Halloween is near. It brings uncountable empty calories into our lives. And it is only the beginning. Time seems to accelerate at this season, and Thanksgiving will be here before we know it. Following that is the entire Christmas season, then the celebration of New Year's Day. Of course, the entire football season invites gluttony, and it will last well into January. Consequently, we are all about to run a gauntlet of 3 ½ months of culinary temptation.
Cardiac units normally see a spike in admissions at this time of the year. The overeating that occurs on Thanksgiving frequently puts some people over the edge of what their heart can tolerate as blood flow shifts to accommodate a bloated G.I. tract. Subclinical underlying coronary disease will then tend to rear its head and ruin a holiday, or worse.
It seems timely to look ahead and think strategically about what we put into our bodies. With so much temptation coming, this would be a good time to get "religion" about our eating habits. Besides the overall health issues, you will feel better if you eat sensibly and enjoy the holidays more.
Remember as you go through the holiday season that it takes 3500 cal to add one pound of bodyweight to your frame. It would be easy to consume that much at a party and weigh more the next day. The more insidious route to obesity, however, is over eating a little bit. One hundred extra calories per day will put ten pounds on you each year.
By the way, you will burn only about 100 cal by walking one mile. If you want to walk off a pound of weight, you need to walk to Forsyth. That means you will not exercise extra weight off. Exercise has a place in health, but your eating habits put the weight on you and only your eating habits can really take it off.
How can you avoid this easy trap of caloric delights? Here are some ideas. Think about these as you approach the holiday season.
Look for foods that are high in fiber and water. As the weather gets cooler, soup and stew begin to look better to us. Fiber is found in vegetables, fruit, and whole grains. It passes through you pretty much unmolested by your digestive processes, so it serves a purpose of taking up space so you do not feel hungry. It also gives your intestinal tract something to push through the system.
Reduce your intake of simple carbohydrates. Or, put a different way, cut out the empty calories. Sugar in candy, pizza, chips, cookies, and bread (not made from whole grains) are low in fiber and rapidly broken down by the body, so you can consume a lot of these without feeling full. This inspires you to over eat. Following this large sugar load, you will spike your insulin production and pull that sugar into your cells. This is why you can eat like crazy during the evening and wake up ravenously hungry. It will make you feel fatigued, give you headaches, and cause cravings for sweets. In many people, this biochemical environment is a factor in depression and irritability. You will not enjoy life like that.
Eating well does not have to be expensive, so stock up on healthy foods and snacks. If you are prone to snacking, develop a taste for carrot sticks, apple slices, whole grain granola, fruits, and even raisins. These may satisfy your craving and help you resist the temptation for whatever is in the vending machine—or the conference room table at work.
Read the labels on whatever you eat. The food industry has quietly increased portions and loaded process foods with appetite stimulating salt, sugar, and fat. Salt and sugar trigger appetite responses in the brain, and fat enhances other flavors. Commercial cereals often have more salt than potato chips, and spaghetti sauce is often loaded with more sugar than chocolate. Look for evidence of sodium, preservatives (some of these contain salts), and corn syrup.
One of my personal temptations is a buffet. Even after your appetite is satisfied, you can find yourself tempted by the sheer variety of what is there. I find myself continuing to eat at a buffet because there are things I want to taste. I have actually chosen buffets with fewer choices where the food is not as good to help me deal with that particular sin.
In our weight loss program at the clinic, we coach our patients into better habits of eating. Specifically, we train our brains to expect six small servings daily. There is one "lean and green meal" at some point during the day, and we use five meal replacements that have 110 cal each, 15 g of low-glycemic carbohydrates, and 15 g of protein each. This drops the total calorie intake and trains the body to take on smaller portions. Once we do this, the thought of gluttony on Thanksgiving Day is not only unappetizing, it might even make you feel sick.
There are lots of weight loss programs out there that people will seek out after the holiday gluttony. You will hear gimmicks such as the use of stimulants to increase metabolic rate or the use of hormones, even pregnancy hormones, to reduce appetite and stimulate burning of calories. The failure rate for these and the diet plans is about 85%.
The bottom line with controlling your weight is to take in fewer calories than you burn. Be careful what you put into your body to obtain those calories and choose wisely. Many of the diseases that plague people, including hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, vascular disease, and even cancer, might be prevented with better nutritional choices. That is why I, like the Grinch, mention this during the holiday season that presents some of our worst temptations.
Can anyone direct me to a low carbohydrate, low-fat eggnog?