Can those 5 pounds you gained over the holidays make you sick? This Doctor Says YES… and Tells Why!
Happy New Year! I’d like to extend my personal blessings for an amazing and enlightening 2015! As this wonderful new year starts, I’d like to introduce the Riobe Institute of Integrative Medicine Blog. My passion is to empower women and men to put themselves first in health so they can be more for those they love! As an Expert in Integrative Medicine, I’m excited to be able to share my thoughts and ideas with you to help you feel your best. I firmly believe that Integrative Medicine can and will revolutionize health in the US and throughout the world. I hope to convince you of the same and start our revolution now.
January is weight awareness month.
A New England Journal of Medicine Study shows that Americans gain from 1 to 5 pounds every holiday. No big deal on the surface, but what most don’t realize is they never get it off!
Even when the holiday hustle and bustle is over and we return to eating right and exercising, the alarming truth is that this weight is here to stay for most of us.
The link between holiday weight gain and chronic diseases is getting clearer and clearer. It’s important to get those stubborn pounds off before they lead to heart attacks, cancer, Alzheimer dementia, depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, and diabetes, just to name a few… Those couple pounds are a strong indicator of other things going wrong in their bodies and have nothing to do with that egg nog and fruit cake! The vast majority of annual weight gain happens during the holidays between Thanksgiving and New Year.
What these couple of pounds is really telling you is that there are unknown metabolic disturbances lurking in the body preventing the body from properly burning calories. The truth is that we are living in an unprecedented time of chronic stress and our cells which make up our bodies are being bombarded daily with toxins which lead to poor function of cells, organs and the body itself. As this toxic burden mounts, the body is in overdrive trying to get rid of it.
This is the same as you using your car but never turning off the engine. Even when you get home and park in the garage, YOU LEAVE THE ENGINE RUNNING! This is what chronic stress does to the body. Just like your car engine will eventually give out on you, the body will eventually give out, too.
Your body, thankfully, has self-correcting mechanisms in place unlike your car. When your car quits, you get stranded. When the body starts to run into trouble, it does what it can to make up for it. The body has to make decisions for survival by sending critical resources to critical body systems such as your heart, lungs, and brain than the rest of you. Physiologically, the body doesn’t consider your muscles to be very important when it comes to survival. So guess what? The body will break down muscles to get resources so you can stay alive and not have that stroke or heart attack, which is good. Your muscles are the same as your car engine! Muscles have the largest amount of little energy factories called mitochondria (figure 1) that burn calories just as your car engine burns gas to give your car power. So the bad news is that as you lose muscle mass, your metabolism plummets and you gain weight. Protecting your muscle mass is a key factor in weight control, fitness, anti-aging and disease prevention!
My top three tips for protecting muscle mass are:
- Eat plenty of protein! A healthy diet is the cornerstone of health. Many mistakenly believe that eating protein is bad for you. It’s critical to eat about 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. (A kilogram is about 2.2 pounds). This is higher than the current Recommended Daily Allowance of 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight, which is outdated. You may need even more protein if you are engaged in intense physical activity.
- Stay well hydrated. Chronic dehydration is associated with many chronic conditions from heart disease and irritability to chronic pain. The human brain is 85% water! 60% of the body’s water is in its cells. I recommend a quart of water for every 50 pounds of body weight daily.
- Engage in resistance training. Excessive aerobic activity is associated with muscle loss and even rapid aging! Resistance training that targets all skeletal muscles in the body help maintain muscle mass and keep metabolism humming! There is no need to spend hours in the gym. Targeting specific body parts to cover the entire body every week for 30-40 minutes three or four times a week is plenty.