Monday, March 28, 2011

Sleep More to Lose Weight

Good news for those who want to lose weight and do it in the easiest manner possible. A new study demonstrates that sleeping more will be good for your waistline.

Previous studies have linked reduced amounts of sleep with being overweight, but there were questions whether the studies were flawed. Since overweight individuals have an increased incidence of conditions that can alter sleep, such as sleep apnea, it was uncertain whether altered sleep causes overweight or vice-versa. However, recent research presented last week at the conference of the American Heart Association may help to clarify the issue.

Columbia University’s New York Obesity Research Center studied normal weight individuals, and evaluated the amount of calories consumed in a day versus the amount of sleep obtained the previous night. Women who slept only 4 hours ate an average of 329 calories more the following day than when they were well rested. For men, it was 263 calories. This may not sound like much, but when you consider that burning off this amount of calories would take running on a treadmill at 6.5 mph for about 30 minutes, it begins to put the numbers into perspective. Looked at another way, if these extra calories were consumed on a daily basis it would equal a yearly weight gain of about 33 pounds for the women and 27 pounds for the men. Not insignificant.

Nothing is truer when it comes to weight loss (or gain) than the fact that small daily changes lead to big results over time. So don’t look at losing weight as something you need to suffer through. In fact, in this instance, all you need to do is be sure you get a good night’s rest and you’ll probably start seeing your pants fitting a little looser. What could be easier?

The author submits this blog posting as a health educator and not in any other capacity. You should seek the advice of your physician regarding a personal health condition or before undertaking any diet, exercise, or other health program.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I Feel Your Pain - Part 7 - The Final Chapter That Isn't

At the end of this week I’ll be up to my neck in the 24 Hours of Moab race, and my team is now down to just three riders. It makes my desire to trim 10 pounds before the race look like a good decision, and I’m happy to report that I’ve achieved my goal. But now that I’ve shed the pounds, what happens next? Unfortunately for most, keeping the weight off is just as difficult as losing, and for me it will be no different.

Twenty years ago I was 45 pounds heavier than I am now. College, medical school, 3 years of residency, and a new solo family practice caused me to seek reward and comfort with food. My busy schedule also became my excuse for not exercising. The result was evident not only on the scale and in my clothes, but also in the way I felt mentally, physically, and emotionally. I wasn’t proud of myself, and I also felt like a hypocrite professionally. My recommendations for patients to lose weight carried no impact when I wasn’t following my own advice.

Then one hot, muggy Missouri day after cutting my lawn, while struggling to push the mower back into my garage, I had my personal epiphany. As I looked at the street I saw my 5- and 8-year-old sons energetically riding their bikes, and I realized that I would not be able to keep up as they grew older unless I made some lifestyle changes.

The possibility of such lost opportunities was a personal tipping point that pushed me into action. That evening I went shopping for running shoes, and the next day I started a dedicated exercise program. At first I could only jog a block before having to walk a block or two, but it wasn’t long before I could jog a full mile. I can still remember the day I extended my usual 1 mile route, running under a highway overpass that had become my “boundary.” I felt freed, and gradually began extending my distance until I was running 5 miles at a time, several times per week. I placed importance on my exercise sessions – as important and necessary as showering or shaving before work. I found that just like being a couch potato is addictive, so is being physically active. I went to great lengths to be certain I didn’t miss my workouts, regardless of my schedule or other obligations.

At the same time, I started eating differently. No more snacking on junk food. I also began eating more unprocessed foods naturally high in fiber and low in fat. My physical activity became a large motivator to eat properly, because if I strayed for a day or so with my nutrition I could tell a dramatic difference in my workout performance. Over the ensuing 6 months I lost 45 pounds, and began feeling 15 years younger.

There wasn’t a medical reason for me to lose another 10 pounds pre-race. I did it to enhance my physical performance, and therefore my enjoyment. It wasn’t always easy for me to stick with the weight loss plan that I have been sharing with you over the last 2 months. Now that the pounds are off, I’m determined to watch my maintenance plan closely, so that I don’t have to go through the process again.

