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Holiday Weight Gain Struggles

It's no mystery that a diet full of fried foods, giant portions, decadent desserts, alcohol and soft drinks will lead to weight gain. But how can you fight back? Dr. Andrew Petersen from Holtorf Medical Group has some help.
It's no mystery that a diet full of fried foods, giant portions, decadent desserts, alcohol, and sugary soft drinks will lead to weight gain. And there's little question why the pounds pile up when you take in more calories than you burn in.

Dr. Andrew Petersen, a leading expert in Thyroid Disorder, Weight Loss, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia and Hormonal Disorders at Holtorf Medical Group talks about some of the reasons that weight loss is impossible for some, even if they feel like they're doing everything right.

There are several reasons why you might continue to gain weight even though your diet and exercise routing seem normal. The most common causes include:

· Hypothyroidism - The most common medical condition that causes weight gain is hypothyroidism. A deficiency of thyroid hormone can decrease metabolism, causing appetite loss and weight gain. If you are feeling fatigued, lethargic, swelling, hoarse voice, intolerance to cold, sleeping too much, or headaches, you should see your doctor for an easy test to determine if you have hypothyroidism.

· Stress - We live in a society that demands we do more, be more, and achieve more. Stress moves us forward and helps cope with life's demands, but it also affects our mood and emotions. Stress response, whether it is 'fight-or-flight,' juggling too many responsibilities, or coping with financial pressures, triggers a biochemical process where our bodies go into survival mode. Our bodies store fuel, slow down metabolism, and dump out chemicals [cortisol, leptin, and other hormones] which are more likely to cause obesity in the abdominal region.

· Lack of Sleep - The body functions best when well rested. When you don't get enough sleep, your body experiences physiological stress and, biochemically, you store fat more efficiently. When you're tired, you also don't handle stress as well, so you may reach for food as a coping mechanism. Further, you may be taking in extra calories from late-night snacking. Some people think eating might help them get back to sleep, but all it really does is add more calories to their daily total.

· Medications - Some prescription drugs used to treat depression, mood disorders, seizures, migraines, blood pressure, and diabetes can cause weight gain, from a modest amount to as much as 10 pounds per month. Your medicine cabinet might be the cause of your weight gain if you've gained 5 or more pounds in a month without a change in your lifestyle. Every drug works a little differently to cause weight gain, from increasing appetite, altering the way fat is stored, to how insulin levels change.

In the case of antidepressants, weight gain may not even be related to the action of the drug -- feeling better can also result in a heartier appetite. Some drugs can cause fluid retention that shows up on the scale as weight gain, but is not fat, and is usually easily corrected.

· Menopause - Women reach menopause at a range of ages, but most are in midlife and are often less physically active than when they were younger. Along with aging comes a natural slowing of metabolism. At the same time, hormonal changes can trigger hunger, depression, and poor sleep. When women go through menopause, they lose estrogen, causing their shapes to change -- usually a loss of hip and thigh weight and they start to gain more in the middle. The key to avoiding this extra belly fat is to maintain and increase the amount of lean body mass, which will, in turn, increase your metabolism or calorie burn rate.

Studies show that if you chronically diet or "over exercise" your body may turn on you and reduce your metabolism by suppressing thyroid levels. The body normally produces an inactive thyroid hormone called T4, which is then converted to T3. The T3 is the active substance that is responsible for your body's metabolism. When it is low or suboptimal, your metabolism is low. When it is high, your metabolism is high.

When the body senses excessive dieting or exercise, this normal sequence of events is altered. Instead of converting T4 to the active T3, the body then converts the T4 into a substance called reverse T3 instead of into T3. This causes the metabolism to drop and it is shown to often not return to normal even after regular eating or exercise is resumed. You have now wrecked your metabolism.

