All Entries For weight gain

Should You Maintain Your Weight before You Lose?

"Weight loss is really hard---but maintaining that weight loss is even harder!"  If anyone out there agrees with this statement; please raise your hand. 
That’s what I thought. There are lots of hands held high.  It seems that most people struggle with the yo-yo syndrome: lose the weight, gain the weight, lose the weight, gain the weight.  But, what’s a dieter to do?  Perhaps it is time to put the cart before the horse.
Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine recently conducted a "switcharoo" when it came to weight loss and weight maintenance.  They took 267 overweight and obese females and divided them into two groups.  The control group went through a traditional 20-week weight-loss program followed by an eight-week maintenance phase. 

The test group went through the eight-week maintenance phase first, and then focused on weight loss for 20 weeks.  The results were surprising to say the least, and significant.  While each group lost about the same amount of weight--17 pounds or 9% of their initial body weight--the "maintenance-first" group only gained back three pounds at their one-year follow-up but the "weight loss first" group had gained back seven pounds, on average. 
Sounds crazy, doesn’t it!  But guess what?  Those women who first spent eight weeks mastering the tools, techniques and skills for weight maintenance were better equipped mentally and physically to handle the day-in, day-out struggle of their toxic food environment after the 28-week program was completed.  Are you itching to discover how?  
Posted 4/11/2013  12:00:00 PM By: Becky Hand : 118 comments   45,210 views
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Beware the Addictive Cues: How to Fight Food Cravings

I’ve just returned from a meeting at Harvard, where I participated in discussions about the new news in the science of addiction. Ironically, as I hopped on board my flight to Boston and was securing my seat belt, I looked up at the TV screen in front of me. It was lit up and clamoring for my attention with an invitation to "Chow Down. Eat Up!"  

Fascinated, I timed how long the invitation stayed up in my direct viewing. It stayed that way throughout the prep for departure and popped right back up after the flight attendant’s usual safety lecture. I felt like the screen was reaching right into my brain’s reward center, trying to infuse it with cues to eat, eat, eat!

It’s only an hour flight, but as soon as it was safe, the attendants were soon marching down the aisles announcing "cookies or nuts?" Captive in front of the screen and now invited to eat some hyperpalatable sugary/fatty/salty products, I noticed that most people caved. The majority of people grabbed a bag or two of the free food fare, and washed it down with a soda. This vivid memory was front and center in my mind as I began my meetings, reflecting on the remarkable way our brains are subjected to hijacking opportunities every minute of the day.

And there’s ground-breaking science to confirm that our reward centers are indeed undergoing real organic changes when we encounter any kind of cue to eat. Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, is a lead researcher in this field and has laid the groundwork for understanding how a cue affects how we make food choices. Peering into the brain using specialized brain scans, Dr. Volkow and her team found that it’s the cue, not the actual consumption of the food, that really ignites the emotion (limbic) and reward centers (nucleus accumbens) areas in the brain. In other words, there’s a process of conditioned learning that going on. Here’s the sequence:
Posted 3/28/2013  6:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 29 comments   28,531 views
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How to Prevent Weight Gain When You're Injured

Exercising regularly can be a challenge for many people even when they are healthy and injury-free. To maintain your fitness level, you have to be committed—and consistent—in your exercise routine. In my new book, The Art of Fitness: A Journey to Self-Enhancement, I dedicate two chapters to these principles alone because I know firsthand just how many people struggle to keep exercise a habit.
But what about those of us who suffer from an injury? As if there weren't enough barriers getting in the way of your desire to work out, an injury can really set you back—if you let it. Here are seven easy-to-do tips to assist you in maintaining your fitness level when you are dealing with an injury.
Posted 1/23/2013  6:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 29 comments   30,205 views
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The Cost of a Cocktail: Up to 18 Pounds a Year

The wassailers arrived on stage during the local production of the Boar’s Head Yule Log Festival.  Their voices boomed, yet blended beautifully.

Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leaves so green;
Here we come a-wand'ring
So fair to be seen.

Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too;
And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year
And God send you a Happy New Year.

Sitting in front of me was a little girl. She turned to the woman sitting next to her: “Mommy, Mommy,” she asked. “What’s a wassailer?”

Back in the day, the Christmas season made the rich a little more generous.  Therefore bands of peasants and beggars would dance and sing their way through the streets of England in hopes of obtaining drinks from the wealthy's wassail bowls, which contained a hearty combination of hot ale, beer, apple slices, and spices.  'Twas a perfect brew to warm a frozen nose and tingling toes, and these singers would head from home to home searching for more.

