In my previous article on obesity I explained the general Chinese Medical reasons for weight problems. they can be summarized as follows: –
- Eating the wrong types of foods , especially grains (carbohydrates rich) and also foods that are cold or oversweet such as ice-cream and artificial sweetened products such as chocolates and candy.
- Poor metabolism or functioning of the organs that deal with digestion
In this second article I want to explore this further and explain the specific body types and patterns that make each person's weight loss problem different to the next and hence necessitate an individually tailor approach to treatment.
You must have already experienced cases where a diet or weight loss supplement worked wonders for one person but did not work at all for someone else. You must have also heard of people who lose weight so easily with exercise and others who just cant seem to get it off !! Why is this? Doctors and other allopathic practitioners battle with this because of an inherent flaw in the current scientific reasoning that all human beings are basically the same and function the same way. Well … I cant blame them, after all, we all look the same, two eyes, two ears, the same organs, the same basic structure, so how can people be different?
The fact is, we are not all the same, we may look the same and have the same basic physiology but just as people have different personalities, each of us has a slightly different way that our body does things, just as some are good at math and others at sports, so too are certain physiological processes better in some and not others. Medical research will eventually “discover” this fact just as science now acknowledges different personality types.
In the meanime we can learn from and appreciate the insight of the Founders of Chinese Medical theory who long ago realized that there are 5 basic body types and each of these were predisposed to certain physiological strengths and weaknesses which determined very often the types of illnesses they would be afflicted with and also the method of treatment that would be most effective as well as the optimum lifestyle factors for each type including diet, exercise, meditation routines etc.
These 5 basic body types were termed Fire, Water, Metal, Earth and Wood and the first step in establishing an effective weight loss program from a Chinese Medicine perspective would be to know which of these types you fall into.
Fire types – Are normally short, the jolly, always laughing and joking type, often have a reddish tinge to the face, walk fast and are generous in nature. This type tends to suffer from heart ailments with a predisposition to conditions involving a high heart rate, this is due to either liver or heart fire. Fire types are also sentenced to gout issues but overall tend to have good health. If a fire type is overweight it is not as serious as the other types but the most common reason would be an increased metabolism and resultant high appetite combined with an unhealthy diet, viz, cold drinks, overly rich and sweet foods, carbs etc. This leads to a combination of what we call in Chinese Medicine spleen vacuity and stomach heat / fire. For fire types the treatment focus is on strengthening the spleen (or digestive) function and reducing heat in order to control appetite.
Water types – Water types have the most difficulty with weight issues because as the name implies they tend to accumulate water. This arises due to a weakness of the kidney function in metabolising water which then results in the deposition of water through the body in the form of what we call damp accumulation in Chinese Medicine. A water type is identified as having a generalized weight problem often with swelling of the ankles, generally they tend to have low stamina, are timid and sentimental, suffer from salt cravings and often have hearing disorders. The Chinese medicine approach is to use a diet and herbal regimen that eliminate excess dampness and strengthen the body's water metabolism functions, often warm or hot medicinals are used which is in contrast to those used for a fire type constitution.
Metal types – Metal types are the one constitution that are not to gain gain, being people who are well organized, almost perfectionist in nature, they do however tend to develop skin and lung conditions if not well such as psoriasis, asthma etc. In such a person weight gain is a poor sign and if sudden can often mean a cancer growth rather than true weight gain.
Earth types – Earth types are usually the chubby type, always had a little extra around the waist types, usually cheerful and careful though can be obsesses if there is an associated phlegmatic condition, they typically crave sweets and chocolates and are given to diabetes. They also often have a yellowish complexion. The treatment in this case is to strengthen the digestive organisms with herbs and also going on a bland diet.
Wood types- Wood types are normally muscular and sinewy in nature and if they are afflicted with weight gain it is often more serious than for any other type. Wood types are typically angry, impatient, idealistic workaholics and often suffer from hypertension, eye disorders, headaches, neck and shoulder tension and rheumatism. For cases of obesity in wood types the treatment is address stagnation as it is thought that weight loss in such cases is due to an accumulation of qi which due to stress especially is not flowing properly causing the accumulation of qi and in turn other substances such as damp and phlegm to build up. Often wood types will only develop weight gain around the waist.
As you can see from the above, we are not all the same and no single weight loss program or diet or supplement is going to work for every person every time. Rather, obesity, from a Chinese Medicine perspective has to be treated individually based on both persons constitutional body type as well as the presenting pattern which I will describe more about in the next article in this series.