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Acupuncture Weight Loss? Plus 5 Step Weight Loss Plan

I remember my last year of high school – my best friend since 5th grade was living in France. He wrote that they didn’t like Americans very much. “They think we’re all fat,” he said. With his own lean figure, of course, he confused their belief.

But, he added an amusing, or perhaps ironic, capstone to the question. “I went into a store, and they were selling statues of these fat people, and at the base of each one it had ‘American’ written on it.”

Obesity is not just an American problem. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is a global problem. They call it globesity. Ironically, their understanding of this problem began with their initial mission to eliminate hunger and malnutrition. We live in a world where many have nothing to eat and many eat too much. From 1995 to 2000, the number of obese adults in the world increased from 200 to 300 million. That’s a 50% increase in just 5 years!

What is obesity and what is overweight?

Overweight means excess body weight. This excess weight can be muscle, bone, fat and/or water. Obesity refers specifically to an abnormally high proportion of body fat. You can be overweight without being obese – for example, a bodybuilder or other very muscular athlete. But many overweight people are also obese. The main way to determine if you are overweight or obese is the body mass index (BMI). It doesn’t measure body fat directly and isn’t gender specific, but it gives you a pretty reliable estimate.

To find your BMI, divide your weight (in kilograms) by your height in meters squared. Yes, for those struggling with math, it’s complex, so I’ll give you a website that will figure it out for you, the National Institute of Health BMI Calculator (http://www.nhlbisupport.com /bmi/). It will tell you very quickly if you are normal, overweight or obese, and it does all the math and metric conversions for you!

Overweight is defined as a BMI over 25 (including those over 30 BMI as well), and obesity is a BMI over 30. So all obese people are overweight, but all overweight people are not obese.

The obesity epidemic

Obesity isn’t just about not feeling well or having trouble getting dates…

* It causes more than 300,000 premature deaths each year in the United States. 90,000 are preventable cancer deaths. (CDC)

* Severely obese men die 13 years earlier than normal weight men (JAMA).

*As the killer in America, obesity is second only to tobacco. (CDC)

The weight loss industry

* Spending: Americans spend between $40 billion and $50 billion a year to lose weight.

*Results: I haven’t seen any recent news that Americans are losing weight – have I?

* Conclusion: what people are doing is not working. If we want different results, we have to try a different solution.

Weight loss by acupuncture: fantasy or reality?

* Fantasy or Reality? As a well-trained and fairly conservative Chinese medicine practitioner, I had assumed that acupuncture for weight loss was a marketing fad and a patient fantasy.

* Evidence: But while researching my forthcoming book Chinese Medicine: A Practical Guide to Optimal Healing, I found some surprisingly positive information that changed my mind.

Chinese Medicine Collective Clinical Data on Acupuncture Weight Loss

Chinese medicine has thousands of years of clinical experience. These collective data are not as convincing as randomized controlled trials, but they contain the truth – they are imperfect but still valid and important.

A US government study in the 1980s concluded that 85% of Western medicine is based on clinical experience, not research. (Office of Technology Assessment of the Congress of the United States, The Impact of Randomized Controlled Trials on Health Policy and Medical Practice, Background Paper OTA-BP-H-22. See also Michael Millenson’s book, Demanding Medical Excellence)

There is good research on Chinese medicine in Taiwan, Australia and Europe that is ignored by American scientists and media. Many searches in Chinese have not even been translated into English.

Seven studies on acupuncture for weight loss

How it works: By improving the function of two neuroendocrine pathways that regulate many bodily processes, including metabolism.

What he does:

* Reduces body weight, body fat, insulin levels and blood lipid levels

* Decreases excessive appetite and makes it easier to satisfy your hunger with less food.

* Decreases weight gain at menopause

* In one study, acupuncture removed 10 pounds in 2 months – that translates to 60 pounds in a year!

* Combined with diet control and aerobic advice, it not only takes off pounds and body fat, but keeps them off, especially if you are diligent with exercising them.

(See References at end of article for research)

Ephedra abuse and misguided legislation

Ephedra is a Chinese herb for colds and coughs. It has been misused to increase metabolism, and this misuse has caused many deaths. As a result, the FDA is considering a total ban on ephedra products. Two major things can be criticized:

1. Supplement companies that care more about your money than your health (no, not all of them are like that, but some of them are, especially those that market weight loss formulations).

2. The idea that you can safely medicate yourself with herbs – self-medication of any kind is risky. Self-medicating with herbs is off the radar, and people generally think they can do it safely. The ephedra debacle is an example of how dangerous it is.

