Common Lifetime Events and Weight Gain

Holiday dinner with family can lead to weight gain.
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It really doesn't matter how old you are -- if you regularly eat more calories than you burn, you'll gain weight. But there are certain times in your life when the probability of unwanted weight gain goes up. Let's start with those college days:

Weight Gain From the Freshman Fifteen

College is an exciting time for young adults, and it's also a time when people tend to gain weight. A study from Cornell University showed that the average freshman gained more than four pounds during the first 12 weeks on campus.

For many freshmen, the temptation to indulge in junk food and pile on the portions in the dining hall leads to this weight gain. Another reason for the freshman fifteen is decreasing physical activity and combining study time with snacking time.

Tips to Avoid the Freshman Fifteen

  • Watch your portion sizes in the dining hall. Choose salads, healthy green vegetables, lean meats, and whole wheat bread. Limit French fries, sugary sodas, desserts and fried foods.
  • Keep healthy snacks on hand. Don't buy giant-sized bags of greasy potato chips, tortilla chips and cheese puffs. If you have a refrigerator, you can keep fresh cut vegetables and dip.
  • Choose whole grain crackers, rice cakes, nuts, fresh fruits, and dried fruits. If you want the higher-calorie, poor-nutrition snacks, buy them in single serving bags so you can control your calorie intake.
  • Stick to healthy beverages. Sugary sodas have no nutritional value other than the calories that can add up fast. Drink a couple of glasses of water between meals instead.
  • Get some exercise. I know study time is necessary, but you need to keep active. You don't need to go to the gym or do anything extremely strenuous.
  • Walking for at least 30 minutes five days per week is an easy way to stay active and burn extra calories.

Living Together and Gaining Weight Together

The next stage that often brings on additional weight gain is when you get married or move in with your life-partner.

While married people tend to be healthier than single people, there is also a tendency to gain weight.

Why does this happen? It may be due to a reduction in physical activity because it's tempting to stay home and snuggle on the couch with a nice glass of wine. Also, when some people find a partner, they may no longer feel the need to pay much attention to their weight. Another reason may be due to the desire to take care of each other and indulge in comfort foods together.

Tips for Avoiding Weight Gain After Marriage/Moving In Together

  • Get off the couch. Make the time for physical activities that you can enjoy together. You might want to consider joining a health club together or making a commitment to walk or run for at least 30 minutes five days per week.
  • Choose healthy, low-calorie foods and watch your portion sizes at mealtime. Serve a big salad as a meal a few times per week and avoid fried foods and high-calorie desserts.
  • Indulge each other in sweet words and kisses rather than candies and rich foods.
  • Take a cooking class together and learn how to prepare healthily and delicious meals at home. Sharing the cooking and meal planning for two will help you keep each other on a healthy diet.

Weight Gain and Eating for Two

Weight gain during pregnancy is normal, and it may take more than a year after the birth of your baby to lose all that extra weight. It isn't always easy, though. If your eating habits changed during the nine months of pregnancy, you'll have to change them back to return to your healthy weight.

Tips for Weight Loss After Pregnancy

  • Moms who breastfeed tend to lose weight more quickly than mothers who don't.
  • Post-partum exercise is necessary for regaining pre-baby levels of fitness.
  • Choose nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains and legumes to get the calories you need.
  • Stay away from junk foods and high-calorie snacks. Remember that you'll be a role model for your child's eating patterns.
  • Don't expect too much too soon. Supermodels can give birth and be back in a bikini in a month or two, but most of us take a lot longer.
  • It can take up to a year to lose the post-baby weight, so relax and don't give up on yourself.

Holiday Weight Gain

The holiday season is the next time when we tend to gain weight -- it's a typical time to put on an extra pound or two. That may not seem like much, but it adds up over the years.

Many people indulge themselves with the good intentions of making New Years resolutions, but why not get a head start on January and stay healthy during the holidays?

Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

  • Eat a light and healthy snack before going to holiday parties so you are less likely to eat too much after you arrive.
  • Don't hover around the buffet table where the sights and smells of delicious treats are too tempting.
  • Keep your exercise program going. If you do indulge in a few treats, you may wish to increase your daily exercise time to burn off the extra calories.
  • Keep your alcohol consumption in check. Alcohol has extra calories you don't need, and large amounts can deplete thiamin and folate in your body.
  • If you're determined to indulge, make sure to drink a glass of water between every adult beverage.
  • Offer nutritious foods at holiday meals. Greens and colorful fruits and vegetables are festive, delicious and healthy.
  • Don't pour on the extra sauces and gravies. Keep your dessert portions tiny.

Weight Gain During the Middle Years

Middle age begins at age 41, and it can be a fascinating time. The kids are older and maybe even out of the house. Your career and professional goals are being met, and life (and physical activity) may start to slow down a bit.

A slower lifestyle pace may be nice, but this isn't the time to decrease your physical activity. Don't start eating too much junk food now, either. Obesity in middle age leads to chronic health problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and dementia later in life.

If you're already overweight or obese, this is the time to lose weight because the rest of your life depends on it.

Tips for Avoiding Weight Gain During Middle Age

  • Keep physically active. Exercise not only burns calories but prevents muscle loss. The bigger your muscles, the more calories you burn.
  • If you are overweight or obese, it is time to get serious about your weight. Use a food diary to track your meals.
  • If you're not sure how to eat right, speak with a dietitian or nutritionist.
  • Now that the kids are gone you might find yourself dining in restaurants more often. People who frequently eat in restaurants have a tendency to have problems with weight gain.
  • Watch your portion sizes and make healthy choices. Share your meals or take half of them home with you.
  • Continue to choose nutritious foods:
    • Eat at least five fruits and vegetables each day.
    • Eat fish and lean meats.
    • Enjoy healthy nuts like almonds and walnuts.
    • Choose whole grains. Avoid greasy foods, fried foods, sugary foods and don't overindulge in junk foods.

Menopause and Weight Gain

Menopause is a time of change, both physically and emotionally and many women have trouble with weight gain during this stage. Exercise is critical now; you need to stay active to maintain a healthy weight and keep your bones strong. Choose nutritious foods like soy, broccoli and cauliflower -- they may help reduce your risk of breast cancer. Keeping a healthy weight will also lower your risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Tips to Avoid Menopausal Weight Gain

  • As always, choose healthful foods and watch your portions.
  • You will require fewer calories as you age. If you don't decrease your calorie intake or increase your activity levels, you'll gain weight.
  • Some diet changes and dietary supplements might give you some relief from menopausal discomfort.
  • Increase your fruit and vegetable intake and think about taking dietary supplements like soy, red clover, vitamin B-6, vitamin E, and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • I've also got some tips for getting used to eating with dentures.
  • Calcium supplements with vitamin D may help keep your bones healthy. You should start taking calcium supplements long before menopause.

All these tips to prevent weight gain are useful at any age and any stage of your life. If you follow them all, you may be able to stay healthy, happy and physically fit. 

Sources:

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McCrory MA, Fuss PJ, Hays NP, Vinken AG, Greenberg AS, Roberts SB. "Overeating in America: association between restaurant food consumption and body fatness in healthy adult men and women ages 19 to 80." Obes Res. 1999 Nov;7(6):564-71. Accessed April 4, 2016. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/j.1550-8528.1999.tb00715.x/abstract.

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Rosano GM, Vitale C, Tulli A. "Managing cardiovascular risk in menopausal women." Climacteric. 2006 Sep;9(5):19-27. Accessed April 4, 2016. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13697130600917732?journalCode=icmt20.

Sobal J, Rauschenbach B, Frongillo E. "Marital status changes and body weight changes: a US longitudinal analysis." Social Science & Medicine Volume 56, Issue 7 , April 2003, Pages 1543-1555. Accessed April 4, 2016. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953602001557.

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