Losing weight is just the beginning. In order to have long-term success, there needs to be a strategy for maintenance. Statistics show that most Americans gain 2-3 pounds every year. This doesn’t sound like much, but it’s the reason many middle- aged adults find themselves 50 pounds overweight. It‘s important not to become complacent about extra pounds. It doesn’t have to be a natural part of aging to gain weight and it can become a slippery slope leading to obesity and chronic disease. To avoid this, an ongoing regimen of proper eating combined with regular physical activity is important. What works for me is eating foods that naturally contain fiber, avoiding high-calorie, low-volume snacks, and putting importance on daily exercise. This plan has given me success for over 20 years.

Moab won’t be my last endurance race. Staying lean and fit allows me to play the way I like, and keep up with my adult sons and grandson. In the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, “Men don’t quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they stop playing.”

The author submits this blog posting as a health educator and not in any other capacity. You should seek the advice of your physician regarding a personal health condition or before undertaking any diet, exercise, or other health program.

Monday, September 27, 2010

I Feel Your Pain - Part 6

When losing weight, friends matter.

The weeks have been counting down to the date for the 24 Hours of Moab mountain bike endurance race, and I’m glad to say so has my weight. I’m just a couple pounds shy of my goal to lose 10 pounds before race day. I’ve not been perfect in my efforts, but one thing’s for certain – it’s been easier because of those who have supported me along the way.

Helping relationships are extremely important to anyone desiring to make changes. We all go through various stages as we make changes in our lives, from just thinking about it to actually taking action. At each step along the way, there is probably nothing more vital than having aid from others. My wife has been a tremendous support by making great tasting high-fiber meals, and coming up with creative ways for us to increase physical activity beyond my dedicated workouts. She has buoyed me up when the scale didn’t want to budge. Friends and co-workers have also helped. Many have commented on my blogs and given me encouragement. Just realizing others know what I am attempting, and that they are watching, gives me motivation beyond myself to stay the course. Not only can others assist you, but they also become accountability partners in your endeavor.

I hope some of you have been taking action to lose weight with me the last several weeks, and that you’ve benefited from helping relationships just as I have. If you’ve been going it alone, then do all you can to bring others who care about you into the effort. Let them know you need help, tell them your plan and how they can best help you to achieve your goal. Then don’t be afraid to lean on them when you need to. But be careful whom you choose to rely on. A 2007 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that if you have a close friend who gains weight, your chances of gaining go up by 57%. On the other hand, the same effect is true when a friend loses weight. So be supportive of friends who are also trying to lose, and together you’ll both be more successful.

Changing habits is tough, whether you have 10 pounds or 100 to lose, but it’s certainly a lot easier if you don’t try to do it solo.

The author submits this blog posting as a health educator and not in any other capacity. You should seek the advice of your physician regarding a personal health condition or before undertaking any diet, exercise, or other health program.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Go Green Where It Counts Most

Where were you on April 22nd, 1970? Do you remember anything at all about the day, or were you even alive at the time? I remember it well, because I was a sophomore in high school, sitting in our auditorium taking part in the first-ever Earth Day. This environmental teach-in educated the nation about ecological issues confronting us, and since that time the green and sustainable movements have gained momentum.

Sustainability quite simply means the capacity to endure. We’re all aware that recycling, water conservation, driving low-emission cars, and using alternative transportation help keep our planet viable. However, there’s a major problem confronting society that must be rectified in order for green environmental practices to have any real meaning. The issue of primary concern should be human sustainability. We are evidently failing – for the first time in over 200 years, the current youth of America will live shorter lives than their parents. Why? It’s because of the accelerated rate of childhood obesity that in turn triggers the early development of chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. If we have lost our capacity as human beings to endure, then we defy the very meaning of sustainability, regardless of how many milk containers we recycle, or whether we choose paper or plastic bags at the grocery checkout.

