And Now, Even More Reasons to Not Gain Weight

November 4, 2011 in General, Health, Weight Management by Mary Ireland

In case you haven't noticed, I've been on a tangent lately about not gaining weight during the holidays. There seem to be a lot of studies out recently that confirm that there are physiological factors - in addition to the psychological ones - that make it difficult to lose weight. I mentioned the one in my blog last week about how losing weight changes your hormones so that you are hungrier and your metabolism slows. The study concludes that it is best to just not the gain the weight in the first place.

Another study, reported in the Journal of Experimental Biology, analyzed changes to skeletal muscle when external weight (such as a weighted vest) is added to a healthy-weight subject. The results were compared with the skeletal muscle of an obese subject with the same or higher body weight as the weight of the healthy subject plus the external weight. This experiment was conducted on rats, however results are expected to be similar in humans.

As documented in the article, The Body Weight-Muscle Mismatch, the study found that the muscles of the subjects with the external weight began getting stronger in response to the added weight; however, the muscles of the obese rats did not. The obese rats' muscles contained some of the proteins needed to increase muscle power, but not all of them. “The obese rats’ muscles seemed to think that the animals were much smaller than they actually were,” said Dr. Rudolf J. Schilder, a postdoctoral fellow at Penn State and lead author of the study. He further observed, "Their muscles hadn’t come to terms with how fat the animals had become."

Although fat tissue isn't metabolically active -- in terms of burning calories -- according to Dr. Schilder fat is a very physiologically active tissue. “It produces hormones and biochemical messages” that might well disrupt how genes regulating protein production function. According to James H. Marden, a professor of biology at Penn State and co-author of the research, studies have found that “individuals who are extremely overweight often complain that moving is difficult.” It’s possible that their fat is inhibiting the muscular strength from keeping pace with their growing body size.

One way to reduce holiday calories is to eliminate or cut down on alcohol consumption. A traditional favorite of the season, eggnog, is loaded with sugar and fat. Even though eggnog may be the worst offender at 343 calories, other beverages have a lot of calories too. For example, 1.5 ounces of gin, rum, vodka, or whiskey is roughly 90 calories (plus a mixer that typically has added sugar) -- and a glass of wine is approximately 86 calories. But perhaps the biggest reason to cut down on alcohol is the study results released this week relating moderate alcohol consumption with increased risks of breast cancer. The study found that between 3 and 6 glasses of wine per week, or equivalent amount of distilled spirits, increased breast cancer risk by 15%. This contradicts the guideline that one drink per day for women is safe.

Alcohol consumption usually increases consumption of food, so you will get an even great calorie savings if you skip the alcoholic beverages. I don't want to take all of the fun out of the holidays (and I seriously doubt that I go through the holidays without at least one cup of eggnog and a glass or two of wine) but it is becoming more and more apparent that overindulgence has a high price. And besides, Good Health Can Be Yummy. You don't need to sacrifice taste and enjoyment.