Acupuncture for Weight Loss

I get a lot of questions about acupuncture for weight loss, and I figured it was time to say something about it here.

Weight Loss Isn’t Always About Eating Less and Exercising More

Acupuncture for weight loss!

Acupuncture for weight loss!

If you have an oral fixation, or if your hunger sensation seems to be “off,” there’s an acupuncture point for that.

If you stress eat, I have some terrific acupuncture-based anti-anxiety solutions for you.

If you are too sedentary because of chronic pain, my acupuncture and medical massage can relieve that and get you able to exercise.

If you have a Damp accumulation (a Chinese medicine concept), acupuncture is ideal.

If you are overeating because your digestion is poor, so your body is starving for nutrients, I can help with that. I take a two-pronged approach of improving your digestion through acupuncture, plus doing some nutrition analysis and getting you onto a more nourishing diet, with a better nutrient to calorie ratio.

If you’re packing on extra fat because of toxins (chemical exposure, dietary, etc.) being stored in adipose tissue, acupuncture is fantastic for detoxing.

If your metabolism is slow due to thyroid or other hormonal issues like PCOS, we can work with that, too, but acupuncture is not a magic bullet (keep reading for a metabolism reality check).

Maybe you’ve been following that laughably outdated “food pyramid,” or haven’t yet heard that the War on Fat was misguided and has created a nation of obese diabetics. In that case, I can help you with some nutritional guidance (hint: Good fats are needed to form membranes on cells, insulation for nerves, padding for organs, etc. When we don’t eat enough fat, the body stores it, thinking we are starving. Good fats: Seeds, nuts, avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, grass-fed beef, fish, etc. Bad fats are trans, fried, fake “foods” like margarine, canola oil, etc. There are lots of different types of healthy diets, but one thing they all agree on is eating lots of veggies!).

weight-loss-cartoon-the-invisible-man-and-wonder-womanOf course there’s always the possibility that you aren’t actually overweight, but have a body dysmorphia issue (Hint: Do your friends and family insist you look slim, and can’t believe you’re “dieting?”). Acupuncture and counseling can help with that, too.

In short, it’s good, but acupuncture for weight loss is not magical. Personally, I used to be a body-builder (my workouts were 1.5hrs, 6 days a week) and personal trainer. I was also a rock-climber and martial artist, and played paintball in the woods for fun. In other words, I was very fit. After a car accident left me unable to walk more than 10 minutes at a time, let alone work out, I was in pretty much constant agony. This was before I knew how to knit, so I just laid on the couch and watched movies, read books, and ate. I started packing on weight, but I figured it was no big deal. Once my back healed I’d just work it off, right?

Fast forward to ten years later. My back recovered (yay for acupuncture and Osteopathic medical massage!), but my metabolism had been wrecked. I was back in the gym and lifting. I was getting stronger, and building endurance and stability. I felt good, but sometimes my energy was low, and I hit a plateau where I just COULD NOT shed a pound. Muscle is heavier than fat, so I didn’t worry at first, but come on… as active as I was, my belly should have been retreating. It’s frankly embarrassing to be a health care provider who needs to lose weight.

Unfortunately, years of starving myself had gotten me to a point where I had tuned my cells to be far, far too efficient. If there wasn’t enough food coming in, they certainly weren’t going to use what they had stored… what if things got *worse*!?

By the way, I had no idea what my daily calorie count was at the time. It was only after I started tracking with MyFitnessPal about a year ago that I realized how low I was averaging… about 800-1000 per day. That is simply not enough. I boosted up to 1500-1800, but the counting & tracking made me crazy. Eventually I decided to quit counting and just eat whenever my body asked for fuel (what a concept!). After years of perpetual hunger, it was such a blessing to be allowed to nourish myself. I try to make good quality choices (sometimes I’m better at that than others) but I quit beating myself up for mistakes.

