Dr. Gray's Straight Talk

Honest and blunt healthcare discussion and advice.

Weight Gain Inevitable in Winter Months?

Posted by Dr. Gray on Thursday, October 2, 2008

I read the following article a few years ago, and thought I’d repost it here… along with a few observations.

Taken from Tulsa World: College freshmen have the world laid out before them like an all-you-can-eat buffet. And some of them are eating it all up, literally. Legend goes that university froshes gulp down junk food, fattening foods, alcohol and late-night meals, consuming more calories than in their high school days and getting less exercise. The result is notoriously named the “freshman 15,” as in 15 pounds gained. The freshman 15 is no urban legend according to a study from Cornell University that said college freshmen gain an average of 4.2 pounds in their first three months on campus. “The main reason is a drastic change in lifestyle,” said Angelyn Holmes, coordinator for campus life and wellness at Oklahoma State University. “Most are leaving home for the first time. They have the freedom to go and eat pizza at 11 o’clock at night, and there is unlimited access to food.”

Although this particular article refers only to first-year college students, it could easily apply to the majority of the American population. Think about your environment as we get into the “back-to-school” period. Whether we’re going back to school, or refocusing at work, summer is over and we begin to concentrate on more important things... More important things? What could be more important than your health?

Unfortunately, most of us don’t put enough value on the health benefits gained from exercise and relaxation… from “play.” During the summer months, we spend our time being active, getting out with friends, walking the dogs, working in the yard, going to the lake, riding bikes, swimming, reading on the porch with a nice glass of tea, etc. This list could go on and on. The fact is, we tell ourselves all year long that, “As soon as summer gets here, I’m going to _____.” When summer arrives, we’re so excited to relax and play… we don’t even realize the changes taking place in our bodies.

You don’t “feel better” just because it’s summer. You don’t lose weight just because it’s warmer. You don’t eat better just because it’s nice out. You’re not happier just because it’s that time of year. You feel better, lose weight, eat right, and are happier… because you choose to be! Basically, you finally allow yourself to let go a little. You begin to play. Is that the only difference in thought? In the colder months, we work… and when it gets warm, we play?

Let me ask you this… if you’ve convinced yourself that summer is for play, and then it’s time to concentrate on “more important stuff,” what happens to all of that “important stuff” during the summer? Do more businesses fail during the summer? No. Does production decrease in the summer? No. Do projects stop and wait for summer to be over? No. Is there more sickness during the summer because you’re trying to play and work? No.

So let’s follow this out to a logical conclusion: When we are only focused on working and “busy stuff,” we end up less healthy, less energy, more weight, less happy. When we allow ourselves to “play,” we end up more healthy, more energy, less weight, more happy. When we play, we choose to get exercise whether we are consciously aware of it or not. When we are too focused on “busy stuff,” we don’t have time for that. Who decides what you’ve got time for? YOU DO!

Healthy/unhealthy… lose weight/gain weight… pain/ease… energetic/tired… happy/sad… it all comes down to the choices you make. Do you choose to go for a walk, or do you plop your lazy butt down on the couch? Do you choose to drink juice, or soda? Do you have a glass of wine, or a twelve-pack of beer? Do you eat a handful of nuts, or smoke a cigarette? Do you have friends over for a boardgame evening, or do you eat crap while watching a movie?

We discussed “play” above, and it’s importance in our daily lives. Keep in mind, there’s good play and bad play. You can play football with a bunch of friends, or you can play football on the video game. Both are “play,” but which one do you think you’ll get the most out of? Ultimately, it returns to your choice.

Instead of slowing down your activity level this fall and winter, make the choice to continue playing. Don’t stop doing the things that helped you feel better over the summer. Playtime does not have to stop! It may need to change, but it doesn’t need to stop. Can’t swim at the lake anymore? Swim at the local YMCA or healthclub. Can’t play tennis in the snow? Enroll in a yoga class. Can’t have that backyard cookout? Have some friends over to play cards. You know what I’m talking about… don’t choose to be complacent. Don’t decide to wait for next summer.

Choose to play.

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