USA Weight Problem
Nationally, 1/3 of the population is considered Obese (35.7%)
Colorado has the lowest rate of obesity in the country (20.5%, as of 2012).
Carrying extra weight is hard on the body and can lead to life threatening diseases such as; Heart Disease, Stroke, Type 2 Diabetes, and Cancer. All preventable diseases.
The estimated medical costs of obesity in the US was $147 million in 2008.
YOU CAN'T AFFORD NOT TO LOSE WEIGHT!
Defining Excess Weight
The WHO (World Health Organization) defines excess weight as having abnormal fat accumulation that may impair health.
BMI greater that 25 is considered overweight.
BMI greater than 30 is considered obese.
Why is obesity so common? We live in a world where food is plentiful, we don't have to work hard to obtain it, and we live a relatively sedentary lifestyle. It sounds so simple…just eat less and work out. I think we all know that in todays world of fast food, and working long hours, finding the time to make healthy meals and exercising can be daunting. Is that an excuse, NO! There should no excuse for your health. These are hurdles and challenges. Changing your lifestyle can be difficult, but it is not impossible.
Diet and Nutrition
It seems common sense that beginning with the food/fuel we add to our bodies would be the first place we start in the treatment for obesity/excess weight. There is A LOT of controversy over nutrition these days, fad diets, miracle weight loss pill and supplements, and people offering magical treatments to help you melt the weight without trying. Lets be honest, if you want something you have to work for it, and this is not different. You have to want to change your diet and you have to be willing to put in your time.
Our approach to diet, at Sacred Vessel Acupuncture, is very individualizes. There is no one diet to fit every person. So, we look at you, your constitution, food preferences, and personal history to determine a meal plan that will work for you. There are some basic guidelines that we do adhere to.
Correcting Portion Sizes
Oh, they make it sound so simple don't they. Just eat less and lose weight. Often this is not as simple as it sounds. Many don't know HOW much we are suppose to eat, or how to listen to their bodies signals of hunger and satisfaction. This is the first step in any long term dietary overhaul. You MUST learn to read your bodies natural signals. It doesn't matter if you are eating the healthiest diet in the world, if you are still eating too much you will have a difficult time losing weight. Albeit it is more difficult to gain weight when eating a nutrient rich and trash free diet, it is not impossible if you are consuming large amounts.
Portion control will have to be re-learned in most cases. We are all born with the ability to know when we are hungry and when we are full. Children are very good at reminding us of that. They will not eat their dinner because they are not hungry at that moment, but will ask for a snack 30 minutes later when they feel hungry. We need to reconnect with this innate bodily function.
When you are eating, make sure you are aware of your food. Eating with a purpose so to speak. Remove distractions such as television. Eat slowly and taste each bite. Listen to how your body is responding to each food and mouthful. When you feel satisfied, STOP. Do not eat to the point of discomfort, however slight. Developing this awareness may take time, especially if you have been overeating for years. Don't get frustrated, this is not a quick fix, it will take work, and the progress may be slow, but if you want to live a healthier life, it must start here.
Fat does not make you fat
Contrary to what most of us have heard our entire lives, Fat is not the cause of obesity. Fat is essential to our health and without the the right fats in our diet our body (nerves, muscles, bones, organs, brain) does not function properly. The topic of fats is one of my favorites and a very complicated topic that deserves its own page. I will do my best to summarize here.
Fat is used at a very basic level as structure for our cells, ALL OUR CELLS. The outer layer of cells is a fatty layer (phospholipid bilayer). There is plenty of research and evidence of Omega 3's importance in the function of individual cells. Omega 3's are highly unsaturated and give flexibility to our cells. If we are consuming fats such as (hydrogenated fats) these fats will replace the good fats in our cell membranes and cause our cells to become rigid and misshaped.
Fat-soluble Vitamin need just what is said in the name, FAT! Without fat, you cannot properly digest and assimilate these vitamins (A, D, E, and K). Many of the foods that contain these vitamins in hight amounts also have fat in them, think Milk and Eggs. If you are eating these foods without the fat in them, you are not properly or effectively absorbing those vitamins. Just say NO to skim milk and egg whites.
There are 2 sources of energy in our diet, sugar/carbohydrates, fat/protein. Sugar and Carbohydrates work as instant energy in our bodies, it take little to no exertion on our parts to convert it into a useable form. This type of energy is good for quick bursts, but unused, it is stored in the body. Fat and Protein is harder to break down and even though it provides more calories per gram than sugar/carbohydrates, it actually takes energy to break it down into a usable form (burning calories). Fats provide us with a constant energy that can help keep our metabolism stable.
There are good and bad fats. Fats that cause inflammation in our body, and fats that relieve inflammation in our body. Making sure that we have a balance of these fats, with a higher amount of anti-inflammatory fats, can help us decrease swelling, pain, irritation, and other inflammation signs in the body.
