Excess weight is a complex health problem that is very difficult to resolve. There are multiple factors that explain why it is now occurring in so many countries.
Obviously, our sedentary lifestyle doesn't help. Due to the advances in technology, most occupations are now far less physical than they used to be. So the daily calorie requirements for most people are a lot less than they were a few decades ago.
It pays to remember that for most of human history, life was a constant battle against starvation. In order to survive, our body developed at an early stage physiological mechanisms that were extremely efficient and frugal with the meagre sources of energy that we were able to find. Fat cells would store glucose in the form of glycogen so that it would be released more conservatively. Thus, diverting energy into fat storage was an evolutionary advantage.
Today, with the constant availability of cheap calorie-loaded processed foods, these ancient metabolic strategies are a major disadvantage. In fact, the massive increase in metabolic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and hypertension parallels the rise in sugar availability over the past century.
In the United States, it is today often cheaper to buy junk food than fruit or vegetables. So, we have now reached a stage where, for the first time in history, the most overweight section of the local population is also the poorest.
Weight loss has now become now a multi billion dollar industry worldwide, but going on miracle diets is seldom a long term solution. Beyond the simple fact that weight gain is the result of more calories absorbed than is required, there lie more complex emotional issues that have to be addressed to achieve lasting changes.
In the case of women with obesity, many other health problems have to be taken into consideration. These include constipation, irregular periods, depression, anxiety, PMS and skin problems.
Chinese medicine addresses the physiological and emotional imbalances in the body at the same time. As practitioners, we can strengthen the digestive and hormonal systems with body acupuncture and Chinese herbalism. Once the digestive system is stronger, it becomes more efficient at transforming, and transporting the food (Qi) energy, which, in turn, decreases the appetite.
Other contemporary techniques like ear acupuncture, where tiny gold or silver pellets are applied to target specific areas of the nervous system, can be included to increase willpower, reduce the cravings and help with depression and anxiety. The kidneys are also strengthened to support the endocrine system of the patients. Often these points are used alternatively, or in combination, with the spleen and stomach points to improve the metabolism.
In China, Oriental medicine has been used for many years to treat this complex disorder. To maintain weight loss, acupuncture is practised as a gradual reduction method which can take up to one year in some cases. In that country, the local patients are treated three times a week for a total of 10 weeks. After a resting period of one to two weeks, a new course of treatment is given until the desired weight has been achieved.
Mary Christian is an American acupuncturist who went to China to study these techniques before establishing her own practice in the state of Colorado a few decades ago. She is now specialising in weight problems.
She treats her clients once or twice weekly, with a break lasting two weeks to a month after 10 acupuncture treatments. This gives them a chance to have more time to exercise and to establish healthier eating patterns by themselves. As she explains, after the fourth treatment, her clients experience a small but significant decrease in overall appetite, a decrease in sugar cravings, or a shift to adequate protein intake. Soon, they find it impossible to eat as much as they once did. Being in control of their body once again is a major turning point. They become less attached to food and they spend less thinking about it.
Of course, what works with one person doesn't automatically work with another and individual adjustments often have to be made accordingly. Sometimes her clients begin to lose weight after the first week, while others don't see a change until after the eight treatments, but she has demonstrated that these methods can work outside China.
Overall, four out of five people undertaking the acupuncture program had still maintained their weight loss after a year, which is quite an achievement.
Olivier Lejus MHSc.(TCM), BHSc.(Acup.) is an accredited acupuncturist practising in Sydney
Olivier Lejus BHSc.MHSc. is a registered acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist practising in Sydney. A former casual university lecturer and tutor in Oriental medicine with over 15 years experience in clinical practice, Olivier specialises in Japanese- style acupuncture for the treatment of male and female infertility, migraine, pain, and insomnia.www.olejusacupuncture.com