Monthly Archives: November 2010

Thanksgiving Weight Gain – Fact or Fiction?

The First Thanksgiving, painted by Jean Leon G...

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It’s the start of the Holiday Season!  I love the holidays.  Food, fun and family.  It’s a great time of year for those things. It’s not a great time of year for most of us in terms of our health, however.  But, instead of focusing on the bad things, I want to fill you in on a health myth that surrounds Thanksgiving.  Hopefully I can put your mind at ease and you can enjoy your Thanksgiving just a little bit more.

Myth – I will gain 5 pounds from eating too much this weekend

This blog comes from something a patient said to me this morning about gaining weight this weekend.  I thought it would be a good topic to analyze and share with you all.

Weight gain is an interesting subject.  People are often very concerned about how much weight they gain over the entire holiday season from Thanksgiving to the New Year.  If you look at the statistics, most people are rightfully concerned.  The average American will gain 12 pounds over the holiday season!  That’s a lot to gain in just 6 weeks.

If the average American gains 12 pounds over 6 weeks then how could someone gain an entire 5 pounds over the course of this long weekend?  Is it possible?  If you ask many men and women across the country they will tell you it is.  I’ve had many patients tell me that they have weighed themselves before and after Thanksgiving and found they’ve easily gained 5 pounds in one weekend.  Fortunately, they are confusing what the scale says with actual weight gain.  Let me explain.

In order to gain 5 pounds of fat in just 4 days a person would have to consume an inordinate amount of food over that 4 day span.  One pound of fat contains 3,500 calories so five pounds of fat contains 17,500 calories.  You might be thinking, ‘I could eat 17,500 calories over this 4 day binge no problem.’  That may be the case but you have to remember that you will burn calories as well.  These calories are required for your heart to beat, for you to breathe, for your brain to function, etc.  The list could go on and on.  Essentially, given an average metabolism, you would have to consume an extra 17,500 calories over a 4 day period.  This does not apply if you are insulin resistant or have other hormonal problems.  Although it would still be difficult to gain 5 pounds in 4 days, keep that in mind.

Let’s put that into perspective –

The average person will burn about 2,000 calories in a day.  So over this 4 day holiday weekend a person would burn about 8,000 calories assuming no exercise is taking place.  That means to gain 5 pounds you would need to consume a total of 25,500 calories over the 4 day weekend.  That’s 6,375 calories per day!  That’s a lot of calories.

According to the American Council on Exercise, the average American will consume 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving day.  That’s no where near the required 6,375 needed to jump start this 5 pound weight gain.  And remember, you’d need to consume 6,375 calories everyday over the weekend to gain 5 pounds.

‘So then why does my scale read 5 pounds heavier on Monday?’ I hear you saying.  This is likely from water retention.  Between the meal, the alcohol and the lack of physical movement water begins to accumulate in all areas of the body.  Water weighs a lot and this is reflected on the scale when you check it.  Basically, it is a physiologic impossibility to actually gain 5 pounds of fat in 4 days.  Remember, the scale is only measuring your weight, not fat.  Many factors will affect your weight.  Try not to confuse what you weigh with actual weight gain.  In this case one does not equal the other.  Phew!

Now, this is not to say that you will not gain any weight over the holiday weekend.  You might, but it can be avoided.  Stay active and make your worst day Thanksgiving.  Don’t continue it through Sunday.  If you return to healthy eating habits and exercise after Thursday there is no reason for weight gain over this weekend.  Keep that in mind and enjoy!

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Body Mass Index – Don’t pay any attention to it

The Body Mass Index, or BMI,  is used to ascertain whether someone is overweight, obese or at the correct weight for their height.  It’s used by health professionals across this country as a guide for their patient’s health.  It’s wrong.

The reason for this blog is a conversation I had with a good friend of mine.  He also happens to own a gym and is a very talented and knowledgeable trainer/fitness coach.  We were discussing it in relation to his clients and my patients and how people are often times misled by the numbers they see when they use the BMI scale.

BMI was designed to be used as an easy tool for clinicians to assess their patients in terms of body weight relative to height. Before the BMI scale was invented it was hard to assess someone’s weight and say that it was appropriate because height is also an important factor in weight.  BMI combined those two.

