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For the first time in human history, the world has more overweight than underweight people. Today, more than 1.9 billion people worldwide are obese or overweight. Though this number is largely contributed by the West, the obesity time bomb continues to tick in China, where one in five children and teenagers are overweight. Not surprisingly, all types of health professionals worldwide are concerned.
OBESE VS OVERWEIGHT?
An adult is considered
BMI, or Body Mass Index, is calculated by dividing one’s weight in kilograms by the square of one’s height in metres.
Why is everyone so worried? Because obesity is not just an aesthetic problem. According to Physician Lin Xiao Yan from Eu Yan Sang, a trusted name in Asia when it comes to products and services from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), obesity can lead to diseases of the cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal, liver, and muscukoskeletal systems. It also plays a part in diabetes, fertility dysfunction, cancer, and even emotional disorders. These ailments cost the world US$2 trillion to treat annually!
TRIMMING THE FAT
There have been plenty of articles and debates on the latest exercise and diet fads swirling around in popular media, fuelled by our intense interest in the ballooning weight of our favourite singers and actors such as Val Kilmer, Kirstie Alley, Jessica Simpson, Steven Seagal, and John Travolta.
What can be done to stop this epidemic? There is no running away from a balanced diet and a sensible amount of exercise. For the severely obese, there are drugs and, most invasive of all, surgery. Furthermore, there are complementary treatments that can enhance the efficacy of these options. One such holistic modality is TCM.
ENERGY INPUT > ENERGY OUTPUT
Although there are other factors [see sidebar] that could predispose one to it, obesity is usually the result of eating too much and moving too little. When the amount of energy from food exceeds the amount your body uses for all activities, weight gain is inevitable. “Excess calories are deposited as fats, which over time leads to obesity,” says Physician Lin. The overweight or obese need at least 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise to lose a modest amount of weight. To achieve significant weight loss, exercising 300 minutes or more a week is required.
OTHER CAUSES OF OBESITY
Prescribed medication may help in certain situations, but they work alongside, not instead of, diet and exercise. If an obese person’s lifestyle doesn’t change, medication is pointless. Be aware of side effects to ensure that [SH-E1] this method is right for you.
A more invasive way to control obesity is bariatric surgery, where food consumption or absorption is vastly reduced. These surgeries — including gastric bypass, laparoscopic adjustable gastric handling, bilopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch, and gastric sleeve — can be effective for the seriously overweight, but they pose serious risks.
The methods to combat obesity discussed so far can be considered external factors. A more holistic modality such as TCM considers excess weight as a symptom of a health problem. Certain conditions within the body (usually, there is an imbalance or blockage of blood, qi, yin or yang somewhere) need to be treated and corrected before these external factors can work their magic.
TCM also takes into consideration one’s state of mind. The flow of qi through the meridians and related organs is affected if you are stressed or holding on to certain emotions. This whole-person view of illnesses makes TCM an attractive option.
Another plus point for TCM is that it provides several treatment methods, including “acupuncture, herbal prescriptions, ear acupuncture, and cupping,” explains Physician Lin.
The next part delves deeper into the way TCM tackles obesity.