The topic of weight loss is a tricky matter for at least two reasons.
First, it can be difficult to achieve. Our bodies are biologically programmed to maintain our weight at a metabolic set point.
With crash diets and rapid weight loss, metabolic alarm bells go off. Your body shifts into low gear, to prevent weight loss. Metabolism slows down, possibly for many years, making it increasingly difficult to lose weight. This is a life saving technique developed to keep you alive during a famine. The body doesn’t understand you are just simply trying very hard to drop excess pounds. All that calorie counting and deprivation for nothing. Ouch.
On top of lowering your metabolism, diets increase appetite stimulating hormones–making it harder and harder to resist cravings. These two biological responses to rapid weight loss are the reasons why, no matter how strong your commitment, you are very likely to gain weight after dieting. It turns out patience, realistic expectations, and long term commitment to lifestyle changes really are the key. Acupuncture and herbs can make that process easier, but we will get to that in a bit.
The second tricky matter pertaining to weight loss is that true health is often left out of the picture. Most people want to lose weight in order to look better. Health is a secondary concern.
The media tells us what our bodies “should” look like. Falling prey to the belief in the ideal bodies presented in these images leads us down the painful path of body image issues, counterproductive crash diets, obsessive exercising–or exercise apathy–and our own obsessions with our looks. That is to say, we become motivated by looking better instead of feeling better. And we may scramble compulsively to achieve some impossible ideal, or give up completely and resign ourselves to not caring at all.
“Among women over 18 looking at themselves in the mirror, research indicates that at least 80% are unhappy with what they see. Many will not even be seeing an accurate reflection.” — The Social Research Center
I will be the first to admit to some of these pitfalls. In fact, I’ve re-written this post about a dozen times in a month trying to be sure I wasn’t asking of others what I myself wasn’t able to do. I intended to breezily spell out the benefits Chinese Medicine for weight loss, and include a loud message that we should love our bodies just the way they are.
But as I wrote about loving your body just the way it is, and losing weight for health, not vanity, I found that I too was guilty of being dissatisfied with my own body. And had to admit to myself (and to my exercise buddy) that I am often motivated to exercise and eat better not because of the benefits to my overall well being, but for the impact it might make on my waistline. There is nothing wrong, of course, with wanting to look your best, but when at what point do we stop trying to improve, and accept ourselves for who we are? At what point do we finally begin to put our health–and not our looks–first?
I had to admit that I still struggle to drown out the loud cry of the media that waves the perfect body in front of me and asks me to chase it.
And chasing after it is completely understandable. We grow up being inundated by images of these “ideal” bodies.
When we are children, we are given the ideal of a physically impossible Barbie. As we grow up we see extremely thin and / or anorexic models (the average model is 23% thinner than the average woman — fifty years ago, it was only 8%). Everyone is shocked by the women who make it into the public eye who do not fit the ideal. We can name them — Oprah, Roseanne, Adele, and a handful of comedians and politicians…but the list is short.
Meanwhile, food in America has been super sized, with loads of sugar, and artificial ingredients. And it’s everywhere. Super size your food but down size your body. What a horrible set up.
A common sight in magazines — tempting empty calorie foods coupled with cries to lose weight:
The impossibility of the Barbie ideal:
The media programming is effective and very tough to expel from your ideas about yourself. Developing minds are impressionable; Research reveals the majority of eight year old girls have been on a diet. Most eleven year old girls are already unhappy with their bodies.
This is tragic.
Think about yourself and the people you know. How many of us are actually content, even appreciative, of our bodies? Even the people I know who come close to meeting the ideal still complain about this or that part of their body, or become obsessed with their identity as a thin person.
The “average” women’s proportions next to Barbie’s proportions:
It is nearly impossible not to be affected by the message that, no matter what your size, there is something wrong with your body.
Feeling good, in mind and body, becomes secondary.
The Obesity Epidemic
All of that said, many of us really do need to lose weight, for health reasons.
In the United States, 7 out of 10 people are overweight.
Does it matter?
Yes. Being at a healthy weight, and being physically fit, minimizes risks to a wide range of diseases, improves energy and can significantly improve both quality of life and life span. I don’t think there is anyone among us who wants to suffer from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, joint pain, shortness of breath, or Alzheimer’s.
However, losing weight and being healthy doesn’t have to mean you starve yourself and run marathons to get there. It doesn’t have to mean you wear a size zero. And it definitely doesn’t mean you are supposed to look like Barbie. It simply means your quality of life, and your health, will improve.
And that is the major difference. Quality of life. If we go down the path of impossible ideals and being eternally unsatisfied with our bodies we suffer – mentally and physically. If we go down the path of treating our bodies well, being kind to ourselves, accepting that models in magazines are impossible illusions, we begin to achieve true health and an improved quality of life. And isn’t that what we all truly strive for in the end?
So here is a list of ways we can reclaim our bodies, re-set our motivations, and put our health first:
- Put down the fashion magazine (and understand airbrushing)!
