Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Obese People Enjoy Food Less

According to a new study (pdf), obese people enjoy food less than lean people do.

"We originally thought obese people would experience more reward from food. But we see obese people only anticipate more reward; they get less reward. It is an ironic process," Stice tells WebMD.

According to Chinese medicine, most obese people have an accumulation of dampness in the middle burner. When dampness is present in the Stomach or Spleen, there will be hunger but without any desire to eat.

How is that possible? What do you mean dampness? What's a middle burner?

Chinese medicine is an ancient method which uses a sophisticated system of outward observation to discern what is happening on the inside. They didn't have x-ray machines or MRIs thousands of years ago. Heck, they didn't even have blood tests. Chinese medicine was forced to develop methods of "imaging" the inside of the body by observance of outward symbols - nearly all of which have proven to be incredibly accurate in terms of today's modern anatomy and physiology. The image that we as Chinese medicine practitioners gather is necessarily more metaphorical than Western biomedicine - but that does not make it any less accurate. Indeed, often Western medicine misses the forest for the trees by focusing on the minutiae of bacteria and blood cell counts, while failing to deduce the overall situation of the patient.

I say all that to help me explain dampness. "Dampness" on the inside of the body is what happens when your food and fluids do not properly separate. In a healthy human system, food enters the Stomach, where it undergoes "ripening and rotting" (a term that rather nicely describes the contractions of smooth muscle and secretions of digestive enzymes that takes place). The Spleen extracts the essence of the food, the food energy, if you will, and sends it on its merry way to the next stage of processing.

If the Spleen is weak, it can't properly extract all the food essences from the chewed-up remnants of the Double-Double you just ate. Some portion of the unrefined food energy then sits in your middle burner, where it combines with the fluids of your body to form a kind of sludgy mud we call dampness. As you become fatter, your Spleen becomes weaker, forming what Dr. Naiqiang Gu likes to call "the vicious circle."

As for the middle burner, that's a Chinese medicine term for the general region of the middle of your body. The important organs there are your Spleen and Stomach. The upper burner refers to the upper part of the body (Heart and Lungs) and the lower burner refers, of course, to the lower part of your body and includes the Kidneys, the Bladder, and all the organs of excretion and reproduction. The Liver is anatomically situated within the middle burner, but because of its importance is considered to be functionally deeper in the body and therefore part of the lower burner.

Now how about that "hunger without desire to eat" bit? Well, imagine you have dampness in your middle burner (now that we're all on the same page with that). Your Spleen-Pancreas is underperforming, but it still works - you get some gas and bloating after you eat, you've developed food allergies, maybe you have occasional diarrhea, but you can still eat most things. Your body figures that getting sixty-five percent of the available energy from food is better than not eating at all, and thus you still get hungry. But there's that dampness sitting in your middle burner. Let's suppose that you don't exercise as much as you should and you haven't changed how you eat, so the dampness continues to accumulate. Thus your body doesn't receive the food with the same relish that it might were your middle burner to be nice and clean.

How to break out of this vicious circle? How to rid oneself of dampness and extra weight? For starters, eat less and exercise more. Then, limit or avoid greasy, fried, and fatty foods. Alcohol and soda should also be avoided as they contribute greatly to dampness. And of course, go see your acupuncturist for a treatment and an herbal formula that is customized to your constitution. Your Chinese medicine doctor has many many herbs and formulas at his or her disposal which have a remarkable effect on the digestion.

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