How traditional Chinese medicine gave me two new lives
How I became one of the fattest men in China can perhaps be blamed on Tianjin baozi.
And it wasn't just baozi from Tianjin, but baozi from Jiangxi, Shenzhen and Henan. I became baozi fan and I couldn't get enough of them.
My weight gain was dramatic and something totally unexpected as I extensively trained in complementary and alternative medicine before coming to China and I fancied myself as a health expert.
Yet I didn't realize how quickly really delicious food can become irresistible.
So my weight rose quickly from the 80-kilogram-plus range to 110 kg. I thought, wow, how big and strong I am, not really acknowledging what was happening.
By the time I hit 130 kg I still didn't look fat, I stupidly told myself. I told myself I was a glowing example of health and my bigness was a success symbol. It certainly stopped people from arguing with me or giving me cheeky looks.
Yet by the time I hit 140 kg I knew something dodgy was happening. And I had to face reality .Furthermore, my son had just been born, a beautiful boy.
My teaching job in Henan was exciting, life was great, but I was too fat. Earlier in Shenzhen I saw a heart doctor who said I was going to die if I didn't take Western medicine beta blocker drugs. My blood pressure was 220/110. I was on a one-way ticket to death superfast with a young baby boy.
By the time I moved to Henan I had stopped eating chocolates. But there was still the Henan baozi, not as good as the mouthwatering Tianjin baozi, which is so delicious that I couldn't stop myself. Nevertheless, Henan baozi was also good.
I grew desperate. One of my students told me of a famous traditional Chinese medicine doctor that I should see. I grabbed the opportunity.
On the day I went to see this TCM doctor, I was hugely surprised to see an old small hospital, extremely humble with an old front door that needed attention. And what truly amazed me were the dozens upon dozens of people at the front hospital door lining up to see this famous and obviously very trusted TCM doctor. She was a legend.
So I waited until my turn. She quickly held my hand and she did a pulse reading. I don't know exactly how this works yet TCM doctors use this as a critical way to diagnose patients.
In just over a minute she said I had been eating raw cold vegetables straight from the fridge, especially salads that had not only destroyed my liver and kidneys and further caused weight gain but gave me fatty liver, which can be deadly by developing into liver cancer.
I was knocked off my chair by surprise. What she was saying was absolutely correct, as I had been using a mainly vegan diet of raw vegetables straight from the fridge plus baozis. I did not tell the doctor of this yet she knew it all. She knew by her pulse reading of me. She was like a magician.
This wonderful doctor, who was well into her late 60s, but looked like in her early 40s, then put me on Chinese herbal medicine plus a TCM diet of having two meals a day, breakfast and lunch, and not having dinner. I could do this for five days and then I would have dinner and then go with no dinner again for five days.
She also told me to stop all wheat and only eat rice with my vegetables. Also I was told to have moderate portions of rice. She told me to cook my food, not eat it raw. At night I used Chinese tea.
Within a month my weight was falling off. In the meantime, I moved to a fantastic teaching position in Wuxi, the famed city in Jiangsu Province. And for the next six months I maintained my TCM diet, did some extended daily walks, and lost a massive three kilograms a week.
On top of this, I found new TCM doctors at the fantastic Wuxi Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
They monitored me closely and guided every step of the way checking my liver constantly. Within six months I had fallen to just 75 kg. I had lost a massive 65 kg. Can you imagine?
I felt great. My blood pressure was 120/80 and my fatty liver was completely gone. Western medicine at the time had said fatty liver was an incurable disease.
I was off all Western medications. And my son was smiling a lot more.
A few years later, I began suffering from high blood pressure due to extreme stress. I was living and teaching in Sichuan. The stress was a result of grief from a family member dying.
In an earlier chapter of my life, I had done intensive academic research into complementary and alternative medicine in the Western country I come from. One of my three master degree theses I wrote examined a new area of medicine called mind/body medicine, where intensive meditation and diet was used to treat disease. This particular meditation technique came from India and Nepal and was introduced to the Western world in the 1960s.
This meditation technique, called stillness meditation, was invented by an Indian meditation/yoga teacher called Shivapura Baba who lived 137 years from 1826 to 1963. It seems incredible but it is true.
So I wrote one of my master's degree theses on him and mind/body medicine as many Western complementary and alternative medicine medical practitioners from Oceania, North America and Europe had been using Shivapura Baba's stillness meditation to treat disease since the 1960s. I became an expert in this.
I had used this mind/body medicine meditation technique earlier to treat some illnesses with amazing success. And I used it to treat my very high blood pressure caused by the grief of a family member dying. But my blood pressure did not come down, even though I meditated three hours a day. I went on blood pressure pills.
Sometime later, I started a new position at a university in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong. Again one of my students told me about a TCM doctor who treated many diseases successfully. This doctor was a master acupuncturist.
I had only two acupuncture sessions with this extraordinary TCM doctor and my blood pressure returned to normal. I was astounded as nothing had worked and I myself was a mind/body medicine "doctor". So again I found myself saved by TCM.
What this taught me about China was the great truth that Chinese culture is so sophisticated, so developed and so incredibly dynamic and that TCM is a truly great gift to the world. Chairman Mao Zedong realized its great power early and used it widely for his troops. He later developed TCM for everyone in China to have access to it.
My own academic research into complementary and alternative medicine has linked heavily into TCM. My PhD looked at how the latest in quantum physics verified exactly how TCM works.
And this, to me, is the magic of TCM. I strongly believe and now know there is a very firm modern science to verify all aspects of TCM. Plus, of course, this is backed up by the actual medical results of this astounding medicine.
I have met TCM doctors healing cancers, heart diseases, autoimmune diseases and other diseases. I have witnessed their patients proudly telling me in person of being healed of these diseases. I've also read extensive patient accounts of being healed of all of these deadly diseases with TCM.
TCM is truly a remarkable gift for the world. A gift that further enhanced my great love and dedication to China. I love China because the Chinese Government has developed the best country in the world by using socialism with Chinese characteristics. And TCM is part of that foundation, part of the great symbol of China.
The author is a journalist, teacher/academic, philosopher, poet, novelist and scientist who was based in China for nearly 20 years. He has taught in more than 15 Chinese universities and colleges and also in schools and published many books of journalism, poetry, fiction and philosophy.
The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of China Daily and China Daily website.
If you have a specific expertise and would like to contribute to China Daily, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and email@example.com.