How to calculate BMI:

The formula is simple.  You need your weight in pounds and your height in inches.  Take your weight and multiply it by 703.  Take your height and multiply it by itself (height squared).  Now divide the first number by the second number and you have your BMI.  Here is an example.  We’ll use my numbers.  I am 201 pounds and 71 inches tall.

201 lbs x 703 = 141,303
71 in. x 71 in. = 5,041
141,303/5,041 = 28.03

So my BMI is just over 28.  This puts me in the overweight category, actually moving close to obesity.  Wait…what?

If you look below you can see the classification system used for BMI.

You will see that anything above 30 is considered obese.  Technically anything above 29.9 is obese.  If we use this scale, I am only 13-14 pounds short of being considered obese.  People who know me will tell you that I do not look obese.  They will also tell you that I do not even look overweight.  So what’s the catch?

That is the problem with using BMI to assess health.  It doesn’t take into account many factors.

The problem for some people, like athletes, it does not take into account muscle mass.  A person that is heavily muscled will always be overweight according to the BMI.  As a matter of fact, I have been considered “overweight” since college despite always being is relatively good shape.  If we look at professional level athletes, most of them would be considered obese!

I understand that not everyone is an elite athlete.  What about the elderly?  BMI is not ideal for them either.  Many times an elderly person will fit nicely into the BMI by being considered “ideal weight” for their height.  This can be significantly misleading.  Why?  In the elderly muscle mass begins to drop.  It happens to all of us.  However, with this drop in muscle mass comes a drop in weight.  As weight is lost a person is likely to fall into the “ideal weight” category even though they should be concerned about muscle mass loss.  This loss in muscle mass causes a loss in strength and stability increasing the risk of falls and increasing the risk of osteoporosis.  Another problem with muscle loss is the change in your body composition.  As muscle mass is lost one’s body fat percentage increases.  Body fat percentage is a great indicator of health.  The lower it is (within reason) the healthier you are, generally speaking.

So does it work for anyone?  Yes, there are some people that it works for.  If a person is sedentary and eats a poor diet it may accurately depict your current weight status (ideal, overweight or obese).  There are, however, better ways to assess health.

Then how do I know if my weight is appropriate?

The best way to assess your weight status is to perform body composition.  This gives us a percentage number based on body fat.  For example, if you weigh 200 lbs and 50lbs of that is from fat, your body fat is 25%.  Below is the ideal body fat percentages for men and women.

The gold standard for measuring it is the caliper test or skin fold test.  A pinch of skin is precisely measured by calipers at several standardized points on the body to determine the subcutaneous fat layer thickness. These measurements are converted to an estimated body fat percentage by an equation.  It is most reliable when taken over time and it must be done by the same person to be accurate.  Techniques can vary from person to person and may change the results.

The other way to measure it by bioelectrical impedance.  You are hooked up to electrodes that are spaced far apart on your body; usually on each hand or on a hand and a foot.  An electrical signal is passed between the electrodes and the resistance to the current flow is measured.  This is a painless process.  Fat and muscle have different resistance rates so the machine can estimate the body fat percentage based on that.  It is affected by hydration levels so be sure to be hydrated when you take a test like this.  This is a very accurate method and does not depend on a person’s technique as the skin fold test does.

The best way to get your body fat to the desired level is a healthy diet and exercise.  You want to increase muscle mass and decrease fat.  This is done by weight training and short duration, intense circuit type workouts.  All of this can easily be done at any local gym.

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Food is largest source of exposure to BPA

Agua

Image by Daquella manera via Flickr

Bisphenol A, or BPA, is a chemical additive that is used in many things but mainly in plastics and linings of food cans.  Up until a few years ago this was considered a harmless addition to our already high chemical exposure levels.  Then, it was found that exposure to this chemical is linked to serious side effects but you could avoid any consequences by not reusing that Poland Spring bottle, by not overheating your plastics in the microwave or by buying BPA free merchandise.  Now we are finding out that our largest exposure to BPA is our food itself.

