Northeast Wisconsin
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • January 2014
Written by  Courtney Cowie, MA, LMBT

TCM tools to support weight loss

Within the context of end-of-the-year holiday gatherings filled with family, friends and goodies galore, we reminisce about the highlights of the past year, and anticipate the excitement and promise of a new year. Then comes January 1 and, as we begin to hear talk of New Year’s resolutions, into our heads creeps the oh-so-appealing yet formidable goal to really lose the extra 15 pounds (or more) this year. So, we vow to head to the gym more regularly, watch what we eat and get more sleep.

One month later, we find ourselves falling back into our old patterns and thinking, “Well, I tried, but life just got in the way.” Losing weight is not only one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions amongst Americans, it is also one of the hardest to fulfill. That’s why only about five percent of the population successfully completes this goal. Underlying the discipline it takes to stick to a regular exercise schedule and commit to diet changes, it takes a well-prepared, well-supported, mind-body partnership and commitment. From a therapeutic bodywork perspective, this whole-body enlistment and dedication has to be in place to foster and sustain the discipline it takes to achieve any large-scale personal goal. This crucial piece of the weight loss achievement puzzle is the one most often missed.

Therapeutic bodywork techniques and tools belonging to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) shine in both preparing the mind-body for accomplishing weight loss and supporting it through the process. The TCM therapeutic bodywork techniques called “tui na” (which translates as “push grasp”) are aimed specifically at changing and balancing the flow of life-force energy, or “qi,” in the body. What does this translate to in terms of weight loss? Within TCM, the quality of movement and overall balance of qi in the body corresponds directly with an individual’s overall sense of well-being and resilience to illness and stress. Sense of well-being as well as adaptability and resilience to illness and environmental stressors are key components to helping an individual stay the course in following a weight loss plan.

Beyond tui na, TCM offers accessory techniques to support weight loss. Two of these techniques are cupping and ear seeds. Cupping is a technique that involves creating a negative pressure vacuum force within a glass cup that is placed on the skin’s surface. Energetically, cupping creates a deep draw on the fascia of the body, releasing adhesions, toxins and energy that has become stuck within the tissues. While cupping has many applications within TCM, with regard to weight loss, it can be applied to the abdomen and moved in circular motions around the navel to move stuck qi, and to increase the flow of “blood” (as used in TCM theory) and qi to the abdominal region, optimizing digestion and metabolic processes within the tissues. The ear contains acupressure points that correspond directly with appetite regulation, addiction, depression and anxiety. These points can be stimulated with acupuncture needles or by attaching an ear seed, or magnet, to optimize qi flow such that it supports the body’s natural regulation of the appetite and stimulates the addiction and mood regulation centers of the brain that often go hand in hand with the tendency to overeat.

If weight loss tops your New Year’s resolution list of goals for the coming year, beyond going to the gym and implementing diet changes, consider giving some thought to incorporating a self-care practice that focuses on establishing a mind-body commitment to your goal and prepares you energetically for the upcoming challenges and changes. 

“Sense of well-being as well as adaptability and resilience to illness and environmental stressors are key components to helping an individual stay the course in following a weight loss plan.”


Courtney Cowie, MA, LMBT, is the owner of Ki to Health Therapeutic Bodywork, located in downtown Neenah. Her practice is rooted in traditional Chinese medical massage (tui na) techniques integrated with acupressure. To learn more about the conditions Courtney treats as well as her techniques and background, visit http://kitohealthbodywork.com. To schedule an appointment, call 920-460-0229 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.." target="_blank">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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