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By P. Sze | Last updated: August 1, 2023

Qi Gong and Tai Chi for Weight Loss: Discover the Power of TCM Meditation for Shedding Pounds and Reducing Stress


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Dr. Leonor Liz

Ms. Leonor works with Terapias Naturais in Lisbon, Portugal as a TCM specialist with great skills in acupuncture, cupping therapy, dietetics, herbal medicine, Moxibustion, and Tuina massage.

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Thanks to increasingly stressful lives that glorify the hustle culture, obesity is a health issue that is more prevalent than ever before. Stress leads to improper sleep, unhealthy diets, and sedentary lifestyles.

 Many folks have found the answer to these issues in the gentle mindfulness of TCM practices Qi Gong and Tai Chi. Here are valuable insights on Qi Gong and Tai Chi for weight loss, in consultation with three TCM experts—Dr. Leonor, Dr. Yuan, and Dr. Gene Wei.


A Brief Introduction to TCM  Meditation Practices

Qi Gong is a meditation practice developed as a part of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), thousands of years ago. This meditation practice combines the use of gentle movement and controlled breathing to relieve any blocked energy and instigate mental, physical, and spiritual healing within the body.

There are two types of Qi Gong meditation—active, which involves Tai Chi, and passive.

Regularly practicing both can positively impact weight loss and stress reduction by improving mood and inducing better sleep.

Dr. Gene Wei states that practices like Qi Gong and Tai Chi can stimulate the lymphatic system and make them effective for weight loss as they make practitioners move in a balanced way, leading to the simultaneous stimulation of many different parts of the body.

Unlike overly strenuous exercise, which can impact lymphatic flow and cause water retention and edema, Qi Gong and Tai Chi are gentle and increase circulation without stressing the body.

According to Dr. Leonor, Qi Gong is better for emotional eaters. At the same time, Tai Chi is better for sedentary individuals—as a physical practice, it can lead to weight loss, even without additional lifestyle changes. Most people believe that because they’re anaerobic practices, Qi Gong and Tai Chi are typically for senior folks, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

The Science Behind TCM Meditation and Weight Loss

The Role of Qi in TCM and Its Impact on Weight Management

According to Dr. Yuan, people who have been under consistent chronic stress for a while turn to stress-relieving methods such as smoking, drinking, and overeating. Such harmful practices can damage the stomach and spleen, causing Qi (energy) to stagnate in the liver and disrupt its normal functioning, leading to obesity.

Spleen Qi deficiency, particularly, can exacerbate weight gain and is caused by overthinking, long periods of sitting, insufficient physical exercise, an excessively sweet and greasy diet, etc. The movement of the Qi is blocked, leading to the body’s inability to push blood and fluid. This leads to fluid metabolism disorders and causes moisture and phlegm accumulation, which, in turn, leads to both general and local obesity. 

Dr. Leoner adds that in TCM, fat accumulation happens due to a Phlegm-Dampness pattern, causing a Yin-Yang imbalance. The stress from this affects the liver and blocks the Qi flow there, too, which impacts the blood flow and organs and doesn’t allow the clearing of the dampness, leading to weight gain. 

How Stress Reduction through Meditation Can Aid Weight Loss

An increase in stress levels can lead to disrupted sleep cycles, an increase in cortisol levels, more hunger spikes, and an increase in unhealthy cravings, all of which lead to weight gain. Meditation, through rhythmic breathing and mindfulness, can help reduce stress and keep away unhealthy weight gain.

Does Qi Gong Burn Calories?

Qi Gong practices, if physical (such as Tai Chi), can burn calories. 30 minutes of Tai Chi can burn around 150 calories. 

Can You Lose Weight Doing Tai Chi?

As per Dr. Leonor, TCM weight loss methods are highly effective as they address both the root cause and the symptoms. 

As further proof, studies show that those who practiced Tai Chi for twelve weeks saw a weight loss of a pound without any additional lifestyle changes. This is a clear indication that Tai Chi leads to weight loss.

Qi Gong for Weight Loss

An Overview of Qi Gong Practice and Its Principles

Qi Gong is made up of the words qi, meaning “vital energy” or “subtle breath”, and gong, which means “a skill grown through consistent practice”. These words together denote an age-old TCM practice that uses the potency of movement, intention, and breath to create balance within the body and improve overall health. 

