A Body in Balance: TCM’s Perspective on Weight Loss

Clearly something is out of balance. More than half of all American adults are overweight or obese, according to a survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. One-third meet the criterion for obesity, based on body mass index, as defined by Federal clinical practice guidelines released in 2006 by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Overweight adults in this country increased 61 percent between 1991 and 2000. The rate of obesity in women has nearly doubled in twenty years. Yet the most alarming rise is in children—17 percent are now overweight.

To some it’s an enigma—never before in the West have so many diet programs and products been available to those who want to lose weight. Some plans count calories or carbohydrates; others control what, how much, and when you eat; a few feature supplements or appetite suppressants, diuretics or laxatives; there are the workouts regimens and repetitions; and most extreme is stomach stapling. These weight-loss regimens are well advertised, and classes, books, tapes, and DVDs abound everywhere. Americans now spend $40 billion a year on diet programs and products. Even so, statistics show that 95 percent of dieters ultimately regain a portion or all of the weight they have lost.

Why are so many Americans overweight? Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has a unique view. While Western methods focus almost exclusively on external factors—weight, exercise, and food—TCM addresses the root cause of weight conditions—looking at excess weight as a symptom of a greater health problem. It’s the end result of a series of bodily events that usually begin with a Qi deficiency and imbalance. If the root cause of excess weight is not addressed, weight loss will never be permanent.

In order to have good health, you must have sufficient Qi and your internal organs must work in harmony. If there isn’t enough Qi, one or more organs can become imbalanced. When this happens, the organs cannot perform their innate tasks, such as ridding the body of excess water and fat. Very often, health problems like headaches, emotional difficulties like depression, and allergies precede a weight gain. These are all signals that the body is imbalanced. TCM believes that a balanced body does not have weight problems. When your Qi is strong and balanced, weight will be lost naturally and normal weight will be maintained.

Many diets require you to eat or eliminate specific foods. The TCM view is that a healthy body will “ask for” what it needs and will not experience extraordinary food cravings or an enormous appetite. Every food carries a specific essence that resonates energetically with one or more organs. Cravings are signals that an organ may be imbalanced and in need of additional Qi. Food is just one of a variety of healing resources used in TCM treatment, along with herbs, acupuncture, and acupressure.

Perhaps the most profound aspect of TCM’s perspective on overweight conditions is its perception of the role emotions play in overall health. TCM sees and treats your body, mind, emotions, and spirit as an interrelated whole. This means you must have emotional balance to have true physical health. When TCM looks at digestion, it takes the broadest view: digestion is the ingestion, absorption, and letting go of food, drink, and emotion as well as everything else you may take in—including what you read, watch, hear, and see. If you are in a constant state of stress or hold onto an emotion, it will stay “undigested” in your system. This affects how Qi flows through the related meridians and organs. So it’s not unusual for TCM practitioners to advise their patients to “let things go” or get more rest and relaxation.

The entire framework of TCM is based on an understanding of how the entire human being works—body, mind, and spirit. It seeks to create balance and harmony within each individual and then harmonize that individual with nature.

Here’s how you can apply these teachings.  Dragon’s Way Qigong®