Dr. Amy’s Wellness Tip for September: Avoiding Happy Weight Gain
Have you ever heard of weight gain in the first year of marriage? How about the “Freshmen Fifteen” that occurs in the first year of college? For many of us, when we find ourselves transitioning to a new part of life, even when we are content or excited, we gain weight. The good news is that from what I hear from most of my patients, moving into a new community like ours is an exciting transition; you will have social events galore; more food, more drinks, and more time to explore your passions. All of these things, however, can make it easy to put on extra weight. In Arizona, where members are coming and going seasonally, this can be a yearly struggle as they readjust to the fun every fall. I’ve written before about possibly gaining a “Freshman Fifteen,” so it’s time for a refresher for the long-time members, and a warning for the new. It’s great to be excited and happy! Here are a few ways to avoid the possible weight gain that might tag along.
The easiest and most obvious way to prevent weight gain is to limit the addition of certain calories into your diet as much as possible. The biggest culprit is often the introduction or increased consumption of alcohol with more parties and dinners out. You don’t have to skip the party, but do try to keep moderation in mind. For men, your alcohol intake should not exceed two servings per day, and for women, a serving average of one and a half or less is recommended. These limits are intended to protect your liver function, but abiding by them will lessen the hit to your metabolism as well. Consider that the average 5-ounce glass of wine has 100 calories. If you do nothing but add two extra glasses of wine four nights a week, you’ve added 800 calories per week. If you do this for a year, you’ll have consumed an extra 41,600 calories. At 3,500 calories per pound, that’s about 12 pounds for the year. So, do you need to avoid wine and parties completely? Absolutely not, as this is a great time in your life and you should be out enjoying it. Furthermore, wine, in particular has cardiovascular and longevity benefits. However, if you are changing habits in your life that add extra calories, you need to make other lifestyle changes as well to help to metabolize those calories.
You can also boost your metabolism by mitigating blood sugar spikes associated with extra libations. Both sugary foods and alcohol can lead to blood sugar elevations and drops that cause you to store fat more efficiently. Consuming alcohol or sugar at the same time as fiber- or protein-rich foods can help you maintain a steady blood sugar level, in turn helping you to metabolize more efficiently. It is wise to have a healthy snack such as an apple, a few nuts, or some raw veggies prior to going to an event, so that you have some fiber in your system, which will help buffer any blood sugar response. The high-fiber foods will also leave you feeling satiated, making it easier to make good food and drink choices.
When you aren’t at parties and social events, strive for a whole foods, balanced diet. I will often check in with my patients to make sure that they are abiding by the 80/20 rule with their nutrition. In other words, try to get it right 80% of the time by including lots of vegetables, some fruit, whole grains, lean meats or proteins, water, and tea. Consume coffee and sugars in moderation and avoid sugar substitutes. I encourage patients to partake occasionally in short nutritional cleanses. These should be composed of clean eating and avoidance of sugars, sweeteners, alcohol, and preservatives. It is amazing to see how well your body responds to even a short break from foods and drinks that can slow it down over time. A healthy, whole food cleanse is also a great way to get you back to the 80/20 if you’ve slipped in the wrong direction. If you are interested in cleansing, I recommend finding a doctor to lead you through it.
You should also increase your activity. Although we now know that metabolism is more complicated than the old mantra of “calories in versus calories out,” it doesn’t mean it isn’t helpful to move those calories out, and that is, and will always be, with exercise. Especially if you are newly retired, get out there on that beautiful golf course, into that fantastic gym, on the bocce ball court, or into whichever sport draws you. Three hours of golf per week, (with a cart) will burn 700 calories. An hour of aerobics can burn another 400. If you make sure that you add just as much or more physical activity as you do social activity, your body will thank you.
There are additional ways to give your metabolism a little boost, including drinking green and white teas, and increasing your water intake to 50-75 ounces per day. Supplements such as resveratrol, CoQ10, and d-ribose can also help give you a boost.
As much as the previous paragraphs will help mostpeople avoid or begin losing their Freshman Fifteen, some of you have come to this point in the article only to be more frustrated. It is possible that you moved to the community and didn’t change your eating and drinking habits, and increased your activity, but still gained weight. Unfortunately, the hormones associated with stress, even good stress like the transitional moments in life that I referred to earlier, can lead to weight gain. Often times, this weight gain is caused by changes in cortisol levels/adrenal function. The adrenals struggle over time to continue to produce enough cortisol to respond to ongoing stress. Alternatively, they can produce too much. In either scenario, we typically gain and store weight more efficiently. Pair this with fluctuating thyroid and hormone levels that occur in your 50s and 60s, and you can find yourself with a struggling metabolism. If you think this might be the case, find a naturopath or integrative medicine provider in your area to investigate your metabolism and balance your hormones, thyroid, and adrenal function.
This is a great time for you. Have a wonderful time in your beautiful community. And in addition to socializing with your friends, exercise, eat well, and enjoy great health with them, and leave that extra weight behind.
Stay healthy & be well!
—Amy Whittington, NMD