Qi Gong is considered the root of TCM and traditional Chinese martial arts. It initially mimicked animal movements before it was honed through centuries, and adapted to human physiology and anatomy.

The major principles of Qi Gong include breath, posture, movement, relaxation, concentration, and intention. Breath is important for Qi dispersion, posture helps change consciousness and helps Qi flow, repetitive movements benefit the circulatory and nervous systems, relaxation brings in harmony, and concentration/intention brings in mindfulness.

Specific Qi Gong Exercises for Weight Loss and Stress Reduction

According to Dr. Leoner, the most effective exercises in Qi Gong and Tai Chi for weight loss are the ones that target the Earth and Wood elements, and of these, Dr. Leonor likes to use Yi Jin Jing.

Falling asleep by 11 PM is also recommended as the period between 11 PM and 3 AM coincides with the period when the Wood element is most active and clearing out waste from the metabolic system. 

She also suggests using TCM remedies such as Xiao Yao San, Gui Pi Tang, Bao He Wan, and Jin Wan, along with other herbal therapy and acupuncture to practice mindful eating, curb emotional eating, and manage weight.

Dr. Gene Wai advises using a technique called “brushing the meridian” for stress reduction and weight loss, where practitioners lightly brush the different meridian groups, including the inner arms, outer arms, inner legs, outer legs, and torso. Like Dr. Leonor, he suggests movement-based techniques complemented by rhythmic breathing to relax the nervous system.

How to Use Qi Gong for Belly Fat?

Dr. Leonor suggests active meditation techniques such as the 4-6-8 breathing and “Inhaling Sky Qi” while moving (this can be any sort of activity, such as walking) to reduce belly fat. These techniques help to relax and focus the mind on the goal. Qi Gong/Tai Chi movements are a part of the treatment he prescribes to her patients, along with mindful eating and a dietetics plan. 

Tips for Incorporating Qi Gong into a Daily Routine

There are several ways to incorporate Qi Gong into a daily routine, the first of which is mindful eating. This means choosing whole-food, unrefined carbohydrates instead of sugar and refined flour, and starting your meal with healthy fats, proteins, and fiber, instead of carbohydrates, to keep you satiated for longer.

Dr. Gene Wai also suggests drinking a tablespoon and a half of apple cider vinegar mixed with eight ounces of water twenty minutes before a meal to reduce any spikes in blood sugar. He also advises incorporating small, frequent rounds of exercising so the body isn’t overtaxed while also including weight training and moderate cardio (20-30 minutes 5-6 days a week).

Ask Dr. Yuan, and he has this to say—arrange three meals reasonably, fast for three to five hours before bedtime, and stand for half an hour after eating to address weight loss and Qi deficiency.

As mentioned earlier, you can also incorporate breathing techniques into daily movements, such as walking, as suggested by Dr. Leonor. The doctor also suggests eating neutral, Yin-rich foods to clear out heat from the body and for better sleep.

Tai Chi for Weight Loss

An Overview of Tai Chi Practice and Its Principles

Tai Chi is a Qi Gong technique that uses gentle, slow movements, controlled breathing, physical postures, and a meditative state of mind to enhance well-being and health. 

Though it was initially developed as a martial arts practice, Tai Chi was adapted into a form that everyday people could easily do and integrate into their daily routines. The mind-body connection is extremely important in Tai Chi, as is coordinating breathing with physical movements.

According to some TCM and Tai Chi practitioners, the principles of the form are relaxing, keeping the body upright to align with gravity, shifting between the Yin and Yang energies, keeping the waist flexible, and keeping the wrist straight from the tip of the middle finger to the elbow (also known as beautiful lady’s hand). 

Specific Tai Chi Exercises for Weight Loss and Stress Reduction

Though she only practices the Yang style of Tai Chi, Dr. Leonor finds the 37 movements in it to be highly effective for stress reduction and weight loss.

How to Use Tai Chi for Belly Fat?

