As women, we are pressured to stay slim, a desire encouraged by the world around us, by advertising, by magazines, by popular culture.. And
yet, our bodies change as we age – mostly beyond our control.
Midlife hormonal changes require new eating and exercise habits if we are to maintain current weight and shape. Mind and body conflict with
no sense of balance between the two. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, balance means a harmonious way of feeling, being and thinking.
Everybody (and every body) has their own natural state of balance.
There is a concept in TCM called the eight perimeters. When a body is in balance, we feel good. By observing how we feel and making comparisons,
we determine areas in our body where we need strengthening as well as areas where we can eliminate and “let out steam”.
Consider the symptoms of menopause. Many women experience extreme heat – hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness.
They may also feel irritable, short-fused, constipated or have acid reflux. These patterns and reactions to excess heat are considered an imbalance.
If these women eat spicy hot or hot-temperature foods, they will likely increase their heat symptoms.
However, if menopausal women ate cooling foods and introduced Chinese herbs to cool out their system, they would feel cooler and more balanced.
The first of the eight perimeters differentiates between deficiency and excess. Certain symptoms show deficiencies like fatigue, lethargy, difficulty shedding weight, feeling cold. Other symptoms show excess: irritability, headaches, pain, insomnia. Seeing one set of symptoms, we work to strengthen. With another, we work
to eliminate. In both cases, the goal is to restore the body to a healthy state of balance.
A second differentiation is hot vs. cold. Heat signs in our body may include hot flashes, high blood pressure, constipation, irritability or being
short-fused. Some midlife women may feel cold, have low sex drive and have loose stools. Some vacillate between these two states of being. Looking at the
symptoms, we begin to see patterns that we can address through acupuncture, TCM and even dietary changes.
A third differentiation is interior (inside) vs. exterior (outside). Is our imbalance on the surface (fighting the flu with symptoms
of chills and body aches) or is in inside such as fever, fatigue and feeling lethargic. The last differentiation is yin and yang, ultimate balance, a
summary of all the rest. It’s a universal phrase that gives perspective and a paradigm for viewing our inner and outer worlds.
There are many ways the body can get out of balance. There are also many ways to create balance. First, begin to understand and
appreciate that every human being has her own natural state of balance.
Then, accept that balance is always changing. Creating balance is a dynamic task. Traditional Chinese Medicine offers a variety
of tools to create balance, including:
- Acupuncture – balances the body’s qi energy. Through the eight perimeter diagnostic process, an acupuncturist determines
where the body is out of balance and uses acupuncture to help restore it.
- Chinese herbal medicine are categorized (cold, hot, strengthening, reducing) and custom-made formulas help create balance.
- Eating right for your body type, guided by the parameters of TCM, can support and restore good health.
- Active (yang) exercise such as cardio, running and swimming, and yin exercise (yoga, tai chi), work together to create harmony
in the body.
As a woman in midlife who works to accept my aging body gracefully, I find these tools very helpful in supporting my personal and
professional journey in life.