For More Information of Good Fats vs. Bad Fats "click here"
Hydration is often overlooked when talking about weight loss. We are constantly focused on the food and calorie intake and not so much on the fluid intake.
A small study from Humboldt University found that metabolic rate increases 30% after consumption of 500ml and is sustained for an hour.
Another study from Virginia Tech follow two groups of dieters, all eating the same diet, but one group drinking 2 cups more water per day. The group drinking the extra water lost 30% more weight over 12 weeks than the group that did not drink the extra water.
Avoid Diet ANYTHING
When you see the word diet in anything, AVOID IT LIKE THE PLAGUE! Diet means added chemicals. These chemicals actually do the complete opposite. This is a good example of not just counting calories. There may be no calories in these products, but the damage they do is far from zero.
Lets take diet soda for example.
One large study found that people who drank artificially sweetened drinks were actually more likely to experience weight gain than those who drank the regular drinks. They also had twice the risk of developing Metabolic Syndrome, a precursor to diabetes.
A study from Yale found that those who consume artificial sweeteners are more likely to crave sugar than those who do not. Artificial sweeteners, such as Splenda, create an insulin spike contrary to the notion of them being inert. Insulin is a hormone that causes cells in the body to take up glucose from the blood and storing it in the Liver and in fat cells as glycogen. When insulin levels remain leveled or low, the body does not uptake glucose and uses the body's fat stores for energy production.
Eat Close to the Source
What do we mean by "eating close to the source?"
By choosing foods that are closer to how they are found in nature, you are able to get the most nutrients from your food. You skip the steps of processing that leach essential vitamins out of your food.
Food that are in the natural, whole form also supply you with a synergistic array of nutrients that help support the absorption of each other. For example; many of the natural food sources of Calcium contain Magnesium (think Kale). Calcium is needed to help the muscles contract, but Magnesium is needed to help the muscles relax. There is a balance, and if you are deficient in one than you will have issues with excess of the other. Nature has a wonderful way of keeping nutrients in a balance that works with our bodies. When we process foods, we destroy micronutrients, enzymes, vitamins, and other nutrients and in turn destroy natures balance.
Choose Organic When Possible
I know it is expensive and sometimes difficult to eat organic all the time. But effort must be made to eat organic as often as possible. Why? Even though, nutritionally, organic foods do not differ from conventional significantly, the chemicals used in the growing and feeding of non-organic food sources can cause the body to react differently to our food and can lead to weight gain.
These chemicals disrupt our body's hormones. These chemicals can be pesticides, insecticides, hormones given to livestock, preservative for processed food, and in the plastic used to package processed foods. Some of these chemicals have been nicknames Obesogens because of their significant link with weight gain.
If you cannot afford to buy all organic, at least start with the dirty dozen (those that are the highest in pesticide residue). Those that you can buy nonorganic are the Clean Fifteen (those that are the lowest in pesticide residue)
Hormones can also be found in our meat. Animals are often given Estrogen and Testosterone to make them grow faster, get fatter and produce more milk. These hormones stay in the meat and are then eating and enter our bodies. They disrupt our body's own hormonal balance, which can lead to unnecessary weight gain. Finding meat sources that are hormone free is essential. Having the animals eat a natural diet free of corn, and animal by-products is also something I do not budge on. You can get away with not buying organic produce and washing it well, but meat is different and there is no getting around the quality of the animal proteins you are consuming.
Exercise and Lifestyle Choices
Physical activity comes in many shapes in sizes. Traditional people did not "exercise" as we do today. They led active lifestyles that requires them to do physical actives to survive. Walking to get water, farming by hand, gathering and chopping firewood, etc… Today we lead relatively inactive lives, spending many hours sitting working, watching television, or playing on computers and video games. By changing the way to approach our daily actives, they less we need to stress about "exercise" as it become a way of life.
Physical activity, regardless of your weight, is essential for proper health. Regular activity reduces your risk of several preventable and chronic diseases. Fitting in regular activity is easier than you may think, and doesn't require you to visit the gym every day.
The general guidelines advices by the CDC are as follows:
Children (6-17): 1 hour or more of physical activity daily
Adults (18-64): 30 minutes or more of physical activity daily, for greater benefit 1 hour daily
Older Adults (65 and older): 30 minutes or more of physical activity daily
I personally find the guidelines to be the MINIMUM that you should set your goal for. Ideally we should strive for 1 hour or more physical activity daily, and this too is not that difficult to do, as you will soon see.
In my opinion the best exercise you can do for you body is WALKING. Walking can turn from a very easy routine to a strenuous workout very quickly by adding in some rough terrain and a backpack with weights. For anyone starting a new exercise routine, gentle neighborhood/park walks are the best place to start. It is a wonderful way to get out and gentle enjoy nature while still getting in your physical activity.
Incorporating walking into your daily routine is much easier than you might think. Here are some simple changes to your day that can increase your overall daily activity level without you really noticing.
