The holiday season is typically seen as a time when weight gain is nearly inevitable, but by better understanding food choices and eating with more frequency, it is possible to actually eat more and lose weight.
“Many people in the holiday seasons eat a lot at certain times and then starve themselves during the week to try and make up for it,” said Jason Brice, a personal trainer at The Wellness Center in Johnson City. “But what they’re doing is setting their bodies up to lower their metabolism and just gain more weight.”
When a person begins skipping meals or dramatically lowers the amount of food he or she eats, the person’s body can be tricked into thinking it’s starving, and the result will be a lower metabolism. Thus, going back to eating the regular amount of food can cause weight gain because the body is trying to do more with less.
“The body adapts with survival in mind rather than what you look like,” Brice said.
The answer? Eat regularly and eat smarter.
“Look at those people who eat every three hours. Many of them are thin, and it’s not fluke genetics. It’s that they’re keeping their metabolism going and eating the right thing,” Brice said. “You can actually eat twice as much if you change the type from fatty foods to proteins and carbohydrates.”
One gram of fat has nine calories, while a gram of protein or carbohydrates has only four calories. And only 5 percent of fat is burned for fuel while 15 percent of carbohydrates are burned for fuel and 25 percent of proteins consumed are burned for fuel.
Another key is to keep away from foods that don’t perish quickly.
“Salt is a big problem. Canned foods and others that don’t quickly perish should be avoided,” Brice said. “So keep your grocery shopping on the periphery of grocery stores.”
Healthier foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, are typically located along the outer edges of grocery stores.
And as for those products promoting “zero fat” and “zero calories,” make sure you check the labels, because legal loopholes allow them to make claims that are greatly exaggerated. If the serving size is less than half a gram, ignore everything the label claims, Brice said.
“Those nonstick sprays that say they have no fat or calories are really 100 percent fat and loaded with calories. But because they claim to have such small serving sizes — less than half a gram — the law allows them to claim they have none,” Brice said. “Instead, turn to olive oil. It has good fat. And while butter is not the key to fitness, it’s better than any substitute.”
Understanding fat and sugar content is important and can best be achieved by reading labels.
“Lots of foods labeled sugar-free are loaded with sugar. Read the labels, and often you will find a long list of ingredients that are actually sugar but are called something else like high fructose corn syrup,” Brice said.
So the key is to know what you are eating, make most of your foods higher in protein and carbohydrates, and eat regularly. And for those times such as Christmas dinner when you really don’t want to have to worry about what you’re eating, Brice said that’s OK too.
“I usually tell people that one day out of each week, anything goes,” he said.