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 has often been used, as part of a comprehensive programme, to help reduce appetite and improve metabolism to promote weight loss. 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 aid weight loss in a safe and stable manner. We use gentle electro acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine to help reduce BMI. We have found it to be particularly helpful in reducing waist circumference in women with PCOS. Acupuncture appears to have an effect in reducing the level of specific hormones which affect appetite and metabolism.
Stimulation of ear acupuncture points is often used to help with weight loss. Certain ear points have been shown to stimulate the auricular branch of the vagal nerve and raise serotonin levels, both of which increase tone in the smooth muscle of the stomach, thus helping to suppress appetite.
Suggested Schedule; Acupuncture 1 – 3 times per week for 1 – 3 months before IVF, or until goal weight is achieved or until you conceive.
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
You might use acupuncture once or twice a week to help reduce your appetite. This will make cutting your portions down easier and provide you with regular support both physically and mentally.
Many studies have been conducted on the effect of acupuncture on weight loss, generally with positive outcome. (1) Additionally acupuncture appears to increase insulin sensitivity which makes weight loss easier in those patients who have insulin resistance. (2) Acupuncture points in the ear stimulate the auricular branch of the vagal nerve; this is thought to suppress appetite by increasing tone in the smooth muscle of the stomach so that you feel full sooner. Other points on the body are used to stimulate the body’s metabolism and encourage more efficient break down of stored energy (fat, in other words), reduce food cravings, and improve circulation. Other points are used to help you sleep well and to improve mood. It is well documented that tired sleep-deprived people don’t lose weight so easily and that depression and anxiety don’t encourage good food choices or diet control (3) A systematic review and meta-analysis reported in the International Journal of Obesity concluded that acupunture was an effective treatment for weight loss. (4)
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.
Chinese herbs are often prescribed to help weight loss. They regulate bowel transit time, reduce fluid retention, encourage efficient metabolism, and increase energy levels. (5)
It is important you keep taking any preconception vitamins and minerals you have been recommended. Some preconception supplements contain chromium, an insulin co-factor. This is important since it helps calories to be burned for energy rather than stored as fat.
- Rerksuppaphol L, Jnl Med and Health Sci (Thai) 2010, 17, 1
- Liang F, Koya D. Diabetes Obes Metab 2010;12:555-69
- Cabioglu MT et al Int J Neurosci 2007;117:579-90
- Cho SH et al, Int J Obesity 2009, 33, 183 – 196
- Jang S et al, Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2016;2016:5936402.
One month programme
If your next IVF cycle is scheduled for one month’s time and your BMI puts you at a disadvantage, then you can dedicate the next month to an intense but sensible weight loss programme. This is a more drastic approach and one you will adopt for the short term only. You will need to free up some time to allow you to follow this programme (but you can’t skimp on sleep – 8 hours minimum per night!).
Diet for quick weight loss
Follow the same guidelines as for the 3 – 6 month programme except 2 meals per day are replaced by the soup. Since this will be your main source of nourishment you will need to add some protein – use a good jelly chicken stock or whisk an egg into it.
You can have as much soup as you like.
Cut out bread, crackers, pasta, and grains … your carbohydrates should come from fruits and vegetables only (but not potato).
Exercise for quick weight loss
As for 3 month programme. Think about getting a personal trainer to tailor a programme specific for your needs. You must do some exercise every day for 30 mins – vigorously at least 3 times a week and brisk walking or other movement on other days.
Acupuncture for quick weight loss
To kick start metabolism and weight loss you should have 3 acupuncture treatments in the first week, and two or three in each of the following weeks. Herbs to increase metabolism and bowel transit time may be added.
RECIPE FOR WEIGHT LOSS SOUP
Choose vegetables you enjoy and which are in season such as
- green beans
- green pepper
Use proportions according to your individual preference.
You need to use good stock, preferably one you have made yourself. A good chicken stock (which forms a firm jelly when chilled) is ideal and is the secret to making a delicious and satisfying soup. Use organic chicken (or other) bones and boil for a long time in water with herbs such as bay leaves or celery leaves. If there are days you don’t have time to make this (or if you are vegetarian) use good quality ready made stock or cubes or powdered soup and whisk an egg through the soup to add some protein.
Cut the vegetables into small pieces, cover with plenty of stock and cook until the vegetables are soft.
Season with plenty of parsley or other fresh herbs and freshly ground pepper.
Eat this soup when you feel hungry. Eat as much as you want when you want. It has very few calories and will keep your stomach full for longer than regular meals.