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Tackling Asia's growing waistline

From Jaime FlorCruz, CNN Beijing Bureau Chief

The clinic says acupuncture helps reduce appetite and improve metabolism.
The clinic says acupuncture helps reduce appetite and improve metabolism.

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Acupuncture and exercise are the keys to losing weight at a Chinese obesity clinic.
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All this week CNN will be looking at some of the latest health trends in Asia. Tune in to CNN International TV or log on to International editon and find out more.

TIANJIN, China (CNN) -- Acupuncture needles get planted on the flabby frame of Cheng Jian, a 20-year-old student undergoing treatment to cure obesity.

The discomfort, he says, is nothing compared to the pain of being extremely obese.

"People talked behind my back because they hadn't seen a person as fat as I was," he tells CNN.

Cheng is one of the many Chinese and foreign patients who have checked into the Aimin Obesity Reduction Hospital to lose weight and gain self-esteem.

Twenty-five years of China's economic boom have brought good life, sedentary lifestyles and fat-laden food -- swelling people's waistlines.

"The number of obese youths grows 10 percent every year," says Aimin hospital director Shi Lidong. "It's partly because they are spoiled by doting parents and grandparents."

Aimin's doctors offer unconventional treatment.

"Acupuncture mainly helps reduce appetite and improve metabolism. But our treatment is holistic."

In the virtual fat farm, patients are given meals with carefully counted calories. They are also counseled on how to change eating habits.

In between meals, they do physical exercises, like running and dance aerobics.

The fat farm's solution is basic: eat less, and exercise more. Here, the chubby generation learns how to burn calories and melt the fat away.

But some weight-watchers still get nightmares while trying to curb their cravings.

"A fellow patient dreamt of eating out with her parents, but they refused to give her food," says a camper, Wang Ping.

Meng says he has lost 126 kilograms (278 pounds) in three years.
Meng says he has lost 126 kilograms (278 pounds) in three years.

"She shouted in her dream, 'why not let me eat!' We were all awakened by her screams."

Fat-farmers get emotional support and inspiration from graduates like Meng Qinggang, Aimin's most celebrated success story.

Meng weighed 215 kilograms (473 pounds) when he sought Aimin's help three years ago.

"I used to eat five meals a day. I needed help to put on clothes or walk. I was close to dying," Meng tells CNN.

Meng then lost 80 kilos (176 pounds) in 100 days, and slimmed down even more. He now weighs 89 kilos (196 pounds).

"I can now drink beer and even eat fried, high-calorie food. It's okay as long as the amount is right," he says. "And I run regularly."

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