Is Summer Time For Weight Loss or Gain?
Which version of summer time for overweight kids do you believe happens most of the time?
Some may say summer is time weight loss because of more daylight and warmer weather. The children may be more active, happier, less stressed and there is greater availability of the best tasting fruits and vegetables. On the other hand, some people may say summer is time for weight gaining because of less structure; greater availability of snacks; more time to spend on computers, playing video games, watch movies and other sedentary behaviors.
Dr. Paul Von Hippel and his colleagues from Ohio State University and Indiana University studied 5380 children from 310 schools to find out which version of summertime happens more often. They found that the Weight Gaining scenario happened so often that the average child that they studied gained significantly more weight during the summer than during the school year. This was true for all children, but especially so for overweight children. (American Journal of Public Health, 2007; 97:696-702)
These findings certainly apply to adults, as well. You may have noticed this in your own life. Vacations often involve more activity than your everyday life. Your walking around, exploring new cities, and perhaps doing such things as shopping or playing golf or tennis. Unfortunately, these weight losing aspects of vacations get trumped by eating out more in restaurants and adopting the “vacation mentality.” You probably know that kind of vacation thinking. It often goes something like this,” Well, this is my time to relax – and enjoy myself. I don’t want to focus on what I’m eating, just enjoy food and take it easy.”
Another aspects of vacations and summer time more generally concerns traveling. Traveling creates it’s own challenges for weight controllers. You have the inevitable frustrations with airlines and inbred hassle factors like getting lost, feeling disappointed in certain aspects of the trip, sleeping less soundly, and generally getting tired more than ideal. All of these factors can lead to mindless eating and disruptions in weight controlling outines (if daily exercising is part of your routine).
The reduced structure of summer time more generally creates challenges. You could find yourself at home more, around food and snacks more often, and at parties. Certainly for young people, the structure at school provides a buffer between their interest in food and the availability of food – for many hours of every day. That buffer disappears in the summer. It doesn’t take much cash to undo efforts at weight control. A few dollars can buy chips and fries very easily.
Making Summer Time For Weight Loss
Weight controllers can take at least three important steps to prevent their summers from taking the usual toll on waistlines and momentum. First, you can make a commitment to ban the “vacation mentality” from your summer. You can relax and have fun on your vacation and during your summer without thinking in such a self-destructive way. The summer can get you outside and relaxed with friends or through adventures. You can keep your commitment very much alive during this time. Remind yourself that relaxation and enjoyment of free time does not have to be accompanied by self-destructive eating and inactivity.
Second, you can plan into your vacation or summer time some structures that will help you. Beginning your day with some significant activity, like a 30-40 minute brisk walk, provides a great structure and a time to re-focus on your commitment to healthy living. Other common structures used by successful weight controllers include taking active vacations (something other than lying around on beaches) and making sure they have breakfast every morning.
Finally, you can focus on those healthy and wonderful fresh fruits and vegetables in your shopping and eating. Why not make them the centerpiece of every lunch and dinner? Add them to cereals for great additions to breakfasts, as well.
Written by Dr. Daniel Kirschenbaum, clinical director of Wellspring.