How to avoid seasonal weight gain



Daytime high temps have been in the 70s this week as autumn officially arrived. Lots of fall color throughout the neighborhood. It is a great time to get out and enjoy nature.

Today’s column is a preemptive strike against seasonal weight gain. On balance, people fluctuate (gain) only a pound or two with the changing seasons. However, there are those of us who have greater challenges and must maintain heightened vigilance lest we suddenly balloon beyond our wardrobe’s ability to accommodate our expanding shape.

The research into this topic is not particularly compelling to me inasmuch as I am one of those so afflicted. In a nutshell, researchers have concluded (are guessing) that seasonal weight gain is predominantly attributable to holiday revelry. Family feasts and numerous social gatherings immerse us in a quagmire of gluttony.

Yet every fall—well before the holidays arrive—my appetite spikes and I have to really knuckle down to maintain a stable weight. This condition subsides in me by early November. Seemingly, it is that initial transition from summer to fall that triggers in me whatever it is triggering. Presumably (now I am guessing), my physiology is reacting to shorter daylight. Whatever it is, it has been occurring for years.

Therefore, if you are like most folks, you still have a couple months before you need to get on top of this. If you are like me, on the other hand, and your appetite is spiking now, here are the strategies I espouse to get you through those appetite spikes.

Managing weight is mostly about managing intake.

Eat whole foods. Whole foods are more nutritious than processed foods and, as a result, may provide better satiety. Processed foods can also cause adverse fluctuations in blood sugar levels, which can exacerbate feelings of hunger.

Load up on veggies and greens and reduce your intake of calorie-dense foods. This has a dual benefit in that veggies and greens are highly nutritious, yet are extremely low calorie by volume.

Drink lots of water. Hydration is important to our health in and of itself. However, water is also helpful as a mitigation tool to help manage your intake with a feeling of fullness.

Eat set meals. Avoid the snacky stuff. Consider that your dinner plate will hold a finite amount of food. The size of your plate becomes a limiting factor that allows you to gauge how much you are eating. Barrels of cheese puffs (as one example) have no such reference point—at least until the barrel is empty.

Intermittent fasting is a technique I bring up frequently in this column. I have found intermittent fasting to be simple to explain and comprehend and highly effective. Frankly, anything short of constantly grazing can arguably be called intermittent.

However, in more rigorous interpretations of intermittent fasting, individuals will only consume food during a short daily time window of perhaps three to four hours. Intermittent fasting is a framework that, owing to the time constraint it imposes on feeding, manages intake. Intermittent fasting is not for everyone.

The continuing COVID-19 public health issue is likely to remain with us for the foreseeable future. This is further reason to maintain a healthy weight as overweight individuals are at far greater risk for adverse outcomes.

Also related to COVID-19, wildfires on the U.S. West Coast have sent a lot of smoke our way. And while our air quality is nowhere near as bad as those poor folks are living through, you should be aware that air quality here is worse than normal.

Although I have not noticed any smells— we often get a wood smoke smell from wildfires occurring in the vast forests north of the border—the haze has been considerable. While smoke is a toxic substance (any smoke adversely impacts lung function), smoke from the West Coast fires contains more than just materials from combustion of the forest.

As man-made structures burn, they release even more harmful toxic substances. Similar to my earlier caution, now is not the time to experience diminished lung capacity due to air pollution. Use caution and common sense and stay abreast of air quality reports.

Continue to be kind to one another and get out there and play!

Consult the Minnesota Department of Health and CDC websites for the latest updates on COVID-19. Consult with your healthcare professional before starting any weight loss or exercise program.

Tom Duffy is the owner of Good Sports Fitness, a wellness, fitness and athletic conditioning business based in Babbitt. Email:

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