September 2014 | Dr. Stephen Gullo

Monthly Archives: September 2014

Falling Into Weight Control

By | Behavioral Nutrition, Celebrity Diet, Diet Resources, Smart Strategy, What The Winners Do | No Comments

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Yup. It’s here already. That time of year when the days get shorter and cooler. It’s a time for apple picking, decorative gourds and pumpkins, ghosts, goblins and haunted houses, corn mazes, hayrides, apple cider donuts, pumpkin bread, trick-or-treating, French onion soup, and tailgating. Do you notice a pattern here?

For most of us, fall means we start eating more. And with the weather turning colder, we start exercising less.

Studies have shown that people eat up to 200 additional calories more per day in the fall. While this doesn’t seem like much, if you add up those calories over 13 weeks then you’re looking as much as 5 pounds of weight of gain (if this trend continues into spring you could be looking at an additional 10 pounds).

Why does this happen?

For one, meal size and rate of eating increase in the fall. These calories come primarily from carbohydrates (Interestingly, there’s an inverse relationship between seasonal alcohol consumption, which is highest in the summer and lowest in the fall, and weight gain. I suspect much of this has to do with fewer calories from food and increased physical activity).

Part of fall weight gain may have to with our biological programming. Our ancestors probably put on weight to prepare for the long cold winter when food was comparatively scarce and they didn’t know where the next meal was coming from.

The shorter days may play a role as well. A Swiss study found that patients with seasonal affective disorder–a mood disorder related to lack of light–consumed more sweets and starch-rich foods, buttressing the idea that there’s not just a relationship between light and depression but light and food as well. As I tell my patients, sometimes eating isn’t about food, but mood.

Smart Strategy for Fall Eating

• Get Your Moods Out of Your Foods. Whether it’s eating out of depression, boredom or anxiety, emotional eating is one of the most overwhelming and ubiquitous issues vexing dieters. It’s also an insidious issue, because if you eat whenever you get upset you”ll find in no time that you’re just running in place. Whether it’s a slice of pumpkin bread or a handful of Halloween candy, we’re using these foods to change our moods because they taste good. Most mood eaters reach for snacks that are crunchy, creamy or salty and sweet. These tastes and textures provide immediate satisfaction or relief from pent up emotions the same way that letting out a scream or pummeling a pillow would. And if you keep these foods within arm’s reach, eating to relieve emotional turmoil becomes easy and immediate.

If this your pattern, and you find the shorter days and hectic pace have you reaching for a food you have a long history of abusing, you shouldn’t worry. Mood eating is a learned behavior and anything that’s learned can be unlearned and though it’s one of the greatest challenges for dieters, it’s can easily be corrected with smart strategy. Below are my favorite strategies for ending mood eating–at any time of year.

• Write out what you will eat a day in advance. Creating a sample menu of what you’ll eating for breakfast, lunch dinner will help direct your psyche to think only of these foods and avoid all others.

• Plan which snacks you are going to eat. As you plan your meals, do the same for your snacks, being sure to include those you want to avoid.

• Plan to avoid trouble. Don’t waltz into your neighborhood bakery or pizza parlor, particularly if you know you’ll be having or anticipate a stressful day.

• Don’t bring problem foods into your home. I always tell my patients that thin starts in the supermarket. Don’t buy and bring problem foods into your home.

• Ask yourself, “Is it really a crisis?” Look at your own life. I suspect you’ll find that it’s the little annoyances and not profound crises that trigger emotional eating. Remember that most mood eating is about immediately substituting an unpleasant feeling for a pleasurable one. The key to control mood eating is to recognize that most of the stress that makes us want to eat is predictable stress and not a profound crisis. Thus, you can plan for this eventuality.

• Choose an activity to block stress eating. Take a walk, go for a bike ride, or send an email to a friend. There are any number of activities you can choose to divert your attention away from your immediate condition and away from the kitchen.

• If you can’t stop it, substitute it. A key strategy of behavioral nutrition is to think substitution, not deprivation. If you can’t completely avoid emotional eating, then consider a healthy, low-calorie substitute for your favorite stress snack.

Since planning is a key strategy to end mood eating, eating seasonal, locally grown produce is one way to help make your weight loss diet more affordable. Plus, when you make an effort to include more seasonal foods in your meal plan, you may be more likely to eat more vegetables and fruits. (After all, there is no season for Oreos.) As a general rule of thumb, choose the most vibrant produce for the optimal nutrient content and include a wide range of fresh foods in your diet. Delicious fall foods range from dark, leafy green veggies to exotic pomegranates.

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Is Fat The New Thin?

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Attention Please!

Forget everything you’ve read about healthy weight. Stop counting calories and grams of fat and carbohydrates. Scrap the scale,cancel your gym membership,shred your skinny jeans, and ditch your diet today. No, we haven’t lost our minds. Rather, we’re just echoing the sentiments of latest craze to sweep social media: the fatkini girl power movement.

