Trying a Wholistic Approach to Weight Loss

9 06 2012

For years I’ve thought about using acupuncture or some other healing art to assist me in losing weight. Now after losing nearly 70 pounds, I finally feel more ready to begin exploring forces outside of my own control. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still not a fan of going to a doctor’s office but I realize that this battle with weight often feels bigger than me and getting a bit of help might not be the worst thing to do at this point.

Because I’m a bit neurotic, the search for an acupuncturist becomes a complicated process. Sure there are tons of qualified people out there, but I wanted someone who had extensive experience. I wanted someone who is preferably Chinese. I wanted the Chinese medicines, herbs and teas. I wanted someone with a broken English accent. I know this is faulty thinking. Maybe I’ve watched the Karate Kid too many times but my criteria made the choice seem like a more authentic one for me.

Upon the recommendation of a colleague, I found and called a practitioner who was able to see me that same day. I had called several other practitioners before this but was not getting any warm fuzzies. The fact that this gentleman could see me the same day made it more difficult for me to be able to allow my nerves to get the best of me and back out.

For me, going to a “doctor’s office” is an anxiety producing event. When I walked toward the door of the office I read a posted sign with several rules. I was to take off my shoes and turn off my cell phone. The act of becoming untethered to my cell phone for any length of time is also quite anxiety producing. It’s the era that we live in. I always need to feel connected. The reality though is that smart phones leave us unconnected from each other a great deal of the time.

Before I knew it, I had been ushered into the space where I would receive the treatment. I spoke with the practitioner about some chronic but generally dull pain I had been experiencing for years in my left ankle as well as a new pain that had been developing over the last few months in my right shoulder. We also spoke about my weight loss journey so far and how he might be able to assist me in moving forward.

Before I knew it, it was time to disrobe and get on the table. This is also anxiety producing. At over 300lbs, this body is not ready for prime time yet.

The practitioner began working on my right foot as a way to ease my shoulder pain. I offered that the pain was likely the result of the way I sleep as I tend to sleep on my shoulder with my arm curled under my pillow and wedged up against the headboard. He remained quiet and I felt that maybe he was not accepting my hypothesis. I have since come to learn that in some Asian healing arts practices, shoulder pain is most often an indicator of a major stress build up.

With needles inserted and electrical stimulus pulse applied, the practitioner turned off the lights and left the room for a period of time. I was left alone with the sounds of the ocean mixed with a separate recording of American Indian flute. I wondered if my American Indian tattoos had inspired him to play this for me or if it was just by chance. Either way the sounds and the needles seemed to lull me off to an extremely relaxed state in no time which is really impressive given how anxious I had been feeling. I was not tired or sleepy but my mind did produce some interesting peaceful images. It reminded me of a very lucid dream. Every once in awhile I would come back to reality when my right hand unexplainably moved on it’s own, most likely the result of being a human pin cushion.

Before I knew it, the practitioner had returned and it was time to work on my ankle. I advised that my podiatrist had told me that because of the repeated sprains and strains to my ankle since the age of 18, a very large bone spur had developed and my entire ankle would need to be scoped so that the tendons could finally snap back into place and heal. I advised that I had also been told that my ankle had aged to about that of a 65 year old despite my only being 35 at the time. My practitioner laughed at this assertion and seemed to indicate with his facial expressions (although he said nothing) that surgery would probably not be necessary. Maybe that was wishful thinking on my part. I’m not completely sure.

The practitioner pushed on the exact spot on my ankle that often gives me pain. When strong pressure is applied it really hurts and I had all I could do to not sit upright and scream. Then he inserted one needle on the top of my foot near my toes and said “pain gone now” and pressed again. And it was! For the first time in 19 years my ankle was completely pain free. It felt absolutely normal. Tears began to well up. I couldn’t believe the instant difference.

The practitioner then began to add needles in a large circle around my stomach. I felt the tapping on the tops of the needles but never any actual pain (it’s very different than getting a needle at the doctor’s office). He also put needles in my arms and legs. One needle in my right leg definitely gave me an unpleasant sensation and sent a wave of something not nice down my leg for just a second and again briefly when it was finally removed later.

I also received very tiny needles in my right ear. some of these were painful but not for too long. They were covered with medical tape and I was told that I would keep them in until my next visit. These too would help with stress relief, pain relief, metabolism boosting and food craving control when massaged at least five times a day for 30 seconds each. Again the lights went out and my relaxed state returned.

At the conclusion of my visit I was told that acupuncture is not a panacea for weight loss. It will only assist in it. The hard work still belongs to me if I want to see results.

I was then given a “diet” plan for a three day caloric restriction type fast (essentially eating 1/3 of what I typically eat). This begins today. It will be difficult because I’m already eating considerably less than I had been before going plant based. After the three days, I would return to a diet not unlike what I have been doing already. No dairy, no grease, no excessive oils, low carbs and no processed foods. I also was given Chinese root tea and other herbal supplements to help with metabolism and fat absorption.

It was a very interesting experience and I’ll be going back twice this coming week. My only hope is that my insurance will get onboard and start picking up most of the tab as it is not at all cheap. I do fear that the treatments will become too cost prohibitive and I will need to stop before I’ve received enough of them to truly make an impact.

For now though I am feeling good. The shoulder and ankle were a bit sore a few hours after the session and the pain comes and goes still. Unless I become overly tired it generally remains duller and shorter in duration than it had. I expect that these issues will need more time to resolve. I’m skeptical about acupuncture’s ability to fix my ankle pain in a lasting way. This isn’t western mind. I’m definitely willing to give it a try though. I certainly cannot argue with the pain free moments in the office. That experience still amazes me.

