Holiday Weight Gain
A new year brings about new resolutions, and most common resolution is to lose weight. November, December and January are key times when weight is usually gained over the holidays, because people tend to eat more foods high in carbohydrates, trans fats, and sugar than they normally do. Unfortunately gaining weight is an extremely easy task for most of us. The good news is that with enough will and determination, losing 5-15 pounds is not as difficult as the majority of us tend to think. The cornerstone idea to losing weight is simple: exercise regularly and eat healthy meals.
Diet Pills or Prescriptions
People who don’t want to bother to change their lifestyle and dietary habits to include exercise and healthy meals, often turn to diet pills to lose weight. There are many diet pills in the market today such as Zantrex 3 and Hydroxycut.
Your doctor may consider weight-loss prescriptions for you if haven’t been able to lose weight through diet and exercise and if you meet one of the following criteria:
- Your body mass index (BMI) is greater than 30
- Your BMI is greater than 27 and you have a serious medical problem related to obesity, such as diabetes or high blood pressure (Mayo Clinic, 2015)
According to the Mayo Clinic (2014),
“Dietary supplement manufacturers aren’t required by the Food and Drug Administration to prove that their products are safe and effective, so view these products with caution and skepticism, and always let your doctors know about any supplements you take.”
Even though some diet pills and prescription drugs may prove to be effective in terms of melting the pounds away, the healthiest way to lose weight is not to introduce foreign chemicals in the body.
Metabolism is the process your body goes through to convert food into energy. The energy created by this process is then used by the body to function properly. Energy is needed for people to breathe and regulate hormones in the body.
People can have “metabolic diseases” as a result of inefficient metabolismA metabolic disease is the result of a loss of any one many enzymes required for efficient metabolism. The enzymes needed are different for different substances. If someone has inefficient enzymes for the metabolism of carbohydrates, for example, they might have lactose intolerance, glycogen storage diseases, galactosemia. If they have insufficient enzymes for amino acids, the metabolic disease might be phenylketonuria, or maple syrup urine disease and if they don’t have the sufficient enzymes for fat metabolism this might result in Tay-Sachs disease. (Murgatroyd, 2011)
Several factors will determine a person’s ability to lose weight in a certain amount of time. Mayo Clinic (2014) provides information on the subject in the following:
- Your body size and composition. The bodies of people who are larger or have more muscle burn more calories, even at rest.
- Your sex. Men usually have less body fat and more muscle than do women of the same age and weight, burning more calories.
- Your age. As you get older, the amount of muscle tends to decrease and fat accounts for more of your weight, slowing down calorie burning.
Physical activity will also determine weight loss. The amount of physical activity and exercise you get will either result in weight loss or weight gain. Mayo Clinic (2014) states:
“Unfortunately, weight gain is complicated. It is likely a combination of genetic makeup, hormonal controls, diet composition, and the impact of environment on your lifestyle, including sleep, physical activity and stress. All of these factors result in an imbalance in the energy equation. You gain weight when you eat more calories than you burn-or burn fewer calories than you eat.”
Regular exercise can help you burn the amount of calories you desire and it can also help you maintain a healthy weight. Examples of regular exercise include, but are not limited, to the following:
- Playing sports
If these activities are not convenient for you due to your schedule or lifestyle, there are simpler alternatives to losing weight. Increasing the frequency of these daily activities can help you burn more calories.
- Cleaning the house
- Doing the laundry
- Tending to the garden
- Washing the car
- Taking care of children
- Walking up and down the stairs
Besides losing weight, regular exercise has many other benefits. The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (formerly the Harvard School of Public Health) (2015) states the benefits of regular exercise includes, but are not limited, to the following:
- Improves your chances of living longer and living healthier
- Helps protect you from developing heart disease and stroke or its precursors, high blood pressure and undesirable blood lipid patterns
- Helps protect you from developing certain cancers, including colon and breast cancer, and possibly lung and endometrial (uterine lining) cancer
Figure 1: USDA Recommended Food Portions
The United States Department of Agriculture (2015) recommends the following diet per day for men and women:
- 2 cups of fruit
- 2-3 cups of vegetables
- 6-8 ounces of whole grains
- 5-6 ½ ounces of lean protein
- 3 cups of dairy
Avoid eating foods with a high percentage of fat or sugar. It’s greatly recommended to either limit your intake of alcohol or abstain from drinking alcoholic beverages altogether. Drink plenty of liquids such as water, teas, and juices. Figure 1 goes further in-depth on the types of whole grains and lean proteins to consume as well as how much of each food group is recommended for one meal.
Conclusion and Summary
Honestly, a diet of any nature, such as the one expressed above, can difficult for some to maintain, especially if you have a full-time career and/or a family to care for. It is wise to do some research on the diet that is most suitable for your lifestyle. You don’t want to have unrealistic expectations of yourself if you know deep down that the results will be impossible to achieve. If it seems too challenging to jump into a diet right away, there is no shame in taking it one step at a time. Try eating more fruits and vegetables at first. You could bring one or two servings of carrot sticks to work so you could nibble on them during your break. Then, when you feel more comfortable, you could incorporate more physical activity into your schedule. After a while, it might not even feel like a diet, but a regular routine. Physical activity and eating healthy meals are vital to sustaining a long nourishing life and the benefits of these activities are endless.
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. (2015). Staying Active: Introduction. The Benefits of Physical Activity. The Nutrition Source
Mayo Clinic. (2014). Metabolism and weight loss: How you burn calories. Healthy Lifestyle: Weight Loss. Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic. (2015 ) Prescription Weight-loss Drugs: Can They Help You? Mayo Clinic
Murgatroyd, Chris, MD, Metabolic Disorders, Power of the Gene, Nova Science Publishers Inc., 1 Edition, February 2011, ISBN-10: 1608769496, 217 pages. PoweroftheGene.com
United States Department of Agriculture. (2015). Welcome to the Five Food Groups. Food Groups. USDA
This article is written by Hang Pham. Hang Pham is a Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance Health and Wellness Educator. Hang Pham was born in Hoc Mon, Vietnam. She came to America in 1994, becoming a U.S. citizen in 2011. Hang graduated from Seaside High School with diploma and received her AA in General Studies from Monterey Peninsula College in 2011. She received her BA in Collaborative Health and Human Services from California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) in 2012. In addition to working as a volunteer staff with the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance, she currently works as a Clerical Aid in the Human Resources Department of Salinas City Hall. The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a registered 501 (c) 3 nonprofit health and wellness education organization. For more information about the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance contact us or visit our website at www.montereybayholistic.com.
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