Untold Stories

frontuseUntold: 12 Stories of Successful American Acupuncturists in the New Millennium which I put together with Jason Stein, LAc is now available on Amazon and other major retailers. It has it’s own website, Untold, which includes the raw video interviews that the acupuncturists gave to Jason.

The goal of the book was to bring hope to acupuncturists. Many people chose the field of acupuncture because they want to help people. They’re looking for ways to do this that get to the root of the health problems people have or they’re looking for a holistic medicine that sees mind and body as one. Upon graduation they have huge student loan debt and making a business successful feels overwhelming.

Starting a business is hard. It’s hard to keep going and it’s even harder when you are struggling to feed yourself and feel like no one is listening to you when you search out patients. Stories come up of how many acupuncturists don’t make it. The numbers are probably not so different from those in any small business but acupuncturists are healers, not business people, so as a profession we don’t have those numbers. Further, the debt taken on adds a further burden. The business of wanting to be a healer feels hopeless.

I wanted to remind people that there were practitioners who had made. There were people who were acupuncturists doing what they loved with acupuncture and making a living. The book branched out and talked to people who had moved on from the profession, from a place of success and not one of failure, to give practitioners ideas about retirement and ending their practice. Jason and I also found people who were inventing their own products and creating new paths.

Over all, I have hope that this book can reignite hope to those working so hard to further the profession.

New Book: Points to Ponder

kindlefrontFinally got my newest book Points to Ponder for the Acupuncturist in Business finished. It wasn’t that it was a long time to write. It’s been done for some time. But getting it edited and then formatted and published while moving took longer than I expected. But it’s finally here. It’s in ebook and print and available at your favorite retailers. Check it out.

New Book, “Small Animal Acupuncture Point Locations”

This isn’t a true review. I don’t do animal acupuncture as I’m fortunate to have an amazing veterinarian who works with my cats. She’s well versed in a number of alternative modalities and we primarily use homeopathics with my cats, which I find work wonders.

However, there are many practitioners who want to work on pets. I worked in a veterinary hospital for a long time and I still suffer a certain level of PTSD after that experience. In a pinch I would work on my own cats but no one else’s.

Becca Seitz has a broad background in studying healthcare. She has background working with shelters, forcing to confront animals in intensely stressful situations. She was the person who first talked about compassion fatigue in shelter workers, which led to a series of articles I published on my cat blog. And now she has written a very thorough book called Small Animal Acupuncture Point Locations.

Becca is also involved with teaching a class on animal acupuncture. I highly recommend the course for any practitioner interested in treating pets. If you can’t make the class, then purchase the book. If you ever hope to treat pets, this is a must read.

Websites for Acupuncturists is Here

websites1front1I finally got Websites for Acupuncturists edited and formatted for publication. It’s available on Amazon in both ebook and print.

I wrote this book to address many of the questions I’m seeing in social media. This is less a how to book and more a should you book. It offers some explanations about what you get with a general easy set up site (like Weebly and SquareSpace), what you get in a profession specific managed site (like AcuPerfect Websites and QiSites) and what you have to do to do it yourself.

I think a lot of people start out trying to do it themselves without having any idea of the options or what it means to be on a managed site and what their options are. I’ve kept the price low and offered as much information as I can to help people determine whether they have the time or the interest in creating their own website. Things are getting so much less expensive that there are many more affordable options out there than there were even a few years ago.

What is Fat?

I was going to start on what I saw as the potential imbalances that might cause someone to be fat but being thorough, I wanted to define fat before doing so.

I started with Giovanni Maciocia’s Foundations of Chinese Medicine (yeah, really the older one).  In the index, there is no reference to the words,”fat”, “overweight”, or “obesity”. So I read through the organ systems, paying particular attention to the spleen and stomach areas. No reference to fat. I recall reading somewhere that fat was dampness so I also paid particular attention to any damp related pathology as well as triple warmer. Nothing on “fat”.

