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Combining prosperous work lives and balanced personal lives
September 2004

My goal is to bring you news, insights, and information about leading a balanced and prosperous life.

    In this issue, you'll find:
  1. Weight of the World
  2. BossWoman coaching
  3. Up and coming workshops
1. Weight of the World

The children must be back in school. Without a school-aged child living at home, I donít pay much attention to the school schedule but I can always tell when the children start school. The paved path around the lake near my home gets suddenly very crowded. While my husband and I walk the 2.8 mile path daily, we can tell the day of the week and the seasons even without a calendar by the groups that come and go. On Sundays, for example, we get a lot of "meanderers" vying for last place in any foot race known to human kind. They wear flip flops and slides and carry purses. They sip lattes while they stroll along. But the first day of school brings a different group. It is the invasion of the Moms - with brand new athletic shoes and no purses. They look determined to take off those extra pounds, the summer slush, if it kills them. Apparently it must because by the end of the week only half of them are showing up. By the end of the second week, more have bitten the dust leaving the lake to the year round weekday crowd, a few dedicated walkers, some geese, and a grey heron.

Where do the Moms go? What happens to the summer slush? I searched the research literature on weight control and was shocked at what I learned. Those extra pounds do not just disappear; the average adult woman gains 1-2 pounds a year throughout adulthood. So if you weighed 125 on you wedding day at age 25, at age 45 you might be carrying an extra 20 to 40 pounds. In the US, 1/3 of the population meets the criteria for a diagnosis of medical obesity and another 1/3 of the population is seriously overweight; thatís 65% of Americans carrying more weight than they want or should, up 20% since 1960. At the same time as Americans are heavier than ever, eating disorders are also at their highest. Twenty percent of college women report some form of binging and purging.

Causes for our weight gains and weight obsessions include our sedentary life styles, oversized restaurant meals, and our obligation to clean off our plates because children are starving in .. pick a country depending on your generation - maybe China or Biafra or somewhere else. As an overfed, overweight child I tried to argue with my mom that my cleaning my plate didnít help those children and it sure wasnít doing me any good either. I threatened to collect my leftovers and store them in a box under my bed until I had enough to ship to the starving children.

In adulthood, when you and I have more control over our nutritional choices, old habits still die hard. The bottom line is that when we eat more fuel energy units, calories, than we burn, we store the extra calories as fat. We feel out of control and resolve to do something. However, the wrong "something", like repeated dieting, can exacerbate the problem. "Yo-yo dieting" causes a reset of metabolic rate. It becomes harder to take off the summer slush or the holiday paunch. No wonder the Moms get more and more discouraged, skip their walks and head straight to the coffee shop for lattes and donuts. On the behalf of those discouraged Moms, I have asked the question, why is all this so hard and what can we do to get a better sense of control and make friends with our bodies?

