealing with issues around food. This is established through guiding each individual in unique ways toward a renewed and improved bodily felt a sense of power, connection, and hope for whatever is to come.
Enhance your Health with Qigong
Learn a series of gentle movements from the ancient Chinese art of self-healing and fitness, to maintain health and nurture your spirit.
Qigong is a form of energy medicine movement that activates the body both physically and energetically. During Qigong training, you learn to cultivate your Qi (vital energy) and increase energetic awareness. This results in an increased sensitivity to electrical, magnetic and other energies not just emanating from yourself, but from others.
Through the practice of Qigong, one begins to strengthen and train the development of inner awareness. When this occurs, a person can begin to access information within themselves in an enhanced manner increasing inner wisdom.