By Ruth A. Rasmussen, PhD, RDN, LD, CCRP
It’s the most difficult dieting time of the year! Not only are food temptations lurking around every corner – family feasts, office parties, cookie exchanges, festivals and more – there’s a troubling cultural shift underway that embraces simply taking a pill to shed unwanted body weight.
The way Americans are trying to keep the pounds off is frightening. Perhaps you’re aware of the run on laxatives?1 Gut dysfunction may be a culprit; however, laxatives are also now being used as a “poor man’s” Ozempic. And regarding Ozempic? Well, despite its popularity as a type 2 diabetes medication, it’s in high demand for weight loss. Consider Morgan Stanley’s projection2 that 24 million Americans will be taking weight-loss drugs by 2035.
As cardiac and pulmonary rehab professionals, how do we guide our patients who are being bombarded with “quick fix” messaging?
A great place to start is with the research on how to healthfully prevent weight gain over the holidays. In a study published by BMJ, researchers randomized 272 adults into an intervention or control group. The interventional group had three main directives: weigh themselves and record the reading, get informed about weight-management strategies and review pictorial information on the physical activity calorie equivalent of their holiday food and drinks. The control group, meanwhile, received only guidance on general healthy living.
What was the outcome? The intervention group lost a fraction of a pound (0.3 pound) within the 4- to 8-week holiday period, while the control group gained about a pound (0.8 pounds). What were those proven helpful tips the men and women in the interventional group received, you might wonder? Here are the 10 main keys!
- Keep to your meal routine. Try to eat at roughly the same times each day.
- Go reduced-fat. Choose low-fat foods when possible. Find products with 20% fat or less.
- Walk off the weight. Aim for 10,000 steps each day.
- Pack a healthy snack. Choose fresh fruit or non-fat yogurt instead of chocolate or chips.
- Look at the labels. When shopping, check food labels for fat and sugar content. Avoid sugars in the first five ingredients and choose foods with lower fat content (under 20%).
- Use caution with your portions. Add small portions and savor. You’ll find that savoring your food will help you to feel satisfied with less.
- Get up on your feet. Stand up for 10 minutes every hour for more movement.
- Think about your drinks. Choose water or calorie-free beverages and limit alcohol, which is calorie dense.
- Focus on your food. Slow down, and don’t eat in front of the TV or on the go – you’re prone to consume more foods.
- Don’t forget your five-a-day. Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. These fiber- and nutrient-rich foods will also keep your immune system in top-tier condition.
Do any of those 10 tips look familiar? They should! These are the tried-and-true points that you probably share with your patients day in and day out. As the holidays approach, everyone should be able to enjoy all of the special moments the season has to offer, as long as they keep these healthful tips in mind and in practice!
- Wolfe, Rachel. “People Rely on Laxatives so Much, There Aren’t Enough to Go Around.” The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, 7 Sept. 2023, www.wsj.com/health/wellness/laxative-shortage-diet-weight-loss-5a15bf02?page=1.
- Newman, Jesse. “America’s Food Giants Confront the Ozempic ERA.” The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, 5 Oct. 2023, www.wsj.com/business/ozempic-impact-snack-food-companies-9eec87e5?page=1.
- Mason, Frances, et al. “Effectiveness of a brief behavioural intervention to prevent weight gain over the Christmas holiday period: Randomised Controlled Trial.” BMJ, 2018, https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.k4867.
Ruth A. Rasmussen is currently an adjunct professor for multiple universities (University of Oklahoma, Parker University and Liberty University). Additionally, she sits on the Pritikin Scientific Advisory Board, where she serves as a research consultant. Rasmussen previously spent 7 years as a dietitian in Pritikin intensive cardiac rehab. She enjoys everyday life with her husband Austin and 10-month-old son Luke.