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Why are women losing the battle of the bulge?

BY ALLIE SHAH
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Frances Traphagan has been battling weight issues her whole life.

For years, the south Minneapolis mom struggled to balance work demands and motherhood. After every pregnancy, her weight problem grew. Her habit of eating on the run also tipped the scales in the wrong direction.

Finally, at 240 pounds, the 5-foot-3 Traphagan chose to have bariatric surgery at the Hennepin Bariatric Center and Obesity Program at Hennepin County Medical Center in downtown Minneapolis.

“It was my very last effort to try to lose weight,” she said.

She’d tried everything before that – from Weight Watchers to the Atkins diet to the grapefruit diet.

“I did have some success, but nothing was ever permanent,” she said.

After a national report this summer showed that women have surpassed men in obesity rates, doctors and obesity researchers are searching for answers to why women are struggling more than men.

For the first time, more than 40 percent of U.S. women are obese, according to the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The nation as a whole continues to struggle with obesity, with 35 percent of men considered obese. But while men’s obesity rates appear to have stabilized, women’s are still rising, the CDC report shows.

Dr. Maria Collazo-Clavell, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic who works with overweight and obese patients, has been working in the obesity research field for 20 years. She said the recent findings give her pause about whether public health officials are taking the right approach to tackling obesity.

“All of that makes you question: Are you on the right track?” she said. “The data would say no.”

That so many women are obese is cause for alarm not only because of the increased health risks for them but also for those around them, Collazo-Clavell said.

“That’s kind of the tip of the iceberg,” she said. Women are often the primary caregivers in a family, and their eating and activity habits can influence their children and others in their family.

An example of that ripple effect: Collazo-Clavell is starting to see some of her previous patients’ children and is working with them to help manage their obesity.

It’s difficult to pinpoint what is causing women to struggle more with obesity than men, but doctors say there likely are many factors at play.

Women typically have two times in their lives when they are at risk of gaining significant amounts of weight: childbearing (during pregnancy and after giving birth) and menopause.

Collazo-Clavell hears from many new mothers that they find meal planning and preparation tough after giving birth. Also of concern, she notes that women as a group are going into pregnancy heavier than they were 20 years ago.

It makes it harder to manage a healthy pregnancy weight if they’re already overweight, she said.

An epidemic

One of the country’s leading health problems, obesity can lead to serious diseases, including diabetes and heart disease.

Body mass index (BMI) is calculated by dividing weight (in kilograms) by height squared (in centimeters). Anyone with a BMI of 25 or more is considered overweight, while those with a BMI of 30 or more are obese.

For example, a woman of average height in the U.S. (5 feet 4) would be classified as obese if she weighs at least 175 pounds. An average height American man (5 feet 9) who weighs 203 pounds or more would be considered obese.

Dr. Guilford Hartley is medical director of the Hennepin Bariatric Center and Obesity Program, where 100 surgeries for weight management are performed each year.

He sees many more female patients than men. Part of the reason, he said, is that women are more likely to seek medical treatment for a weight issue than men.

“In our culture, when a man’s overweight, nobody pays too much attention,” he said. “But we have such an emphasis on being thin for women that we’re culturally forcing women to be more concerned about their weight than men. The social pressure if you’re overweight and a woman is higher.”

Those seeking surgery often have struggled with a weight problem for a long time.

“Usually by the time I see them, most of them get here saying, ‘I’ve done this all my life. This is my sixth yo-yo,’” he said.

He found the recent CDC report on obesity rates concerning. “Up until these reports, it was looking as if the so-called obesity epidemic was kind of plateauing.”

In analyzing the new data, Hartley and Collazo-Clavell point to societal changes that have led people to become more sedentary.

“If you were a clerical person, 20 years ago you’d have to get up and put the piece of paper in the file cabinet. Now you never have to get up off your chair,” Hartley said. “We have engineered … physical activity out of our workplace and out of our home place.”

The prescription of “eat less and exercise more” does not address the kind of vigorous activity needed to tip the scales.

“When we tell them to exercise more, we mean get on a treadmill for an hour, three days a week,” he said. “And the kind of exercise that it takes to have a significant impact on weight is more like if you’re a hardscrabble farmer and you’re working up a sweat for eight hours a day just to put food on the table.”

