To Win the Battle of the Bulge

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30 Jul 2015

We all know how difficult it is to lose weight.

We all know the dangers of being overweight and we all know it just how lousy it feels.

Research shows that two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, and it is associated with hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression and various cancers (Malik, Schultz & Hu 2006). Furthermore, studies find that Americans tend to gain weight slowly over time after age 50—adding approximately one pound per year (Mozaffarian et al. 2011).  As a wellness coach who deals in weight loss, I think I’ve heard the same thing from hundreds of people: “How did I let this happen to me?” “Who becomes overweight?”  “How can I prevent the problem in the first place?”

Dr. Len Kravitz, PhD and Troy Purdom, MS have dedicated research to predicting who is most likely to gain weight based on six specific behaviors.  Understanding these specific behaviors will help people prevent or manage weight gain.

  1. Eating High-Calorie Foods

Eating behaviors associated with progressive weight gain included regular consumption of potato chips and potatoes (French fries; mashed, baked and boiled potatoes); red meat, processed meats (deli and luncheon meats) and unprocessed red meats (beef, hamburger, or lamb); Butter, sweets and refined grains (foods like white flour and white rice).

Foods That Help With Weight Management: Studies also found that eating foods
such as nuts, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, yogurt, diet, cheese and milk (lowfat, skim and whole) appeared to curb weight gain. These foods have slower digestion rates (some being high in fiber) and appear to enhance feeling of being full after a meal. These foods can replace other, more highly processed foods in the diet, creating a situation where people who eat more fruits, nuts, vegetables and whole grains may gain less weight over time. Portion control still plays a role, even in healthy foods.

  1. Consuming Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

Sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs) have little nutritional benefit and are reportedly the greatest provider of kilocalories in the American diet (Dennis, Flack & Davy 2009). They account for approximately eight to nine percent of total energy intake in children and adults. SSBs contain carbohydrates of various forms, such as high fructose corn syrup, sucrose and artificial sweeteners.  SSBs have little impact on satisfying hunger so people can consume large quantities without suppressing their appetite (Mattes 2006).

The body’s response to carbohydrate (of equal caloric value) differs depending on whether it is liquid or solid. DiMeglio & Mattes (2000) found that people who drank SSBs gained significantly more weight than they did when consuming a comparable amount of carbohydrate in solid form. In subjects who participated in both treatments found that the SSB treatment produced double the fat mass compared with the solid carbohydrate intervention. Both carbohydrate sources were the caloric equivalent to three 12 ounce sodas per day in both groups.

  1. Too Little (or Too Much) Sleep

Although more clinical trials are needed, several studies suggest that weight gain is influenced by sleeping less than seven hours or more than eight hours per night.

According to Marshal and colleagues, people who sleep too little develop chronically impaired glucose metabolism, steadily contributing to obesity. In addition, sleep deprivation significantly lowers circulating levels of the hormone leptin and increases circulating levels of the hormone ghrelin—both effects that promote food intake (Van Cauter et al. 2008). Altering the regulation of these hormones contributes to increased hunger and appetite, especially for carbohydrate rich foods linked to weight gain. Ideally, sleeping seven to eight hours each night complements a successful weight management program.

  1. Quantity of Computer Watching or TV

The length of time spent at the computer, or in the secular world, watching television is highly correlated with weight gain, especially in young people (Chapman et al. 2012).

Approximately 58.9 percent of Americans waste incredible amounts of time watching television for more than two hours per day. Studies have revealed that they tend to snack more while watching; they have higher overall caloric intake of foods and consume more energy dense foods. All these choices lead to weight gain. Other evidence indicates seeing pictures food in advertisements evoke increases in plasma ghrelin concentrations, thus boosting the hunger/eating response (Chapman et al. 2012).

  1. Alcohol Overconsumption

From time to time, we are in situations where alcohol is available.  It can be a Shabbos or Yom Tov seuda or another seudas mitzvah.  Beware! Alcohol is very energy dense—at seven kcal per gram, it is second only to fat, with nine kcal per gram; this creates a multitude of health issues.

Aside from the pharmacological effects on the brain and on hormone fluctuation, the additional kilocalories from alcohol do not seem to replace energy consumption from other sources (Yeomans 2010). Therefore, energy consumption from alcohol augments overall daily calorie intake.

Alcohol consumed before or with meals tends to increase food intake, probably by enhancing the short term rewarding effects of food. Uniquely, alcohol in moderation can protect against obesity, specifically in women. This means that alcohol is somewhat dose dependent and should be monitored closely, especially while eating.

  1. Inactivity

Scientists have noted a relationship between not walking and weight gain (GordenLarse et al. 2009).  This suggests that the more people walk, the less likely they are to gain weight. The researchers point out that older Amish people who walk an average of 16,000 steps a day have very low rates of obesity. Adding two to four hours of walking per week is an attainable movement target for most people.

Despite the documented benefits of exercise, only half of Americans (51.6 percent) participate in the recommended volume (150 minutes per week) of moderate aerobic activity during the week, while only 29.3 percent do muscle strengthening activities at least two days per week. (CDC 2011). Furthermore, just 20.6 percent of U.S. adults  meet both the aerobic and muscle strengthening guidelines (CDC 2011). This means that the majority of Americans trying to lose or maintain weight will have a positive weight balance because they are not meeting the minimum physical activity guidelines.

To sum up, there are certain behaviors that if changed, can prevent you from becoming overweight or obese:

1) Avoid a diet with too much red meat, processed meats, potatoes and desserts.

2) Get 7-8 hours of sleep at night.

3) Manage your stress.

4) Get 150 minute of aerobic exercise each week.

5) Spend a lot less time at the computer.

6) Replace sugary drinks with water.

7) When occasions arise and there is alcohol available, drink no more than a shot or two.

Adopting these behaviors will “add hours to your day, days to your year and years to your life.”



Alan Freishtat is an A.C.E. CERTIFIED PERSONAL TRAINER and a BEHAVIORAL CHANGE and WELLNESS COACH with over 19 years of professional experience. Alan is the creator and director of the “10 Weeks to Health” program for weight loss. He is available for private coaching sessions, consultations, assessments and personalized workout programs both in his office and by telephone and skype. Alan also lectures and gives seminars and workshops. He can be reached at 02-651-8502 or 050-555-7175, or by email at Check out the his web site – US Line: 516-568-5027.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.