How does a sedentary lifestyle during COVID lead to weight gain?

Sedentary behaviour is defined as any activity involving sitting, reclining, or lying down that has a very low energy expenditure.

This kind of behaviour has become increasingly common during the outbreak of COVID-19, as people were forced to stay indoors to reduce the spread of COVID. In addition, outdoor activities and gyms, yoga studios, etc. were asked to stop or reduce their class sizes.

As a result of all these restrictions, there were fewer options for us to stay fit and active. Gradually, some might lose motivation to stay active and resign themselves to a sedentary lifestyle.

Negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle

A sedentary lifestyle can affect your health in many ways. The reduced amount of calories burnt can lead to many long-term effects as our body becomes used to a lack of movement.

Weight gain from TCM’s perspective

From the TCM view, an imbalance or weakness in the spleen and stomach system is the main reason behind weight gain.

The Stomach is in charge of receiving and breaking down food and liquid for further extraction while the Spleen is in charge of absorbing and transporting the refined essence from the extraction in the Stomach.

These two organs work hand in hand to control the transportation of food essence to the whole body, providing us with energy. If there is an imbalance or weakness in either of the organs, the absorption and transportation of food essence is disrupted, leading to weight gain.

What should be done to reduce weight gain?

The foundation of losing weight is based on physical activity and diet.

Physical activities

A good combination of physical exercises is a variety of cardiovascular exercises, such as running or cycling, with strength-training exercises.

Doing at least three 30min runs and two 30min sessions of strength-training exercises per week is enough to meet minimum physical activity guidelines. These physical exercises can aid in increasing the body’s metabolism and helps to burn off the excess calories gained from eating.

Controlling diet

Weight gain normally occurs when your calorie intake exceeds what our body requires, resulting in those excess calories being stored as fats in our body.

Thus, diet plays a very important role in weight loss. If the amount of calories consumed is maintained at a level to what the body is able to burn off, there will be no excess calories to be stored as fats, maintaining one’s weight. If your calorie intake is lower than the amount your body typically uses, this will burn off calories that were previously stored in the body, causing weight loss. 

There are many different types of dieting plans that are targeted to help lose weight such as ketogenic dieting, intermittent fasting, Mediterranean dieting and others. Some might find success from these dieting plans while others see little to no effects from these plans.

Why is this the case? 

From TCM’s perspective, by limiting the amount and type of food that is being eaten, the Spleen and Stomach might not get enough nutrients. This can cause further deficiency and weakness in both organs, obstructing their function.

Overtime, the desired effect of losing weight might not be achieved and might even cause weakness in the body and slight weight gain. Those that succeed from such dieting most likely belong to individuals that have heat and fire in the stomach and Qi and Blood stagnation.

Acupressure

As the main issue lies with Spleen and Stomach, we can use acupressure to help strengthen and improve their functions. Also, acupuncture points that are good for clearing phlegm and dampness are also included to help with weight loss.

足三里 Zu San Li, ST36:
Located 3 cun (4 finger spacing) below the base of the patella, one finger-breadth lateral to the anterior border of the tibia. After locating, use your thumb to apply pressure and massage the area for 3-5mins.

丰隆 Feng Long, ST40:
Located 8 cun superior to the tip of the external malleolus, two finger-breadth lateral to the anterior border of the tibia. After locating, use your thumb to apply pressure and massage the area for 3-5mins.

天枢 Tian Shu, ST25:
Located on the middle of the abdomen, 2 cun (3 finger spacing) lateral to the umbilicus. After locating, use your thumb to apply pressure and massage the area for 3-5mins. 

大横 Da Heng, SP15:
Located on the middle of the abdomen, 4 cun lateral to the centre of the umbilicus. After locating, use your thumb to apply pressure and massage the area for 3-5mins.

带脉 Dai Mai, GB26:
Located directly below the free end of the eleventh rib, at the level with the umbilicus. After locating, use your thumb to apply pressure and massage the area for 3-5mins.

水分 Shui Fen, CV9:
Located 1 cun above the umbilicus. After locating, use your thumb to apply pressure and massage the area for 3-5mins.

中脘 Zhong Wan, CV12:
Located 2 cun above the umbilicus. After locating, use your thumb to apply pressure and massage the area for 3-5mins.

Food remedies

Porridge

This porridge is good for strengthening the Spleen and Stomach and also aids in removing dampness in the body. This can help to re-balance the body, allowing for weight loss. The porridge is suitable for all ages and can be eaten on a regular basis.



Ingredients: (for 1-2pax)

  • Red bean (赤小豆, Chi Xiao Dou) 50g
  • Chinese yam (山药, Shan Yao) 50g
  • Rice 150g or 1 cup

Instructions:

    • Rinse all the ingredients with water.
    • Add about 8-9 cups of water to the rice and add in the rest of the ingredients.
    • Bring porridge to boil and enjoy.

Teas

This tea aids to strengthen Spleen and Stomach and remove dampness in the body.

Ingredients:

  • Fried cassia seed (炒决明子, Chao Jue Ming Zi) 5g
  • Alismatis Rhizoma (泽泻, Ze Xie) 5g
  • Atractylodes Rhizoma (白术, Bai Zhu) 5g
  • Dried hawthorn (山楂, Shan Zha) 10g

Instructions:

  • Place the ingredients in a tea bag.
  • Add boiling water and let it steep for 5-10 minutes.
  • This tea is suitable for all ages. It is recommended to drink it 2-3 times a week.

This tea helps to remove phlegm-dampness in the body.

Ingredients:

  • Alismatis Rhizoma (泽泻, Ze Xie) 5g
  • Atractylodes Rhizoma (白术, Bai Zhu) 5g
  • Atractylodes Lancea (苍术, Cang Zhu) 5g
  • Poria Cocos (茯苓, Fu Ling) 5g

Instructions:

  • Place the ingredients in a tea bag.
  • Add boiling water and let it steep for 5-10 minutes.
  • This tea is suitable for all ages. It is recommended to drink it 2-3 times a week.

This tea helps to improve digestion and aids in weight loss. 

Ingredients:

  • Fried cassia seed (炒决明子, Chao Jue Ming Zi) 5g
  • Hawthorn (山楂, Shan Zha) 10g
  • Malt (麦芽, Mai Ya) 10g
  • Tea leaf (茶叶, Cha ye) 5g
  • Lotus leaf tea (荷叶, He Ye) 5g

Instructions:

  • Place the ingredients in a tea bag.
  • Add boiling water and let it steep for 5-10 minutes.
  • This tea is suitable for all ages. It is recommended to drink it 2-3 times a week.

Emotional balance

Emotional imbalance can disrupt Qi and Blood flow in the body, bringing about various health issues like obesity and depression. Thus, one should aim to prevent huge fluctuations in emotions. Yoga can be a good way to calm the mind and improve mental health.

TCM treatments

If weight gain and obesity still persists even with the above self-help methods, it would be advisable to consult a physician for in-depth understanding and more professional help.

As there is no “one size fits all” treatment plan, a consultation with a physician is recommended to more accurately diagnose your body condition and pinpoint the reasons for weight gain; to suggest treatment options customised for you. 

These treatments can include acupuncture, cupping, herbal medication and ear seeding.

You can read more about our weight management programme here: https://pulsetcm.sg/tcm-programmes/weight-management-programme/

 

Note: Information provided is not a substitute for a physician or any form of medical care. Individual symptoms differ due to different body constitutions and diagnosis. One should consult a licensed TCM practitioner for accurate diagnosis and treatment.




ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Physician Beatrice Ng

Physician/ Management Trainee

View more posts by Physician Beatrice Ng

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