Weight Loss–Does Acupuncture Help?

In some ways it probably does. If someone has an overly sluggish metabolism, acupuncture might help correct the metabolic imbalance. Theoretically, this would help with weight loss. But honestly, I’ve never seen an acupuncture protocol for weight loss that I was impressed with. With two possible exceptions, I would say save your money—there are better ways to lose weight. And to spend your money.

The first exception is for appetite control. Auricular acupuncture, or acupuncture in the auricle of the ear, is helpful for addictions—nicotine, street drugs, alcohol. If food is an addiction, then I firmly believe acupuncture can help with appetite control. 

The second exception is for stress management. Some people have stressful lifestyles and overeat as a result. Acupuncture is very effective at reducing the negative effects of stress on the body and promoting the relaxation response. For example, stress causes the body to increase its cortisol level, and cortisol increases insulin resistance, causing weight gain, or at the very least inhibiting weight loss. If this is the case, we do points on the hands and feet and other areas along with the points in the auricle of the ear for addiction.

I’m writing this article, however, not to encourage you to use acupuncture as your first line of attack. I often get calls from people with unreasonable expectations, as though acupuncture alone will help melt the pounds away. This is not going to happen. Life-style changes have to be made and kept for life.

We are talking here about diet and exercise. Many fitness gurus say that 80% of achieving and maintaining a decent body composition is dependent on diet. Only 20% is dependent on exercise. There is a lot of information on the internet about exercise, so I won’t discuss that here. I always tell people that the best exercise for them is the one they’ll do. I could suggest high intensity interval training, which in my opinion is the best way to exercise for health and weight loss, but it is very demanding and not for most people. So let’s talk about diet, which is more important.

Diet is a controversial subject, but it is one I’ve studied quite a bit. Here is some basic advice I will share which I believe will help. Avoid what is normally considered to be dieting, as it involves long-term calorie restriction and does not work. More on this below. Avoid refined carbohydrates such as sugar, refined flour, etc. Keep your consumption of pasta, rice, bread, potatoes and other starchy foods to a minimum. An excess of these foods stimulates insulin production, and insulin is a fat storage hormone. Eat a ton of vegetables and only a little fruit. Choose high fiber fruits, like apples. Too much fruit and low-fiber fruit can cause an excess of insulin. And practice intermittent fasting.

Intermittent fasting means occasional fasting. I practice it for two reasons—it is healthy, and it maintains my weight at a desirable level. It is healthy because it promotes a process called autophagy, which essentially involves a cleansing of the body on a deep cellular level. In the absence of food, the body breaks down and utilizes as nourishment cellular debris, such as dysfunctional proteins, that when allowed to accumulate can lead to disease. If this sounds interesting to you, go ahead and google the word autophagy and read about it in greater detail. You’ll be impressed. Okay, back to the second reason I fast, which is to manage my weight. My own routine is to skip breakfast everyday and to have only lunch and dinner five days per week. Twice per week I have only one meal per day, which gives me 24 hours between meals and initiates the process of autophagy. This means fewer calories. It also means spending less money on food. Fasting is not difficult to do once you get used to it and actually feels good. There are also many different fasting schedules you can choose from that will conform to your lifestyle. This one just happens to work for me.

Intermittent fasting does not slow down the metabolism, it actually speeds it up. Long term calorie deprivation is what slows down metabolism, which is why traditional dieting doesn’t work. The participants of the reality show “The Biggest Loser” starved themselves for the duration of the season and usually gained back weight after completing the program. Intermittent fasting, which is short-term calorie deprivation, has the opposite effect. This might seem counter-intuitive, but it’s true.

The best book I have read on intermittent fasting is The Complete Guide to Fasting by Jason Fung, M.D. I will paste the Amazon.com link at the end of this article.

If you need appetite control or stress management, go ahead and give me a call. If not, don’t bother with acupuncture for weight loss. Follow my advice and research everything to expand upon and refine what I have written here.

Here is the link to Dr. Fung’s book:

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