A study published in 2000 by the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that the average American’s weight gain over the holiday season (between Thanksgiving to New Year’s) was just under one pound. A more recent study in 2016 by the same journal revealed an average weight gain of one pound per year. Both studies also revealed that the weight gain was not reversed during spring or summer months, contributing to long-term adult weight gain. This data falls in line with the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data which states that most adults experience a modest increase in weight over a period of time.
Why should this matter to you? The National Institute of Health has associated a body mass index of greater than 30 and waist size greater than 35 inches in women and 40 inches in men are associated with increased risk of:
- Heart disease
- Certain types of cancer
- Type II diabetes
- Hypertension or associated kidney disease
- Fatty liver disease
- Sleep apnea
- Complicated pregnancies
In 1999-2000, 13.9 percent of children and 30.5 percent of adults were reported to have a calculated BMI of greater than 30. In a 2015-2016 survey, these numbers have risen to 18.5 percent and 40 percent respectively.
How can you achieve or continue to maintain a healthy BMI and waist circumference? Below are a few simple changes you can make to your daily routine, which in turn will decrease the risk of developing one or more of the conditions mentioned above:
Cut out processed sugar
The World Health Organization recommends consuming less than 25 grams of added sugar daily. As a reference — an average 12 fl. oz. soda contains 50 grams of sugar!
Get up and get moving
One major reason why weight gain occurs over the holidays is due to decreased physical activity. While this can be challenging during the long Montana winters, there are solutions! Figure out what types of activities bring you joy.
- Take a thirty minute stroll in your favorite department store, shopping center, grocery store, thrift store
- Find a workout buddy to keep you accountable
- Swimming in an indoor pool
- Snow sports (skiing, snowboarding, snow shoeing)
- Fitness apps and YouTube videos
Depending on your current fitness regimen, start with a goal that is realistic for you and increase duration and frequency gradually. For example, you can start with 20 minutes of any type of mild-moderate cardiovascular activity twice per week, after one month increase to 3 times per week, etc.
Unmanaged chronic stress results in chronic activation of the hypothalamic pituitary axis. This results in prolonged glucocorticoid exposure which promotes energy storage as fat. Below are some strategies for healthy stress management:
- Seeking support from family, friends, support groups, counseling
- Daily meditation/positive affirmations
- Apps: Insight Timer, Headspace
- Neurotransmitter support in the form of amino acids/botanicals
- Getting quality sleep
Other options that can further support you in your weight loss goals include:
- Calculate your basal metabolic rate, also known as your daily calorie needs, via online applications or bioimpedance analysis
- Genetic testing to learn which food groups are optimal for your metabolism
- Addressing the gut microbiome with certain probiotic strains
Consult with a health care provider to discuss your personal goals in regards to weight loss and prevention of chronic disease. Your health care provider will be able to help to individualize your plan and ensure that you are on a path to success. Remind yourself that self-care is not taught in school and to be patient with yourself and your body during this journey. Most importantly, remember to enjoy yourself in the process and appreciate all of the small changes and improvements along the way.
Dr. Jinda Chaijinda has guided patients through various detoxification protocols in her four years of medical training. She is a naturopathic doctor at the Yellowstone Naturopathic Clinic where in addition to detoxification, she specializes in naturopathic oncology, integrative primary care, cardiovascular health, diabetes and digestive health.