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Fighting cancer one pound at a time

One pound at a time
With the holiday season on the horizon, it’s time to start thinking about the diet and exercise pitfalls that come around the most wonderful time of the year. Getting your weight in check before the holidays may be especially important.

With the holiday season on the horizon, it’s time to start thinking about the diet and exercise pitfalls that come around the most wonderful time of the year. Getting your weight in check before the holidays may be especially important. In one study, published in Nutrition Reviews, for example, overweight participants gained nearly five times as much weight as the general population between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Unfortunately, the issue is more serious than fitting back into that favorite pair of jeans.

Being overweight not only can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease, it also increases the risk of some forms of cancer. The National Cancer Institute estimates that in 2012, 3.5 percent of cancer cases in men and 9.5 percent of cancer cases in women were related to overweight or obesity. There are a number of possible reasons for the increased risk, but the general thought is that increased insulin levels and excess hormones produced by fat cells may contribute to cancer cell growth. The good news is that growing evidence suggests weight loss may reduce the risk of obesity-related cancer.

Because weight gain generally results from consuming more calories than the body burns, the first step in controlling and maintaining a healthy weight is to examine your diet. U.S. dietary guidelines recommend eating nutrient-rich foods such as:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Lean protein
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy products
  • Legumes (beans), nuts and seeds

For the most part, individuals should avoid:

  • Sweetened beverages
  • Refined grains (think pasta, white bread, etc.)
  • Fried foods or foods made with butter or shortening

The second step is to increase physical activity, which should include a combination of aerobic and strengthening exercises. Adults should strive for 2.5 hours of aerobic exercise a week, and those looking to lose weight should strive for five hours of moderate activity (like walking) a week. At least two days a week of strengthening exercises will also help you burn more calories, reduce injury and maintain bone strength.

Whether you are making dietary changes or increasing your physical activity, start with changes that are manageable. Any diet or exercise program that is unsustainable for the long-term will ultimately prove ineffective. For some, it’s equally important to examine the mental or emotional aspects that may lead to being overweight or obese. Many people have been able to manage their weight by speaking with a counselor or health care professional about the emotional triggers that may lead to overeating, or participating in stress-relieving exercises like yoga or meditation. Finally, in cases where a physician deems it appropriate, medical treatments may help with weight-loss goals. This may include medication, or in some extreme cases, bariatric surgery.

While many of these methods have proven results, it is recommended that those trying to lose weight start first with changing their diet and exercise regimens. So, before this holiday season gets the better of your waistline, start to examine your lifestyle choices today. There’s no reason to wait until the New Year to make changes to improve your health and help to ensure that you and your family will enjoy more holidays to come.

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