Acupuncture, massage, and other natural healers could help you slim down for goodBy: Hollis Templeton
No matter how good your game plan is, losing weight takes work—and lots of it. But sometimes an underlying condition, like stress, pain or a hormonal imbalance, makes shedding pounds trickier than it needs to be. While the six therapies that follow are no magic bullets for achieving a bikini-ready body overnight, they can play an indirect role in helping you slim down more successfully.
Try Dr. Travis Stork's no-diet, no-workout prescription for a flat belly!
When you’re starting a weight loss plan, regular massages can help reduce the stress and irritability that come with making big changes to your lifestyle. Still, the benefits of massage go beyond calming nerves. Several techniques can help reduce fluid and waste retention and even combat the dreaded saggy skin effect that comes with shedding pounds. (Search: What are the different types of massage?)
During a lymphatic massage, gentle pressure is applied to areas where lymph nodes are located, stimulating the bodily system responsible for flushing out fluids, waste, and toxins. “By getting lymph moving and increasing circulation, you can expect to lose five to 10 pounds in the first couple of months, even without lifestyle changes,” says Winona Bontrager, president of the Lancaster School of Massage.
A Swedish massage over the abdomen aids weight loss by revving up peristalsis, the progress that moves food through the digestive tract. “A lot of times your abdomen area gets stagnant,” notes Bontrager. “If you’re not moving waste, it can just sit in the intestines.”
Myofascial release, or skin rolling, on the abdomen, hips, and thighs can prevent sagging when you’re slimming down. “As you’re losing weight, it tends to keep your skin a little more toned since it increases circulation in the tissue beneath the skin and keeps tissue more porous,” explains Bontrager.
Bontrager recommends that massage newbies looking to lose weight schedule a one-hour appointment once a week for four weeks. After four weeks, go every other week, then once every three weeks, and so on, she suggests. “Everybody’s different, but I recommend doing something on a regular basis—whether that regular basis is every six weeks or every six months,” she says. “That’s when you’re going to see results.”
DIY Massage Techniques for Runners
When your body is out of whack, weight loss doesn’t come easy. “People who are overweight often have food cravings, hormonal imbalances, destructive emotional eating patterns—everyone’s different,” says Cindy E. Levitz , a licensed acupuncturist in New York City. “Acupuncture helps to get that person’s system working so that they’re in a better mood, sleeping better, and have more energy.” All of that, of course, means fewer excuses to blow off exercise or deviate from a healthy eating plan.
Levitz uses auricular acupuncture, which focuses on the ear, to treat conditions related to excess weight. By targeting hunger, metabolism, and digestion points, she helps clients cut cravings, and helps their bodies break down food more easily and absorb nutrients more effectively. “Other techniques that I use for weight loss are ones that promote calmness, reduce anxiety, calm the nervous system, and help regulate hormones,” says Levitz.
Starting out, Levitz recommends at least one acupuncture treatment per week--and ideally two to three—to jumpstart the process and see how an individual responds. During the maintenance phase of weight loss, she suggests monthly treatments. Check to see if your health insurance provider is willing pick up part of the cost, she suggests.
Download: Free posters to motivate your summer slimdown
Ayurvedic philosophy says everyone has one of three dominant energies, or doshas: Kapha (earthy in nature), Pitta (fiery in nature), or Vata (airy in nature). These doshas are combinations of physical, mental, and emotional characteristics that help to explain a person’s tendencies, like overeating, not exercising, or making unhealthy food choices. Weight gain occurs when the body’s energies are out of balance—the result of stress, an unhealthy diet, depression, and so on.
Eating plans are designed around a person’s energy type, but follow a few general guidelines: “I ask clients to get rid of processed foods and eat whole, seasonal, freshly prepared foods,” says Hilary Garivaltis, Dean of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda in Stockbridge, MA.
