Obesity is a pathological state in which too much fat is in the body, resulting in a bodyweight higher than what is healthy for the person's height. It affects not only people's appearance but also increases people's risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, infertility, and other chronic diseases. By merging the essence of Chinese and Western medicines with a Japanese physician’s "lean brain" weight loss method, you can successfully lose and maintain weight without rebounding.
According to statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from 1999 to 2000 through 2017 to 2020, the prevalence of obesity in the United States increased from 30.5 percent to 41.9 percent, an increase of more than 10 percent within 20 years. At the same time, the rate of severe obesity also rose from 4.7 percent to 9.2 percent. In addition, being overweight or obese increases the risk of 13 types of cancer, which account for 40 percent of all cancers diagnosed in the United States annually.
There are many reasons for obesity; while eating habits and lifestyle choices are the most common, there are also genetic and psychological factors and others. Many people overeat fat, sugar, and carbohydrates but lack enough protein, dietary fiber, and vitamins. At the same time, many people don't exercise and sit for prolonged periods, which leads to the slowing of body metabolism. Fat will accumulate when you cannot use excess energy from food.
From 'Fat Brain' to 'Lean Brain': Lose Weight Cutting 1 Meal Weekly
Japanese neurosurgeon Dr. Shuzo Sato proposed the “brain diet" for weight loss, which he used himself to lose weight. Sato skipped one meal a week and ate normally the rest of the time. After one and a half years, he lost around 60 pounds (27 kilograms). Over the next 12 years, his weight remained normal and did not rebound.
With this method, he has helped 4,500 patients lose weight. Many lost 9 to 11 pounds (4 to 5 kilograms) in the first month, and many even lost over 22 pounds (10 kilograms) in the following six to 12 months.
When I tried the diet, he cut lunch or dinner once weekly, usually skipping dinner every Thursday. I lost more than 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) a month by doing just this.
How Does It Work?
A hormone in our bodies called leptin makes this weight loss possible. Once you start feeling full, leptin is secreted, which stimulates the satiety center of the hypothalamus and tells you to stop eating. But if you develop a habit of wanting to eat any time you see appealing food, the satiety center becomes less and less sensitive, and the signal telling you you are full diminishes. However, if you skip a meal, hunger will reactivate the satiety center.
A recent study focused on the effects of dietary restriction on satiety. It found that calorie restriction can reduce leptin levels in the body, thereby preventing the hypothalamus' failure to receive leptin. Eating more high-calorie foods such as fat, carbohydrates, fructose, and sucrose will make the hypothalamus even less sensitive.
The study also suggested that the reason it is difficult for obese people to feel full is that their hypothalamus is inflamed, and the nerve cell pathways related to the feeling of fullness are blocked. However, fasting can reduce hypothalamus inflammation.
TCM Views and Treatment of Obesity
In addition to the simple method of reducing one meal a week, TCM approaches such as acupuncture and specific medicinal treatments can assist in weight loss. TCM believes obesity is due to the accumulation of phlegm dampness in the body. Phlegm is caused by spleen deficiency. The spleen mentioned in TCM is not just an organ as in modern medicine but is also a functional concept.
In addition to immune function, the spleen is also responsible for the digestive system, which converts food and water into finer substances, absorbing and transporting them to the organs. If the spleen is weak, the body's water metabolism cannot proceed normally, and "dampness" will occur. If the spleen is deficient, water and dampness will not be dissolved, producing phlegm. Phlegm accumulates in the subcutaneous tissue to form subcutaneous fat and can accumulate in internal organs, becoming visceral fat.
Therefore, TCM treats obesity by transforming phlegm and reducing water retention, tonifying spleen qi. TCM has many medicines and acupoints to do this. For example, "Er Chen Decoction" (Citrus and Pinellia combination) is one common prescription for transforming phlegm, consisting of tangerine peel, Pinellia, Poria cocos, and licorice. In addition, studies have found that Er Chen Decoction can improve metabolic disorders and reduce body weight and visceral fat in obese mice. Some studies have also found that taking Er Chen Decoction can treat fatty liver.
The Chinese medicine classic "Fu Qing-Zhu's Gynecology" mentions that too much visceral fat will affect the function of female organs, causing infertility. Taking Er Chen Decoction can treat this, too.
In addition, Chinese medicinal herbs, such as Fallopia multiflora, hawthorn, cassia, and the like, also help remove visceral fat.
Acupoint massage is also helpful for weight loss. One commonly employed acupoint is Fenglong, located about 10 to 11 inches below the outer knee eye, on the outside of the calf. Working on this acupoint can also eliminate phlegm and reduce fat.
The Harm of Modern Weight Loss Methods
When employing modern weight loss methods, it's important to heed their possible downsides.
1. Ketogenic Diet
The ketogenic diet requires a deficient intake of carbohydrates to put the body into a state of ketosis to burn fat for energy instead. This method can make people lose weight quickly but may also cause liver and gallbladder problems.
Animal experiments showed that rats on a long-term ketogenic diet developed acidosis and anemia, with red blood cell counts and hemoglobin—among others—all significantly reduced. Long-term ketogenic diets also aggravated lipid peroxidation in the liver and kidneys.
2. Carnivore Diet
Eating only meat to lose weight, without fat and starch, will undoubtedly work, but if you overeat protein that cannot be adequately absorbed, it will overburden the kidneys.
3. Raw Vegetables
Relying on eating only salads to lose weight can cause goiter because many vegetables, especially cruciferous, contain goitrogen, which disrupts thyroid hormones. Overeating raw vegetables can cause goiter, a swelling of the thyroid gland.
4. Binge Eating
When you eat less at one meal and get hungry, you will eat more at the next meal. This "alternating between big and small meals" can cause fat metabolism disorder. It may even cause fatty degeneration of liver cells, also known as fatty liver or cirrhosis.
Naiwen Hu is a traditional Chinese medicine physician at the Shanghai Tong Te Tang in Taipei, Taiwan, and a professor at the Nine Star University of Health Sciences in Sunnyvale, California. He also worked as a researcher of life science at the Standford Research Institute.
In his over 20 years of practice, he has treated more than 140,000 patients. He was known for successfully curing the fifth melanoma patient in the world by using traditional Chinese medicine. Hu currently hosts a YouTube health program that has over 700,000 subscribers. He is also known for his popular road show on health and wellness held in various cities in Australia and North America.