In what’s seen, at least in part, as a reaction to an unrealistic and repeatedly promoted standard of beauty, thousands of plus-sized gals have taken to posting photos of themselves with the #fatkini hashtag, and/or #losehatenotweight. This latest offshoot of the Fat Acceptance Movement, which even has its own organization called The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA), has seen legions of “fatkinis” marshal forces to combat what they perceive as societal-wide, size-based discrimination, and push back against the long-held scientific correlation between weight and health.

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The term “fatkini” was coined two years ago by self-described “fashion, health and beauty loving curvy girl blogger” Gabi Fresh. The movement has even inspired several plus-sized bikini lines. Clearly, this movement has been a welcome refuge for the countless numbers of women for who body hatred and self acceptance has been a live lone struggle.



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Taking things one step further, Virgie Tovar, a noted author, activist and self-described leading expert and lecturer on fat discrimination and body image, told Colorlines, “There’s not only this sense that I’m transgressing this rule that fat girls don’t wear bikinis, there’s also this corporeal experience of the wind and sun on my stomach. That feeling is not only novel and exhilarating, but also political.”

What are we to make of the fatkini movement and it’s simultaneous attempt to eradicate anti-fat bias and promote positive body image? Certainly, our popular culture promotes unattainable body types for both men and women. On television and in the movies, obese/overweight characters are often ill-mannered, awkward or just plain dumb. Bullying in schools and workplace discrimination against the overweight are common. And with more than an estimated 100 million overweight or obese adults in the U.S., it’s clear that plus-size is closer to the average American woman than supermodel skinny. But there’s still a question that all acceptance folks are dancing around: Are these ladies healthy?

We know that some fat can be beneficial. Thigh, hip, and butt fat is chemically stable, and stable fat traps harmful compounds released during digestion. Thigh fat also secretes adiponectin, which helps the body metabolize sugar, and leptin, which regulates appetite. A long-term study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people with “overweight” BMI scores have a lower risk of mortality than any other weight group.

On the other hand, if rates stay consistent, it’s estimated that 80 percent of the adult population will be overweight or obese by 2030. But what does any of that really mean? In 1994, no state had an obesity rate above 15 percent. Today there are 41 states with obesity rates over 25 percent. Even worse, since 1980, the oversight/obesity rate has more than tripled among children. Obesity/overweight is linked to more than 60 chronic disease. And of the estimated 572,000 cancer-related death in America annually, 33 percent are liked to a combination of excess body weight, poor nutrition and lack of physical activity. Two thirds of type 2 diabetics in the US are overweight or obese. Just recently, a study showed link between midlife obesity and premature cognitive aging.

And the weight crisis hits our pocketbooks and wallets as well. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported that nearly 20 percent of the increase in U.S. health care spending in the last 15 years was caused directly or indirectly by obesity. The annual health costs related to obesity in the U.S. alone is a staggering $200 billion, and nearly 21 percent of medical costs in the U.S. can be attributed to obesity. Researchers estimate that if obesity trends continue, obesity related medical costs, alone, could rise by the current $43 to $66 billion each year in the United States by 2030. Full-time workers in the U.S. who are overweight or obese and have other chronic health conditions miss an estimated 450 million additional days of work each year compared with healthy workers– resulting in an estimated cost of more than $153 billion in lost productivity annually.

On both the medical and economic front, the list of obesity/overweight problems goes on and on.

Taking it one step further, as a healthcare professional who’s devoted his professional life to helping people deal with their weight problems, there are things I simply don’t understand about the fat acceptance movement. And let me preface my remarks by saying that I’m speaking out of concern, not malice. After nearly four decades working in the field of weight control, I know first hand and appreciate the struggles that millions go through in their efforts to lose weight. Heavy people pay dearly for their size and they inhabit a society that demonizes anything other than the ideal body shape. I’m sympathetic.

Still, as a society, perhaps we’re too tolerant of obesity. Putting aside the issue of physical appearance, with millions and millions of overweight/obese people in this country, and knowing the effect that being overweight has on all of us, maybe we need to be less accepting of lifestyle choices that have put us squarely in the throes of a major healthcare crisis. Indeed, it would be cause for a national emergency if 68 percent of American adults had cancer or heart disease.

Also, I find it incredulous that someone can be “positive” about being stuck in the revolving door of your doctor’s office, or being relegated to the plus sized clothing racks. How “positive” is it to willfully damage your body? I’m not implying that a thin body is always healthy and a heavier body is unhealthy. However, I’ve yet to meet a severely overweight or obese person who wasn’t living with at least one weight related health complication.

A core or even guiding principle of both the Fatkini and Fat Acceptance Movements is “health at every size.” The focus here is healthy living, not body image. This is nice in theory but how many severely overweight or obese people are living healthy? I’m sorry to disappoint you but you can’t be physically healthy at any size, and sparing feelings or tapping dancing around the issue isn’t going to alter this reality.

Some cases of obesity/overweight are caused by a medical condition or other extenuating circumstances, but these are not the source of weight problems for the majority of this country’s 110 million dieters. Constant overconsumption, particularly of unhealthy foods, is putting millions at risk and adversely impacting the already high cost of healthcare, particularly in the U.S.