Preventing Fall Weight Gain

by Dr. Suzanne Bentz

Brace yourselves…October signals the official start of weight gain season and it has come bearing no mercy. By now we’re all too familiar with the stereotypical weigh-gain pattern of the holiday season, that’s old news. What is unknown is why it needs to be that way. People tend to gain around seven pounds each holiday season, a staggering fact attributable to several factors.

SEASONAL GOODIES

My definition of “holiday” is when an abundance of culinary – or, in some cases, less than culinary –   temptations are everywhere. Goodies appear in our homes and offices, at children’s activities and social gatherings and on restaurant menus and grocery store shelves.

October is synonymous with candy and pumpkins. Remember that candy is meant for the trick-or-treaters, not the homeowner. Best to purchase candy on the 30th, making selections that you don’t like. And as much as pumpkin-flavored anything is appealing, must you have a pumpkin-spiced, whipped cream-topped latte every afternoon? Instead, limit yourself to one this month, going light on the chantilly. Or better yet, get your fix from a pumpkin facial.

TEMPTATIONS INCREASE

After the summer hiatus, our calendars are bursting at the seams with scheduled outings which often feature food as the focal point. Gone are the days of chilled salads and salmon on the barbeque. Grilled specialities are replaced with comfort food and hearty dinners go hand-in-hand with rich desserts.

The cooler weather invites amateur and pro chefs alike to craft all types of warm baked goods and rich dips. When invited to a friend’s home for dinner, it’s up to you to supply some sensible options like a vegetable or fresh fruit platter. When offered a slice of pie after dinner, just say “no.” You’ll thank yourself later. When dining out, order wisely.

DEPLETED VITAMIN D & AN INFLUX OF MELATONIN

As the days get shorter, we are less likely to seek the sun, so our bodies are unable to absorb as much Vitamin D as we do in the summer months. Individuals with Vitamin D deficiencies have a tendency to store more fat than those without a deficiency who use it to generate energy. Along the same lines, the shorter, darker days trigger our bodies to produce melatonin – the sleep hormone.

The lack of energy caused by the combination of these two sources leaves us feeling sluggish and unwilling to engage in physical activity, allowing fat to store more readily in our bodies.

HOLIDAY-INDUCED STRESS

With Thanksgiving and Christmas right around the corner, it’s no surprise that stress levels go up this time of year. Between preparing holiday meals, gift shopping, baking cookies, wrapping presents, entertaining out-of-town guests and decorating the tree you still have your daily work and home responsibilities. At best, it’s a juggling act that can stress out even the most calm person.

Stress has been scientifically proven to induce hunger, prompting individuals to make nutritional decisions on the basis of cravings rather than nutrition. A hectic schedule can lead to meals on-the-run or even skipping mealtime all together. Refrain from downfall by finding external outlets to relieve stress like mid-day walks, meditation or yoga.

COLDER WEATHER KEEPS US INSIDE

While Arizona boasts a milder climate than other states, the chilly weather seems brutal and uninviting to many. Since laying by the pool is no longer a viable pastime, people resort to the comfort of their temperature-controlled homes. This lack of movement combined with ease of access to an abundant food source is a dangerous recipe for weight gain.

If you do decide to make home your base camp during the cooler months, be mindful of your food intake. Moving less, you require less, but you still need to feed your body with nutrients. Don’t snack: instead keep to your meal schedules. Find some physical activity to get you moving indoors like exercising to that workout video, jumping rope, dancing to your playlist or a routine that includes some basic sit-ups, jumping jacks and stretches.

Founder and Medical Director of Red Mountain Weight Loss, Dr. Suzanne Bentz is Board Certified by the American Board of Obesity Medicine. She has practiced medicine for more than 20 years, pursuing a lifelong passion of helping patients lose weight. For more information, visit www.redmountainweightloss.com