Turn Housework into Exercise
Many of the daily chores we have to do at home, vacuuming, laundry, dishes, etc…can be turned into exercises that help build muscle and burn additional calories.
As with all exercises, the more effort you put into it, the more you get out. You can use your household chores to increase strength, flexibility, build muscle and burn fat.
Doing a little bit throughout the day can really add up. Vacuuming with lunges burns 160 calories an hour. Scrubbing your floor by hand for 30 minutes can burn 180 calories.
Everyone's life is full of different stressors and everyone deals with them differently. But one thing is for certain, if you are dealing with an overload of stress, your body will respond and not in a way that you may want or like.
Chronic stress activates our neuroendocrine system and our hormones. In acute survival situations, this fight or flight response serves as a protection mechanism. The hormones released are Adrenalin, Corticotrophin Releasing Hormone which give the body a boost of energy and temporarily decrease appetite. It also produces Cortisol, which is slower acting and is used to trigger the body to replenish after a stressful situation has depleted our body. In terms of survival when when our stressors were physical and required a physical response to actually fight or flee, the recovery period was necessary. In today's world where we sit and dwell over stress, and our stress is more emotionally based, the need for extra calorie consumption and recovery is unnecessary. This is the reason for "stress eating" and "emotional eating."
By decreasing our levels of stress, we can in turn decrease our over excursion of Cortisol. If we decrease the over production of Cortisol we can decrease unnecessary appetite.
So, what are some tips for relieving stress in your life? This really could be a topic unto itself as well. There are so many levels that most likely need to be addressed, but here are some simple beginning steps to get you started.
Acupuncture to Help with Weight Loss
There are several studies linking the combination of Acupuncture with traditional diet and exercise changes increases the overall weight loss.
In TCM we view excess weight and triggers causing excess weight gain with imbalances in the body that can be corrected. Typically the organs involved are the Spleen and Liver to increase metabolism and balance the body's ability to process the food eaten. The Kidneys will also be addressed to stimulate hormone and endocrine balance.
Acupuncture helps control cravings
One main complaint we often hear when we talk to those trying to lose weight, is that they are always hungry, or have cravings. Cravings are often a sign of Vitamin Deficiencies. Your body is telling your to eat more because the foods your are eating are of poor nutritional quality and so your body, although overweight, is starving nutritionally. So, the first step in the process of losing weight is to make sure you are eating a nutrient dense diet. Sometime, our bodies have become accustom to eating large amounts, so when we begin a new diet that is lower in quantity and higher in quality, there is a learning curve for our bodies. This is when we use Acupuncture for Appetite Control.
The points we use are often a combination of body and auricular points. These auricular points are left in place for several days between treatments to stimulate the nerves that run to and from the brain causing the body to feel less hungry and decrease cravings.
Auricular Acupuncture is very often used in adjust to body points. These points are used to help suppress appetite. Acupuncture stimulates the auricular branch of the vagal nerve and raises serotonin levels, both of which have been shown to increase tone in the smooth muscle, thus suppressing appetite.
A study done at the University of Adelaide, South Australia, found that 95% of the group receiving auricular acupuncture noticed suppression of appetite, whereas NONE of the control group noticed a change. None of the control group lost the required 2 kg of weight and only 4 subjects losing any weight.
Acupuncture Regulates 5-HT
Research has shown that women (more than men) who are dieting experience a drop in plasma tryptophan and 5-HT. This can have drastic affects, and may in turn be the cause of Yo-Yo dieting. A drop in tryptophan and 5-HT is associated with eating disorders such as Bulimia Nervosa (Binge Eating/Vomiting) and Bing Eating. When a dietary change is started it is important to make sure that the levels of Tryptophan and 5-HT remain stable. This will ensure than changes made stick and decreases the changes of relapse.
There are many research studies that measure the plasma levels of 5-HT before/during/after Acupuncture treatments that are associated in different medical conditions. Most commonly analgesia and neuropathy. Although neither of these conditions are directly associated with weight gain or weight loss, what they do tell us is that Acupuncture does affectively balance the levels of 5-HT in the blood stream.
Research and Resources for Acupuncture and Weight Loss
1. Omega 3 Fatty Acids in Cellular Membranes
2. Nutritional Adjuncts to the Fat Soluble Vitamins A, D, E, and K
3. The Catabolism of Fats and Proteins for Energy
4. Water Induced Thermogenesis
5. Artificial Sweeteners Produce the Counterintuitive Effect of Inducing Metabolic Derangements
6. Artificial Sweeteners and Insulin Spike Study from Washington University
7. Scientist explore stress, weight loss and our brain: UC Davis News
8. Stimulation of Auricular Acupuncture Points and Weight Loss
9. Symptomatic Relapse in Bulimia Nervosa Following Acute Tryptophan Depletion
10. Dieting Reduces Plasma Tryptophan and Alters Brain 5-HT Function in Women
11. Acupuncture as an Adjunct Therapy in the treatment of eating disorders: Cross Over Pilot Study