OBESITY

A small number of essential oils are sometimes described as being useful in losing weight. The most notable of these is Fennel, which has had the reputation of suppressing hunger since at least the time of Julius Caesar. Roman soldiers on long marches carried fennel seeds in their pouches to chew until they could make a meal at the next stopping place. Throughout the Middle Ages and well into the Tudor era, devout Christians used fennel in the same way to help them through the various fast days of the church calendar. Fennel is also a mild diuretic which could help if fluid retention was involved, and a detoxifier, which could be valuable if previous poor diet had created a build up of toxins in the body, but would not directly contribute to weight loss.

Garlic and Onion are mentioned by some French authors, and both these oils have a strong stimulant action on the thyroid gland. If an under active thyroid, leading to slow metabolism is the cause, either of these oils could help, preferably in capsule form, or simply by including plenty of garlic and raw onion in meals.

Rosemary is a general stimulant and tonic which can help to get a sluggish metabolism on the move and Geranium is a hormone balancer which could be taken into consideration if it seems likely that an imbalance is part of the problem.

However, the root causes of obesity are very seldom simple physiological ones, and the most important role of the aromatherapist in helping overweight people is to look at the often complex emotional states underlying the gain of excess weight. As these may be immensely varied, so the choice of oils can be very wide, taking in all those which help in situations of stress, depression, anxiety, lack of confidence and so on.

Here, we should mention Bergamot in particular because it is often used to stimulate appetite, but it has been used successfully to help compulsive eaters. This suggests that either it has a normalising effect, rather than a stimulating one, on the appetite centre in the brain, or that it is not working directly on the physical body at all, but rather on the mental or emotional state that has caused the appetite to go awry, and in view of everything else we know about Bergamot, the latter is suspected .

Many fat people intensely dislike their own bodies, so the mere fact of receiving a massage regularly can be a tremendous revelation. Treating the body with respect, nurturing and pampering it may be a completely new experience, and can help to build up a more positive self-image. Once this has been achieved, it becomes easier to tackle such questions as exercise and long-term changes in eating habits.

Weight loss, especially if it has been fairly rapid, can leave the previously fat person looking and feeling rather 'saggy', so later massages might be geared to improving skin and muscle tone, which will once again give a boost to confidence as the appearance improves.

Counselling, mutual-support groups or even psychotherapy may help some people, but aromatherapy will certainly reinforce any other therapy or treatment.

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