One of the questions I am asked most often is, “can acupuncture help me lose weight?” In a nutshell, yes. But it is not a magic bullet, by any means.

If you want to lose weight, the first question you should ask yourself is, “why have I gained weight in the first place?” The math is simple: we each have a set amount of calories we can consume each day and stay at a certain weight. Take in more, and you gain. Take in less, and you will lose. It's the simplest of mathematical equations … so why is the majority of the population overweight?

First you have your group of people who have no clue about caloric content … at all. With the internet, it's pretty easy to figure out how many calories you should be taking in, and the amount of calories in each food … but you would be amazed at the misconceptions people still hold about food. I have had some patients who were supposedly “super-healthy” eaters create food diaries, and could not believe some of the things I read. For these people, education about food makes all the difference. I usually tell these people that what they really need is a few sessions with a nutritionist, not an acupuncturist!

Then there are the people who have a physical issue causing weight gain. PCOS, hypothyroidism, Prednisone use, muscle or tendon injuries … these are all issues that can lead to weight gain. There is a very good chance acupuncture can help with these types of patients. Although I would NEVER tell a patient to go off meds without their physician's consent, I have seen cases of patients who thyroid levels increased significantly with consistent acupuncture treatments. I have also personally had success with PCOS patients. The water-weight gain caused by certain meds can be counteracted by acupuncture's ability to regulate the body's mechanisms to dispose of extra fluids. Lastly, those people who gain weight because they can no longer exercise due to injuries can speed up their recovery time and get back to their workouts faster with a few sessions of acupuncture.

I have found that these two types of overweight patients only measure a small amount of who comes to me asking about losing weight. Most people simply can not lose weight because they can not stick to a healthy diet and regular exercise routine. They get motivated about a new diet plan, and then get bored after a few weeks. Then, because they are disgusted with themselves for failing, (or because they've been stripped for a few weeks), they go overboard with eating all of the foods they have craved while dieting, and usually put on more than they lost in the first place. Or they start working out, but then miss a few days, and lose all their will to go back.

Raise your hand if you've ever missed a day at your gym, then decided to go out to dinner instead since your plans for a healthy day were already “ruined.” Or if you've ever spent a week (..or two weeks. Or three …) before a holiday gorging yourself because, after all, why would you bother eating well and going to the gym when you're only going to ruin it all by having a huge, decadent feast on Christmas Day?

My point is, so much of gain gain and loss takes place in your brain, before you even put one thing in your mouth. That being the case, if you do want to lose weight (permanently), you need to deal with your head first, not just what you are putting in your body.

And yes, I know I'm probably not saying anything you have not heard before. And you probably think that what I'm basically saying is acupuncture can not really help you lose weight if you do not have a physical reason for the extra weight.

Well, you're wrong! I'm not saying that at all. Because acupuncture CAN work on both your body and brain simultaneously, unlike most therapies. Acupuncture can absolutely be a great way to jumpstart your weight loss and keep you on the right track to keeping it off, as long as you are prepared to create other changes in your life as well.