NOTE: This post is actually a talk I gave at the Institute of Qigong and Integrative Medicine gathering “Tea and Chi” this past weekend. “Ryan” is IQIM acupuncturist Ryan Lilly, and the full name of his class is “Weight Management and Healthy Living Through Chinese Medicine.”
When I saw the flyer for Ryan’s class on weight management at the Institute’s picnic this summer, I was taken aback.
Weight management? Wasn’t that a little frivolous for the Institute? I mean, we’re serious people. We’re not about sculpting svelte silhouettes; we’re about curing major diseases and striving to attain enlightenment and immortality.
If you become an immortal, what does it matter if you’re a little chubby? The robes those guys wear hide quite a lot.
Anyway, those were my first thoughts.
My next thought was, so where’s the sign-up sheet.
Because there wasn’t one. You had to e-mail Ryan to register. Which I did that evening.
For me it wasn’t just about the 10 or 15 pounds that seem to love me more than I love them. It was about 60 years of spending an enormous amount of energy fighting food and fat.
Few days have gone by when I haven’t stressed about my weight or about eating too much, except, of course, the days when I decided it was OK to eat anything and everything because I’d be starting a diet in the morning.
Since I’ve generally weighed 5 to 25 pounds more than I‘ve thought I should, I’ve engaged in a whole lot of negative self-talk around food.
It gets old. I sometimes think that if I’d spent the energy I’ve spent fighting fat doing something more constructive, I might have achieved something really amazing. Maybe not world peace, but something worthwhile enough to be mentioned in my obituary.
But let me tell you a little about the class.
The first session was a private consultation with Ryan. We talked, and he did that energy assessment thing with his hands that Dr. Sun does that I’ve never had any other acupuncturist do.
He recommended some YiRen Qigong exercises that might be helpful, not to make me skinny but for my overall health, and he offered to order me some Chinese herbs. He also did an acupuncture treatment.
The other four sessions were group sessions that started with community acupuncture. For this, we could either sit upright or lie back on lawn-chair-type recliners shrouded in blue sheets. For those of you who’ve never done it, in community acupuncture, you’re all in the same space, and the acupuncture mostly involves the arms below the elbows, and the legs below the knees. You don’t have to take your clothes off or flip over onto your tummy—which would be quite a trick on a lawn-chair recliner.
After the acupuncture, Ryan would do a presentation on some aspect of Chinese medicine’s approach to weight management and health, and there’d be an opportunity for questions and discussion. This was quite wonderful, because my classmates were quite wonderful, and because Ryan is very open and patient, and it was clear that you really could ask anything you wanted to.
In addition, we’d also do some appropriate qigong together.
There wasn’t any magic to any of this, although I’d been hoping there would be. Like wouldn’t it be cool if there were a spot on one of the meridians where an acupuncturist could stick a needle in, and poof, out would come fat dust.
I didn’t lose much weight during the class, and I didn’t totally reform my relationship with food.
But somehow—and I don’t know if it was the acupuncture or the qigong or the herbs or the class itself—I found that I felt better, and somehow more at peace. I have some new ideas, and some new tools, and more hope that I can overcome my weight issues.
Prior to the class, I’d already had some little shifts in my relationship to food, some awarenesses that I attributed to my qigong practice, but Ryan’s class was just a very nice, targeted package of acupuncture, herbs, qigong practice and information that I think is working to further change my life-long relationship to food so that it’s less obsessive and more holistically healthy.
It may be that a special class on weight management really isn’t necessary. If you clean up your organs and your meridians and bring your body into balance, maybe weight becomes a non-issue, maybe it just takes care of itself.
Also, I suspect that the acupuncture and the herbs and the qigong and the ideas that are helping me deal with my relationship with food will help me deal with other issues, too, such as depression and excessive attachment to my computer screen and smartphone. After all, our issues don’t exist in isolation.
But weight is one of my squeakiest wheels, and you have to start somewhere.
Besides, if I do become an immortal, I want to be sure I fit the robes!