Weight Loss in Chinese Medicine
Chinese Medicine places our diet as a cornerstone, along with good sleep and a positive mental approach to life, as the cornerstones of health. Here is what Chinese medicine has to say about weight loss as we age
When I taught nutrition at Pacific College of Health and Science in San Diego, I showed students a text from a UCSD Med School nutrition class. It was all about micronutrients. There was nothing in there about eating, about food, about good digestion.
When Chinese medicine speaks about nutrition, it speaks of what you eat, how you eat, and how you digest. Nothing about supplements. Not that you should not take them, but vitamins are no substitute for a balanced diet. The older we get, the harder it is to maintain a healthy weight.
Why Do We Gain Weight After 36?
At age 36, our need for food declines, as our Pi Hun Hua weakens. What is the Pi Hun Hua?
Classical Chinese Medicine describes metabolism as the transformation of food and liquid into energy, and its distribution through the body for metabolic functions. Chinese Medicine conceives of the Hun Hua is a kind of fire, the fire that burns food on top of the stove. The fire that shines in the eyes of happy people or when we laugh.
The Chinese observed that by age 36 our fire begins to diminish, our metabolism slows, but we keep eating. In fact we often eat more!
Yin and Yang of Food and Metabolism
Digestive and Metabolic fire are Yang functions. They involve transformation, which is what Yang does. Yin is involved with storage.
Food is fundamentally Yin in that its a stored energy, and when we eat too much and dont exercise enough, we store that yin as fat. (The energy we obtain from food, by our own Yang metabolic fire, is Yang.
So Yin food in excess of what we burn off, makes more Yin fat, at exactly the age when our Yang is weakening, and needs less Yin. So you are left with an imbalance of excessive Yin, stored energy. Not woo woo energy, but caloric energy, stored as adipose tissue. Fat.
Use of Spices to Maintain Digestive Fire as We Age
Of course we have to eat less and stay moving. But, as we get older and see our digestive fire weakening, we have to keep that fire stoked and alive.
This means a judicious use of Sour, Pungent, Bitter, and Sweet digestive herbs and spices in our food, from cumin to ginger to pepper, and can also include the use of digestive herbs like the famous Bao He Wan.
A meat, cheese, bread, beer, and ice cream bland diet is one of the best ways to weaken your digestive fire, and the judicious use of age appropriate spices is a great way to stimulate your metabolic fire.
Chinese Medicine on Weight Loss and Western Science: Different Ways of Seeing and Describing
This difference between how Traditional Chinese Medicine and Modern Western Medicine describe why its harder to lose weight when your older is a good example of how Chinese Medicine and Western Science describe the very same reality using unique ways of seeing that are reflected and even determined by different use of language.
There is only one kind of medicine, and that is Medicine. Medicine is anything that heals you.
Ways to stimulate digestive fire:
- Stop eating before you are full
- Go for a light stroll after your meal
- Exercise Regularly
- Include herbs and spices in your cooking
- Do Not Drink Iced Beverages
- Eat less wheat, meat, and dairy
- Eat more green veggies
- Drink Small Amounts of Tea after a meal
- Drink Ginger or Cardomon tea between meals