Natural Treatments for Weight Loss
By Dr. Mao Shing Ni
FOR THE PAST DECADE THE NUMBER-ONE HEALTH CONCERN in the United States has been the rapidly increasing rate of obesity. Today eight out of ten adults are overweight and some 40 million people are considered obese. Many life-threatening ailments are attributed to obesity, including diabetes, hypertension, heart attack, coronary heart disease, stroke, depression, and the growing problem of infertility. More alarming is pediatric obesity, which has tripled in the last twenty years. Our children are at increasing risk of serious health problems, including insulin resistance, pediatric diabetes, depression, hypertension, developmental problems, and even cancer.
Energy expenditure: there are physiological and psychological reasons for obesity, but it’s often a matter of energy intake versus energy expenditure. We’ve become extremely sedentary. The quality and quantity of the foods we eat has changed: food now contains tightly packed calories in smaller packages. Our drinks contain high concentrations of sugar, our meats have been treated with hormones and antibiotics, and our streets are littered with fast-food drive-through restaurants serving up heart attacks to go.
Our eating habits have also changed. The family dining table has been replaced with individual serving trays positioned comfortably in front of the television, and on-the-go chow downs substitute for lunch and dinner. Breakfast has all but disappeared. All these factors are slowing down our metabolism. It’s simple: When you take in too much energy but don’t use it up, the body stores it for a rainy day.
Emotions play an important role in obesity as well. We’ve long known that emotions play a key role in disease. Our hormonal systems react to negative emotional states with the production and release of hormones that help us cope with stressful situations. These hormones are designed to protect the body from harm by shutting down or slowing down bodily functions in order to conserve energy. Thus the stress hormones slow down metabolism and promote the storage of fat. This worked well back when our ancestors were being chased by prey, but now our stressful lifestyle is contributing to the obesity epidemic. A constant state of anxiety and stress creates an imbalance of these hormones in the body, promoting weight gain.
It’s not easy to lose weight and keep it off. Many obese people require medical attention and need to be guided in a structured weight loss program. In Chinese medicine, obesity is the accumulation of dampness and phlegm and the result of declining function of the spleen network and metabolic fire of the kidney network due to stress, lack of movement, and poor eating habits. The roles of nutrition, physical activity, and emotions on the body’s metabolic functions cannot be overstated.
I work with endocrine and bariatric physicians to design individual weight-loss programs for patients. My treatment program for obesity entails acupuncture and herbal therapies to restore healthy digestion and metabolism and to eliminate dampness and mucus from the body. It also includes Swimming Dragon, a qi gong exercise, and meditation to activate energy flow, besides the diet suggestions below.
Here are some simple suggestions that can get you started on your own weight-management program.
- Diet for Weight Loss
- Home Remedies for Weight Loss
- Daily Supplements for Weight Loss
- Herbal Therapy for Weight Loss
- Exercise for Weight Loss
- Qi Gong for Weight Loss
- Acupressure for Weight Loss
- Weight Loss: Advice on what to avoid
DIET FOR WEIGHT LOSS
There are hundreds of fad diet programs out there, ranging from total starvation to high-protein diets promising quick fixes. The problem with dieting is that it deprives the body of food or goes to extremes with a few recommended foods. This is contradictory to our metabolism, and often the results do not last, producing a yo-yo effect and further depressing self-esteem, not to mention metabolic function. We are natural beings requiring a balance of nutrition from all sources.
- I recommend a balanced diet rich in wholesome organic foods, with no preservatives, additives, or artificial colors or flavors.
- Institute an eating schedule with five small meals each day.
- Eat sitting down at the table and eat slowly.
- Do not eat after 7:00 p.m., and do not skip breakfast.
- Diet should consist of a balance of organic sources of lean animal protein, complex carbohydrates, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and fruits and vegetables.
- Substitute brown rice, bulgur, millet, and buckwheat for white rice and pasta.
- Favor chlorophyll-rich foods such as broccoli, kale, spinach, asparagus, and dandelion greens.
- Consume more fruits and nuts, including apples, peaches, cherries, bananas, pomegranates, chestnuts, and pine nuts.
- Drink at least eight glasses of hot or lukewarm water a day.
- Avoid very spicy foods, as they tend to increase appetite; heavy, starchy foods; simple sugars; and fatty, greasy foods, which cause stagnation.
- Dairy products, especially cheese, produce dampness and mucus and should be avoided.
- Sweets of all kinds should be eliminated.
- Alcohol, soda, and coffee should also be eliminated.
- Do not eat when you are stressed, anxious, or emotional. Practice stress-release meditations or go for a walk.
- Slow down your eating and chew your food well, and you will find that you eat less. Eating should be a pleasurable event to be savored.
HOME REMEDIES FOR WEIGHT LOSS
- Replace white sugar with natural alternatives such as stevia or brown rice syrup.
- Drink hot water with lemon slices as a beverage throughout the day and before eating to help reduce fluid retention and drain dampness.
- Drink 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with 1 teaspoon of maple syrup mixed in 12 ounces of warm water every morning on an empty stomach to promote digestion and increase metabolism.
- Instead of reaching for those cookies, create a low-fat trail mix including raw almonds, pumpkin seeds, prunes, and dried apples to eat in between meals to keep your blood sugar even and avoid being famished by lunch or dinner.
- Substitute green or black tea for coffee, as tea contains beneficial polyphenol antioxidants and less caffeine.
DAILY SUPPLEMENTS FOR WEIGHT LOSS
- Supplementing with chromium (200 micrograms) can help stabilize blood sugar by increasing cell sensitivity to insulin, which prevents excess blood sugar from being turned into body fat.