Next, I looked through the pathologies of each organ, once again paying particular attention to spleen and stomach. Not one pathology references “fatness” or “obesity” as a symptom.

Finally I got to his chapter on the five constitutional types.  Earth types were drawn as being rather heavy and in fact, it talks about earth types as having a large stomach (looks “fat” in the drawing) as well as large muscles. Water too appears to carry some extra weight all over and is considered a constitutional type. There is no mention of defining this person as fat or treating a water type for being fat.  This is considered a constitutional type that is built this way, unlike the wood type that does look naturally slender.

I also looked in Maciocia’s Practice of Chinese Medicine. Again there is no listing for “fat” or “obesity” in  any of the syndromes or in the index. He does talk about the excess dampness under the skin being oedema but that is different from “fat”.

Of course, overeating is mentioned and the distention of the stomach and fullness that can cause illness when one overeats. Again, this is different from being fat given that the vast majority of fat people did not get there because they ate too much.

This leads me to wonder what people are reading when they talk about Chinese Medicine and obesity. I talked to a friend who is very well versed in Classical Chinese Medicine. His response was that he doesn’t recall reading anything about fat. The ancient Chinese were much more likely to have starvation and famine and underweight was probably a bigger problem. As to treating fat, well you’d go by the imbalances and once in balance the body would find it’s own normal weight (whatever that is).

There is discussion of dampness residing in the muscles, but I’m not sure that it manifests as fat so much as it manifests as that early morning muscle stiffness.  After all, colds often start out that way as well.  It could also be referring, as Maciocia did, to oedema under the skin.

That means that any acupuncture  practitioner who is determining if someone is fat is doing so by modern standards.  So that leads us to BMI, which of course really doesn’t mean anything. BMI is as arbitrary and inaccurate as height/weight charts.  In fact, in 1998, the BMI charts changed so that people in the normal range suddenly became overweight because the classification changed, not because they gained any weight.  Additionally there are a variety of recommendations for different BMI classifications as to what is normal versus overweight.

The other option is the waist/hip ratio. This is great for those of us who gain weight on our hips and thighs. However, if like most earth and water types, one puts on weight around the belly, one will still be considered fat even if it is normal for the person’s constitutional type. I’m not sure what I am. I have a BMI of 33 and a normal hip/waist ratio so do I split the difference and come out “overweight”? Slightly fat?

Even using modern standards, there are no set standards for the point at which a normal person becomes fat. Like beauty, fat, for the most part appears to be a cultural manifestation.  Now I haven’t had the time to look through everything in terms of defining fat to see if there is some objective standard. However, I’ve done as more or more research into this than the vast majority of people who claim to treat “fat”.  For me, this offers a level of concern over why any acupuncture practitioner, who is treating the whole person, would want to treat someone for being fat, when no one has asked what is too much. After all, everyone has some fat, that’s normal.  The question becomes when it is it abnormal from a health perspective versus abnormal from a cultural sense of what is beautiful? That’s not something we can tell by looking at someone and I’m not sure there is anything in the classics that offers me a place to start.

 

My Big Fat Rant

Recently there was a discussion on Facebook about acupuncturists treating people for obesity. I’d like to point out that treating someone for obesity is not treating someone for a health condition. People argue about this point but it’s true. Fat people can be healthy. Imagine.  They can also be fit. So the idea of bringing in people who are otherwise healthy for health care seems rather unethical to me.

Now, I and a few others who were pro-size-acceptance were asked to stay off the thread so that those who wanted to could learn what other practitioners found to be  effective for working with weight loss. Apparently pointing out that obesity was not a health problem and that we needed to treat the person rather than the “weight” was not considered a useful tip.

The fact is, fat people do go to acupuncturists. Some of my patients were fat. Some of them were not. Many of the fat and thin people had the same health issues. Many of them had the same overlapping constellation of disease patterns, that may have manifested in slightly varied symptoms. If I didn’t need to weigh my thin patient, why should I weigh my fat one?

Several practitioners talked about obesity as if it in and of itself was the problem.

