What Causes Obesity or Overweight?
I am going to identify 10 factors that contribute towards becoming overweight and obesity.
- Over Eating: Eating too much food is the number one contributor.
- Lack of Physical Activity: Exercise, or at least some type of daily strenuous activity, is absolutely essential to ward off extra weight.
- Unhealthy Foods: Most of us know what unhealthy foods are vs. healthy foods. The general rule is to east fresh foods and not prepackaged processed foods.
- Lack of Sleep: Not getting sufficient sleep is a contributor.
- Heredity: The genes you were born with and your family history are markers for whether you are predisposed to becoming overweight and possibly obese.
- Medical Conditions: Some diseases can cause a person to become overweight. These include hypothyroidism, Cushing syndrome and polycystic ovary syndrome.
- Prescription Drugs: Some medicines such as Prednisone and antidepressants such as Elavil and Neurontin may cause weight gain.
- Emotional Factors: Depression, anger and stress can make people overeat.
- Age: As people age, they tend to lose muscle, especially if they become less active. Muscle loss slows down our metabolism.
- Pregnancy: While it is normal to gain weight during pregnancy, many women retain this even after the baby is born due to lack of activity and increased calorie intake.
Becoming overweight can be the consequence of various medical conditions. This includes hypertension, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, sleep apnea, and osteoarthritis.
There are two well known medications prescribed by doctors. One is Meridia, which curbs the appetite. The other is Xenical, which reduces the absorption of fat & calories as well as Vitamin A, K and D.
Both medications have unwanted side-effects. Merida can cause hypertension and irregular heartbeat. Xenical can cause diarrhea and osteoporosis.
Another option recommended by some doctors is surgical procedures. Weight loss surgery is called bariatric surgery and includes gastric bypass to gastric banding. These surgeries are very costly and can be risky.
Nowadays more and more people are considering acupuncture for weight loss as the results are very promising when performed by a well trained and certified traditional Chinese medicine doctor.
When it comes to treating obesity with Chinese medicine, I will first rule out any severe medical conditions that could potentially hurt my patient if they do not obtain immediate medical help (e.g. uncontrollable high blood pressure, heart diseases, diabetes, severe lung diseases, hypothyroidism, etc.). Then I will confirm that the patient is ready to start my program which means they will need to strictly follow the instructions for treatment, diet and exercise.
Acupuncture Points I Use
The most important points are ST 36, ST 40, ST 34, and SP 4. They are the points on the stomach meridian and spleen meridian. Stimulating those points can inhibit stomach activity and make the food absorption slower and decrease the appetite. The second important points are LI11, LI4, LI3 in which points located in large intestine meridian and liver meridian can help the body to detoxify and speed up metabolism. For center obesity, points CV 12 ,CV 4, ST25, SP15, and GB26 are must points since these points will directly affect and facilitate the bowel movement and speed up metabolism and burn fat.
Auricular acupuncture to lose weight is the key.I chose the points of hunger and mouth which are the most efficient points for deceasing the appetite. The rest of points are spleen, stomach, liver, small intestine, endocrine system and Sheng Meng (known as “Spirit gate”). These points can inhibit stomach activity, slow the absorption of nutrition from food in the stomach and small intestine, improve energy and decrease stress, anxiety and depression. Patients should press the ear needles to ease their craving for food when she/he feels hungry. I will use ear seeds (herbal seeds or magnet seeds) in place of needles for those who fear needles. Generally speaking, they have the same effect.
Chinese Herbal Medicine for Weight Loss
Note: I will not use herbs to improve the bowel movement or loosen the bowel unless a patient suffers from constipation. And if I do use this type of herbs, this will only be used for a short term.
In my practice, I prefer to use liver cleansing herbs to curb feeling hungry (it always works for my patients) and improve sugar and fat metabolism. By strengthening spleen Qi, and regulating stomach Qi and intestine Qi, it will speed up the metabolism, remove water retention, eliminate the wastes from the body as well as enhance the energy. Weight loss starts from here and it is safe and efficient.
Diet Is the Key
You either must eat less food or you must eat foods that reduce your calorie intake. For example, if you consume 4000 calories per day, then you should either set a goal of reducing the amount of food you eat by half, or substitute healthy foods that will reduce your calorie intake by half.
There are many programs offering to assist people through diet. I will just give a few tips on diet that could be practical for you.
- Healthy and Good Breakfast: You may eat as much healthy food as you like for breakfast (within reason). You can consume some carbohydrates at breakfast without gaining weight. This meal will supply your whole morning’s energy.
- Moderate Meal for Lunch: This is necessary to maintain energy for the afternoon. This meal should contain the most nutrients and contain easily digestible food with very little carbs. If after having lunch you feel sleepy and tired, it indicates spleen Qi weakness. This can be corrected by Chinese medicine easily.
- Minimum Dinner or No Dinner: This is a magic point to loss weight if we can discipline ourselves to do it. Most people find out it is difficult to follow this point. So I will propose a few alternative ways to minimize your dinner. If you typically get home from work very late, you should have some healthy snack around 6 pm. When you get home, you are allowed to have soup with some vegetable. You can have protein at dinner with vegetables, but no carbs. Follow this for 4 or 5 days a week and at weekend you are allowed to have a full dinner with some carbs. But the dinner has to be earlier than 6 pm.
- No Junk Food or Sugar, and Little Salt: Keep your alcohol consumption low and if you must drink, drink red wine. One glass of red wine 3 times a week is acceptable if you do not have a fatty liver. If any liver problems, alcohol is strictly forbidden.
Exercise Will Help Burn More Calories
Aerobic exercise and weight lifting are the best forms of exercise for weight loss. These will reshape your body and make you look great. Exercise should be done on a continuous basis (i.e. at least 4 times per week). Outdoor hiking and biking are also great ways to drop weight.
If you are overweight, obese or have weight issues and would like to lose weight, please call me at (212) 779-0468 or e-mail me to set up a consultation.
By Feng Liang, L.Ac.