The ear needles are neat. For some reason they make the whole right side of my face feel like it’s open (as if a piece of my skull is missing). It’s hard to find the words to explain it any other way. It’s a neat sensation. And yes my cravings have generally been in check although I’ve had my moments. We’ll see how it goes. One of the needles hurts when i massage it. The thought of having needles just stuck in my ear for days is not particularly comforting but its not stopping me from giving it a shot either.

This is an exciting new phase in my adventure. I’m interested to see where this road will lead. I definitely believe that western medicine can be beneficial but if we limit ourselves only to that, I think we miss an awful lot.

If you’ve used alternative methods to gain relief from pain and/or assist in weight loss and would like to share your experiences post a comment or email me:

Andrew Weil, M.D.

19 04 2012


For nearly 15 years I have appreciated the wisdom and knowledge of Dr. Andrew Weil, an American author and physician. I like him because he is willing to incorporate alternative modalities into mainstream healthcare. He has been named one of Time Magazines top 25 most influential people in America and one of the top 100 most influential people in the world. He’s also a big man who looks a bit like Santa Claus which endears me to him quite a bit.

So it is with great interest that I follow his musings on Facebook. So do 93,000 other people. He was recently at a Health and Nutrition Conference in Boston and shared these interesting thoughts online:

“according to the CDC, half the cases of chronic disease in the US are diet-related.”

“From the morning session of the Nutrition and Health Conf. in Boston: Consumption of soybean oil (usually labeled “vegetable oil” and common in fried foods and cheap baked goods) has risen 1,000 percent over the last 100 years – a worrisome trend for American health.”

And this shocking fact:
“Running four miles daily, for seven days, burns the calories of one fast-food meal.”. Reason enough to stay away from that stuff.
Follow Dr.Weil on Facebook at

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Never Trust a Fat Guy For Diet Advice!

4 03 2012

I’ve spoken to several people recently who have expressed an interest in trying a plant based diet.  This makes me excited that people  are willing to give it a try.   I think in trying it is where you will find its benefits (better than just reading what I think about it).  I feel that it is important to reiterate this disclaimer though:  things like protein, calcium and iron are obviously extremely important.  Eating a plant based diet requires us to be extra vigilant in making sure we are getting the things our body needs every day.  If you don’t like veggies, this is going to be a very hard road for you.  People who are going to have the greatest success with this are the ones who are going to eat the most varied amount of healthy foods.  Red, yellow and green veggies are not just pretty to look at, they provide so many different and important vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants.  Spinach lovers and others who enjoy leafy greens are going to get a lot of needed iron that way.  People who enjoy beans are going to get a lot of low fat protein. Soy is another source of protein although you will find different schools of thought regarding its use.  Nuts and seeds are other more fatty (but delicious) options.  Dry roasted edamame are a great lower fat alternative with 14 grams of protein and 7 grams of dietary fiber per 1/4 cup.  Vitamin supplements including vitamin D and especially B12 are extremely important.

I have faith that if people are willing to try going plant based, most will take the time to seek out ways of getting things they need.  If you are a finicky eater, the good news is, that after several weeks of going plant based you tastes will acclimate to your diet and trying new things that you think you may not like might begin to resonate differently with you.  If that doesn’t happen, consider a hybrid alternative where some lean meat is consumed.  Many people have success that way.  If you can’t do that, just try working more plant based food into your current diet.  That’s a good start.  It’s all about what you are personally trying to accomplish.  I’ve taken very poor care of myself for a long time so I need to be stricter now.  In general though, I find the middle path is the best.  Because my situation was bad, I needed to go more extreme.  In the future I may pare it back some.  I’m not so concerned with what I will be eating in 5 years from now.  I’m just thinking of today, tomorrow, this week.  One day at a time.  That’s enough.

Everyone has their own path.  When chosing yours, be healthy, be adventurous and be brave.   Don’t neglect to seek out the advice of your doctor and/or a nutritionist.  They are extremely important.  I’m not a guru.  Don’t trust someone my size to lead you to the road of better health and wellness.  I’m just someone who is trying to get healthy.  I have but one or two pieces of the puzzle.  The road is definitely here and there are many people on it.  Talk to them, get ideas and then experiment and see what works best for you.

Whatever your goals are, you can accomplish them when you are willing to make the change.  I recently read that failure happens not because people don’t have the willpower, it happens because people aren’t ready to commit themselves 100% to making the change.

Salad Queen – The Coming Revolution in Fast Food

15 02 2012

I drive an awful lot. Between my commute, all the driving I do at work and in my personal life, some months I drive nearly 4000 miles. It’s a lot of time on the road. In the past, fast food has ben an unhealthy but quick meal solution. It is readily available nearly everywhere a person goes. What isn’t available though are real healthy choices that are low in calories, nutrient rich, organic and not processed. We have no real fast food alternative to Burger King. What we need is Salad Queen. This would be a place where vegetarians, vegans and anyone looking for a healthy meal could stop and get a quick, nutritious bite. I know by the time I get this idea off the ground, someone will already be doing it because it is a no-brainer. This is the sort of business that will make money hand over fist. If you build a Salad Queen, they will come. You don’t need to be Nostradamus in order to see that in the next 10 years or so there will be something like Salad Queen nearly everywhere you go.

And while we are talking about healthy, delicious, nutritious, organically grown food – this is a good time to consider the following article by a blogger friend of mine about using human waste sludge as fertilizer. While this is a local problem in my area of northeastern Pennsylvania, I can assure you it is done all over the world. It’s another reason to consider paying a little extra for organic food. Who wants fruit and veggies with traces of antibiotics, birth control and other interesting left overs found in them?

give this a look:

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