They talked about gathering BMI measurements and taking weight measurements to help them assist the client in promoting better health. However, obesity is not in and of itself a problem. It is often correlated with other problems. Helping those other issues that may go in tandem with obesity is great if the patient comes to you for those issues. If you are actually treating the root cause, rather than focusing on the symptom, you might end up having a person who loses weight on your watch and maybe they even keep some of it off. To say that a fat person is unhealthy just because they have a large BMI is not true.

Practitioners were often quick to point out to the size acceptance people that we were wrong.

There was no scientific evidence used to back up the claims that we were wrong. It was only “common wisdom” that was used and everybody knows “that”. That’s  not an effective argument. Please point out the science behind what you think is wrong. Until then, I’m going to say they’re right. My links have science behind them and they quote it.

I am particularly disappointed that such arguments came from acupuncturists, because “everybody knows” acupuncture has no science behind it.

There were many suggestions on the thread about lifestyle changes, mainly diet and exercise.

Diets don’t work. Neither does adding exercise. Do I really need another link to Shapely Prose?  It’s healthier to maintain a stable weight than it is to lose a lot of weight only to regain it a few years later. That should be obvious to practitioners who are about balance. However, let’s remember balance is not static, it is something that fluctuates from time to time. The most stable systems can adjust and re-adjust on a regular basis. These systems, however, make small adjustments. That means that small weight fluctuations, like one or two or five pounds that get gained and lost are far healthier than fifteen or fifty pounds that get lost and then gained.

There were a few suggestions about measuring BMI.

Apparently, the BMI is “objective” and because of that, taking it and reporting it isn’t a judgement but merely a fact and therefore patients will hear the news that they are fat and will do something about it.

First, BMI measurements are an arbitrary measurement. They’ve been changed overnight so that many normal weight people became overweight, just because someone decided to change the categories.

Second of all, fat people know they’re fat. You don’t have to give them an objective reading. This will not be motivating. Trust me, all fat people are motivated to lose weight and if you actually have an unmotivated fat person sitting in your office, that person isn’t motivated because they’ve failed so many times they don’t want to get their hopes up again.

Or you may have a fat activist in your office, in which case you might actually learn something if you listen to them.

There is an insistence that there is a general consensus that being overweight or obese leads to health issues.

This is not true. At all. Except among people who sell diet products. As to the other side of that argument, please refer back to Kate Harding’s site.

One person suggested that obese people don’t want to change.

Well, maybe. Not everyone does. They may already be aware that those changes you want them to make don’t work. They may have tried things you’ve never considered and they are still fat. So why should they change? Additionally, if they are there for health reasons, maybe dealing with the illness is not the best time for major lifestyle change. It may be that they’re expending all their energy just to exist and get to their various doctor’s appointments.

Now, let’s consider that during the thread a number of people talked about how diets don’t work (see above) and that weight loss may not be as easy as you’ve tried to make it sound, and yet you refuse to comment on any of the great links offered. Can I suggest that perhaps you don’t want to change either?

In order to help a sick person, acupuncturists need to address diet and lifestyle.

I don’t disagree with that in general. I do disagree with suggesting people need to eat less or eat lower calorie foods. In fact, I suspect many of my fat patients actually need to eat more. As to how much change needs to be made, perhaps you need to start working on the acupuncture side of that and making small suggestions after finding out about the current lifestyle first rather than looking at someone and deciding what their lifestyle must be.

According to one person, acupuncture can help people get to a mental and spiritual place to make the “needed changes” in lifestyle.

I have no words. For this I consulted Ragan Chastain at Dances with Fat and  who said, “This is problematic on a number of levels, first of all, if you think that you can tell from someone’s body size that they need to make spiritual changes, in fact if you are under the impression that body size gives you any information other than the size of the body and your personal attitudes about bodies that size, then I urge you to refer your fat patients to another practitioner until you are able to properly address your prejudices and stereotypes around fat bodies.