- Digestive enzymes such as pancreatin (500 milligrams), lipase, (1,000 IU), and amylase (1,500 IU) taken before each meal can reduce appetite.
- Vitamin B complex and kelp can help reduce water retention.
HERBAL THERAPY FOR WEIGHT LOSS
Herbs can be found in health food or vitamin stores, online, and at the offices of Chinese medicine practitioners. Herbs should be used according to individual needs; consult with a licensed practitioner for a customized formulation.
- Dandelion greens can be helpful to regulate metabolism and aid in weight reduction, especially if the weight gain is a result of water retention.
- Garcinia cambogia (Malabar tamarind) contains hydroxycitric acid, which has been shown to inhibit fat production and decrease appetite in animals.
- Traditional Chinese herbs for weight management include Sacred Lotus Leaf, Green Tea Leaf, Chinese Hawthorn Fruit, Chrysanthemum Flower, Chinese Salvia Root & Rhizome, White Mulberry Root Bark, Cang-zhu Atractylodes Rhizome, Radish Seed, Chinese Rhubarb Root & Rhizome, Pinella Rhizome, Fragrant Angelica Root.
- Other herbs for weight management include lotus leaf, green tea, chrysanthemum, Chinese honey locust, atractylodis, astragalus, ginseng, and schizandra fruits. These herbs have metabolic-stimulating properties.
EXERCISES FOR WEIGHT LOSS
The number one cause of obesity is inactivity. The human body is designed for physical activity. Our ancestors were hunter-gatherers. They spent most of their natural lives walking long distances to gather food, chase prey, and sometimes be chased as prey. Evolution shaped our metabolic functions for a life on the move, but today we live in opposition to our nature. Most diets fail because we do the opposite of what our bodies are designed for. They aren’t designed to subsist on meager foods. They are designed to consume a good amount of energy- and then to burn that energy. Physical activity- not necessarily exercise- is the key to a healthy metabolism. These simple changes can increase activity, helping to speed up metabolism and burn excess calories:
- Take the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator
- Do your own gardening or rake your yard once a week
- Deliberately park far away from your destination.
- Go window shopping at the mall, walking the entire place.
- Get a membership at the local zoo or museums, and take your children there often.
- Step outside during your break at work and take a walk around the building.
- The best way to become physically active is to use those evolutionary wonders called legs. Walk as often and for as long as you can. Walk slowly, walk briskly, or just walk. Institute a weekly walkathon or join a local hiking club. You’ll be amazed at the beautiful nature you’ll find in your neighborhood. Walk for 100 paces after each meal, and start your day or finish your day with a brisk 30-minute walk-this alone can have a wondrous affect on your energy metabolism and will help you get back into shape.
QI GONG FOR WEIGHT LOSS:
Here is a simple Qi Gong for weight loss exercise, the Swimming Dragon, that can help speed up your metabolism and reduce your appetite. This exercise resembles a belly dance - It is a wriggling rhythmic dance of the torso, and it burns energy and promotes fat burning in the abdomen.
- In a comfortable, quiet place, stand with your feet together and ankles touching, or as close together as you can get them.
- Place your hands over your head, with your palms together and fingers pointing up. Be sure to keep your palms together during the entire exercise.
- Inhale, and push your waist out to the right side while keeping your head and upper torso straight. Simultaneously move your right elbow to the right, so that it rests at shoulder height.
- Exhale, and push your waist out to the left side while keeping your head and upper torso straight. Simultaneously move your left elbow fully to the left, so that it rests at shoulder height.
- Repeat this movement several more times.
- Every time you move your waist to the right, bend your knees a little more, lowering your entire body as you squat. Be sure to keep your upper torso and head straight.
- As you lower your body, move your hands lower, keeping your palms together and fingers pointing up.
- When your arms reach your chest, turn your fingers toward the ground and continue the movement.
- When your arms reach your knees, you should be squatting.
- Continue the movements, now rising with each right movement until you reach the standing position.
- When your arms reach your chest, switch the direction of your fingers so that they’re pointing up again.
- Throughout this exercise, your hands should make an S-shaped movement and your body should do a rhythmic belly dance. Remember to inhale on the rightward movement and exhale to the left. Do this exercise during the day on an empty stomach.
Begin slowly and increase the speed and vigor, warming up the whole body, but not to the point of perspiration. Practice for 15 to 20 minutes, twice a day, for maximum benefit.
SELF ACUPRESSURE FOR WEIGHT LOSS
- Find the acupoint Foot Three Miles (ST-36), four fingerwidths below the kneecap on the right leg. Apply moderate pressure with your right thumb until you feel soreness. Hold for 2 minutes. Repeat on the left leg.
- Find the acupoint Abundant Flesh (ST-40), midway between the bottom of the right kneecap and the outer anklebone, two finger-widths to the outside of the shinbone. Apply steady pressure with your right thumb until you feel soreness. Hold for 2 minutes. Repeat on the left leg.
WEIGHT LOSS: ADVICE ON WHAT TO AVOID
- Avoid Sweets and simple sugars, as they pack on the calories and slow down metabolism.
- Avoid Alcohol, as it not only increases appetite but also contains a lot of sugar, which ends up deposited as fat.
- Avoid Stress and emotional upset, which release stress hormones that can slow down metabolism and promote fat storage.
- Avoid Eating after 7 p.m., as it stores most if not all of the energy as fat, especially if you are headed to bed right after eating.
©2015 Dr. Mao Shing Ni
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