Research studies have proven that within minutes of exposure to fashion magazines, self esteem plummets. Those who consume these images are more likely to eat unhealthfully, go on crash diets, and ultimately gain weight. As a reminder, take a look at these images–they are models shown before and after airbrushing. Here is what the media does to bodies that are already thin — they make them even thinner! We don’t need to disappear!
2. Stop dieting.
There has never been a single diet that results in long term weight loss. In fact, diets which result in rapid weight loss end up sending off alarm bells in your body and actually lowering your metabolism. This means that unless you continue to restrict calories forever you will end up gaining more weight than where you started before the diet. Seriously, stop dieting. And congratulate yourself that you don’t have to torture yourself anymore. (Please note, “stop dieting” doesn’t mean eat junk food all day long…)
Instead of obsessing over the cellulite on your thighs or the roll over your waistband, pay more attention to the parts of your body that you love. Don’t forget to say thanks for the amazing things your body does everyday — feet for walking, hands for touching, a working digestive track, a heart that beats day in and day out….you get the picture. Our physical bodies are simply amazing. Yet we allow some airbrushed picture in a fashion magazine to breed hatred toward the physical form that is our one and only vessel with which we get to walk the earth! Our bodies are not ornaments. Wake up in the morning and thank your body for being the instrument of your life!
4. Investigate Intuitive and Mindful Eating.
Intuitive Eating is a relatively recent concept. The basic goal of an intuitive eater is to retrain yourself to tune into your own hunger cues (and satisfy them) and also to tune into the cues that tell you you are full (and then stop eating). Another goal of intuitive eating is to learn to recognize the foods that feel good to your whole body — not just to your tongue and your eyes. How do you feel after you eat chocolate chip cookies? How do you feel after you eat a kale salad? Pretty different, I’ll bet. Intuitive eating is about noticing those differences, and honoring what feels healthy to your body. It is not about restricting calories, or being on a diet. It is about eating sensibly, healthfully, and with pleasure!
Preliminary research studies have found after practicing intuitive eating for a length of time, excess weight is lost without even trying, and self esteem and body image goes up. Disordered eating (like emotional eating) tends to decrease.
When eating intuitively, weight loss tends to happen more slowly than with a crash diet — but this is a good thing. With slow weight loss, your metabolism does not decline and therefore the weight tends to stay off, without the signature rebound weight gain of a crash diet.
5. Make Time to Move!
One of the biggest challenges to a healthier lifestyle is finding the time and motivation to exercise. We all have 24 hours in a day. Our lives tend be extremely busy and exercise often does not make the cut when we list our priorities. But, truth is, whether you like it or not, some form of physical exercise needs to be a priority. Movement is essential to our health.
Exercise elevates our mood. It keeps our bodies in good working order. It helps to prevent a huge range of diseases from depression and diabetes to PMS and Alzheimer’s. Make a commitment to yourself to make the time to exercise.
6. Commit to True Health and Take Care of Yourself
Some of us spend a lot of time taking care of others and forget to take care of ourselves. Prioritize your own health. Make time for yourself. Start small with a daily ten minute walk, or a massage once a month (you can spare one hour a month, I guarantee it!), do some yoga stretches for five minutes in the morning, or get a weekly acupuncture treatment…
Did Someone Say Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an effective and natural way to help bring your mind and body to a state of well being. Research has shown individualized acupuncture and herbal treatments can support healthy weight loss by:
- Regulating nervous system function
- Regulating the endocrine system
- Regulating the digestive system
- Diminishing food cravings
- Improving metabolism
- Reducing aches and pains
- Promoting maximum nutrient absorption
- Regulating elimination
- Supporting a good night’s sleep
- Helping to manage emotions
- Strengthening the liver’s function to process nutrients and break down fats
- Increasing muscle tone in the stomach to help people know they are full
That said, acupuncture treatment is not magical, nor does it result in the kind of extremely rapid, unhealthy weight loss of a crash diet.
Acupuncture is part of a holistic, healthy, gradual weight loss plan that results in better overall health.
Course of Treatment for Weight Loss
A course of treatment for healthy weight loss typically consists of one or two treatments per week for 8 to 12 weeks. One study found receiving ten mini-acupuncture treatments (just ear needles) over four weeks, achieved an average weight reduction of 6.1%.
Depending on the needs of the patient, Chinese Medicine treatments can include:
- Ear and body acupuncture
- Healthy and realistic goal setting
- Electro-stimulation of certain acupuncture points
- Ear “seeds” left in place between treatments
- Herbs and supplements
- Dietary and Lifestyle recommendations
- Cupping for cellulite reduction
Make time for yourself.
Make health a priority.
Schedule an appointment today, and let’s work together to help you cultivate a healthier mind and body!
Crow Heart Acupuncture & Chinese Herbs is located in the Rockridge area of Oakland at 66th and Telegraph.
To make an appointment, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 510-919-5689.
Treatments are gentle, affordable, and effective!