Everyone needs to get involved in finding solutions. Here are some – I’m sure you can think of others ways you can help:

• More farmers should use methods that promote increased nutritional quality of the foods they grow. Research proves that foods grown sustainably contain more nutrients than those grown conventionally;

• Government agencies could restructure crop subsidy programs so that junk foods are not cheaper than those of high nutritional quality;

• Food producers and manufacturers should avoid methods that strip nutrition and add calories to our food;

• Marketers should stop targeting children who haven’t developed the ability to distinguish advertising from reality. Kids routinely watch TV by 2, and, not coincidentally, they develop brand recognition skills by the same age. Recent research identifies that a child’s tendency to become obese is also established by age 2, with strong food preferences developed by 5. On a typical Saturday morning watching children’s TV, there is a commercial for “junk” food every 5 minutes;

• The food service industry should place healthy options and nutritional information on restaurant and school lunch menus;

• The medical community must begin treating the causes of chronic disease, and stop just putting band-aids on the symptoms;

• Finally, we all need to become more responsible with personal health, and be good role models for our kids and grand-kids.

I’m all for keeping Mother Earth thriving for a long time, but what sense does it make to march our kids down graduation isles wearing caps and gowns made from recycled materials, if they are destined to die young?

The author submits this blog posting as a health educator and not in any other capacity. You should seek the advice of your physician regarding a personal health condition or before undertaking any diet, exercise, or other health program.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I Feel Your Pain - Part 5

I’m 2 weeks into my effort to lose 10 pounds before the 24 Hours of Moab mountain bike race, and I’ve hit a snag. I’ve stopped losing with 7 pounds to go, and I’m fighting the fat within me. I know I’ll race better without those extra pounds, so I’m not giving up. These plateaus occur frequently during weight loss, and it can be very frustrating and discouraging. It’s normal, so hang in there when you experience them. It will help if you understand why this happens, so you’ll know what to do.

As a survival mechanism, our brains are hardwired to seek high-calorie foods and our metabolism is geared toward preserving the body fat we have accumulated by eating those foods. It goes back to the days when food supplies were uncertain – it was either feast or famine, and in order to survive the famine humans had to feast and store energy as fat whenever they could. There’s a big problem for modern man with this scheme, though. Because of the agricultural, industrial, technologic, and transportation revolutions we now have only one big ongoing feast. Cheap, high calorie foods are readily available, so we keep on storing, storing, storing fat in anticipation for a famine that never happens.

Here I am, doing all of the things needed to lose, but the scale is stuck because my body is fighting me. Natural mechanisms are trying to preserve the species by hanging on to the fat I’ve stored. The less weight I have to lose, the stronger the tendency for this to happen. So what to do? There are 2 choices:

1. Eat less. Provided I’m not overeating calories now, this is what I DON’T want to do. Doing so will make it seem that starvation is occurring, and the body will hang onto body fat even more tenaciously as a defense;

2. Exercise more. When weight loss plateaus occur, the metabolism needs to be given a jump-start, and that’s what exercise does. Aerobic activity (walking, hiking, jogging, dancing, running, biking, swimming, etc.) not only increases the metabolic rate during exercise but also for a period of time afterwards. Resistance exercise (weight training) also boosts the metabolic rate because muscle mass is increased, and muscle burns more calories than does fat. A combination of aerobic and resistance exercise is the best for making the body burn more calories overall, throughout the day.

This is my plan to get off the plateau and drop down to the next level. I’m not going to starve myself, but I’ll cut out any extra calories that may try to find their way into my mouth. The easiest way to do this is by eliminating processed foods. This includes eating extra calories during exercise – “energy bars” are really just candy bars that contain more calories than is typically burned during a workout, unless you’re like Lance Armstrong. I’m going to up my “play time” by adding a little more aerobic activity, as well as some mild weight training. I’ll let you know how it goes. Follow me daily on Twitter @DrSeale.

The author submits this blog posting as a health educator and not in any other capacity. You should seek the advice of your physician regarding a personal health condition or before undertaking any diet, exercise, or other health program.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Save More Than Your Sex Life

I was listening to a call-in radio show the other day, and one of the callers asked about erectile dysfunction. He was in his 40’s, had been taking vitamin V (you know – Viagra), but it had stopped working for him. The show wasn’t a medical one, but the host gave a great answer. He told the caller to stop treating the symptom (in this case, plumbing that didn’t work right), and start treating the cause. How? By exercising, eating healthfully, and losing weight.