I still haven’t slimmed down past my initial 50 lb weight loss. It will take a while for my metabolism to correct, if it ever does. But I’m eating close to twice as much as I used to, and I haven’t *gained* an ounce. I’m working out three times a week, plus LARPing or hiking or whatever on weekends. My energy is better. I can lift more weight. :)

I am not thrilled with my physique right now. Honestly, it’s hard to look in the mirror and see this belly when I used to be so ripped. But I’m *okay* with it. What’s more important is that I feel better. I am working hard at staying active (SO important!) and making healthy, non-toxic food choices. That’s the best I can do right now for me.

mostly_water

 

As for you, come on in. Let’s talk about the various reasons you want to lose weight, and how I can help. I can’t promise you’ll drop 30 lbs in 30 days (in fact I guarantee you won’t – that’s dangerous as hell!), but I do promise to guide you in the right direction.

Damp (a Chinese medicine concept)

I’ve talked briefly before about Fall in the Pacific Northwest, but let’s get into some more details about how the weather here literally leads to Damp in our bodies. I was out playing in our great outdoors, and on the way back, a fellow adventurer asked me if the soggy Portland climate affected how I practiced. It was an interesting question, so I figured I’d share my response.

In Chinese medicine, you can be “invaded” by EPIs – External Pernicious Influences:  Heat, Cold, Damp, Dryness, and Wind (There are actually two types of Heat, but I’m simplifying here). Damp Heat infection examples include yeast and urinary tract infections. Damp Heat in the Gall Bladder* can cause jaundice.

Damp can also start internally. Remember that in this system we have energetic organs* with special duties. The Spleen transforms food into energy (I think they actually meant the pancreas!), and is important in fluid management. If the Spleen fails, or if there is an invasion, fluids accumulate into Damp. A classically Damp body is overweight. Other symptoms include heavy limbs, stiffness, and edema (fluid retention). Damp left unchecked can further consolidate into Phlegm. This may be literal mucus or lipomas (fatty tumors), or “invisible Phlegm” like brain fog or even depression.

Oregon is, of course, a very wet place! Whether the rain itself penetrates us, or the fact that hiking isn’t as much fun when you have to slosh through the mud… either way, living here can definitely contribute to obesity. Be sure to get off the couch and enjoy the sun when you can. I don’t think getting your skin soaked has an effect in terms of Damp, but a light rain jacket and hat can make a real difference in your comfort level, so gear up and go have some fun outside!

Sugar, alcohol, and dairy are the biggest Damp culprits in our diet. Microbrew and local cheese, anyone? Nourish your Spleen with protein and hearty cooked vegetables. This is especially important going into Fall and Winter, but don’t neglect them in favor of a completely raw diet even in the Summer.

Acupuncture is a great way to drain Damp, clear Heat, and restore balance to your system. Please ask if you have any questions!

* Energetic organs are typically capitalized to emphasize their distinct nature from our literal, anatomical organs.

 

 

Winter health tips – avoiding colds, SAD, cracked heels, & weight gain

Winter is coming!

In Chinese medical philosophy, infectious illnesses are considered to enter the body at the nape of the neck, so scarves are an important defensive weapon against getting sick. Although I think it has more to do with insulating the carotid arteries at the side of the neck, I am a big encourager of scarf wearing. In addition to preventing infections, a toasty cover will keep your neck muscles warm and relaxed. Pick out a soft, colorful one and give yourself a woolly hug. You can also give your immune system a boost by stimulating TB-5, and including garlic and ginger in your diet along with lots of hearty vegetables.

Don’t be S.A.D.!

If you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, the shorter days can sap your energy and leave you feeling depressed. You need to stimulate your pituitary gland, and the best way to do that is to get some time in front of a full-spectrum light, particularly in the morning. You can just pick up some full-spectrum light bulbs at the grocery store, or you can go in for a fancy “light box.” Soak up some photons at close range for about 15 minutes first thing in the morning, while having breakfast or catching up on Facebook.

Cracked Heel remedies

Winter health tip: keep your heels smooth and pain-free by treating cracks early, before they get out of control!

Winter health tip: keep your heels smooth and pain-free by treating cracks early, before they get out of control!

