Seasonal weight gain

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010; 11:00 AM

weight gain, holiday weight gain, gain weight, lose weight, thanksgiving weight gain, christmas weight gain, exercise

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Holiday bloat: How much weight gain is attributed to bloating in the intestinal tract caused by eating more than usual, and therefore not permanent?

Dr. Lawrence J. Cheskin: Very little is due to bloating; more can be fluid retention, esp from salty foods

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weight gain: I typically tend to put on weight during winter even though I sustain my physical activity. What do I do?

Dr. Lawrence J. Cheskin: Very common, mostly because we may eat more, stay indoors (and less physically active).Watch what you eat to avoid this.

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Hungry in Hyattsville: For a year and a half while nursing, I ate everything in sight and still lost weight. Now that I'm not nursing, I find myself just as hungry and piling on the pounds. I gained 5 pounds in six months so that I'm at or slightly above my pre-pregnancy weight. I'm especially nervous about the start of the holiday season and all those treats that are so hard to turn down, especially when I'm anxious! My sweet tooth is overpowering. Any tips on how to stop feeling hungry all the time and bring my eating within a normal range? I'm not much for counting calories because it makes me think about food all the time -- but maybe I will just have to?

Dr. Lawrence J. Cheskin: Try spreading your intake out- small snacks rather than full meals, and emphasize low energy-density foods like high fiber, high water content veggies and grains

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Go Bluejays!: I'm a Hopkins alumna and it's always nice to see a fellow BlueJay! I'm a vegetarian and one of the hardest aspects of the holidays is that there is so much meat and all the side dishes are laden with fat and sugar. Do you have any suggestions for navigating those holiday meals? What about meals in between? Should I be focusing on protein then to make up some of the lost protein during the holiday meals?

Dr. Lawrence J. Cheskin: Stay away from simple sugars, too.

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Seasonal Weight Gain: For years I have gained weight in the fall/winter and lost it in the spring/summer. I have noticed that the same thing happens to my dog. I am not as physically active in the winter as the summer, but I have more desire to eat. Is there not an evolutionary prediliction towards eating and storing fat in preparation for periods during which food has been scarce traditionally?

Dr. Lawrence J. Cheskin: We survived by avoiding weight loss, not by avoiding weight gain!

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To snack or not to snack?: Is it better to snack between meals or not? I am hungry all the time, but perhaps I've conditioned myself to eating more often. I sit next to a colleague from India who is as thin as can be. He does not eat between meals, whereas I do.

Dr. Lawrence J. Cheskin: Generally thinner people eat more frequently than obese, and do not skip breakfast and other meals, so snacking on low calorie items and eating breakfast can be a useful tool for weight control.

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CALORIES: I like to eat less during to week to "save" calories for the weekends, especially during the holiday season. What is the lowest calorie intake you would recommend? I am a 35 year old female, 5'4", 120, not overly active. I have heard to go no lower than 1200 on any given day, but that sounds high to me.

Dr. Lawrence J. Cheskin: Under a doctor's supervision, you can go much lower, but alone, probably safest to stay at 1200 or more on an average day.

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Breakfast: I get that eating healthy starts with a healthy breakfast. But I am not a morning person. What can I make ahead that I can literally grab and go (at most, I'm willing to microwave something the morning of.)

Dr. Lawrence J. Cheskin: A breakfast bar/meal replacement is not unreasonable given your conditions- make sure it's relatively low sugars, and has some protein.

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richmond: My big goal is to sneak more short exercise spurts into my day. I make change gradually, so I'm not going to get a gym membership and turn into a fanatic overnight. But as my metabolism ages, I need to integrate more exercise (for the sake of exercise, not fun--ie hiking) into my day. How can I trick myself into squeezing little energy spurts into my day?

Dr. Lawrence J. Cheskin: Think of what some call "lifestyle activity":take the stairs more, stand and move around while on the phone, park your car farther away, etc...

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Post-nursing weight gain: I had this too. I was able to stuff myself while nursing and then it was tough to put on the brakes. I recommend INTENSE cardio such as mountain climbers, jumping jacks, jump rope, your basic high-school conditioning type workout, even just a couple times a week, and limit the white starches and sugars. Go ahead and indulge in lean protein, vegetables, and steel-cut oats for breakfast. I was able to get one session with a nutritionist on my health plan and that was great too, because a sense of accountability to someone else makes an enormous difference

Dr. Lawrence J. Cheskin: Yes, but do be careful about intense activity if there are any health issues- check with your doctor.Accountability is often very important I agree- even telling friends and relatives what you are doing/planning helps.Monitor your compliance- keep logs of food and exercise....

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under 1200 a day: If the poster who wants to drastically cut during the week to save on calories for the weekend goes under 1200 per day, won't her body want to hold onto whatever calories she feeds it on the weekend? I thought eating a super-restrictive, i.e. 800-900 calories per day, could push your body into a bad space.

Dr. Lawrence J. Cheskin: Very low calorie level diets, though, are best done under medical supervision.

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Strategy: I'm naturally petite and quite active, but still need to watch it around the holidays or I'll gain. My strategy is to anticipate situations where there will be lots of food and plan what I really want to eat and enjoy, and what I can skip. For example, on Thanksgiving I indulge in turkey and stuffing...which I rarely get at other times...and skip the more ordinary items like mashed potatoes, bread, or the cheese plate. (I also load up on vegetables.) At a party, if I know the host makes a great pie I save room for that but cut back somewhere else. And I try to eat lunches rich in fruits and vegetables so I can indulge in other items at dinner. And if there is something I really, really want to eat, I enjoy a portion very mindfully instead of gulping it down. With this approach, I haven't gained weight in several years, and often lose over the holidays. It takes planning, but it's worth it...and I also avoid indigestion.

Dr. Lawrence J. Cheskin: Very good advice- thanks!

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Alcohol: I'm sure some people experience weight gain because of increased alcohol consumption during the holidays. I know for sure that I drink more alcoholic beverages than usual because of all the functions (parties, dinners, receptions). Some beverages are more caloric than others, and I try to stick to the lower calorie ones, and drink at least one glass of water in between drinks. I also set a limit before each function, which helps me be mindful.I'm interested in other tips.

Dr. Lawrence J. Cheskin: Good tips- also you can mix a small amt of wine in non-caloric sodas and make a wine spritzer.Nurse your drinks, and tell the server to go light on the hard stuff.

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Winter gain: If you routinely gain 5 lbs in the winter and lose it in the summer, does that actually matter from a health point of view? I understand that gaining and not losing is a bad idea, but if your body does its thing and seems okay, why stress out?

Dr. Lawrence J. Cheskin: I agree- that amount of weight change is not a problem if it's not cumulative.

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weight gain foods?: Dr. Cheskin: If you had to name a few foods you feel are most responsible for holiday weight gain, what would they be? For example, eggnog? Cookies? And are there any common holiday treats that are not a nutritional train wreck?

Dr. Lawrence J. Cheskin: Problem foods include cookies and cakes, high fat appetizers, fatty meats, and alcohol.Better choices include low-fat veggie dips, cut-up fruit bowls, etc


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