Causes of the Supersizing of Americans

  1. Blame the environment. As the comics all ask, "Did McDonalds tie you up, put a gun to your head, force open your mouth and force the food down?" Blaming McDonalds for our obesity may give material for the standup comics but it doesnít make you feel any more in control. Social eating and a relaxed feeling of fullness combine to provide a quick stress soother for stress-out people. Constantly available oversized portions provide the mechanism. At the time of this writing one of the fast food chains is running an advertising campaign about how full and stuffed the patrons can get at their eateries.
    • Environmental stimuli such as TV or other people can cause you to lose track of what you are eating and lead you to overeat.
    • The bigger the food package, the more we eat. When we overeat at a meal we donít undereat at the next meal to balance our caloric intake.
    • The more we are given when others serve us, the more we eat. Barbara Rolls, a nutritionist from Penn State University who has studied the science of Volumetrics, says that the increased portion size aimed at economy minded eaters is adding to our problems. She suggests that better eating habits include increasing the volume of your food while decreasing calories. In other words, eat more veggies and fewer donuts.
    • Trying to eat until you feel full is a doomed strategy for two reasons. One is that most people eat so fast they can overeat before the signals of fullness are reached. The other is that our bodies were not made to eat to fullness at every meal because our cave ancestors had irregular diets due to hunting, fishing, and farming success. They binged when they had abundance and conserved when food was less available. There was balance overall. With food constantly available we donít attain balance. We store those extra calories as, guess what, fat.
  2. Blame your genes. Does obesity run in families because of their genetic predisposition or because families who eat together overeat together? Well, a little of both. A study by a French researcher, Philippe Forguel found that obese people have a different form of a chromosome 10 gene, GAD2, than non-obese relatives in the same family. This gene is thought to increase the amount of the neurotransmitter GABA which stimulates the appetite in the hypothalamus of the obese cousins. These poor people feel hungry even when they are not.
  3. Blame your metabolism. It is true that your metabolic rate of burning fuel slows down with age. However, age-related slow down is overrated as a culprit for a lowered metabolism. Metabolic rate slows down with inactivity. It also slows down with rapid weight loss programs that make your brain read the signals of starvation as a cue to slow down and conserve. That is why dieting causes a shift down in your metabolic rate, an effect that lasts and is compounded by repeated dieting.
  4. Blame your glands. This is also partially true. The clue is how your glands respond to stress. A smoking-cessation study out of the University of Minnesota discovered an unexpected incidental finding. People who report feeling overwhelmed and out of control had more trouble quitting smoking and those same people also reporting fattier diets and less exercise. It is hard to tell which comes first. Do the poor health habits cause poorer resiliency to stress or does greater stress lead to poorer health habits? At least as a correlation factor, higher stress makes it harder to quit smoking and harder to lose and keep off extra weight.
  5. The real culprit: stress. In a country that seems to have it all, we donít. That is, we donít have peace and relaxation. Chronic stress is somewhat to blame for the national overweight epidemic. There are metabolic processes set up by stress that cause your body to store extra weight as though you are getting ready for the next plague and until you conquer the stress, weight loss will be a discouraging goal. Even if you lose weight with strenuous dieting it wonít stay off. The high level of stress will signal your hunger center to urge you to eat for the coming plague. Those back-to-school, determined lake-walking Moms canít get control of their weight until they get control of their stress. Their stress levels collude with their sedentary life styles and their oversized meals to add unwanted weight and to prevent its reduction - at least not in a week or two of a walking program.
There is another way that stress plays a role in unwanted weight. Chronic production of cortisol, a stress hormone similar to adrenaline, causes body fat to be accumulated around the midsection instead of above and below. While the stress hormone adrenaline energizes us when we have short term, resolvable stress like slamming on the breaks to avoid an accident, cortisol boosts your ability to deal with prolonged stress such as working for a difficult boss. The long term effect of cortisol implicated as a culprit in several stress diseases including heart disease, elevated cholesterol, autoimmune diseases such as some forms of arthritis. While overeating and under exercising will cause a weight gain throughout the whole body, chronic stress prompts the body to deposit a disproportionate amount of weight gain around the waist.

If you tend to gain disproportional amount of weight in the abdomen you may have some things in common with the rats in a University of California study. It seems that chronic stress activates a particular negative hormonal feedback system in ratsí brains that is aborted when the animals eat high fat food and gain belly fat. Yep, thatís right. Once the belly is fat enough, the brain feels safer. Researcher Dr. Mary Dallman explains why. A stressed body likes belly-fat cells because those cells have more steroid receptors than subcutaneous fat cells, allowing fat to move to the liver to be converted to energy when stress demands a sudden output of energy.

Importance of Weight Control Rather than Weight Loss
Weight loss is not your real goal. Going "on" a diet presumes going "off" a diet. When you "eat normally" you regain the extra weight. Instead: set a goal of healthy eating for the rest of your life. A successful weight loss is defined as a 10% reduction in weight that is maintained for at least a year. If you donít know much about nutrition, consider a consultation with a dietician or nutritionist.

The weight control research shows that the most effective programs are ones which emphasize behavioral principles rather than extreme diets. For example, if walking past a bakery tempts you to eat donuts on the way to work, walk a different route. If it is a little out of the way, thatís ok, too because of the extra calories expended to walk.

Ann wanted to lose weight but she loved eating desserts everyday, the richer and gooier the better. Several times a year she gave up desserts for about six days and then went on a binge and ate two desserts every day for the next week. I suggested she substitute fresh fruit for the heavy desserts for five days during the work week and eat on the weekends. We agreed that she was to institute no other calorie restrictions while measuring the results of her small change. She came back after a week feeling very good. She was surprised how easy it was to stick to her program because she knew she could have her gooey desserts on the weekend. The waistband on her slacks felt a bit more comfortable. She had previously described feeling like "a sausage with a string tied around the waist." She also noticed something else. After another week she reported feeling less tired in the evening and had scheduled some social activities with friends for the first time in two years. We agreed to stay in touch by meeting monthly. At the six month point, Ann had lost 10 pounds. In the next six months she shed another 8 pounds, dropped down two sizes and felling than she had in several years. She never felt deprived or like she was "on" a diet. Her increased energy gave her the motivation to get back into aerobic dancing, something she had enjoyed when she was thinner and younger.

