Does Acupuncture Work for Weight Loss?

by Charlotte on June 2, 2010 · 13 comments

This guy has 200 flags stuck into his scalp with acupuncture needles to celebrate the Olympics. (He might also be a unicorn… shhh, only virgins can see them!)

“Hey, you wanna feel something gross?” I asked Gym Buddy Allison a couple of weeks ago as I started to pull down the top of my pants. It is to her credit that she waited a full 20 seconds before falling on the floor laughing. To workout with me is to love me.

Once I explained that it was not Flasher Friday – an explanation that was warranted as I have inadvertently flashed her thanks to the evil combination of loose-waisted yoga pants and a heavy pager that the childcare staff insisted I keep on my person at all times in case my three-year old insists again that he cannot use the potty unless he is 100% naked and then decides that clothes are overrated in general – she obliged. (While we’re telling naked child stories, I have to say that my best one ever was when my then-four-year-old son dropped trou in the checkout line at the shoe store in the mall. Because, as he loudly announced, his butt itches. The parents of the teenagers working the counter can thank me later – nothing says abstinence like a starkers kiddo with his fingers so far up his heinie not even a latex glove would have helped.) I just wanted her to poke my tummy so I could show her how much bigger my diastisis (the separation between my abdominal muscles, also known as my Push Present from Jelly Bean) has gotten. Good friend that she is, she poked me like the Pillsbury Doughboy, that is if the Pillsbury Doughboy had birthed him 5 marshmallows and had subsequently deflated like a day-old roll.

So when Allison asked me the other day if I wanted to see her stomach, I figured I owed it to her. See, girlfriend has been taking a novel approach to losing her post-baby weight. In the last 12 weeks she has dropped 20 (ish) pounds and 6% body fat. Her secret weight-loss weapon: long skinny needles stuck into her abdomen, hooked up to a car battery and juiced. Oh yeah and she tapes magnets to her ears.

No, she wasn’t abducted by Easy Rider aliens. She’s been getting acupuncture! Who knew that the quickly growing alternative therapy could be used for weight loss? Up until Allison went all guinea pig on us, I’d never heard of it. According to some practitioners,

“It is not a panacea or a wonder cure in the treatment of weight control. But, acupuncture is effective in making it easier to lose and maintain that loss if the patient is willing to change their lifestyle. The exact mechanism by which acupuncture works is unknown but we know that acupuncture needles inserted into specific points on the body and in the ear release endorphins which have a calming and relaxing effect that makes it easier to deal with stress, frustration and anxiety that can trigger overeating and bingeing on fattening foods. Also endorphins affect the digestive and hormonal systems so acupuncture can help rebalance the organ systems that are running too fast- or in this case too slow—i.e., the metabolism and the will power. “

There was also some stuff in there about unblocking your chi and whatever but honestly they had me at slow running will power. Allison offered to walk us through one of her sessions:

First, they stick a bunch of tiny needles into her legs and feet. What those have to do with appetite and will power I have no idea but doesn’t Al have great calves??


Then they stick more needles into her stomach. They attach electric nodes to some of the needles and then turn on the battery pack (seen between her legs, in the first pic). As you can see from the redness around the needles, it’s more than just a little jolt.


Here’s how it looks all hooked up. Al then lays there while the needles do their thing for about a half hour. She says the battery does make her stomach muscles twitch – a feeling she describes as “uncomfortable but okay” – but I should warn you that I know from watching her do Crossfit that her tolerance for excruciating pain is quite high.


Lastly, her acupuncturist tapes two seeds or magnets to her ears (they are the tiny black dots – one at the top crease of her ear and one just outside her ear canal). She wears them for 2 days post-puncturing and is supposed to squeeze them to suppress her appetite and prevent eating out of boredom.

So does it work? I couldn’t find any research studies that examined acupuncture’s effectiveness in weight loss but according to Allison’s study of one, there seems to be some merit in it!

Have you ever tried acupuncture? Did you like it? What’s the strangest weight loss method you’ve tried? Anyone have any great naked kid stories??

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Nikki April 3, 2012 at 11:54 am

As I was doing a little background research on acupuncture and weightloss, I ran across your link. Having always been intrigued with alternative forms of medicine, I thought I’d try it for weightloss. My diet is okay. I try to eat the bad food s in moderation, exercise regularly but still losing 10-12lbs has always been a dream. I’m hoping acupuncture will assist in helping me meet my weightloss goal. My first appointment is Wed, April 11th. Thanks for sharing your experience, now I have an idea of what I could possibly expect.

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piinklady April 22, 2012 at 2:59 am

well i went to sum acupunture/acupressure*metal lil balls that are taped to ur ear* and in the 1st week i lost about 7lbs…within a mnth or so i lost a jean size so yeaa u do lose weight:)

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piinklady April 22, 2012 at 3:06 am

by the way the place i went to was called dieta efectiva so google it out people…its a pretty legit place and best of all the acupuncurist have many followers,their website is dietaefectiva.net but the thing is they only have their locations in california i believe..but its on rialto and riverside,but like i said its a really good way to lose weight and be healthy,on the 1st mnth u can lose up to 20lbs :)thats really nice,i felt really good and healthy when i would go to this. the good thing is that for the 1st time u go u pay $20 and after every other week is $10 i believe to get ur metal pressure seeds replaced..well good luck :) keep positive &stay healthy:]

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Cheryl October 3, 2012 at 10:06 am

Hi I just found yoru page while researching acpuncture. Thanks for the info. I have my first appoinment today. My regular physician keeps telling me that I gained weight due to stress, so maybe a few needles can releive the stress!

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Cheryl October 3, 2012 at 10:09 am

sorry – I do know how to spell ! the cursor is throwing me off because it’s in the wrong spot on the screen…

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Lisa Farley, L.Ac., M.Ac. April 20, 2013 at 1:45 pm

I am frequently asked if acupuncture can help with weight loss. The short answer is yes.
Acupuncture brings the body back into balance so everything, including your metabolism, will function more optimally. During treatment times I will explore with my patients lifestyle issues that may be preventing them from achieving/retaining a healthy weight. In the Chinese paradigm, how you eat is just as important as what you eat. Look at the Weight Loss/Weight Management page on my site for some important suggestions.

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Jamila August 14, 2013 at 4:19 pm

My sister has heard wonderful result about the ear acupressure for weight loss and she has started it just yesterday in Florida. I’m in Michigan and I’m trying to find a specialist for the same thing. Does anyone know of one?
Thank you very much

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