In the West, we spend millions of dollars on diet and exercise programs. And the results usually don’t yield intended weight loss but rather short-term weight loss followed shortly by rebound weight gain.
Most of us struggle with weight regulation because much of our focus is solely on the amount of calories consumed and burned as though those are the only parameters considered for weight loss. However, we are missing a crucial piece that Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) considers which is the element of how our bodies are functioning. A missing piece of the weight-loss equation has to do with energy. This is not the energy we traditionally think of as the energy we consume as food or the energy we expend through exercise. Rather, this is the energy that is responsible for our vitality, controls our body’s function and well-being. If that energy is strong and well-balanced, our ability to lose weight and to maintain a healthy weight is tremendously enhanced.
TCM uses of acupuncture, herbs, diet, movement activities, and meditation. It views health as a matter of building up and conserving energy, or “qi” (pronounced chee). When we have an abundant supply of qi flowing freely through the body, our internal organs and systems can function properly to keep us healthy.
So how does qi help with weight loss? In TCM, weight regulation is not solely about calorie intake and expenditure like previously mention. It really focuses on nourishing, fortifying, channeling and sustaining qi. All these actions of qi are what is responsible for raising your metabolism and helping you feel great!
A few ways that weaken your qi you ask? The major factors that weaken qi are excessive stress, emotional imbalances, inadequate sleep quality/quantity, and poor diet. When the body is depleted, we tend to have a difficult time letting go of weight, have lowered energy, and increased food cravings.
Here are a few ways to enhance your body’s qi:
- Avoid changing dietary regime too often: This is especially important in those who tend to have not have strong “digestive fire”. Those who have a weakened “digestive fire” tend to have bloating, excessive gas, and feel sluggish after eating. It is important to make note of foods that tend to make you feel this way and to make sure to eat foods that support your wellbeing.
- Eat foods that are full of qi!: This means getting plenty of vegetables, whole grains, fruits, organic meat, legumes. Think whole foods. One tip is shopping for foods on ends of grocery store and avoid eating packaged, refined, and artificial foods.
- Make sure your food is not stealing your qi: Raw, cold, sugary, and caffeine loaded foods/drinks “steal” qi by utilizing more qi in the body to process. When your body consumes cold and raw foods/drinks, it uses stored qi to heat it up and process it. Sugary and caffeine loaded foods/drinks give you artificial qi short-term but steal so much more qi long-term. Less qi stored up, less weight loss.
- Follow your body’s clock: Humans are creatures of habit and TCM fully supports this. By following your body’s natural rhythms, digestion and energy is supported at its fullest. Chinese Medicine has it’s own clock that represents optimal body function. For example, eat a hearty breakfast and TCM says 7 to 9 a.m. is the best time for digestion. Eat a medium sized lunch, and early, light dinner as TCM suggests 5pm is best time for dinner.
- Eat like a turtle: It is important to eat slowly and mindfully by taking your time away from distractions and focusing on the unique qualities of your food. This allows you to fully enjoy the experience while being able to listen to your body so you don’t over eat but feel satisfied. This all supports healthy digestion and conserves the qi that our body really loves!
- Sleep at a reasonable time: According to the TCM clock, our bodies detoxify around 11pm and if you don’t go to bed before 11pm this can affect our body’s detox pattern. Ever notice how you seem to get a second wind around 11pm and harder to fall asleep after 11 or 12? This is why and sufficient, quality rest is important for fully functioning metabolism.
- Move that body: Okay so not all of us are gym goers and cringe at the word “gym”. TCM recognizes the importance of proper body movement and not overdoing it. It is important to engage in gentle yet effective qi enhancing activities. Some examples include yoga, qigong, tai chi, and walks. The list goes on but the general idea is to keep free flowing qi in the body. This prevents a stagnation and decrease of qi that attributes to weight gain and weight retention.
- Give Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture a try: We all some times need a little support and push towards optimal health. Many people find acupuncture to help reduce food cravings and compulsive eating. With acupuncture people notice that they are naturally hungry at appropriate times of the day and not ravenously hungry. Also, less stress or stress management with acupuncture means a person may be less prone to emotional eating. Chinese herbs added to acupuncture can just help accentuate these actions along with bringing the body to balance to help shed those pounds.