It’s common for women to come to me as a last resort. I often hear, “I’ve tried everything and I’m not losing weight,” or “I’m still feeling exhausted and miserable.” Sometimes all it takes is a new perspective to jumpstart the transformation process. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine sees health and physiology through a different lens and through that lens new treatment strategies can offer hope to women whose progress has stalled or plateaued with conventional advice.
I had a familiar conversation with a patient this week, which began with her frustration with her lack of progress in losing weight. She told me “I’m doing everything right, I’m drinking a protein shake for breakfast, a protein/fiber bar for a healthy snack, yogurt with berries for lunch, and a salad with skinless chicken breast for dinner."
Sounds healthy right? Maybe not...
Let’s dissect this a little.
- I have yet to see meal replacement or protein shakes yield impressive weight loss results, even with calorie restriction. They are often cold, blended with ice or milk, which slows the metabolism. They are also typically made with unnatural ingredients that our bodies are not equipped to efficiently process. This combination of synthetic ingredients and cold liquids ends up causing bloating and water retention-- the opposite of what one would want or expect. I much prefer a breakfast of eggs, whether fried, hard-boiled or in an omelet. If eggs on a daily basis is getting monotonous, try steel cut oatmeal with honey, coconut milk, and berries.
- Good protein bars are few and far between. Most are full of additives, sugar, and unnatural ingredients and labeled with health claims that intentionally misguide consumers. “High in fiber.” “Great source of protein.” As Michael Pollan, renowned food journalist says, “Avoid food products that make health claims.” If it has to make health claims, it’s probably not inherently healthy. For a snack on the go, I recommend Epic Bars made of 100% grass fed animal based protein.
- Yogurt has enjoyed some popularity as a health food due to its probiotic contents. However, not all yogurt is created equally. You have to be a very savvy consumer to spot the differences. While yogurt can cause weight gain for those with an already sluggish metabolism due to its damp nature, if you do want an occasional yogurt, make sure there are only two ingredients: milk and live active cultures. Beware of sugar and other additives. If probiotics are what you desire, I commend your effort to better your gut health. Might I suggest plant probiotics such as sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, or kombucha?
- Salads. While theoretically salads are very healthy, being primarily vegetables, they commonly consist of raw vegetables, that while nutritious, may be difficult for a compromised digestive system and metabolism to properly process. If breaking down raw foods is too much of a challenge for your body, it can slow digestive and metabolic processes causing you to experience bloating and gas and retain weight. If these symptoms resonate with you after trying relentlessly to lose weight eating salads, try cooking your vegetables instead. I recommend steaming, blanching, sautéing, and roasting.
- And let’s not forget fat. Fat has historically received a bad reputation, but the latest scientific research is now painting a more favorable picture, citing the extensive benefits of good fats, including improved brain function, weight management, and improved quality of skin and hair. When you cook your vegetables and meats don’t be afraid to use a little butter, ghee (clarified butter), or extra virgin olive oil. And don’t fear chicken skin either.
The transformations I witness and my patients experience by making a few changes to their health habits amaze them. It can be frustrating to feel like you are working so hard at something and not seeing results. A new point of view with new insights may be just the thing to get the needle moving.