In Chinese medicine, there are two main reasons for weight gain or obesity: weak functioning of the organs responsible for digestion and eating the wrong kinds of foods such as the ones high in carbohydrates (grains), oversweet and artificially sweetened foods (candy, chocolates), and cold foods (ice cream).
This article will talk about the different body types and patterns and the way Chinese medicine customizes its treatment in order to deal with weight gain in each of these body patterns and types.
If you have seriously tried losing weight, you may have some experiences in which certain weight loss and diet supplements have worked for you and not for others and vice versa. You must have heard about individuals who tend to have an easy time losing weight with exercises and others who no matter how hard they diet and exercise just can’t seem to shed a single pound. Why? Allopathic physicians and practitioners can’t seem to figure this mystery out because of the way they are trained to see the human body – they are trained to believe that all people function the same way and are basically the same physiologically and anatomically. Well, this is true to a certain extent since most of us have the same basic structure, the same organs, two ears, two eyes, etc. How then are people different from each other?
We may look the same, but in truth, each person is quite different from one another. We may have similar basic physiology but each of us has a distinct and unique personality. Each of us do things in a slightly or hugely different way, Some people may be good at sports, some at math, some love to read while some love to watch TV. The physiological processes of one person may be better than the other. Eventually, medical studies will find out and validate this fact just as science now accepts that people have different types of personality.
Meanwhile, people can appreciate and learn from the insight of the pioneers of the theory of Chinese medicine who believed thousands of years ago that each of the five basic body types were prone to particular physiological weaknesses and strengths that very often determined the kinds of health conditions they would be stricken with as well as the most effective mode of treatment and the best suited lifestyle factors (daily routines, meditation, exercise, diet, etc.) for each type
The elements of Wood, Earth, Metal, Water, and Fire where the terms given to these five basic body types. From the viewpoint of Chinese medicine, in establishing a meaningful weight loss program, the initial step is to know what body type you fall into.
People who are normally sinewy and muscular in nature fall into this body type. If they happen to develop a weight problem, it is usually much greater than the other types. People with this type are usually idealistic workaholics, impatient, angry, and often suffer from rheumatism, shoulder and neck tension, headaches, eye problems, and hypertension. If a wood type person has an obesity problem, the treatment is focused in rectifying stagnation since weight gain in this type is believed to be due to an amassing and slow movement of qi caused by stress that builds up phlegm and damp in the body. When wood types gain weight, the weight usually develops only around the waist.
People who have an Earth-type body s are usually chubby. They are usually fat around the waist and are normally carefree and cheerful but can be a bit obsessive if they if they have a related phlegmatic condition. They are prone to diabetes as they normally have a craving for chocolates and sweets. Earth-type people usually have a yellowish complexion. The treatment plan for this type is to go on a bland diet and use herbs to beef up the digestive organs.
The constitution of metal type people are not predisposed to weight gain. They are usually and naturally perfectionists and are well organized; however, if not well, they do tend to develop lung and skin problems such as asthma, psoriasis, etc. Weight gain among metal types, especially if it’s sudden, is a sign of a much more serious problem and not true weight gain; i.e., it may signify cancer in the body.
People with this type usually have the worst weight issues among the five body types. As the name suggests Water types have a tendency to accumulate water in their body. This may be due to a problem in the water metabolism function of the kidneys, which can then lead to the accumulation of water throughout the body in what Chinese medicine refers to as accumulation of damp. Water type people usually have a generalized weight problem; they usually suffer from hearing disorders, have a craving for salt, are sentimental and timid, have low stamina, and usually have ankle swelling.
This type is usually the joking type. Fire types always laugh, are jolly and usually short. They are by nature usually generous, walk fast, and have a reddish tinge to their face. Fire types usually suffer from excess heart fire or liver fire and are prone to heart ailments and health issues such as a fast heart rate. They are also susceptible to gout issues; otherwise, they enjoy good health. The excess weight gain of a fire type is usually not serious compared to the other types. If they gain weight, it would be because of increased metabolism resulting in a high appetite and consumption of low quality foods such as carbs, overly sweet and rich foods, cold drinks, etc. This results in a couple of disharmonies: stomach fire/heat and spleen vacuity. Weight gain treatment for fire type focuses in decreasing heat to regulate appetite and in reinforcing the digestive function or the spleen.
As this article shows, each person is unique and therefore, weight problems cannot be treated with a uniform supplement, diet or weight loss program. From the viewpoint of Chinese medicine, obesity has to be treated on a case to case basis based on the person’s presenting patterns of disharmony and on his/her constitutional body.