What is Acupuncture for Weight Loss?

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  • Written By: Allison Boelcke
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Images By: Cora Reed, Guillaume Baviere, Max Tactic, Kzenon, Alfred Wekelo
  • Last Modified Date: 23 August 2019
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Acupuncture is a Chinese herbal medicinal practice of inserting thin needles into precise areas of the skin. According to supporters of acupuncture, the body is composed of various energy pathways known as meridians. When imbalances occur in certain meridians of the body, a person may be more likely to gain weight. Inserting needles into the imbalanced meridians is thought to reduce stress, improve metabolism and digestion, reduce appetite, and fight food addiction.

Prior to receiving acupuncture for weight loss, a person typically meets with a trained acupuncturist for a consultation. An acupuncturist may review a patient’s medical history and eating habits, then perform a tongue and pulse diagnosis. He or she examines a patient’s tongue for irregularities, cracks, or discolorations that are thought to indicate digestive problems in Chinese herbal medicine. An acupuncturist also takes a patient’s pulse to determine digestive issues. For example, an irregular pulse on the right wrist is thought to indicate improper functioning of the colon, lungs, spleen, or stomach, while the left wrist pulse is representative of kidney, liver, gall bladder, and small intestine performance.


Once an acupuncturist determines which areas of the body are malfunctioning and causing weight gain, he or she decides what meridians to insert needles into. Acupuncture for weight loss can typically take two forms: auricular or full body. If a patient’s reasons for weight gain are deemed minor, an acupuncturist will perform auricular acupuncture by placing needles throughout areas of the ear. Auricular acupuncture is often used to treat emotional overeating.

Full body acupuncture is executed if organs are thought to be malfunctioning due to energy imbalances. Acupuncture for weight loss is generally customized for a patient’s particular imbalances. If a patient’s weaknesses are thought to be partially due to impulsiveness or addiction, needles may be inserted near the mouth, stomach, or the area of the skin above the lungs. The needles are intended to improve energy flow to the areas by unblocking the meridian paths.

Acupuncture needles are very thin and flexible, and are not intended to be painful. The needles in acupuncture for weight loss are generally left in the skin for 30 minutes. Depending on the acupuncturist’s diagnosis, a patient may be advised to receive the treatment twice a week for up to three weeks. Acupuncture is typically not used on its own, but instead is recommended in addition to a healthy diet and exercise program.


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