We’ve got this tv programme over here at the moment called *the biggest loser*, I utterly detest this show but that and a conversation I was having with LJ the other day got me thinking about weight and food and my relationship with food. I’ve been on the diet train back and forth between over weight –> healthy weight (for me around a UK size 12-14) –> over weight more times than I care to mention. I feel like weight has been an ongoing battle all my life and food has alternately been my best friend (when I need comfort) and my worst enemy (when I want to eat it but I’m not supposed to).
Most of the time I feel a pervading sense of deprivation because the fact of the matter is, for me and I’ll wager a fair number of other people, it’s not really just about food….it’s about emotions and feeling satisfied, full, comforted, loved [enter other word] because if it really was just about food then it would be easy to just eat less and exercise more (no one would be overweight). An ex of mine joked once that he would write a best-selling diet book called “Eat Salad & Run”…if only it were that simple.
I think it’s hard not to feel apologetic when you’re over weight and I immensely admire those who are larger and proud. I have my good days (assisted by asos curve and their gorgeous clothing range) and bad days but something LJ said today really resonated with me: “It’s like wearing a character flaw on the outside…if you’re an asshole no one need know but you can’t really hide it if you’re overweight!”
For myself, I’m not some ignoramus about nutrition…I understand my food groups and know that low-carb works best for me (in terms of weight loss) accompanied by lean fish and poultry and plenty of veg but I do sometimes wonder just how militant I need to be with my food to be at a normal healthy weight.
So it’s been a revelation to me to discover Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and its approach to weight issues, namely it’s all about your digestion. I’ll be honest and admit that I used to think that TCM was not for folk like me but that was because I didn’t understand the TCM approach to health and the body. Now, I thank the universe that LJ introduced me to her TCM practitioner just in the nick of time because I was experiencing some pretty horrible symptoms when we first arrived in Melbourne…feeling lethargic – like struggling through treacle all the time, needing to rest after a few hours of activity, insomnia, bloating (on waking my face would look like a football) and anxiety.
I think this extract from wellbeing.com.au explains the TCM approach far better than I and the rest of the article, which you can read by following the wellbeing link, gives a pretty comprehensive explanation of the TCM approach to weight loss:
Chinese medicine sees the problem of weight gain in a very different way from Western Medicine. There are numerous possible diagnoses, but easily the most common is what the Chinese call “spleen qi deficiency”. This can be roughly translated as having weak digestion that does not allow the body to absorb and transport food effectively.
This means no matter how well or how much the person eats, they are left feeling tired, sluggish and usually hungry as the body is not absorbing nutrition from food, which makes weight loss hard. This can lead to a destructive cycle whereby the person always feels hungry and gains weight regardless of the efforts they make to eat less or healthier.
Chinese and Western medicine agree that weight loss is important and that obesity can lead to a range of other illnesses, but the Chinese perspective differs in that obesity is seen as only a symptom of more important underlying problems that, if left untreated, will affect all the other organs in the body.
LJ also told me about HAES (Health At Every Size) which focuses on health rather than weight loss.
HAES is based on the simple premise that the best way to improve health is to honour your body. It supports people in adopting health habits for the sake of health and well-being (rather than weight control). Health at Every Size encourages:
Accepting and respecting the natural diversity of body sizes and shapes.
Eating in a flexible manner that values pleasure and honours internal cues of hunger, satiety, and appetite.
Finding the joy in moving one’s body and becoming more physically vital.
I am still new to this and perhaps LJ could share more about it but I think this makes a lot of sense because it means you are putting your health first at every stage of your life. It’s also a helpful tool to use when talking to unhelpful medical professionals who pigeon hole you based on your BMI rather than looking at your overall lifestyle (eat healthily, don’t smoke, don’t drink, could do more exercise but then couldn’t we all). It’s very easy to be enticed into some fad diet when society focuses so much on weight over health but I have come to think that losing weight quickly and then gaining it all back and then some is how I got to where I am now and perhaps I need to turn my attention to good health and let the scales fall where they may. I know for myself that whatever I do at this stage of my life needs to be something I can continue throughout every stage of my life so that it isn’t a short lived fix to a long term issue.
I don’t pretend to have found all the answers but I just wanted to share the things I have discovered as I bumble along my own journey.