Since those carolers were walking door-to-door, they probably expended the wassail calories and didn't worry much about packing on the pounds.  Today however, this is probably not the case.  Not only can we blame alcohol for our weight gain, but many of us are drinking our calories instead of reaching for nutrient-dense foods. 

A recently released data brief from the National Center for Health Statistics reported on the calories consumed from alcoholic beverages by 11,000 U.S. adults from 2007-2010.  This information was obtained from adults, ages 20 and older, using 24-hour dietary recall interviews. The results are shocking!
Posted 12/21/2012  12:00:00 PM By: Becky Hand : 29 comments   27,503 views
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Could AC Be Making Us Fatter?

Temperatures in Cincinnati and across the country reached near-record highs over the past few weeks. I live in a third- and fourth-floor walk-up apartment just north of the city's center. According to my thermostat, it was 96 degrees Fahrenheit on the top floor of my apartment at 10 p.m.

I very rarely use air conditioning. I turned it on once this year when our fridge overheated and I needed to keep all our food on ice for 24 hours, and we used it the weekend it was over 100 degrees for three days straight, though we set it to 85.  I use it in the car sometimes when driving on the highway--I don't like so much wind blowing on me at high speeds--but even on the lowest setting I have to turn it off after a few minutes. Otherwise, I avoid it as much as I can.  

I'm a naturally cold person, requiring at least a sheet on even the most stifling of summer nights, wearing socks year-round, and shivering in the car, the office, and pretty much anywhere else that central air is in use. Going to a movie theater or the mall in summer leaves me with goosebumps and chattering teeth. When dining out during the warmest months, I opt for al fresco dining; it's no fun to shiver through your meals.

I grew up living in old houses, none of which had central air. From kindergarten through 12th grade, I went to school in buildings without it. My dorm room freshman year didn't have AC, but sophomore year it did, though I had moved to France by spring quarter, when we would actually need to use it. In France, neither my room nor my host mom's house was "climatisée" (air-conditioned) but we had heavy wooden shades that we could pull in to keep out the heat. I noticed there that some businesses or offices were air conditioned, but that didn't mean the entire building would be; the hallways, restrooms, and other communal areas often did not have AC. Most restaurants and small offices, even government ones, were not air conditioned; neither was my university.  No one seemed to mind its absence, so I soon stopped noticing.

Two weeks ago, I had to take my car in for a tune-up, in an area of town that offers little more than car dealerships, fast-food joints, and industrial sites. It wasn't exactly the ideal locale for a walk (on another 90+-degree afternoon) so I sat in the waiting area and responded to emails.

I carry an emergency sweater with me from May through September, which feels slightly ridiculous when walking about but is a lifesaver when blasted by Arctic air in a restaurant or store. Unfortunately, that day my sweater was in my car, which was then being worked on. I shivered, watched the goose bumps rise, and crossed my fingers for quick service. When I returned outside, I felt ill--it was SO hot. Too hot. My body didn't like the drastic fluctuation, and I ended up with a headache.

I just don't get it: Those of us in temperate climates anxiously await summer's sunshine and high temperatures, then the minute the mercury rises, we combat it with freezing-cold air conditioning. Why do we avoid the heat when we've been waiting for it all year?

People think I'm weird for avoiding AC and complaining about being cold in summertime, but as it turns out air conditioning might be among the modern conveniences taking its toll on our waistlines.
Posted 7/23/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 90 comments   15,312 views
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You Asked: ''Why Did I Gain Weight After Starting an Exercise Plan?''

It's true that many people either gain a little weight or don't see any change on the scale for as long as 4-6 weeks after making a significant change in their level of exercise. This is often explained as "gaining muscle while losing fat" but that isn't quite accurate. This extra weight is usually water. 
Posted 5/21/2012  6:00:00 AM By: Dean Anderson : 12 comments   41,993 views
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Ask Dr. Birdie: Straight Talk about Binge Eating

This journey to a healthy lifestyle is a worthwhile, but at times, difficult endeavor. If you're dealing with an eating disorder on top of a weight issue, it can feel downright impossible to reach your goals.

Most of us are familiar with the eating disorders anorexia and bulimia, but I would like to focus on an eating disorder that is actually more common.  This diagnosis is rarely discussed on diet and exercise blogs and not given the attention that it deserves, which is not surprising.  After all, eating disorders are typically suffered in secret.   

What am I talking about?  Binge eating disorder

Let's discuss this medical condition in detail so that you can understand the diagnosis, and, if you think you are affected, you can seek the help that you need.   
Posted 3/27/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Birdie Varnedore, M.D. : 40 comments   20,295 views
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Study: Women Don't Notice Weight Gain--Do You Agree?