A study published in American Journal of Physiology, En­docrinology and Metabolism found that 25 days of dieting reduced T4 to T3 conversion by 50% while a study in the journal Metabolism found that chronic dieting dramatical­ly lowers metabolism that stays depressed even after resum­ing normal food intake. This dramatic reduction in tissue T3 levels (and increased reverse T3) that results in hypome­tabolism is not detected by the standard blood tests used by 99% of physicians and endocrinologists.

Holtorf Medical Group has also found that a reduced basal metabolic rate is a consistent finding in those who chronically diet, with many such individuals hav­ing a 20-40% lower metabolism than expected for their body mass index (BMI). With such a reduced metabolism, you must eat 500-1000 less calories per day or burn that many calories to just stay even and not gain weight. While diet and exercise are important components of successful weight loss, they will certainly fail to achieve long-term success if meta­bolic abnormalities are not addressed.

Holtorf Medical Group looks at the metabolic and endocrinological factors leading to weight gain and does not assume it is a matter of will-power to eat less and exercise more. They identify the underlying causes of the inability to lose weight, including hormonal deficiencies, thyroid imbalance, leptin resistance, insulin resistance, mitochondrial dysfunction, metabolic insufficiency, set-point abnormalities and vitamin deficiencies.

Additionally, to accurately diagnose, Holtorf Medical:
· Performs a metabolic test called MedGem that can quickly and accurately measure your resting metabolic rate. It calculates your total caloric needs at rest and what you will burn in day without physical exertion. With that total you can calculate how much to eat or exercise to lose weight.
· Performs a meta­bolic panel that consists of a leptin level, TSH, free T4, free T3, reverse T3, TPO an­tibody, antithyroglobulin antibody, glucose, insulin, HgA1c, IGF-1, CRP, TNF-alpha (highly sensitive), IL-6 (highly sensitive), CRP, homocystine, SHBG and lipids. In addition, the relaxation phase of the ankle or brachioradialis muscle can be measured. This has been shown to correlate with the degree of hypothyroidism and to be a better indicator of tissue levels of thy­roid than standard thyroid function tests;
· Tests other hormone levels, including human growth hormone, testosterone and DHEA; and
· Evaluates adrenal and pituitary function.

Holtorf Medical Group's doctors take the time to understand your unique case. Their holistic view allows them to take a more integrated, comprehensive approach to your diagnosis and treatment for weight loss.

With the holidays fast approaching, here are some tips to help avoid holiday weight gain:

· One of the most effective ways to maintain or lose body weight is to engage in regular, sustained aerobic activity. To burn off those extra calories, kick up your exercise. If you exercise for 30 minutes a day, increase it to 45 minutes. If you exercise three times a week, move it up to five times a week.
· Pick your food "battles." All too often holiday party food choices are not really made - it's always hard to say "no" when a friend offers her own homemade cheesecake. But this year, vow to make conscious food choices at each event. Decide in advance that you will eat.
· Make sure you eat seven or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day. This is a great way to help fill-up your stomach but not your calorie level. If you are going to a party, bring a healthy fruit- or vegetable-based item. Doing so will help keep your energy stable, immunity high and belly full, and minimize intake of unhealthy fatty foods.
· Beware of liquid calories. Resist the temptation to drink high-calorie beverages you wouldn't normally drink during the season.
· While you can't control every situation, you can control how much food goes into your mouth. If you are constantly bombarded with holiday parties and displays of desserts or candies you can still effectively help prevent overeating and weight gain. One way is the one-a-day method. Allow yourself one small serving of a cookie or piece of candy each day during the holiday season.
· Never go to a party hungry. Before you go to a holiday party, eat a healthy snack such as a serving of your favorite fruit, fat-free yogurt or a low-fat, whole grain granola bar. When you arrive at the party, you won't be craving hors d'oeuvres.
· Sleep. It's a busy time of year but try to maintain 8 hours of sleep a night. This will help your metabolism stay in check and keep stress at a manageable level.

If you want more information on how Holtorf Medical Group can help you reach your weight loss goals.... please visit HMGUtah.com.

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