“People are many different sizes for many different reasons, there are healthy and unhealthy people of every shape and size, and healthy habits and spiritual balance are not different for different body sizes.  If you run an evidence-based practice you already know that there is no weight loss technique shown to work for more than a tiny fraction of participants. ”

I am troubled by the lack of size acceptance among many practitioners because as acupuncturists we are uniquely suited to help all people get healthy.  It’s  a medicine that insists we treat the root cause. The root cause of  a fat person’s health problems is not being fat. Fat is a symptom. Consider that most women, and even some men (and the percentage of those men is growing) have been dieting off and on for years. In addition to pure caloric starvation, the body is also getting a lot of low calorie fake foods that have minimal nutrition and lots of chemicals that may actually exacerbate the problem. The diabetes and heart disease and hypertension may have less to do with the excess weight and more to do with the excess dieting.

I have information about my own health that I’m willing to share, but that may need to come in another post, because to see me, a fat-ish woman and tell me to eat less would be exactly the opposite of what my doctor told me. And yeah, we did blood work and plenty of tests. Oh and did I mention my doctor is a naturopath? I will talk more about that in a related post. I would also like to address the energetics of being fat in our world, which is a lot more complex than addressing just the spleen. But that’s yet another post. In fact, the combination of all of my commentary might end up being a book.

I’ll leave you with more words from Ragan. “If you want to work appropriately and effectively with fat patients, then I encourage you to think of them exactly like your thin patients, only bigger.  Explain that you can help them have their best possible health, and that health and body size are not the same thing.  Encourage them to pursue healthy habits and allow their body size to settle where it will, rather than attempting to manipulate their body size through food, exercise and acupuncture.

“The only changes you need to make are to your practice – make sure that you have chairs without arms, oversized tables and/or wings to make them wider to accommodate broad-shouldered and fat patients, and work on identifying and eradicating any prejudice that you might have against people of a certain size.  Finally, help your patients see that the social stigma to which they are currently subjected, which is of course horrible for their health, is not deserved and that the solution to social stigma is not weight loss, but ending social stigma and the problem lies not with their bodies, but with a society that has developed prejudice against it.”

And if you want to know more, in addition to her blog, which is a great read, Ragan does speaking engagements. This could be a great learning experience for a group of local healthcare providers who want to better serve their clients of size.

Adventures in Chinese Medicine

Adventures in Chinese Medicine is the new book by Jennifer Dubowsky L.A.c, a book on Chinese Medicine, geared towards those patients who want to learn more about the medicine, without having to spend years in acupuncture school.

Dubowsky is originally from Evanston, Illinois and went to Southwest Acupuncture College. After finishing acupuncture school, she returned to Chicago and has practiced there since 2002.

I asked her to share a little bit more about her book. Dubowsky says, “I wanted to share my passion for this work so, my intention for Adventures in Chinese Medicine is to convey the essential ideas and describe some of the well known techniques of Traditional Chinese Medicine in friendly language illustrated with charts, photographs, cartoons, and diagrams.”

Adventures in Chinese Medicine explains common treatments and the history behind them, such as: Acupuncture; Cupping; Moxabustion; and Herbal Medicine. There are also sections that describe unique concepts that are fundamental to Chinese Medicine – Yin and Yang, Qi, meridians, and the five elements. I believe that all people will be able to relate to the discussion of these ideas.

“My target audiences are those who are curious and want to learn more about the practices and philosophy of Chinese Medicine; practitioners who want to educate their patients; and certainly for patients who already love their treatments and want to understand more about how they work.”

While there are few really good books for lay people on acupuncture, as the profession gains traction, there are more books coming out. I asked Dubowsky what made her book unique.

She says, “My book is unique because I made sure that it is enjoyable (as well as informative) and people will be able to connect to the concepts. Adventures is also visually inviting and beautiful. I worked very hard to create a reader-friendly book and I think having a super girl of Chinese Medicine makes it even more cool and fun for the reader.”

