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McDermott: Damage control

Scott McDermott’s weekly column about health and wellness

OK, if you are like me, you just blew it. Sort of. I just spent a week at my family’s home in B.C., with goodies and treats and big meals everywhere. I managed to stay pretty on track for the most part, but some of those homemade goodies, and my favourite chocolates, well, they got the best of me.

All is not lost though.

I did spend the past 10 weeks leaning down in preparation for my ambitious goals of 2018, and I did not want to lose all of that progress. I did fit in a couple of workouts, but I do have an ace up my sleeve, and so do you.

First off, rest is good, and I rested. Getting to the holidays can be such a stressful time! I worked extra hours to get everything ready to be gone for a week, plus trying to fit in shopping at the last minute, add in a few sick staff members that needed coverage and well, holiday stress takes many forms. Once arriving at my brother’s house, I got to relax. I even slept in, way in! I put my five-year-old to bed just before 9 p.m., and I was asleep before he was. I stayed there until 10a.m. the next day. Apparently, I needed it, and that’s good.

Now for the eating too much part, I am relying on my old friend leptin. Leptin is a hormone that is part of the whole fat loss equation along with another hormone: ghrelin. Leptin regulates fat storage and works with controlling when we feel “full” by signaling us that we have had enough.

Leptin works on regulation of fat (adipose tissue) mass through the hypothalamus, which affects our “feelings” through chemical reactions around hunger, food energy use, physical exercise and energy balance. There has been some work by scientists trying to set up a drug we could take, to control leptin levels, and so far, no luck on that front. At this point the natural way is the only way that works. When leptin levels are high, we are told to not desire high calorie foods, and life is lean and good. Sadly, there is a new problem: leptin resistance in an overweight population – similar to diabetes, where the body no longer listens to high leptin levels.

In all cases, the possible problem comes in when we want to change our situation and drop a few pounds, so we bring our caloric intake down (if you are my client – never below BMR) and increase activity to create a caloric deficit. This is great and works really well for a while. Then leptin levels begin to drop, ghrelin levels rise, and you begin to crave high calorie foods. It’s a survival mechanism and very effective! When leptin levels drop too low, for too long, we prioritize fat storage to survive.

OK, so here is the good news! If you have, like I have, been on an effective nutrition strategy for a while that has had you dropping weight consistently, and then binge eat for a few days, we will restore leptin levels, decrease ghrelin levels and go back to easily burning fat. The trick is, you need to have been eating clean and lean, while working out to make this effective. This is where a “cheat day” comes in, and why it is so effective. Eat lean and clean for a period of time that is commensurate with your goals, and then enjoy an over feed. In the case of Christmas, a few days. Then get back to eating well and exercising and watch those benefits come to you like crazy!

This is why consistency is the key. Occasional indulgence becomes a benefit, not a train wreck.

The warning is: you have to get back at it as soon as possible! The longer you binge, the more you gain and the harder this becomes. Celebrate, enjoy, indulge then get back at it as fast as you can. Feb. 14 is coming, then Easter, then someone’s birthday, wedding, etc. Make eating well and moving a part of your life, and enjoy the fun days guilt free!!

Happy Training!


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