According to Eastern traditions yin and yang are energetic forces that shape everything in the universe, including your body and health. Knowing this aspect to your own constitution empowers you to choose food and activities that can help you more easily be lean and balanced. It frees you of the futility of counting calories and fat grams or checking your blood for cholesterol or nutrient levels.

As a nutritionist, I find this far more practical in guiding someone to his or her ideal eating plan than calculating recommended allowances or daily values.

Balancing the yin and yang forces in the body has been the foundation of Eastern philosophy on health and diet for thousands of years. On the other hand, Western “vitamins” were not identified until 1910. We still aren’t done finding new vitamins (a new B vitamin was just discovered by the Japanese in 2003).

The “calorie” was identified in the mid 1800’s as a unit of heat. No one started counting them for weight loss until the early 1900’s. Researchers suspect we are not finished identifying all the possible nutrients essential for human health. Yin and yang on the other hand have been mapped out and guiding human health for centuries.

Yin and Yang Demystified
The Chinese symbol for yin is the shady side of the hill, whereas the symbol for yang is the sunny side. Thus yin qualities include coolness, dampness, and darkness relative to the yang qualities of warmth, dryness, and light. Winter is yin, whereas summer is yang. Night is yin while day is yang.

Arthritis worsened by cold, damp weather is a yin condition. A red, inflamed rash aggravated by heat is a relatively yang condition. A ruddy-faced irritable woman with high blood pressure is relatively yang whereas an anemic, pale melancholy woman is, by comparison, yin.

Yin foods tend to be cooling and/or moistening to the body. Yang foods tend to be warming and/or drying. This has less to do with the actual temperature or moisture content and more to do with food energetics. Boiled spinach and watermelon, for example, are both cooling and moistening. Wine, even chilled wine, is warming, as is all alcohol. A lamb stew or ginger tea is warming. Toast, while dry to the touch, is moistening and can even lead to dampness in the body when eaten to excess whereas steamed broccoli has a drying quality.

By paying attention to your body and understanding the energetics of what you eat, you can make meal choices for balance, weight loss and health.

We all have signs of cold or heat, dampness or dryness. Problems arise when our constitution swings too far in one direction. By noticing changes or extremes in your constitution, and making necessary changes to your diet, you may be able to avert a health problem, thus avoiding pain, disease and costly medical care.

Yin and Yang of Weight Gain
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) weight gain is a yin pattern generally characterized by excess dampness. You can’t get rid of dampness by counting calories. Many traditional diet foods are damp, including salads, fruit, smoothies, and pasta. I see some clients gain excess weight on a diet of these foods.
The key to burning fat without dieting or cutting calories is to choose foods that improve digestion and rid your body of excess dampness. This is also the best way to control cholesterol, tumors, growths and fluid retention. You don’t need to eat less to lose weight; in fact many of my clients lose weight only when they start eating more.

Which Pattern Are You?
Although more complex than this, the following chart will give you an idea of your constitution. If your body shows more signs in the cold and damp categories, you are relatively more yin than yang. If you show more qualities of heat and dry, you are probably relatively yang. To confuse things, you may be a combination of all, perhaps dampness (bloating) in your digestion, and dry skin and hair. This is not uncommon. If you’re confused, ask about a custom nutrition plan.

Are You Yin or Yang?

Signs of Yin Imbalance Signs of Yang Imbalance
Feels chilly
Dresses warm
Clear urine
Loose stools
Pale complexion
Prefers warm food
Slow metabolism
Not thirsty
Feels hot
Dresses cool
Dark urine
Red face
Bleeding gums
Craves cold
Restless sleep
Disturbing dreams
Dislikes humidity
Stuffy nose
Postnasal drip
Mental fog
Abdominal bloat
Fluid retention
Little hunger
No thirst
Soft, fatty
Cloudy urine
Puffy eyes/face
Shortness of breath
Heavy feeling
Overheats easily
Chilled easily
Dry skin/hair
Red cheeks
Craves sweets
Dry stools
Drinks small sips
Dry throat/eyes
Night sweats
Yin/Yang Balance With Food
Warming Foods
Dark poultry
Stews, soups
Nuts, seeds
Warm food, drinks
Cooked food
Good fats

Avoid: Raw salads, Raw fruit,
Spinach, Tofu, Milk, Iced drinks
Cooling Foods
Mung beans
Lima beans
White fish
Fermented dairy*
Tepid water

Avoid: Alcohol, Sugar,
Lamb, Eel, Garlic, Ginger,
Excess Nuts, Over Exercise
Drying Foods
Bitter greens
Mustard greens
Grilled lean meats
Pumpkin seeds
Bitter flavor
Pungent flavors

Avoid: Wheat, Sweets,
Highly Salted, Dairy
Eating Fast, Overeating
Moistening Foods
Egg yolks*
Whole milk dairy*
Dark poultry*
Black beans
Black sesame seeds
Soups, stews
Green beans
Napa cabbage
Sea vegetables
Good fats

Avoid: Low Fat Diets,
Spicy Foods, Excess Bitter,
Over Exercise, Stress
*all meats, poultry & dairy need to be sustainable or organic as well as hormone & antibiotic-free.