Constant fight

It’s been 10 years since Traphagan had a surgical band wrapped around her stomach to make it smaller. The band makes it possible to consume only 1.5 cups of food at a time. But it’s still possible to overeat, she said, which is why she had to learn how to eat healthfully to control her weight.

Today, she has poached eggs instead of doughnuts for breakfast and drinks plenty of ice water throughout the day. She has maintained a healthy weight.

“It’s been real hard, though. It’s not easy,” she said.

“I got down to 155 pounds. My goal weight is 124. I’m still working on that, and I hope to achieve that this year.”

(This article first appeared in: http://www.bradenton.com/news/local/health-care/article95803902.html)

How to Lose 10 Pounds by Next Weekend

You’re going out next Saturday, and you know just what you want to wear, but it’s too tight. You’ve put on ten pounds since it last fit. Can you lose enough by next weekend so that you can wear it? I’ll bet you can! Here’s how:

1) Set your sights for your “start day” of undereating and get prepared.

Rather than try to “be good” immediately, relax for a few days and set the day you’ll start “undereating” for later this week, like Saturday, Sunday or Monday. This takes the pressure off today, reducing risk of a false start and insures a solid start. This is not an excuse to binge, so just eat normally without trying to restrict severely until your start day.

This is actually a form of self-hypnosis where you are constantly saying to yourself for a few days, “As of (Sunday or Monday, etc.) I am going to start undereating, and by next Saturday morning, my clothes will feel looser and I’ll be down on the scale.”

In the days prior to your start day, do the work to make the week pay off with a maximum drop on the scale.

• Plan out each and every meal for the undereating week, so that each day, you eat no more than 900 calories. Do the work. It will be worth it. This is also another form of self-hypnosis and mental imaging, where the defined meal plan is an example of auto-suggestion, and it will make it easier to live the plan rather than just having vague “good intentions”. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it can be fresh or frozen, and it doesn’t matter when you eat. The calories have to be right, and the less salt and sodium, the better.

• Go shopping to buy everything you’ll need for your meal plan so you don’t end up in the supermarket during the week.

• Go through the house and remove any food that is not part of the food plan. All during the week, you’ll be burning fat like crazy, and when you get hungry, it will be tempting to go on the hunt. If you’re like me, lots of things will do. If you keep “snack foods” in the house, it’s like using auto-suggestion to tell yourself to snack. If all you have in the house are the meals you’ve planned on, it will be easier to work the plan.

• Make a plan to keep yourself busy during the week. If you are used to going to the gym, that can be a good activity, but if you’ve never exercised, this may not be the best time to start. Better to schedule things to fill the days and evenings with enjoyable busyness and then make this the week to go to bed early and get caught up on your sleep.

2) On “start day” focus all your attention on burning fat and shrinking your body.

• Put your head down, move ahead, and don’t let anything stand in your way. Decide ahead of time what you’ll say to those who try to tempt you and focus on how your clothes will feel looser by the end of the week. They may even start to feel a bit looser tomorrow.

• Spend lots of time imagining yourself this weekend feeling leaner and having fun. This is another example if self-hypnosis that fires up your motivation to experience what you imagine. It strengthens desire and discipline.

3) As each day goes by give yourself an “attaboy” on your desk calendar, putting a big “X” through the day, counting down to the weekend.

Can you really lose 10 pounds in that short a period of time? Actually I’ve had more than a few clients lose over 15 pounds in the first week or so of undereating. It depends a lot on where you are starting. Clients who were very overweight and accustomed to eating large quantities of sugary salty food can lose a tremendous amount of weight, lots of retained fluids, when they spend a week eating small quantities of higher quality food. I’ve had a number lose as much as 20 pounds in the first week or so. Smaller people who were not eating huge amounts of food in the first place are not going to see that. However, at the end of the week, even if it’s not 10-20 pounds, your going to feel 1000% better, better about yourself, and your clothes will fit much better than if you had kept overindulging.

If you like this idea, after you’ve tried this, think about setting your sights a little farther off, and losing as much as 50-100 pounds per year, eating food you like. Using behavioral and cognitive behavioral techniques, some of which I described here, you can change your thoughts and your life for good, not just for a week, and you’ll lose your weight problem forever. Read my book and you’ll learn exactly how to do it.