I read an interview recently with Kathy Ireland, whom many of us know best as the Sports Illustrated cover model. Ireland is now 48 and a successful entrepreneur worth more than an estimated $300 million. I didn't know that about Ireland, so I read a few more articles about her online.

A few years ago, Ireland realized she had put on 25 pounds in as many years--without really noticing. I was not making enough time to take care of me," she told People magazine after successfully and safely losing the weight in 2009.

At first I was surprised. Twenty-five pounds is a good deal of weight--that's the size of a toddler! How could you not notice? But then I thought back to my own weight gain of almost 50 pounds, and I understood exactly what she meant. If you gained 25 pounds overnight, you would notice, but when it creeps on slowly, we tend not to notice.

I didn't gain 50 pounds overnight. I gained 10 my first year of college, yo-yoed another 10 until graduation, then another 10 the year after college, and 20 in less than a year after that. I didn't really think about the weight gain until those last 20 piled on. I was working second shift at the newspaper, going out with friends most nights, eating takeout (and huge portions!) for dinner on a regular basis, and not exercising. Moderation was not in my vocabulary.

If you've never gained weight, it's easy to doubt how people can seem oblivious to their gain. But if you've been there, you can relate--and a recent study bolstered those claims. A study of 466 women over 36 months found that 1 in 3 didn't notice a gain of 4.5 pounds in 6 months, while 25% didn't notice a 9-pound increase during the same time period.

And in 2010, a study found that 4 in 10 overweight women believe themselves to be of normal weight.

These studies certainly flout the stereotypes that most women are hyper-aware of their weight and that most of us believe we're fat.

What do you think? Do you have trouble perceiving your true size?
Posted 3/14/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Stepfanie Romine : 151 comments   25,471 views
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Is The Nutritional State of Our Nation Improving?

By now, most of us are well aware that many things have changed over the last two years since the First Lady launched the Let's Move campaign. We have seen improved restaurant labeling as well as diet friendly sections on menus to help people make informed decisions when eating away from home. The new national food icon MyPlate has become a tool referenced in school health curriculums, by nutrition educators, and in marketing campaigns. Add the recent release of the updated school lunch recommendations and you can see the breadth and width of change aimed at helping Americans achieve a healthy weight.
We know that as our weight increases, so does our risk of developing medical conditions such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and strokes to name a few. Beginning in 1997, standardizing classifications for overweight and obesity were adopted. Someone is defined as overweight when his or her body mass index (BMI) is 25 or higher. Obesity is defined by a BMI exceeding 30. Obesity is further clarified as Class I Obesity with a BMI of 30.0-34.9, Class II between 35.0-34.9, and Class III is a BMI greater than 40.
The first Dietary Goals for The United States were introduced in February of 1977 in a report prepared for the Select Committee of the Senate on Nutrition and Human Needs. The primary reason for the guidelines was to provide a practical guide to good eating since the research indicated the public was confused about what to eat to maximize health. So have we gotten healthier over the last three decades with healthy eating guidelines?
Posted 2/13/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Tanya Jolliffe : 21 comments   7,595 views
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Is the Freshman 15 Just a Myth?

You’ve probably heard of the dreaded “Freshman 15”, the weight many college students typically gain when making the transition to life on their own.  It’s easy to see how weight gain is possible for some students:  dining halls with lots of unhealthy food choices, increased alcohol consumption, more time spent studying and less time spent exercising.  Even with these changes, I always thought that 15 pounds sounded like a lot.  Of course there are some who gain more, some who gain less and some who don’t gain any at all.   But a new study says that the Freshman 15 is really a myth, with the typical weight gain being much less.
The study, published in the journal Social Science Quarterly, found that freshman gain an average of 2.5 to 3.5 pounds in the first year of college.  It found that noncollege people of the same age also gained, although it was about a half-pound less.  As you could expect, heavy drinkers gained more and those who had a job gained less.   There were no significant differences between income levels or those who lived on or off campus.  In general, a small amount of weight gain seems common at this point in life. 
Even though the Freshman 15 might be a myth, it can still be a struggle to make healthy food choices and exercise regularly when making this transition into adulthood.  SparkPeople’s College Living Lifestyle Center is full of helpful information to get you (or your loved ones) on the right track.  Establishing healthy habits early on makes it easier to continue them long-term. 
Did you gain weight when you went to college (or just at this point in your life)?  If so, why?  If you have loved ones who are headed to college (or you are in college yourself), how are you helping to establish healthy habits and avoid unnecessary weight gain? 
Posted 12/2/2011  2:00:00 PM By: Jen Mueller : 47 comments   10,894 views
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The Cost of 'Taking a Break' for the Holidays

I’m writing to you as a card-carrying SparkPeople member today!  I’m in my third year of maintenance so I’ve learned a few things about both losing and maintaining weight loss.  The year is drawing to a close and I think it’s appropriate now more than ever to discuss what it means to "take a break." 

