Diet and Weight Loss – An Eastern Perspective

Calories. Carbs. Fats.
Words quite familiar to most dieters. However, in Traditional Oriental Medicine, the approach to weight loss is quite different.

According to Eastern Medicine, the digestive system, referred to as the Spleen-Pancreas system, includes many other organs such as the stomach and intestines and has the 2 primary functions of “Transformation” and “Transportation“.

The Transformation function refers to the process of breaking down food, digesting it, and absorbing the nutrients – taking food and transforming it into usable energy for the body, a view quite similar to the Western understanding of the digestive system.

On the other hand, the Transportation function of the Spleen-Pancreas system is more unique to Traditional Chinese Medicine and refers to how fluids are kept in balance throughout the body. Under normal healthy conditions, fluids are extracted from food during the Transformation process and are then transported to the various parts of the body to be used as needed, with the rest being removed as waste.

However, when this Transformation function is weakened and no longer properly processing these fluids, some of the excess can get trapped in the body, creating a condition referred to as “Dampness” which can manifest in various ways, including being stored as excess body weight.

Treatment to help lose weight, whether through acupuncture, herbal medicine, or dietary and lifestyle changes, is based on a two-fold approach of strengthening the digestive system as well as helping to directly get rid of the excess Dampness being stored in the body.

Certain foods can assist the body in draining this Dampness and should be emphasized in the diet, while other foods actually contribute to the problem and should be minimized or avoided altogether.

Incorporating small positive changes into your lifestyle and diet can assist you in achieving lasting improvements in your health as well as maintaining a healthier weight for yourself.

Tips for assisting Weight Loss

  1. Don’t skip meals – having irregular eating patterns or skipping meals entirely, especially breakfast, can weaken the digestive system and should be avoided. Eating smaller, more regular meals can actually assist with losing weight. A good rule of thumb that many people find useful is to eat before you’re extremely hungry, but stop before you are completely full. It was traditionally advised to only eat until you are 4/5 full.
  2. Slow down and chew well – thoroughly chewing your food allows the digestive system to work more efficiently – you’ll end up eating less food but absorbing more nutrition.

Foods to Add (Strengthen the Spleen-Pancreas)

  • whole grains, especially oats, rye, & amaranth
  • legumes, especially adzuki, lentils, & mung
  • vegetables, especially celery, lettuce, radish, kohlrabi, & turnip
  • kelp & kombu seaweed

Foods to Avoid (Remove Dampness)

  • refined sugar & flour
  • artificial sweeteners
  • animal products in general, but eggs & dairy in particular
  • refined oils, including margarine & shortening