Prevention Better Than Five Pounds of Cure
James Hill of University of Colorado Health Science Center became concerned about the $117 billion per year of health care costs per year of the health problems related to obesity. In his 25 year career he observed people attempting to lose weight and keep it off for and wanted to do something to prevent weight gain in young people. He has looked at the simple formula that weight maintenance is based on: energy in = energy out. What he and other researchers have discovered is that that maxim is not entirely true. If you ate what the calorie charts tell you will maintain your weight you will consistently overeat slightly, enough to put on a pound or two a year. Dr. Hill found that the average American has to burn an extra 100 calories a day to "break even" at the end of the year. Hill insists that this new guideline will work no matter what your genes, hormones, or stress levels. Eight states and many organizations are adopting his program.

His advice is consistent with the longevity research. In the cultures in the world where people live to healthy old age, they undereat slightly for their activity level. In addition, when people move from a healthy culture to one with more processed foods and/or more sedentary life styles, their weight, health risks and longevity predictions come in line with their new health habits.

Tips from the Research

  1. Eat slightly less than you think you need. Slightly Ė no calorie restriction diets that make your brain think you are starving. Eat one hundred calories (one cookie) less per day or burn 100 calories more (2,000 steps or one mile). This one intervention alone will help you break even and prevent weight gain.
  2. It is harder to lose weight than to keep it off. A goal of maintaining your present weight is achievable for anyone. While weighing less than the recommended US health standards could be a goal for many people, it might not be achievable for some.
  3. Watch your portion size. Large portions filling large plates fool our brains into overeating past the point of natural fullness. Smaller portions on smaller plates fool our brains into feeling satisfied with fewer calories.
  4. Eat slowly. Chewing each mouthful 15 times gives your brain a chance to catch up with the rise in blood sugar as you eat and digest your food. When you eat with others, remind yourself to slow down and chew.
  5. Give up trying to feel full --- well maybe occasionally, like on Thanksgiving. Otherwise, aiming to feel full will assure that you will consume more than you needs.
  6. Use the principles of Volumetrics. Substitute low density high volume foods for the high density high calorie) foods. Take a double dose of vegetables on your plate and a half portion of meat. You will feel just as full and consume fewer calories.
  7. Eat small frequent meals to keep your craving and blood sugar in control. Five meals a day with small amounts of the basic food groups including carbs and fats in moderate amounts will move you closer to your goal.
  8. Take a look at your long-term stress and find ways to reduce it.
  9. No matter what your eating plan, include regular exercise. It helps control your weight but it also gives you other benefits of getting and staying fit like a healthy heart.
  10. You donít have to belong to a gym or buy expensive equipment. Unless you have a health problem preventing walking, get out and walk. In inclement weather find an indoor mall or arena. Walk inside your house, especially up and down stairs, for a half an hour.
Think long term weight control with lowered stress and better health habits. Consult professionals as needed including your physician, nutritionists, coaches, counselors, and personal trainers.

Susan Robison

Books that have the term "weight control" or "nutrition" in the title will be more helpful than "diet" or "weight loss" books. Ultimately, what people want most is weight control rather than weight loss. There is no quick fix that lasts.

2. BossWoman Coaching

About the publisher: Susan Robison, Ph.D. is a professional coach, speaker, author and seminar leader. She loves to coach women who want improvement in:

  • work-life balance,
  • career transitions,
  • building your business or practice,
  • time management,
  • increasing productivity.
If you are feeling stuck on the way to your ideal life, give Susan a call for a complementary half-hour coaching session.

She provides keynotes and seminars to business and organizations on the topics of:

  • leadership strategies for women,
  • relationships,
  • work-life balance,
  • change.
She offers her audiences a follow-up coaching session because she knows that workshops don't work.

Contact Susan for your coaching, speaking, or seminar needs at Susan@BossWoman.org or at 410-465-5892.

3. Up and coming workshops

"Setting Hearts on Fire for Love"
Date: October, 9, 2004
Sponsor: Archdiocese of Baltimore, Department of Catholic Education Ministries
Place: Seton Keough High School
Presenters: Drs. Susan and Phil Robison
Contact: Carol Augustine at 410-547-5403
"Secrets of Couples Working Successfully Together"
Date: November 15, 2004
Sponsor: Kampgrounds of America
Place: Orlando, FL
Presenters: Drs. Susan and Phil Robison
To register for Kampground Owners Annual Convention: KOA.com
© Copyright 2004 Susan Robison. All rights reserved. The above material is copyrighted but you may retransmit or distribute it to whomever you wish as long as not a single word is changed, added or deleted, including the contact information. However, you may not copy it to a web site without the publisherís permission.

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Office: (410) 465-5892
Fax: (410) 465-5967

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