Doing Tai Chi for 12 weeks (3 hours a week under the guidance of an instructor) can help practitioners lose inches around their waists. Studies show that people who followed the Yang style of practice (continuous, slow movements that improve flexibility, strength, and balance) could lose more inches around their waist and sustain this loss for far longer than those who did conventional exercises.

Tips for Incorporating Tai Chi into a Daily Routine

It is recommended that Tai Chi always be done under the guidance of an instructor, especially for complete beginners. Dr. Leonor stresses the importance of learning basic postures before starting any other practice and through in-person one-on-one classes as much as possible. Performing the movements without understanding them will lead to fewer benefits.

However, there are simple exercises that you can perform for even ten minutes a day for benefits. Performed before bedtime or through the day, these exercises can stave off unhealthy food cravings, emotional eating, and stress and also help you fall asleep. You can even perform breathing exercises while sitting in your office chair to refocus and relax.

The Mind-Body Connection in TCM Meditation

The Importance of Mindfulness and Intention in Weight Loss

Qi Gong and Tai Chi for weight loss stress on mindfulness and intention. Several stress-causing factors lead to unhealthy practices, especially emotional eating, where people eat due to stress and not hunger. This can be a difficult pattern to stop, according to Dr. Leonor. 

However, mindfulness can change this. For example, eating without distractions (talking, television, phone usage, etc.) forces a person to listen to his/her body, reducing overeating, ingesting excess sugar, and indigestion.

How TCM Meditation Helps Cultivate a Healthy Relationship with the Body

Mind-body connection plays a role in everything, not just Qi Gong and Tai Chi for weight loss, according to Dr. Leonar. If the body is not well, the mind feels it, and vice versa. A grounding practice like meditation will improve mind-body communication in practitioners and help them understand their bodies, leading to reduced stress and better health.

Combining TCM Meditation with Other Weight Loss Strategies

Integrating TCM Meditation with a Balanced Diet

A balanced diet includes cutting out refined carbs and sugar. The aim is to keep the blood sugar level low. Along with this, habits such as eating mindfully without distractions, eating with a smile, avoiding liquids while eating, and stopping eating before feeling full are all TCM techniques that Dr. Leonor integrates with a balanced diet and nutrition plan for her patients. 

Incorporating Regular Physical Activity Alongside Qi Gong and Tai Chi

Apart from Qi Gong and Tai Chi for weight loss, it’s important to include moderate cardio and weight training for better health benefits, increased rate of metabolism, weight loss, and improved strength. Dr. Gene Wei suggests working out 5-6 days a week for 20-30 minutes daily.

Dr. Leonor emphasizes the importance of setting realistic goals, which reduces the tendency to feel like a failure and give up. Consistency, persistence, emotional support, guidance, and not expecting immediate results are key.

Utilizing Other TCM Practices to Enhance Weight Loss and Stress Reduction Efforts

Dr. Yuan suggests practicing Tai Chi to improve Qi flow and stimulate weight loss. Dr. Leonor uses Qi Gong and Tai Chi for weight loss with acupuncture to reduce anxiety and stress, as well as TCM herbal therapy and remedies, such as Xiao Yao San and Bao He Wan.

Related Articles

  • TCM Diagnosis of Obesity – As you’ve discovered the power of Qi Gong and Tai Chi for weight loss and stress reduction, you might want to broaden your understanding of TCM’s approach to obesity. The article offers insights into TCM body types and their relation to weight gain, equipping you with practical strategies for effective weight management. This knowledge will empower you to take a more proactive role in your health journey.
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P. Sze

P. Sze

P. Sze is the founder of TCM Tips and Dragon Acupuncture®. She graduated from the National University of Singapore with a first-class honor in Civil Engineering. She also holds a master’s degree in Engineering and is the brain behind the innovative TCM products of Dragon Acupuncture®. She is the author of The Beginner's Guide to Auricular Therapy: Application of Ear Seeds (ISBN 978-1520451398) and Facial Gua Sha - Fight the Signs of Aging Naturally and Inexpensively (ISBN 978-1980678922). She has dedicated her life to ensuring that the complex theories behind oriental medicine and the seemingly dangerous techniques that involve needles and fire do not scare you from trying oriental medicine. This is why she writes endlessly about acupressure and its countless health and wellness benefits.

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