With the arrival of summer (bathing suit season), I thought I’d give a little attention to the question of acupuncture and weight loss. When people search online for acupuncture, the promise of weight loss is everywhere. So, can acupuncture help or not?
In my clinical experience, the answer is yes… Acupuncture helps people to clear their systems of excess toxins that are stored in fat tissue. Acupuncture helps break addictive and emotional cycles that keep us craving the foods we know are bad for us. And most importantly, acupuncture helps us calm down. Western science confirms that chronic stress causes so many of us to gain weight…and hold on to it. Especially around the midsection, like in that old Paul Simon song where he says, “Why am I fat in the middle when my life is so hard?” We can eat right and exercise regularly, and we can still hold on to weight just because of stress! (There’s a great explanation of the mechanism behind this phenomenon in the book “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers” by Robert M. Sapolsky).
That said, acupuncture is of course not a stand-alone when it comes to weight maintenance. I have seen multiple patients lose weight by making dietary changes, especially by removing foods from their diets that Chinese dietary theory considers “cold” or “damp,” including dairy, sugar, and yeast-containing foods like bread or beer. The Chinese didn’t test for “gluten intolerance,” but many people suffer from chronic inflammation in their bellies, causing them to feel bloated and overweight regardless of caloric intake. With a combination of acupuncture, herbs, and dietary counseling, this situation can be resolved…resulting for many patients in sustainable weight loss.
In general, Chinese medicine strives to help us find balance in our bodies by mirroring nature and practicing moderation. What does that mean in practical life? It means lowering our stress levels through predictable routines of mealtimes and rest. It means enjoying good food, good work, and good fun without going to extremes. It means fresh, seasonal food and active rest practices like yoga, a walk in the park, or an easygoing bike ride. Believe it or not, sustainable weight may be attained through enjoying your life more.