Exercise also aligns with one’s dosha. “Say that someone is very Kapha—they’re slow and don’t like to move a lot, but they have incredible strength and stamina—it’s important to suggest a long, brisk walk,” says Garivaltis. On the other hand, Vata types have naturally high energy levels. “If they are overweight, they still need to have some exercise, but that exercise will be slower and more rhythmic in order to calm them,” says Garivaltis. Pitta types fall somewhere in the middle and benefit from moderate exercise.
Stress relief comes in the form of yoga or meditation, long walks, volunteer work, or focusing on a hobby.
“Much of what we do in ayurveda is teaching people new patterns—in diet, exercise, and stress reduction—and for a lot of us it takes time to create new choices in our lives and we need support throughout that process.” For that reason, ayurvedic education is offered via workshops or one-on-one coaching sessions. “When you’re able to help somebody turn around something like excess weight, you’re hitting on so many levels of well-being,” says Garivaltis. When people stick to an ayurvedic way of life, reports back are phenomenal, she says. “Joint problems disappear, sleeping is better, attitude and outlook is better, relationships are better—it’s a lot of little things.”
Video: Create the perfect at-home yoga studio
A chiropractor probably isn’t the first person you call when you’re looking for a weight loss coach, but they have a lot to offer anyone seeking a slimmer body. In addition to helping relieve the muscle or joint pain that may prevent overweight and obese patients from exercising, chiropractors can provide exercise recommendations, nutrition advice, and healthy lifestyle tips. “Because of the nature of our work, we’re hands on with our patients, and that helps us bond with them,” says Robert Hayden, DC, PhD, of Iris City Chiropractic Center in Griffin, GA.
Hayden says that the most exciting part of his practice is helping patients regain their health—get off insulin or cholesterol medicine, for example. He does this by enrolling them in a physician-supervised weight loss program called Take Shape for Life. On the plan, patients eat five meal replacements and one healthy meal each day, attend two monthly group meetings, and receive coaching calls from their physician.
“We get them to the point where they feel healthy and then we’ll transition them back to regular food,” says Hayden. “At this point, we’ve fundamentally changed the habits that got them sick.”Home Remedies for Fitness Aches and Pains
Anyone who’s taken a vigorous ashtanga class knows that yoga can make you sweat. But when it comes to weight loss, a mindful, or yogic, approach takes place off the mat, too. “Yoga is about connecting with the signals in the body and being there to notice and respond to them,” says Aruni Nan Futuronsky, who leads the Integrated Weight Loss program at the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Stockbridge, MA.
For example, if you’ve made a habit of snacking on every food in sight when you get home from work, there’s a chance that stress is the culprit. “The real question is ‘What are you really hungry for?’” says Futuronsky. “Yes, it’s the food—but a hunger for food could be a symptom of a deeper imbalance.” Among those imbalances are stress, depression, and low self-esteem, all of which on-the-mat yoga is shown to help alleviate, says Futuronsky.
Your Ultimate Yoga Playlist
If you have a destructive habit, like giving into sugar cravings, hypnotherapy may help you break it. How it works: “A client describes how his or her intentions and actions seem to be headed in opposing directions,” explains Lisa Crunick, a Seattle-based hypnotherapist who has lead people to discover the emotional reasons behind what they eat and help them break patterns related to weight gain. “Then the practitioner listens carefully to create a unique hypnosis, one that’s tailored to the client's learning style and perceptions—the goal is to shift perception.”
Crunick uses hypnosis to help a person imagine what it would look and feel like to not have a particular issue, like binging on sweets or having zero motivation to exercise.
“For most people, working one-on-one with someone who pays attention to your way of thinking and learning is the surest way to succeed,” says Crunick. However, if you don’t have $90 to $250 to spend on a session with a private practitioner, alternatives are available. “Lots of pre-recorded hypnosis is available online for weight loss,” says Crunick. “If it happens to hit your issue and you resonate with the recording, it can be great.”
Next up: Proven Strategies to Keep Weight Off for Good
Copyright© 2013 Rodale Inc. "Fitbie" is a registered trademark of Rodale, Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction, transmission or display is permitted without the written permission of Rodale, Inc.