If your feet have suffered this winter, try this: Before bed, apply a high-quality lotion or wax (I like Waxelene, available at New Seasons. No nasty chemicals!) and put on some clean socks. This will keep the moisturizer on your feet rather than your sheets. I hate the restrictive sensation of wearing socks to bed, so I cut the toes off an old pair, which works beautifully. In the morning, before you shower, use a pumice stone or even a broad nail file on the DRY skin to remove the dead skin. If you have painful, deep cracks, use some SuperGlue (or better yet Dermabond) to hold them closed and continue with the routine above.

Holiday stuffing

Ah, parties and recipes and comfort food… it’s all fun and games until your pants don’t fit, isn’t it?

Think ahead about making good choices. Have a nutritious snack before a party if you suspect the goodies won’t be good for you.

Potluck? Bring something healthy instead of a dessert!

Focus on quality, not quantity. Save your calories for when they count: Skip the storebought cookies so you can splurge a bit on Aunt Susan’s homemade toffee.

Don’t use the “it’s the holidays” excuse from mid-November to the end of the year! ON the actual holiday, of course, allow yourself to indulge a little, but not everyday! That’s a big chunk of the year!

Winter Heath tip: Get some exercise! Peacock Lane (at 40th and SE Belmont) is annual festival of electricity and inflatable animals in human clothes, and makes for a fun walk.

Winter Heath tip: Get some exercise! Peacock Lane (at 40th and SE Belmont) is annual festival of electricity and inflatable animals in human clothes, and makes for a fun walk.

Bundle up and go for a stroll in a winter wonderland! Check out the lights wherever you live. Some light exercise will aid your digestion, mood, and keep your muscles and joints in good shape. Don’t forget your scarf! :)

If you do overeat, use St-36 to promote digestion. This point is great for nearly all stomach complaints, but be aware that it generates more gastric acid. If you’re having heartburn / reflux, use PC-6 instead. To help speed up peristalsis (the movement of food through your intestines), rub your belly clockwise circle (up on the right side of your abdomen, across the top, down on the left). This is good for painful gas retention, too. For small children, just use a few fingers.

I hope you find these Winter health tips useful. Stay warm! :)

Digestive health (and roasted cauliflower!)

I’ve been seeing an increase in people coming in with digestive problems, and it correlates interestingly with a  little revolution in my personal dietary habits.

Acupuncture for digestive upset – in this case nausea and “grumbling” intestines.

Last month I gave you a recipe for steel cut oats. They are far healthier than regular cereal for breakfast, but ironically, I am longer eating those oats… I’m off grains for the time being. A high-carb/low fat diet is not consistent with our hunter-gatherer evolution, and for some people it causes all sorts of problems, from weight gain to heartburn. I’m reading an amazing book called “Primal Body, Primal Mind.” The author cites a satisfying glut of scientific sources. The information in it resonates strongly with everything I know about physiology, and everything I’ve experienced in my personal struggles with weight. I’ve known for ages that bread is bad for me (very bad for me personally – your metabolism may differ), but it took reading this book to get up the motivation to quit. Working out and eating a “healthy diet” wasn’t doing it… but this seems to be doing the trick. It’s too early to say for sure, but I *am* losing weight and feeling good. My clothes are finally getting looser!

The old-fashioned “food pyramid” (built by lobbyists for Big Food Business) and the emphasis on low-fat, high carb has built a nation of obesity… myself included. It’s time to recognize that science demands a shift in thinking. I want to be clear here that I am not prescribing a ban on grains for everyone. You need to figure out what works for YOUR body. There are a few basic concepts, though, that I think everyone who’s reading the latest research can agree on:

1) Processed food is no substitute for actual, human-made food. If the majority of your meals are coming in bags and boxes, you need to reevaluate.

2) Empty calories (white bread, pasta, and other starches) and sugars lead to chronic inflammation, fat storage, and blood sugar problems. Put down that soda and have some water instead.

3) Fats are not the enemy. We need fats for brain function, neural insulation, and padding for organs, among other things. The trick is to get them from good sources like extra-virgin olive oil, avocados, fish, and grass-fed meats, rather than chemically-altered trans-fats.

