For those who’ve tried conventional methods for weight loss and stress reduction and didn’t find the desired results, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is a popular alternative. This practice, rooted in ancient Chinese philosophy, traditions, and medical practices, has proven successful for many people.
The key to finding results with TCM is understanding it and the relationship between stress and weight loss that it outlines. With TCM experts’ input, here’s what you need to know about TCM techniques to reduce stress and lose weight.
The Significance of Stress Management in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
Stress is a major factor behind health problems, as seen by TCM. Stress disrupts the flow of Qi (vital energy) in the body, leading to blockages and imbalances in the flow of energy throughout the body and causing emotional and physical symptoms such as depression, anxiety, fatigue, and insomnia.
Therefore, managing stress is important to balance the body’s energy flow and promote well-being and overall health.
The Connection between Stress and Weight Loss from a TCM Perspective
In TCM, the liver is directly affected by stress, which blocks the flow of Qi. This blockage causes Qi to stagnate, affecting the flow of blood and the health of organs or meridians, explains Dr. Leonor, a renowned TCM practitioner, and doctor. All of this leads to an accumulation of dampness and phlegm, which hampers weight loss and instead causes weight gain.
Fellow TCM expert Dr. Yuan agrees and adds that the stressful, sedentary lives most people lead and the unhealthy, emotion-driven diets they eat also affect spleen Qi, leading to obesity.
The Impact of Stress on Weight and TCM
How Stress Affects Weight Management According to TCM
TCM believes that stress is a major cause of weight gain and difficulty in managing weight. As explained earlier, stress disrupts Qi flow and causes an imbalance, especially in the digestive system, liver, and spleen, affecting metabolism and weight gain.
Stress also leads to releasing the cortisol hormone, which spikes appetite and leads to overeating. It can also cause the body to hold onto excess weight, especially around the midsection.
The Role of Stress in Disrupting Qi and the Balance of Yin and Yang
Stress disrupts the flow of Qi and the balance between Yin and Yang, which are opposite, complementary forces coursing through the body. By blocking Qi and throwing Yin and Yang off balance, stress leads to pain, disease, inflammation, insomnia, agitation, restlessness, and other conditions.
For example, when there’s an excess of Yang energy, due to chronic stress, you experience symptoms such as insomnia, restlessness, and agitation, whereas an excess of Yin energy, caused by acute stress, can lead to weakness, fatigue, and lethargy.
The Relationship between Stress and Emotional Eating In TCM
According to Dr. Yuan, people who have consistently experienced great pressure for a long time turn to overeat to counter these emotions.
Instead of eating to satisfy hunger, people eat to make themselves feel better. Stress also increases appetite, as several studies show. Combined, these factors cause the liver Qi to stagnate, impeding its functioning and leading to obesity.
Dr. Leonor observes that emotional eating can be a difficult pattern to stop. Emotional eating can cause a mind-body disconnection.
TCM Techniques to Reduce Stress and Support Weight Loss
Acupuncture and Acupressure for Stress Relief
Acupuncture involves stimulating pressure points using needles, while acupressure stimulates these using just the fingers. Along with tuina massage, acupuncture is one of the TCM techniques to reduce stress and lose weight that Dr. Leonor swears by as this addresses the root cause and stimulates a healthy mind-body connection.
Of the several points located on the face, head, feet, and hands, the Yintang point, between the eyebrows, and the Inner Pass point, located a little away from the base of the palm, are particularly effective to promote relaxation.
Acupoint: EM-2 (Other Names: Yin Tang/Hall of Impression)
Location: This point is located in the middle of the eyebrows, where the line between the two eyebrows meets.
Acupoint: PC-6 (Other Names: Pericardium-6/Nei Guan/Inner Pass)
Location: Put your index finger, middle finger, and ring finger together, and place them on the inner side of your opposite wrist. The ring finger should touch the horizontal line where your hand and wrist meet. The position of your index finger at this moment is where the acupressure point is located.
Herbal Remedies and Dietary Adjustments to Combat Stress and Promote Weight Loss
Among the TCM techniques to reduce stress and lose weight that Dr. Leonor suggests to her patients are dietary adjustments and herbal remedies rooted in TCM. Regarding herbal remedies, she recommends Xiao Yao San and Bao He Wan.
When it comes to TCM-based dietary adjustments, mindful eating is one of the most important things you can practice (chewing slowly, paying attention to flavors and textures in the food, etc.).
In addition to this, a balanced diet, avoiding stimulants (alcohol, sugar, caffeine, etc.), eating warming foods, and eating digestion-friendly foods can reduce stress and induce weight loss.
To sum up, Dr. Leonor believes that herbal therapy and diet can work together to address the root cause and treat stress and weight issues.
Practicing Meditation, Qi Gong, or Tai Chi for Relaxation and Stress Reduction
Qi Gong, Tai Chi, and meditation are excellent TCM techniques to reduce stress and lose weight. The controlled breathing, slow and gentle movements, and coordination between the two that all these practices involve can calm the parasympathetic nervous system and induce calm.
Qi Gong, especially, promotes Qi and blood flow according to Dr. Leonor, which can help both stress reduction and weight loss.
Incorporating TCM Principles into Daily Routine for Better Stress Management
Some TCM techniques to reduce stress and lose weight include practicing Tai Chi and Qi Gong, acupressure, meditation, herbal remedies, dietary adjustments, acupuncture, and other mind-body practices such as yoga and mindfulness.
Dr. Leonar especially encourages the use of herbal therapy and acupuncture due to both practices’ capacity to improve metabolism and restore balance in the body.
The Role of Mindful Breathing in TCM Stress Reduction Techniques
Mindful breathing is a great way to bring down stress levels and promote relaxation. It calms the mind, regulates the nervous system, balances energy in the body, and improves lung function.
Mindful breathing can be easily incorporated into daily movements such as walking, says Dr. Leonar. You can practice rhythmic 4-6-8 breathing while walking or doing yoga.
Integrating TCM Stress Management Practices with Other Weight Loss Strategies
Combining TCM Stress Reduction Techniques with a Balanced Diet and Exercise
As mentioned earlier, one can combine TCM stress reduction techniques such as meditation, Qi Gong, Tai Chi, breathing practices, and mindful eating with exercise and a balanced diet for the best result. TCM works best when practiced with conventional exercise and health measures and not instead of them.
TCM expert Dr. Gene Wei suggests practicing TCM along with weight training and cardio 5-6 times a week, for at least 20-30 minutes each day.
Personalizing TCM Stress Management Practices for Individual Needs and Preferences
As Dr. Leonor rightly says, there can be no “one size fits all” with medicine. Each patient’s body and needs differ, so a thorough diagnosis is necessary before prescription.
The first appointment with Dr. Leonor is always exhaustive as she asks the patient everything possible so that she can better understand the patient’s lifestyle and mental-emotional influence. Only through this understanding is it possible to suggest the most suitable techniques to the patient and do her best work.
Addressing Emotional Factors That Affect Stress and Weight Loss Using TCM Principles
Breaking habits and changing patterns can be difficult. However, Dr. Leonor believes that empathizing with and respecting the patient’s preferences and needs, even if they don’t align with the doctor’s own, is necessary to help break these patterns.
This means that doctors have to learn flexibility and display this in adjusting TCM’s traditional theory to modern days. This may be hard to do but ensures long-term success for the patient.
Additionally, explaining the relationship between Yin and Yang thoroughly to patients will help them better understand their own routines and the adjustments that they need to make for optimal health.
Finally, for a comprehensive, guided experience in using TCM techniques for weight loss, you might be interested in our article on Traditional Chinese Medicine Weight Loss Spas.
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