Traditionally, Chinese herbs are given in formulas (not individually), which is safer and more personalized. They are prescribed by a Chinese medicine practitioner who first diagnoses your specific imbalances. Ephedra would never be given for weight loss, only for certain types of colds and coughs, and only to people whose bodies can handle it.

No traditional Chinese herbs should be banned without allowing Chinese doctors to continue using them traditionally.

Food cravings

* Problem n°1 (enzyme deficiency): the foods you crave according to your personal imbalances. Modern digestive science explains that when your body can’t digest a food, you crave it – you don’t get what you need. This has led to a cycle of craving and overeating for the exact food you can’t digest.

* Problem #2 (Low Blood Sugar): Another vicious circle occurs when you can’t digest complex carbs, so your blood sugar is low, so you eat simple carbs that increase your blood sugar, which raises insulin, which lowers your blood sugar again, and you’re stuck eating donuts and you feel horrible.

* Solution: Enzymes (I recommend various enzyme formulations from a company called Transformations) and Chinese herbal formulas can help you digest your food and break these two cycles.

Weight can be safely lost if done slowly and naturally.

You can lose up to 2 pounds a week and keep it off. That means you could lose 104 pounds this year and not gain it back!

Positive change is like stretching a rubber band – if you stretch too much too fast, it breaks or closes in on you.

So avoid the temptation to take an easy fix like ephedra or lemon aurantium (the two misused Chinese herbs) because you’ll gain weight back and risk heart problems and strokes.

5 things to do now

Lose 10 pounds in 2 months

And keep them away:

1. Avoid heavily marketed supplements – see a trained herbalist (acupuncturist) instead – it’s safer and more effective – my preference would be a Chinese medicine practitioner, but some very well trained western herbalists are also good.

2. Acupuncture Weight Loss: Consult a Chinese Acupuncturist/Herbalist – Get acupuncture (one to three times a week) to SAFELY regulate your metabolism and satisfy hunger. Your acupuncturist can also get you the herbs that will balance your digestion and food cravings – and based on your Chinese pattern diagnosis, they can also give you personalized dietary advice. Herbs and enzymes (specific formulations from the enzyme company, Transformations) can eliminate your cravings.

3. Develop a plan and goals with your acupuncturist and aerobics instructor – make it realistic and stick to it. If you mess up, don’t beat yourself up, get back on track as soon as you can. Any progress is better than none at all.

4. Eat less, exercise more – Eat a low-fat diet and don’t miss breakfast! Weigh yourself regularly and exercise for an hour a day. Start by walking a few minutes each day or taking the stairs at work. Don’t overdo it! Don’t forget the elastic. In fact, you might want to wear a rubber band on your wrist to remind you to make changes slowly. Get help with aerobic exercise – a public class or private aerobics advice.

5. Join a support group like Weight Watchers or Overeaters Anonymous. Nothing like positive friends to encourage you and keep you on track. OA members say this spiritual action program has changed their relationship to food.

References and Resources

1. United States Congressional Office for Technology Assessment, The Impact of Randomized Controlled Trials on Health Policy and Medical Practice, Reference Document OTA-BP-H-22.

2. Michael Millenson’s book, Demanding Medical Excellence

3. Effect of acupuncture on weight loss assessed by adrenal function. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, September 1993, 13(3):169-73.

4. Wozniak, P., Oszukowski, P., Stachowiak, G. and Szyllo, K. [The effectiveness of low-calorie diet or diet with acupuncture treatment in obese peri- and postmenopausal women] (in Polish). Ginekol.Pol. Vol.74 Number 2 p. 102-107. 2003

5. Acupuncture on Ren Mai spleen, stomach and duct points for the treatment of stomach and intestinal obesity filled with heat. Summarized & translated by Bob Flaws, Dipl. Ac. & CH, Lic. Ac., FNAAOM, FRCHM

6. Richards D, Marley J. Stimulation of auricular acupuncture points in weight loss. Aust Fam doctor. 1998 Jul;27 Suppl 2:S73-7.

7. Zhao, M., Liu, Z., and Su, J. The time-effect relationship of central action in acupuncture treatment for weight reduction. J Tradit Chin Med Vol.20 Number 1 p. 26-29. 2000

8. Liu, Z. Mechanisms underlying the effects of acupuncture moxibustion on uncomplicated obesity complicated with hypertension. Inter J Clin Acup 371-378, 1995.

9. Weight Loss Industry Studies

10. Prevalence and effect of obesity

11. Overeaters Anonymous

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