The first few weeks of losing weight are exciting.  You are ready to get rid of the extra pounds that you carry and you are motivated.  Your reasons are personal and many of you may be motivated by extrinsic factors.  Counting calories, points, or whatever your system is easy and you are exercising with consistency.  The pounds are flying off (mostly in the form of water weight) and your clothes are starting to feel looser.  You may even start to get some compliments that provide even more fuel to keep going for yet another day.  But (I know you saw this coming), after some time that “new diet” feeling starts to wear off and you start to struggle.  Most people hit the first rough patch within the first two weeks.  It may take others a couple of months before they start to lose steam and start to wonder why they can’t go back to doing things the "old way." But, there comes a time when you will struggle to stay on track and the lure of returning to your old habits seems almost impossible to resist.  There is even some evidence that suggests your own body is sending out hormones to try to convince you to return to your old ways!

If you started your journey at SparkPeople, you are well-aware that what we are not proponents of diets.  Diets, as commonly defined, have a start date and an end date.  The end date of the diet signifies the day that you begin to return to your old habits thus also signifying the date you begin to regain the lost pounds.

But, let’s be realistic here.  It’s not possible to keep your motivation and willpower strong at all times.  There will be times, usually during stress, that you need to focus on more pressing matters.  There will be illnesses, job changes, relationship problems, financial problems, etc.  These stressors, in many cases, will erode your willpower and motivation and will make it more difficult to stay on track. 

What are your options during these difficult days? You can go with the “all or none” mentality and choose "all" to stay on track or you can choose "none" and go back to your old habits.  Alternately, you can choose a middle ground.  What I want to highlight today is the danger of choosing “none” and “taking a break” and to give some examples of what it’s like to choose somewhere in the middle. 

Giving up and “taking a break” is probably not the best choice to make.  I’ve heard many people say that they are “taking a break” and will resume living a healthy lifestyle after a certain date.  It’s not uncommon to hear someone say that they are going to start again “after the holidays.” 

So, let’s look the caloric toll and add up what might happen between November 1 and January 1 if you decide to “take a break.”

The numbers used here are simply estimates of calorie needs and expenditures.  Please do not get caught up on them because your body is not a calculator.  SparkPeople has wonderful trackers that enable you to figure out your personal caloric needs based on your level of activity.  However, I am using these generic numbers to illustrate the caloric differential of weight maintenance vs. losing vs. gaining.  The caloric differential of what your body needs vs. consumes is ultimately the key and the point of the following examples.

Our sample SparkPeople member is:
  • an extremely motivated obese female
  • actively losing 1-2 pounds a week
  • on 1,500-calorie per day plan
  • exercising five times per week burning 300 calories per session
Her (sedentary) basal metabolic rate: about 2,000 calories per day (the calories needed to maintain her current weight).  

Her deficit: about 5,000 calories per week
  • 500 a day from diet X 7 days = 3,500
  • 300 calories X 5 days a week from exercise = 1,500
  • That equals her about 1-2 pounds per week on average weight loss (3,500 calories=one pound lost but remember that your body is NOT a calculator)
Result:  If she continues her lifestyle change from November 1 through New Year’s she could lose about 12-13 pounds of fat and will be down a dress size for the new year!

Now, let's see what happens when she “takes a break” for the holidays. 
Posted 11/29/2011  10:00:00 AM By: Birdie Varnedore, M.D. : 99 comments   23,972 views
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Living the Lifestyle during the Holidays

