BEIJING (Reuters Life!) - Tired of dieting and exercising? Some Chinese have found a more pleasant way to lose weight through massage and acupuncture, traditional therapies in a country with one of the world's fastest rising obesity rates.
These ancient methods are becoming popular ways to reduce waistlines in China, where some health experts estimate over a quarter of the adult population is overweight or obese.
Zhao Jizhong is one of the beneficiaries of China's relatively recent obsession with Western-style fast food and increasingly sedentary lifestyles, seen as the side-effects of the country's economic prosperity.
Zhao, who set up two centers that focus on traditional therapeutic techniques such as massage and acupuncture two years ago, opened a third last month in Beijing due to rising demand.
And while massage and acupuncture don't make fat disappear miraculously, they cause weight loss indirectly, the medical doctor explained.
"The main reason for us to develop such therapies is to promote blood circulation," Zhao told Reuters.
"It suppresses the feeling of hunger, and reduces insulin. The fat then gets digested out of the system. The therapy doesn't require any medicine and it's very effective."
According to Zhao, most patients lose between 3 kg and 5 kg (7 lb to 11 lb) after a course of 12 massage sessions, or between 2.5 kg and 4 kg after a course of 10 acupuncture sessions, with heavier patients losing weight faster than slimmer ones.
Each treatment is different, with Zhao targeting certain parts of the body depending on the patient's condition.
Although Zhao's Beijing clinic is hard to find, treatments are booked solid. Most patients are women.
But it's not cheap. A massage course costs starts at 800 yuan ($117.1), while acupuncture sessions are around 380 yuan. Most patients opt for massage, as it works faster and is not as intrusive as the needle-based acupuncture, Zhao said.
"Out of all weight losing methods, this is the most relaxed and the easiest way," said Song Yonghong, 47, whose weight plummeted after an intense, long-term massage program.
"You will feel more energetic even without injections and medicine. I have decided to adopt this wonderful weight loss therapy for the rest of my life," she said.
The World Health Organization predicts that China will have 42 million cases of diabetes, a disease linked to excess weight, by 2030 -- a two-fold increase from 2009.
Yet Zhao admits his treatments are not for everyone.
Massage and acupuncture are more effective on obese and grossly overweight people, than those seeking to take off a few pounds, he said.
And the treatment process takes a relatively long time to show results when compared to conventional means -- that is, exercise and diet.
Editing by Miral Fahmy