The holidays are a time of celebration with family, friends, and of course, food. Packing on a few pounds in the winter months may not seem like a big problem, however the health implications can be much more serious than just extra inches along our waistline. On average, Canadians gain about one pound (1lb) during the winter holidays. Although this may seem insignificant, one’s inability to lose that weight can become problematic. When individuals engage in cyclic weight gain, typically associated with seasonal changes or holidays, they are less likely to lose it. This can accumulate over time and spiral into a cycle of continuous weight gain and increased health risks.
While the overall change in weight is usually small, holiday weight gain changes our body composition, specifically the amount of fat versus muscle. There is usually a significant increase in body fat and a decrease in muscle mass, generally as a result of sedentary (relaxing) behavior. The increase in fat mass is primarily found in the central areas (abdomen and waist) and the decrease in muscle mass seen in the peripheries (legs and arms). We all have some subcutaneous fat, the fat that’s just underneath our skin. This type of fat generally does not pose as a serious risk and sometimes can even provide protection by cushioning falls, maintaining body heat, etc. However, fat accumulation around the belly typically signifies visceral fat, the fat within our abdomen and wrapped around vital organs. This type of fat has been linked to a myriad of health risks including, but not limited to cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, dyslipidemia, and early mortality.
The first priority to counteract putting on holiday weight is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Simply put, the process of losing weight, regardless of amount or time of year, can be quite challenging – no matter your resolve or dedication. However, if you did put on some weight during the winter, don’t get too down on yourself. Sometimes we indulge a lot and feel ashamed afterwards; it’s perfectly normal. The key is not to dwell on it. Work towards figuring out what caused your slip-ups, plan to address those triggers for the future, and then move forward.
Including protein in every meal and snack helps with creating and preserving satiety. Calorie for calorie, protein is the most important appetite controlling nutrient. High protein diets support healthy weight loss by promoting fat loss and preserving lean muscle mass.
Fibre intake is important for weight management but has also been linked to reducing heart disease, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes. Insoluble fibre, which is not digested by the body, is in foods such as bran, whole wheat products, and skins of fruits and vegetables. It is integrals in promoting regular bowel functions. Soluble fibre, which the body can digest in very small amounts, is in foods such as vegetables, fruits, and legumes. It slows down the movement of
food in the digestive system, lowers blood cholesterol levels, balances blood sugar levels, manages diarrhea and loose stools, reduces the risk of intestinal ulcers, increases the amount of healthy bacteria and therefore, promotes a healthier colon.
When PGX, a soluble fibre, is taken with water, it thickens and creates volume in the stomach, allowing you to feel fuller and to eat less. To further help balance blood sugar levels, choose less of high glycemic index foods, foods that are high in carbohydrates and low in fibre, such as refined, white grains. Instead, choose whole wheat options and whole fruits, vegetables, and legumes more often. Adding PGX to your diet can lessen the effect of a high glycemic index food and in turn, prevent huge spikes in your blood sugar level. PGX is a great source of dietary fibre that helps maintain blood sugar and cholesterol levels, keeps you feeling full for much longer, and supports weight management.
A bit of weight gain during the winter may seem trivial, but if not addressed and allowed to accumulate over the years, this holiday “gift” can lead to much dire health consequences. So if you’re looking to avoid the extra jolly giggle in your step, consider making the changes now or consider using PGX as a tool to help you in the right direction.
This column is sponsored by Good 'n' Natural in Steinbach.