It's that time of year again. Staying on track during the holidays is challenging, but it can be done.  I’m entering my fifth holiday season as a SparkPeople member, and I’m looking forward to conquering it! There will be many articles coming out in the next few weeks about avoiding holiday weight gain.  
Instead of concentrating on avoiding holiday weight gain, my goal is to maintain consistency with my diet and exercise program throughout the holiday season.  I do plan to splurge on special occasions.  The problem with maintaining consistency is that there are so many special occasions between now and New Year's Day!
Why is weight gain during the holidays a yearly topic? Weight gain during the holidays is an important contributor to the weight gain "creep"--that is, the extra pounds you gradually and slowly add without noticing. Just about everyone thinks that you have a license to indulge during this time of the year!
When I started my lifestyle change in 2007, I started out sprinting.  I was tired of being morbidly obese and I breezed through the 2007 holiday season with ease. There were no false starts.
I was on a mission and my mission was to reach my goal weight. That’s not to say I didn't hit a few bumps: I binged on Halloween candy that year, declaring it to be a "cheat day," and I pretty much did the same on Thanksgiving.  Otherwise, it was smooth sailing. 
I started out at 292 pounds on July 23, 2007, and by Thanksgiving 2007 I was in the 230s.  But, I was motivated and nothing was going to stand in the way of my goal. 
Unfortunately, the new penny feeling of a "diet" wears off.  I knew that I was trying to change my life, but I had started to tire of trying to be perfect.  Fortunately, I had already become very attached to SparkPeople and its principles and was attempting to focus on the long haul, not the quick fix. 
My weight loss was pretty steady during that phase.  By the 2008 holiday season, I was a sleek 158 pounds, but I was already a little battered and bruised.  I had faced and beaten burnout a few times already.  I had conquered many hard questions about my motivations and I had felt the pain of defeat. Still, I got back up and dusted off my knees after every fall.   Despite those battle wounds, I held steady through the holidays and got down to 150 pounds in early January. 
The next holiday seasons didn’t go as well as the first two.  I fought hard battles during the 2009 and 2010 seasons.  I gained for the first time during the 2009 season and had to go back to the basics after New Year's to get back to my maintenance weight.  I pretty much did the same during the 2010 holiday season.  So, is this a pattern?  Am I destined to be a yearly victim of the holiday weight-gain tradition?
Posted 11/21/2011  10:00:00 AM By: Birdie Varnedore, M.D. : 50 comments   21,976 views
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The First Day I Decided to Live Again

I reach
Through beams of dusty light
Falling to the earth
Through all of their prisms and geometry
Past the wind that dances on my skin...
And I want to know
Am I the only one who sees it?
Here, right now?
In this frozen moment of time?
There is something so mystical about the ordinary.
How could I have missed it yesterday?
The ordinary, that’s the beginning of change. 
Bedridden at 460 pounds, I had become very complacent. After all, there was nothing I could do, I thought.  Getting out of bed and rejoining the world seemed to be an immense journey that would take years and willpower that I just didn’t have.  I got tired and depressed just thinking about trying to get out of my situation.
The day I decided to live was not some miraculous moment in time.  It was a “Why the heck not try this since I’ve tried everything else” kind of moment.  Amazingly enough, the tips from Dr. Oz’s book, YOU on a Diet and SparkPeople taught me to take things slowly and work with my body instead of against it.
I had to learn to take things slowly, work smarter, not harder, and change up my life to include more than food.  This was crucial!  My days consisted of staying in bed eating and doing anything I could from there.  That’s a small world.  The chronic pain didn’t help.  Somehow I had to reach beyond that and find friends and support, which I found on SparkPeople.  This gave me courage to reach out in the real world.
Posted 11/18/2011  11:00:00 AM By: Beth Donovan : 74 comments   12,473 views
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News Flash: Maintaining Weight Loss is Hard (There's Proof--and Hope!)

It’s not your fault you can’t keep the weight off!

I recently got a call from my mother who told me, “I just saw something on the news about why it’s hard to maintain weight loss! I know you’ve been struggling, so will you find it and check it out?”  I told her I saw something about it already and thanks for checking in on me.  I had seen various headlines with similar titles such as “It’s not your fault that you can’t keep the weight off!”  I briefly checked them out and thought, “That doesn’t help me!” and moved on with my day.  But, later on I was thinking about the messages these headlines sent to the millions of hopeful but overweight people of America.  

Seeing a headline like that telling me, “You now have an excuse for gaining back your weight loss!” makes me cringe.  Here I am, trying to maintain a greater than 100-pound weight loss and now I’m hearing that my body is trying to sabotage my efforts?  I will get back to my take on the news after I tell you a little bit about the study
Posted 11/1/2011  6:00:00 PM By: Birdie Varnedore, M.D. : 65 comments   17,117 views
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Mommyrexia: Growing Trend or Trendy Term?

Currently pregnant with my third child, I know what it's like to struggle with all of the changes a pregnant woman's body goes through.  It can be hard to see your belly expanding in ways you never though possible, and dealing with other "fun" side effects like varicose veins, stretch marks and swelling.  Although it's not easy, the end product (a beautiful baby) is worth it.  Some pregnant women have a harder time with the weight gain than others, which has lead to a new trend called "mommyrexia."  Is this really a widespread problem, or just media hype?
Posted 8/9/2011  10:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 61 comments   134,596 views
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