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After "Does acupuncture hurt?" questions about weight loss are the most common ones for most acupuncturists. The short answer is "yes, usually." Many people lose weight more easily when they add acupuncture to a healthy lifestyle of unprocessed food, healthy exercise, adequate sleep, and good stress management. Changes happen more quickly, and the good habits are easier to follow.
But that is not because acupuncture makes you lose weight. Losing weight may or may not be healthy, depending on your circumstance. And weight loss is not (or should not be) a goal in itself. Everyone agrees it is better to be a normal weight than obese. But if you somehow manage to lose weight while eating overly processed food, sleeping poorly, and stay highly stressed, you will still have health problems.
Acupuncture regulates qi. Qi roughly correlates to our nervous and endocrine systems--the nearly sentient interactions that keep us alive with minute adjustments to every part of life. Our immune system, heart rate, metabolism--even what our brain focus on in the world around us--depend on how we interpret the internal and external data that comes through our senses. In Chinese medicine, we call the "stuff" that makes that interpretation qi.
Acupuncture allows qi to work as efficiently as possible. When you are stressed, or trying to overcome eating a cheeseburger laced with MSG-laden flavor salt and drinking a diet drink, or haven't gone for a walk in a week, your qi suffers. Your system is backlogged with problems. Like a computer with glitches, you don't work as well. Acupuncture allows your system to "reboot," much like a good nights rest allows your body to process the thoughts and emotions of the day.
Your body, unencumbered by the stresses and injuries of the past, feels good. Exercise is a joy. As acupuncture treatments continue to calm your nervous system, it minimizes your "fight or flight" moments in the sympathetic nervous system. Little things, like traffic jams, feel less and less like emergencies. You start to feel stable and safe. Living in this state allows you to release food cravings. Your body stops hanging on to every bit of fat it can get as a protection from a sense of deprivation and lack. You will begin to lose weight.
But you will do so much more. You will catch fewer colds, have fewer allergies, feel fewer aches and pains. You will sleep better, be more alert at work, and less likely to strike out in anger because life will feel manageable.
Does acupuncture help weight loss? Only tangentially. Acupuncture opens the pathways inside of you to allow your body to work the way it always should. In health and wellness.
Information used in crafting this post: TED talk: Why Do We Sleep?