If you are overweight a little bit of weight loss goes a long way to improving fertility. Losing 5 kg is a manageable target for most and you can start now. Just moving your metabolism a little bit in the direction of burning off fat stores, can stimulate ovarian activity, improve egg and sperm quality and increase fertility.
Acupuncture is often used, as part of a comprehensive programme, to help control appetite and improve motivation. An analysis of your constitution and the reasons for your weight gain by an experienced acupuncturist will lead to an individualised treatment plan designed to support you in a weight loss programme in a safe and stable manner.
Should you choose to use a Chinese medicine approach to support your weight loss regimen we may recommend using gentle electro acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine . Systematic reviews of trials in this area report encouraging results but larger trials are needed before claims to efficacy can be made.
Do you need to lose weight?
Losing weight might be something you don’t want to think about, or consider important, however we now know that your weight can influence your fertility very significantly. Overweight women often experience disturbances to ovulation, and other metabolic effects which affect fertility.
Its not just women who are affected …….
Obesity lowers sperm counts by 50% and increases the fragmentation of DNA in sperm. Men who are overweight are more likely to suffer erectile dysfunction.
The good news is that a very modest weight loss will increase your chance of conception significantly. In fact, one third of infertile couples will conceive naturally simply by losing just 5 – 10% of their body weight. And even if you don’t conceive naturally weight loss will improve your chance of success with IVF.
Furthermore if you lose weight before you become pregnant your risk of miscarriage drops, your pregnancy will be easier and your baby will be healthier.
No matter how much weight you think you need to lose, or would like to lose, start with the first 5 kg. You should never attempt to lose more than this in a month, or the weight will be quickly regained.
Three to six month programme; a diet for steady weight loss
You have all heard that a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes or lean meat, fish or chicken, along with regular physical activity, can help most people manage and maintain weight loss. This is a diet for life.
But lets be a little more specific ……
- Choose delicious fresh food, vegetables and fruits in season, mix colours and make flavours interesting with herbs and spices. Enjoy your food. Sit down to eat it, away from the work desk, away from the television.
- Chew slowly, savour each mouthful. When you eat too fast, you don’t give the stomach time to tell the brain that it’s had enough – so you keep on eating. It takes twenty minutes for brain-signaling hormones to signal the brain that it no longer needs food.
- Be a little bit French in your eating patterns – choose excellent quality food, even if it is a bit more expensive but eat less of it. Spoil yourself.
- Have 3 meals a day, with healthy snacks in between. Do not skip meals. Have your meals on smaller plates so you reduce your quantities. Only one plate per meal. No second helpings.
- Have protein at least once a day; this can be lean meat, chicken, fish, tofu or eggs and include lentils or legumes combined with brown rice.
- Consider using vegetable soups to replace one meal per day (the evening meal is best); these are nutritious, low calorie and satisfying because they stay in the stomach longer than solid meals. See recipe below.
- Do not have iced water with your meals. Have a few sips of wine ( but no more than a few sips) or have a digestive tea like Jasmine or Pu Erh if you want to drink with your meals.
- Stop all drinks that contain sugar or artificial sweeteners. None.
- Stop all processed foods like cakes, biscuits, white breads – yes, all!
- Limit carbohydrates – only one or two small slices of bread a day, and very modest servings of rice, noodles or pasta rather than large ones.
- Cut out fatty and fried foods although small amounts of good oils (eg olive oil, avocado) should be included.
- If you need support, join weight watchers and be weighed regularly. Or ask your acupuncturist for weekly checking in support.
- Exercise, sleep and acupuncture can all be important aspects of weight control – read on.
Exercise for weight loss
You need to move. And make moving enjoyable.
If you are highly motivated go to the gym 3 or 4 times a week to do aerobic classes or walk daily and briskly for 30 minutes or some other strenuous activity you enjoy.
If you are less enthusiastic about exercise get a personal trainer (ask your local gym to recommend someone close by) who will tailor exercise to your needs and provide the motivation to keep going. Follow their instructions. Join a boot camp exercise group which meets several times a week, or set one up with your friends.
But if this level of activity is not possible for you for physical reasons, focus on gentle movement like Tai Chi or Yoga. These exercises benefit your internal energy and your nervous system rather than working your heart and muscles. However they can still help weight loss – Tai Chi, for example burns as many calories as down hill skiing!
Acupuncture for weight loss
Researchers in different parts of the world are interested to know if acupuncture and Chinese medicine can contribute to programmes for weight loss. So are we!
There are a number of publications that report positive effects, however we still need larger trials before making treatment recommendations.
The treatment plans offered in our clinic are based on a Traditional Chinese medicine diagnosis of your constitution. These can be incorporated into a comprehensive programme of diet and exercise to support general health and weight loss.
Treatment for weight loss should always include a focus on sleep and psychological state. Tired sleep-deprived people don’t lose weight so easily and depression and anxiety don’t encourage good food choices or diet control.
In addition your Chinese medicine practitioner can give you more specific dietary advice according to your constitution. For example, some people lose weight easily eating more raw foods but for others that will exacerbate fluid retention, and inhibit burning off stored calories.