If you looked good in a swimsuit last year but now have a body that resembles a Coke bottle rather than an hourglass, you might find yourself saying something like this:
“I’m a good person. I eat like a bird, drink light beer, buy organic (well, when it’s on sale), scale the stair climber during the playoffs, take a multi-vitamin, and even occasionally consume probiotic drinks. That’s more than most, ‘So what the heck happened to my F---ing beach body?!!”
The obvious answer is that your beach body is still there, but it’s hiding under a layer of lard—or perhaps several layers? What’s not so obvious are the real reasons you got fat. Reasons that go beyond the fact that many birds, such as the cardinal, may consume up to half their bodyweight a day in seeds.
For example, if you go by the “calorie balance” theory of waist management, a seemingly innocent candy bar can cause you to pack on two pounds of cholesterol-rich sludge a month. Do the math. A pound of fat has 3500 calories. Getting over your afternoon slump with a single Snickers bar – you know, “Because you’re not you when you’re hungry!” – increases your calorie intake by 250 calories. Multiple 2 pounds of fat x 9 months, and you’re well on your way to being legally classified as a circle.
If you’re ready to handle “an inconvenient truth,” here are some good reasons why you don’t like what you currently see in the mirror:
Culinary Confusion. Often we rush into making poor food choices because we don’t plan to eat, providing credence to the idea that “America Runs on Dunkin.” Writing out a shopping list will prevent you from buying things you shouldn’t at supermarkets, and planning your meals for the upcoming week will make your diet as smart as Alexa.
Eating Amnesia. Just as a smartphone can turn responsible people into cellphone zombies, eating while distracted can often cause you to eat more than you would otherwise. So turn off the TV, shut down the Internet, and enjoy your lettuce wrap.
Environmental Grazing. If you surround yourself with food, such as by having snacks always within easy reach at work, you are more likely to eat more. Researchers with nothing better to do have studied this.
Fancy Office Chairs. In a study spanning 5 decades, researchers found that “daily occupation-related energy expenditure has decreased by more than 100 calories, and this reduction in energy expenditure accounts for a significant portion of the increase in mean U.S. body weights for women and men.”
Fast Food Funny Business. There has been a gradual trend in people going from eating simple meals at home to eating fast food away from home. By 2009, half of the average American’s meals contained processed food, often from fast food restaurants. The downside here is that processed food is often loaded with sugar, and there is a strong relationship between excess sugar consumption and obesity.
Fear of Cheating. Not only can the stress of nonstop dieting cause drain bramage, it may not be the most effective way to lose weight and keep it off. In a study on the subject published in the journal, Obesity Research, researchers wanted to determine the effects of going off a diet for brief periods. The subjects were put on a diet designed to help them lose weight and then were told to go off the diet for either two or six weeks before starting it again. Not only did the subjects who took breaks not get fat, but they had no problems getting back on the diet.
Friends without Benefits. How we eat when we are alone often differs from how we eat with others. One study suggests that “meals eaten with one other person were 33% larger than those eaten alone…and consumption increases of 47%, 58%, 69%, 70%, 72%, and 96% have been respectively associated with meals eaten with two, three, four, five, six, and seven or more people.”
Magical Dishes. The bigger your plate, the most likely you will put more food on it – seriously. Researchers Brian Wansink and Koert van Ittersum found that putting the same amount of food on bigger plates creates an optimal illusion that leads us to underestimate serving sizes and thus causes us to eat more.
Not Being “Cerealus” about Breakfast. “Knock, knock! Who’s there? Omelet. Omelet who? Omelet smarter than I look.” Amusing, but there’s nothing funny about misunderstanding the relationship between “correlation and causation” in fat loss. For example, because 25 percent of Americans regularly skip breakfast and there in a growing increase in obesity, it’s assumed that skipping breakfast will make you fat. Nice try. The real issue is that those who eat breakfast tend to eat a healthier diet and those who skipped breakfast tended to drink more and exercise less. Researchers also found that skipping breakfast could help lean people burn fat, but had the opposite effect in obese individuals.
Snoozing Suppression. Not getting enough Z’s can increase your risk of obesity. In a meta-analysis involving 45 studies involving a total of 634,511 subjects, researchers concluded, “Cross-sectional studies from around the world show a consistent increased risk of obesity amongst short sleepers in children and adults.”
Sweatin’ to the Oldies. Although there are many benefits associated with steady-state aerobics, according to a review of 43 studies involving 3476 subjects, this type of exercise “resulted in small weight losses across studies.” Want to stay lean? Skip the cardio and lift some weights!
Trusting the Government. In 1977, the US government thought they were doing us a favor by publishing “The Dietary Goals for the United States” to address health issues such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. They weren’t, because it was at this time there was a sharp increase in obesity. Noted the authors of a paper that extensively studied this fat-fearing frenzy, “While they were well-intended, the US low-fat guidelines made in 1977 caused an overhaul of both the food industry and the average American’s perception of a healthy diet, eventually contributing to an overall decline in health, specifically an increased national obesity rate and incidence of related diseases, rather than the anticipated opposite result.”
Ugly Christmas Sweaters. Most of us have come to grips with the fact that holiday treats and bountiful buffets will cause a few pounds of weight gain. The problem is that while we expect to lose those holiday pounds as our lives return to normal, we often don’t lose it all. In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that followed 165 subjects, researchers found that the average weight gain during the holidays was not fully reversed during the spring or summer. This annual battle of the bulge, said the researchers, “probably contributes to the increase in body weight that frequently occurs during adulthood.”
These ideas are certainly a lot to take in, but Beach Body Season will soon be upon us. So if you don’t want to look like a beach ball, take inventory of your lifestyle choices and pump some iron.