The cover stands out, with it’s acupuncture “super girl” jumping towards the reader from the cover, creating interest from the moment it’s viewed on the shelf.  Dubowsky didn’t actually do the drawings. Instead she conveyed the sort of look she wanted to an illustrator who did the actual drawing for her.  She did do the charts and tables and her mother drew a couple of the diagrams.

Writing a book for lay people means really listening to patients. I asked if Dubowsky had any advice for people explaining the medicine to their patients.  Her biggest advice is to “listen, listen, listen” to what the patient is asking and then explain as simply and as clearly as possible.

For those who want a taste of Dubowsky’s style, she writes at Acupuncture Blog Chicago on a regular basis. Talking about her blog, Dubowsky says, “My blog is intended for anyone interested in learning more about Chinese Medicine and good health. As in my book, I try to maintain a writing style that is friendly and approachable.” Dubowsky has been writing her blog since 2008.

I asked Dubowsky how much work writing the book was.  She said, “From conception to publication, this took over two years to finish with writing and re-writing.” She does plan to write some more books but first she feels like she needs a break. Her patients were often involved in the process and were very supportive. Dubowsky says she asked patients for reactions to the cartoons and the topics she covered.

Dubowsky says, “Adventures in Chinese Medicine has been a labor of love, and I hope it is received as such. I think it is truly a one of a kind book, that many people will enjoy and get something from it.”

 

 

10 Myths About Acupuncture

Book1The best way to learn something is to do it. I wanted to be sure that I had the ability to format a book for any publisher and I wanted to start formatting something with endnotes and table of contents.  To that end, I published by short book, 10 Myths About Acupuncture.

I’ve written this book for the lay person who is interested in acupuncture, but perhaps too afraid to try it. They’ve seen the news and wondered if it could help them but they have a lot of misconceptions.  My goal for this book is for potential patients to feel safe making the choice to try acupuncture.  While the style is a bit more pendantic than I would like, I wanted to make sure that my word choices were exact and my information clear.

I hope that if you have a need to share this information with potential patients, you will think of me.

Acupuncture, Business, Marketing and Classes

_MG_6805There’s been a long discussion with fellow acupuncturists on Facebook about the costs of becoming an acupuncturist (way to high now days) and the differences between practicing acupuncture and being a good business person.

I am struck that the vast majority of people who really count themselves wildly successful, beyond the dreams of many acupuncture students, are people who love both the business and the acupuncture side.  Those that are successful and making a living doing what they love may love just being an acupuncturist.  It takes some time to decide who you are and what you want.

One woman that I see as very energetic doesn’t see herself that way but she was bound and determined to be successful as a practitioner and she is.  She got there within a few months of being out of school because she wasn’t going to let anything limit her chances of making it.   Other people took longer.  Still others worked very hard, took some time but made long term plans that included not just working for themselves and seeing one person an hour but figured out ways to leverage their working hours by seeing more patients or by taking on other practitioners.  The advantage of this is clear.  The employer made more money per hour.  The downside, of course, is that the work isn’t all about acupuncture any longer.  It’s a business.

I don’t think there is any one way to run a business. There’s no one way to go about your practice or find a niche or see patients.  There are many ways.  There are certain things the successful people do in one way shape or form.  Eric Grey, who has a successful practice at Watershed Wellness Center is setting up a year long acupuncture business course.  If you are an acupuncturist don’t have a waiting list or are frustrated with things you barely understand in business, consider looking at his offering.  It’s based on Classical Chinese Medicine too, so you can work and live the philosophy which is so important to people.  Check it out.

Fostering Life

I think it’s very easy to get so caught up in labeling life experiences good and bad.  There’s nothing wrong with doing this.  Of course, when we do that, we risk alienating ourselves from the stuff we label bad which is part of life too.

Mauricio Quintana, writes about the Wisdom of enough in Chinese Medicine over at Deepest Health.  I love this post because it’s a great reminder about balance, about acceptance and about the concept of not too little and not too much.  The article is definitely worth a read.