There is a strong relationship between being overweight, chronic disease, and limp-member syndrome, yet most men don’t put 2 and 2 together to come up with 4. In the process, they could be jeopardizing their lives. With weight gain, the body’s hormones begin to change, and these hormonal shifts bring about undesirable effects. Blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides increase because of high insulin levels. Eventually blood sugar can become abnormally elevated if the pancreas can’t keep up with insulin production. All of these factors lead to hardening of the arteries, and decreased circulation to the organs – all of them, not just the heart. Yes, THE organ of most concern for males is also affected, and an organ without proper blood supply isn’t a happy one. In addition, testosterone levels decline with increasing weight. As you can imagine, that doesn’t help at all if you want to be the stallion you once were.

Approximately 30 million American men suffer from chronic erectile dysfunction. Conditions such as diabetes, hardening of the arteries, and kidney disease cause about 70% of cases. What are the most common causes of these diseases? Being overweight and smoking. In many instances, ED will precede the diagnosis of other related chronic conditions by several years. And while ED isn’t fatal, the diseases it’s associated with certainly are.

Developing ED isn’t a natural phenomenon of aging, and it shouldn’t be accepted as such, or taken care of by reaching for the medicine bottle. It’s a warning sign that there are serious processes going on inside your body you don’t want to have happening. If you smoke, stop. If you’re overweight, lose the pounds and you’ll probably find you can get rid of many medications you may be taking, including vitamin V. Cut down on those “manly” portions of meat, and eat foods high in antioxidants and phytochemicals – they happen to be the same ones that are high in fiber – fruits, veggies, beans, nuts, and whole grains. Exercise regularly. As you do these things, you’ll find yourself toning up and getting firmer in all the right places.

What you have to gain is more than just your sex life, but hey – that’s not a bad place to start!

The author submits this blog posting as a health educator and not in any other capacity. You should seek the advice of your physician regarding a personal health condition or before undertaking any diet, exercise, or other health program.

Friday, August 27, 2010

I Feel Your Pain - Part 4

Is your weight loss plan working? If not, why? Rather than bounce around from one diet to another trying to find the “right” one, it’s better to figure out why your action plan isn’t working and what you need to change. The following five questions are a great way to tweak any diet plan you may have.

1. Do I have a reason(s) to lose weight that is more important to me than continuing as I am?
I’m not asking if others want you to lose weight, or if you think you should because it’s healthier. It is more important that you make your own list of reasons that are more exciting, fun, enjoyable, and rewarding than living the life you do now.

2. Did I write down my action plan?
If just thinking about losing weight were all it took, we would all weigh what we wanted. But it takes discipline, organization, and planning. By writing out your plan you are making a promise to make it a priority. It’s also a good way to share the plan with someone who cares about you. Your chance of success increases when you become accountable to others.

3. Did I set realistic, measurable goals for my short and long term weight loss?
We all get enthused about new diets and try to quickly lose pounds that took years to put on. Pounds lost with fad diets usually return with a vengeance once you stop dieting (and you always will). Instead, focus on moderate lifestyle changes that lead to permanent weight loss over time. You will know your plan is working and realistic if you lose no more than a couple of pounds per week on average.

4. Did I set realistic solutions to over-eating my favorite foods that cause me to gain weight?
Food that causes you the most problem may need to be on your stop-eating list. For some, eating less of a favorite food is like a smoker cutting down on cigarettes, or an alcoholic trying to drink less. You need to decide if eating that particular food at all is worth missing out on whatever you put down for answer # 1. Will a few minutes of pleasure be as rewarding as playing with your grandchild for the next 10 years?

5. Did I figure out the habits that sabotage my weight loss and replace them with different behavior?
You need to become a problems-solver. Only you can determine what will work best in your schedule. I could list numerous habits, like snacking in front of the TV or not exercising, and then tell you what to do about them. But it won’t help if the solutions I give aren’t workable in your situation. This is the toughest and most important part of any action plan, so don’t give up. There are better, more rewarding behaviors that can replace any sabotaging habit you might have. You will know you are on the right track when the pounds start to melt away!

The author submits this blog posting as a health educator and not in any other capacity. You should seek the advice of your physician regarding a personal health condition or before undertaking any diet, exercise, or other health program.