Delicious and nutritious! Cauliflower fights cancer and has a surprising amount of Vitamins C and K (important for antioxidant and anti-inflammatory function). Of course it’s also a great source of fiber.

So here’s my new “popcorn” – Cut up cauliflower florets (about the size of a quarter or slightly bigger) and spread them on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with olive oil if you like, but it’s good without, too! Add a little sea salt, and roast at 350 degree for 45 minutes. Seriously – even my red-blooded, dedicated-to-his-American-diet boyfriend loved it. Super yummy. Big thanks to personal trainer extraordinaire Brandie Sylfae. :)

Don’t worry – this isn’t going to turn into a food blog. I’ll be back to more acupuncture-oriented discussions next month! :)

 

 

PC-6 (digestive & emotional issues)

PC-6, Nei Guan (Inner Pass)

Nei Guan is one of my favorite acupressure points. It’s perfectly safe (no contraindications), easy to find (2 finger widths from your wrist crease), and easily available, even in public while dressed. It’s wonderful for pretty much ANY stomach complaint.

PC-6 is found on the palm side of your forearm, about two inches from the wrist, between the tendons. It’s often used to treat gastritis (stomach pain), seasickness, nausea and reflux, but Nei Guan settles more than just the digestion. It soothes and grounds the spirit, too, with a gentle calming effect. For this reason, it’s perfect to treat an upset stomach due to emotional upheaval. Press firmly (both sides!) for 10-20 seconds with a healing intention. You can also use an acupressure “sea band” bracelet – just position the hard plastic bead on top of PC-6. They can be found at travel stores, some drugstores, and of course I have them at the office.

PC-6, excellent for nausea, heartburn, gastritis, or emotional upheaval causing stomach distress.

 

 

Fall Health tips

Autumn is my favorite season. The crisp blue skies, the exploding yellows and oranges in the trees… It makes me crave a walk in the woods and a crunchy, juicy apple. All of a sudden pumpkins are everywhere and I’m looking for a sweater.

 Asian tradition includes responding to the energy of the seasons. This is true both philosophically (Have you seen this beautiful Korean movie?) and physically.  Remember back in the summer when I mentioned cooling foods like watermelon? For fall health, try to eat fewer cold, raw foods like salads, and more warm, cooked meals. Enjoy soups and steamed or baked vegetables such as broccoli and yams. Incorporate yellow and red foods into your diet. Consider starting your morning with hot oatmeal to fuel your day. I love Steel Cut oats! You can get them at most grocery stores, and now  Fred Meyer even has them in the bulk isle!

You want about 1/4-1/3 cup of dry oats per person. The night before your intended breakfast, put the oats and twice as much water into a pot. That means I do half a cup plus a little extra shake for Robert and me (he’s a big guy!), and just over a cup of water. Cover and let soak overnight. In the morning, cook on medium heat for 6-10 minutes, depending on how chewy vs. soft you want your oatmeal.

You can enjoy as is, but I like to toss in some walnuts for some added protein and healthy fats. Fruit (dried or fresh), honey, even maple syrup are options, too. Get creative!

Of course hot tea, in a variety of colors and flavors, is essential for me in the Fall. My favorite when I’m chilled is ginger tea. You can buy packets, but it’s best to just grate fresh ginger into a mug of hot water and add honey. Ginger is supremely warming and a soothing treat for a sore throat. It even boosts your immune system!

There’s an article here about Damp. In Chinese Medicine, colds and flus are considered to enter the body at the nape of the neck. Scarves are an important defensive weapon against getting sick. Although I think it has more to do with insulating the carotid arteries at the side of the neck, I am a big encourager of scarf wearing. In addition to preventing infections, a toasty cover will keep your neck muscles warm and relaxed. Pick out a soft, colorful one and give yourself a woolly hug.

Anti-inflammatory Diet & Nightshades

If you have osteo-arthritis or an inflammatory disease (Fibromyalgia, IBS, etc), listen up: There are ways to alter your diet that will help decrease your pain! It’s also very helpful when you want to reduce inflammation after an injury.