BPA has been linked to breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes, male infertility and other health problems.  Recently a U.N. panel concluded that the BPA in the packaging of our foods is actually leaching into the food making our food the number one source of exposure.  This should not be surprising.  One only needs to see the aftermath of the oil spill in the gulf to see that chemicals can get everywhere given the opportunity.

Information is limited on BPA.  It certain amounts it poses threats to fetuses, infants and growing children.  No one is quite sure what it does to adults.  For me, that’s enough.  If you didn’t know if a gun was loaded, would you point it at someone and pull the trigger?  Hopefully not and this is similar.  Just because we don’t know if it’s dangerous and the government is unwilling to take a stand on it just yet, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be eliminated from our food supply.

This is just another reason to eat an unprocessed, natural diet.  Because this exposure of BPA is coming from foods that are packaged it can be avoided to some degree.  Eat a diet that is high in healthy protein, fats and vegetables and fruits.  Stay away from the packaged food as much as possible. Not only will you avoid BPA but you’ll also get all the great benefits of a healthy diet!

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Time Change Gotcha?

A couple of guys sleeping near the Kiosko Alfo...

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Every year around this time people start coming into my clinic complaining of sleep disturbances.  They find themselves not being able to get to sleep at night and then feeling groggy and unrested in the morning.  This phenomenon is interesting and shows us just how sensitive humans are to changes in our schedules and changes in light.

As a matter of fact, there are research papers that show that traffic accidents increase up to a week after the changes both in the fall and spring.

Every fall we set our clocks back one hour and daylight savings ends for all of us.  For a select few, this change can affect how they feel greatly.  And it’s not just psychological.  This shift in time means that it will be lighter in the morning and darker in the evening.  While this may not seem like such a big deal, peoples’ body clocks don’t always adjust right away and this can affect how we feel.

For instance, many hormones that we secrete are timed with our body clocks.  If our body clocks shift out of balance, our hormone balance may shift as well.  Two great examples are melatonin and cortisol.

Cortisol

Cortisol is highest in the morning and lowest at night.  With a shift in sleep habits, this rhythm is thrown off as well.  Symptoms may include fatigue, changes in blood sugar and feelings of a foggy mind.  For most this is a temporary condition and once the body adapts to the time change, the natural circadian rhythm of cortisol production returns as well.  If it does not or the symptoms are particularly annoying one thing you can do is make sure you eat regularly.  Cortisol helps elevate blood sugar when it begins to drop to low so eating regularly will take the strain off of your cortisol system and allow it to focus on re-regulating itself.

Melatonin

Melatonin is particularly interesting.  Melatonin is secreted by the pineal gland in the brain.  It is secreted during darkness.  Thus, with the increase in light in the early morning hours your melatonin levels are likely to drop off quickly and wake you earlier than you’d like.  This is problematic because it is often hard to get back to sleep once melatonin levels have dropped.  On the flip side, melatonin levels are likely to rise too early in the evening making you feel like it is time to sleep when it’s not.  A great way to combat this physiological mix up is to take melatonin just before you go to bed (30-60 minutes prior).  I recommend taking a very small amount because research has shown that large amounts can have the opposite effect.  Take about 1.5mg before bed.  This will temporarily increase your melatonin levels and allow you to get better quality sleep and signal your body that it needs to re-regulate its melatonin production.

It should only take about a week for your body to adapt to the change.  If it takes longer, you might have a true sleep disorder and should consider having it evaluated.  Try these helpful hints first though!

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San Francisco Bans Happy Meal Toys

Happy meal new year

Image by noodlepie via Flickr

The post below is from our friends at NaturalNews.com. It’s a good site to get health information without the slant of the pharmaceutical industry or its partner mainstream medicine.

NaturalNews Post

San Francisco has become the first U.S. city to crack down on the dubious practice of fast food companies luring children into eating unhealthy meals by giving away gimmicky toys. “Our children are sick. Rates of obesity in San Francisco are disturbingly high, especially among children of color,” said San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar, the sponsor of the measure, in a press conference.

The new law, which goes into effect December, 2011, would only allow toys to be given away with “healthy” children’s meals. That’s defined as a meal under 600 calories that includes fruits and vegetables but not a beverage with excess sugar (such as a soda). McDonald’s Happy Meals obviously do not fit this definition of a healthy meal.

