If you’ve ever read about the ‘obesity epidemic’, you probably already know that it’s a relatively new problem, no more than about 150 years old. You may well ask, then, how would ancient Chinese medicine know anything about weight loss? After all, it’s a good 5000 years old, from a time when food was much more likely to be scarce than plentiful.
To answer this question, first we have to look at how knowledge is acquired. In modern culture, it starts with a researcher noticing something unusual or unexpected and asking, ‘why?’. Then the researcher collects some more information, studies it and comes up with a theory to explain it. The theory is then tested with experiments, which either confirm or invalidate the theory.
The ancient Chinese did almost the opposite. They started by observing and recording everything they saw, be it ‘normal’ or unusual. After they had amassed all this knowledge, they looked for patterns and connections. The theories only came later, reflecting the patterns and connections they had found.
Now, excess weight is nothing new. What’s new is that the problem has become so common and widespread. But there have always been people who are overweight, even in ancient times. There are various illnesses that cause weight gain. So we can assume quite safely that ancient Chinese doctors had to deal with overweight patients.
Between dealing with these patients’s illnesses and understanding the patterns of nature, it probably wasn’t very difficult for Chinese doctors to pinpoint the root causes of weight gain. The result is that Chinese medicine has a deep understanding of weight problems and is thus capable of helping with weight loss.
There’s even an added bonus. Because it focuses on the root causes of excess weight, it treats the problem by treating the patient’s overall health, not just the weight issue. This helps prevent other health problems that weight loss programs alone do not address.
- The Global Epidemic of Obesity: An Overview (Epidemiologic Reviews)