Simple Tips for Keeping Your Family Healthy

By P. Sze | Last updated: May 25, 2023

TCM Approach to Mindful Eating: Techniques and Benefits for Weight Loss


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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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The popularity of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for weight loss is quickly mushrooming as an increasing number of people look for alternative weight loss methods.

One of the tenets of TCM for weight loss is mindful eating. What is this, and what does it entail? After discussions with industry experts, we discovered the TCM approach to mindful eating.


The Role of Mindful Eating In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

Mindful eating emphasizes the relationship between health and food in TCM. It’s a disease-preventing form of medicine as much as a source of energy and nutrition.

Through the TCM approach to mindful eating, close attention is paid to the different attributes of the food consumed, such as its aroma, texture, and taste, as well as the body’s response to these, i.e., fullness and satiety.

Foods are classified according to the Qi or energy that they contain; for example, cinnamon and ginger are “warming” foods that improve metabolism and circulation, while cucumber and watermelon are “cooling”, promoting hydration and reducing inflammation.

Eating what the body needs balances its energy, and diseases and issues such as constipation, bloating, and other digestive conditions are improved.

How TCM Mindful Eating Techniques Can Lead To Weight Loss

TCM views weight gain as a consequence of qi imbalance, of which a poor diet, stress, poor sleep, and insufficient exercise are primary causes. The TCM approach to mindful eating can promote healthy weight loss by reducing stress, improving digestion, and restoring balance to the body.

By paying attention to the food you eat, not only are cravings reduced but there is better absorption of nutrients from the food ingested. You also choose foods that are in tune with your body’s needs.

The Principles of Mindful Eating In TCM

The Importance of Balancing Qi and Harmonizing Yin and Yang

Qi is the vital force that runs through the body, while Yin and Yang are the opposing, complementary forces that support the body’s different processes. A balance among all these keeps the body balanced and in good health. A blockage of Qi or disharmony between Yin and Yang can lead to a range of emotional and physical symptoms.

The Concept of the Five Flavors and Their Role in TCM Mindful Eating

As mentioned, TCM classifies food based on its effect on the body (warm, cool, neutral, hot, or cold) and not on its nutritional content. It’s also classified according to its flavor—pungent, salty, sweet, sour, and bitter. According to TCM expert Dr. Leonor, understanding the effects of different foods on one’s body makes it possible to understand what the body needs and feed it food accordingly.

The Emphasis on Moderation and Variety in the TCM Diet

Various foods with different properties can help balance the body’s energy and promote well-being. However, equal attention should be paid to the quantity of food ingested. Overeating food can cause weight gain, digestive issues, and other health problems by placing unnecessary stress on the body’s energy.

According to expert Dr. Gene Wei, controlling the diet is the most important part of weight loss. Treatments only play a supporting role; without diet control, trying to lose weight is like scooping water out of one basin and only pouring it into another. This way, the amount of water is never reduced.

TCM Mindful Eating Techniques

Slowing Down and Savoring Each Bite

According to Dr. Leonor, eating without distractions from smartphones, television, talking, etc., is important. This ensures that the focus is entirely on the food being ingested and its attributes. This way, processed food, overeating, and excess sugar consumption can be avoided.

Dr. Gene Wei adds that chewing is the first step in digestion, so if you rush through your food, it may not digest very well. There will also be a delay in your stomach feeling satiated. It takes 20 minutes for the stomach to realize that it’s full; eating slowly will give it the time to realize if it’s satiated.

Eating in a Calm and Relaxed Environment

Eating in a relaxed, calm environment will also help you pay attention to your food and ensure you don’t rush through your meal.

Focusing on the Body’s Natural Hunger and Fullness Cues

To understand the impact of different foods on your body and how full they make you feel, it’s important to focus on the body’s natural hunger and fullness cues. As mentioned, it takes about 20 minutes for the body to realize it’s full, so eat slowly to understand what your body is trying to communicate.

Incorporating the Five Flavors in Meals for Balanced Nutrition

The five flavors have different impacts on your body. To keep your Qi balanced and your health in good shape, it’s important to incorporate all five flavors into your meal.

Dr. Gene Wei suggests noting how your body reacts to each of these flavors and foods. Do they cause energy, digestion, or skin issues? Understanding will help you understand what flavors to avoid and which ones to prioritize.

In general, Dr. Leonor suggests eating more sour and bitter foods to reduce dampness and improve digestion.

Tips for Implementing TCM Mindful Eating Practices in Daily Life

With a little work, it’s easy to incorporate TCM mindful eating practices into your daily life. For one, avoid refined flour, processed food, and empty carbohydrates, suggests Dr. Gene Wei. Similarly, cut out raw vegetables, greasy food, and excessive sugar.

Instead, start your meal with healthy fats, proteins, and fiber, and then eat whole, unrefined carbohydrates. Add 1.5 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar mixed in about 8 ounces of water and ingest this 20 minutes before a meal to decrease spikes in your blood sugar levels.

Eating without distractions, avoiding liquids, eating with a smile, and stopping before you’re full are some mindful eating approaches Dr. Leonor suggests to her patients.

However, Dr. Leonor acknowledges that changing eating habits can be emotional and difficult for a large population. She also uses different supporting TCM treatment methods with a prescribed weight loss plan, such as acupuncture and Qi Gong. These techniques help soothe any anxiety that the patient may be feeling.

She also suggests eating spleen-strengthening foods, such as a nice warm soup made of squash, carrot, coriander, and sweet potato.

The Benefits of TCM Mindful Eating for Weight Loss

Improved Digestion and Nutrient Absorption

By eating slowly and mindfully, your body can better absorb the nutrients in the ingested food, leading to better digestion.

Reduced Overeating and Emotional Eating

Emotional eating is one of the biggest causes of weight gain. A stressful, sedentary lifestyle can cause Qi blockage, which leads to cravings and eating due to stress, not hunger. By reducing stress and implementing mindfulness, the TCM approach to mindful eating can induce weight loss.

Increased Satisfaction and Enjoyment of Food

By eating mindfully, you can fully appreciate the taste, flavor, texture, and aroma of the food in front of you, increasing the enjoyment and satisfaction you derive from your food.

Enhanced Awareness of Hunger and Fullness Signals

TCM helps you listen to your stomach and any fullness cues it sends you. Eating mindfully in a distraction-free environment lets you better listen to your body.

A Sustainable Approach to Weight Management

Unlike contemporary weight loss methods, TCM presents a sustainable approach to weight management. Studies show that weight loss results achieved through TCM last longer than through contemporary weight loss methods.

Combining TCM Mindful Eating with Other Weight Loss Strategies

Integrating TCM Mindful Eating Practices with Exercise and Other TCM Therapies

As mentioned earlier, experts may use acupuncture, herbal therapies, and TCM weight loss methods to achieve better results. Dr. Leonor uses TCM mindful eating methods and nutrition plans with acupuncture to dissolve stagnation and help Qi move freely. Some TCM herbs she suggests for weight loss include Huang Qi and Fu Ling.

You can also use ear seeds for weight loss at home between acupuncture sessions.

Tailoring TCM Mindful Eating Techniques to Individual Needs and Preferences

Each body’s needs are different, so the TCM approach to mindful eating can and should be tailored to individual needs. For example, Dr. Leonor finds intermittent fasting an extremely effective tool in conjunction with TCM but doesn’t suggest it to everyone, as different bodies have different needs.

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Written by

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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