According to a Reuters report, McDonald’s spent over half a billion dollars advertising and giving away toys in 2006. This is obviously money spent with a purpose — and the purpose is to keep children begging for more Happy Meals so they can get their hands on more toys. Across the industry, promotional spending on children’s toys to promote junk food tops $1.6 billion a year, reports Reuters.

That’s $1.6 billion spent in trying to persuade children to eat factory-fabricated animal products and nutritionally-depleted fast foods. Can you imagine what this must be contributing to childhood obesity? What about diabetes and heart disease later in life?

San Francisco understands that feeding junk food to your children is not a smart way to have a healthy city (or state, or nation for that matter). I actually admire the city’s willingness to start clamping down on these toy enticements. There’s a point at which local communities and cities need to send a message to corporate America: “You will NOT be allowed to harm our children any longer!”

I just wish more cities had the courage to stand up to the powerful fast food chains and say enough is enough. Yes, you can sell food. Or you can sell toys. But you can’t use toys to trick children into asking for food that we now know is strongly contributing to an epidemic of obesity and disease.

In a perfect society, of course, it would be parents who would say no to their children and stop buying Happy Meals with toys in them in the first place. But health-oriented parenting is another article altogether.

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Avoiding the Common Cold and Flu

It’s that time of year again.  Cold and flu season is upon us.  Fortunately there are things that can be done to avoid getting the cold and flu outside of getting that nasty flu shot.

It all starts with diet

Perhaps the best things you can do is eat a healthy diet.  A diet filled with high quality protein, healthy fats and brightly colored vegetables and fruits is a great way to keep your immune system functioning at its best.  Remember, your immune system depends on what you put into your body for fuel.  Junk in = junk out!

Control stress

In times of stress the body goes into fight or flight mode.  This means it is trying to survive and survive right now. When you are under stress your body views the immune system as unimportant.  Because your body is trying to survive in the short term it begins to shift energy away from long term systems like the immune system.  Your body is not concerned with that cold you might get two weeks from now if it doesn’t think it will survive today or tomorrow.  Do your best to manage your stress so that your immune system can stay as potent as possible.

Exercise

You will see this over and over again in my posts.  Exercise is good for everything!  Exercising stimulates immune function in our bodies by facilitating immune cells that go after viruses.  Plus, there are many other benefits to exercise.  Its importance cannot be over stated.  There is one caveat to this; do not over exercise.  This will shift your body into that fight or flight scenario discussed above and will have the opposite effect your are desiring.  Thirty to sixty minutes of exercise 3-4 times per week is adequate.

Supplements

Listed below are helpful immune boosting supplements that you can use to ward off the cold or flu this season.  You should always buy the highest quality supplements that you can.  All supplements are not created equal! The company that I like to use is a company called Metagenics. They have superior quality control and prove their formulations through research.  Their products are safe and effective.

Vitamin D

D3 1000 is vitamin D in a highly absorbable form.  Vitamin D is known to boost immune function and it has been shown that people who have the lowest levels of vitamin D in their blood are at the highest risk of illness.  I recommend 2,000-4,oooIU per day.  D3 1000 is 1,000IU per tablet.  You may order this supplement from Metagenics though my online store here. Simply register and begin shopping!

ImmuCore

ImmuCore is designed to enhance the  activities of macrophages, natural killer cells, and T cell subsets.  These cells are the cells in your immune system that will fight the fight!  It contains vitamin C, zinc, selenium and a proprietary blend of immune boosting herbs.  Click here to purchase.

Kaprex AI

Kaprex AI contains a small amount of vitamin D as well as zinc and selenium.  Its major ingredient is a complex derived from hops (yes, those hops) that has been shown to have hugely beneficial effects on the immune system and inflammation.  Click here to purchase.

How To Purchase

You may purchase these supplements many places online.  You do not have to buy them from me but you may.  If you would like to here is how to order them.

You may click one of the links in the above paragraphs at the end of each description or you may click the link to our online store under our blog roll on the right hand side of your screen.  Once you’re there register your name and begin shopping.  They will be shipped straight to you, usually arriving in 1-2 business days.

If you have any questions please let us know!

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