Acupuncture – Can It Help Me Lose Weight?
By Jill Ellen Smith
For the Howard County Women’s Journal – February 2007
One of the common inquiries I get is from women wanting to know if I can help them to lose weight though acupuncture. The bad new is that there is no ‘weight loss point -no ‘magic bullet’. The good new is that weight issues are very often a reflection of an underlying imbalance. When the imbalance is treated, and lifestyle shifts are made, then shifts in weight can be a result.
Any manifestations of suffering (body, mind or spirit) will always be associated with an imbalance in the body. An acupuncturist will assess for the condition of your qi (your life force), your Blood, and your meridians of qi. We will work towards correcting these imbalances, whether they show up as a deficiency or and excess. We will work to remove blocks and promote flow of qi and Blood. However, this is not all we will do. We will evaluate your lifestyle thoroughly to determine what is ‘tweakable’ to improve how you are living.
Getting back to the imbalance in qi; an acupuncturist will always consider the functioning of your Earth element. According to the 5 Element approach, we live through the manifestation of our Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood elements. Metabolic issues, such as how efficiently our bodies digest and metabolize the foods we eat are the hallmark of our Earth element. There are 2 meridians that are responsible for our Earth’s functioning, and they are called the Spleen, and the Stomach meridians. According to Chinese Medicine, these 2 ‘Officials’ or organs as you would know them, are responsible for the taking in of nourishment on all levels (body, mind, spirit). Our Stomach takes in and processes everything and passes all that substance down into our intestinal system. The Spleen is responsible for the entire processing and metabolizing, and integrating of that substance. Without proper functioning of our Spleen our body may choose to deposit the substance rather than moving it along efficiently.
Additionally, if our Water element is out of balance, we may not have enough warmth in our bodies to allow our Earth element to ‘cook’ the food for adequate digestion and metabolism.
If our Wood element is out of balance, then it may impinge on the Earth element and slow it down to near shut down (this can be experienced as acid reflux, gas, bloating etc.)So you see, weight issues are more complex than simply ‘dieting’.
Calorie intake and exercise are, and will always be, major components of any weight loss intention. Personal Trainer Lisa Martin says that ‘remember that food equals energy’. This is energy you need to live day to day, and also energy that needs to be burned off if it is in excess of what you need to live by. This ‘burning off’ process always comes down to exercise.
I’ve seen women who come to me with complaints of weight gain, and also manifest levels of low energy. This may show up in how they sleep at night, or overall mood to name a few. Once we begin the treatment process, as they gain in energy, their mood lifts, and they become more motivated and capable of incorporating a more effective exercise program into their lives.
Another important factor is underlying constitution and genetics. Often times, a patient must come to terms with their own self-concept and what basic expectation they have on themselves. Some patients demand a weight for themselves that is not realistic (due to genetics/menopause/thyroid issues/underlying disease etc), and much of their work focuses on surrender and acceptance. In the end, acceptance of ourselves as women (and men) and who we are individually is really what the journey is about after all.
There have been a number of patients I have met who have childhood histories of abuse or molestation. Their weight issues are often tied up with these entangled memories and painful passages of their lives. And yes, these too, can be dealt with through acupuncture. So, you see, there can be no ‘weight loss point’ because each individual is unique in body, mind and spirit. They each bring different imbalances and histories into the treatment room.
Before meeting Jill, I thought acupuncture was all about the needles. I know now that acupuncture and eastern medicine involve much more of a physical and mental connection. I now have more energy, feel more positive, and my health is improving with each visit. Jill’s interest in knowing me as a person and not just as a patient has made the world of difference. I highly recommend her.