1) Avoid sugar. This includes soda* and high-glycemic foods that will break down quickly into sugars. White bread, pasta, and starches will all contribute to inflammation.
2) Avoid fried foods. Enough said.
3) Grain-fed red meat is a problem for some people. Grass-fed meat is less inflammatory, since the fat structure is different.
4) You can counteract pain by eating ANTI-inflammatory foods. Dark leafy greens like kale and spinach will help a lot. Berries (except for goji and blueberries), turmeric, garlic, celery, pineapple, cocoa, ginger, and foods containing good fats (extra-virgin olive oil, avocado, salmon, nuts) are great, too. If you are sensitive to oxalates, however, be careful not to overdose on the dark leafy greens.

5) Foods your body doesn’t like. Some people are sensitive to dairy or wheat, for example. If you know you react badly to something, avoid it when you are in pain.

6) The Nightshade (Solanaceae) plants contain a small amount of an alkaloid toxin called solanine. Some people aren’t bothered by it. Other people, especially those with auto-immune issues & arthritis, tend to be sensitive to this family of plants. Most are unaware of the pain they are causing themselves, because they eat them so often, and because the inflammation & ache are delayed up to 24 hrs.

Tomatoes
Potatoes (Sweet potatoes and yams are ok)
Peppers, including spicy, chili, and bell peppers, and paprika (Black, white, and green pepper is ok- it’s actually a peppercorn. Long pepper is ok, too.)
Eggplant
Tobacco

Although less well known, Goji berries are nightshades, too.

Note: Blueberries, huckleberries, artichokes, and okra are not in the Nightshade family, but they also contain solanine.

The good news: It’s very easy to find out if you are Nightshade sensitive. Simply remove all of them from your diet for two weeks (Note: You’ll have to read labels carefully. “Spices” may contain paprika, and lots of prepared foods like shredded cheese can contain potato flour). Then have a big dose of tomatoes, potatoes, or drink a V8. See how you feel that evening and the next day. If within 24 hrs your pain is worse, you are Nightshade-sensitive. Wherever you have inflammation, that’s where it will show up. If not, congrats – you can go back to all the tomatoes you want.

The alkaloid is degraded by heat. Raw Nightshades are more toxic than cooked, and the extreme heat of deep-frying is even better … but fried foods are inflammatory for other reasons, so don’t get too excited. I will eat a small amount of potato chips on a special occasion because they are fried all the way through, but not french fries, since they are still squishy in the middle.

The combination of Nightshades and sugar is a doozy. I can get away with a small amount of tomato paste, but even a tiny squirt of ketchup will make my hands ache the next day.

Following an anti-inflammatory diet is a relatively simple way to decrease your pain and make a real difference in your quality of life. Some people have inflammatory reactions to dairy or wheat, and that may be worth testing the same way as the Nightshades. You don’t have to be perfect all the time – just pick your battles, okay?

Spicy food junkies: Fear not! You can still enjoy horseradish, onion, garlic, ginger, and all the peppercorns, including long pepper.

Here’s a nightshade-free curry recipe and one for NonNightshade Mexican. Substitute either cauliflower or sweet potatoes for regular potatoes. Pizza and pasta are great with pesto sauce. There’s even a “No-Mato” marinara sauce I found online (OMG SO GOOD!!!! I used the higher levels of spice for everything and loved it! If you use all regular beets it’s purple. If you use 50% regular beets and 50% golden beets, you’ll get a red sauce with a less “beety” taste. Freezes well, too!).

Like to eat out? Free restaurant cards are here. 

UPDATE 4/29/16: Now that I’ve been Nightshade-free for a decade, I’ve found that I can get away with cheating once in a while. There seems to be a cumulative effect. By staying away 99% of the time, and preventing a build-up of inflammation, I can enjoy the occasional indiscretion. 

*Diet soda isn’t a good solution. While it doesn’t contain sugar, the artificial sweeteners cause their own problems, including triggering the body to start storing more calories as fat.