I know that I'm not alone in the paradox of summer weight gain. I say paradox because everything about Summer should lend itself to the healthiest of healthy choices. On it's face, summer brings a life fully lived outdoors, and I hate being inside during the warm months (even writing this blog right now is crimping my sun seeking lifestyle -- and it's only 10 AM). Summer is about (or should be about) light foods. Every fruit and vegetable seems to be in their most glorious splendor. This is the time of farmers' markets and the resplendent produce section of my grocery story (particularly now that a Whole Foods just opened in my town).
I don't have the statistics handy, but I seem to recall hearing that many, many people gain weight during the summer. I did find one interesting data source from the American Journal of Public Health regarding kids and summer weight gain:
"Dr. Paul von Hippel and his colleagues found that the Weight Gain scenario happens much more often. In fact, the average child gains significantly more weight during the summer than during the school year. This was true for all children, but especially so for overweight children." Here is the link to a PDF of the original article... The Effect of School on Overweight in Childhood: Gain in Body Mass Index During the School Year and During Summer Vacation
What is apparently true for kids has historically definitely been true for me: Summer = weight gain and habit slacking. The interesting question is why?
Here are the theories that at least explain me:
- Lack of structure: I'm guessing that this is the big one for many people, and it definitely is for me. During the school year, I'm on a pretty standard routine with every day seeming to be heavily scheduled and frequently over-busy. With summer comes a complete change in the daily rhythm, particularly on weekends but even on weekdays. The kids are out of school, and they are at sleep-away summer camp for a few weeks in July. There aren't many weekend sports and practically no weekend schlepping. As they say, idle hands are the devil's instruments. Not having a pre-programmed game plan results in wandering around the kitchen at odd intervals coupled with mindless grazing.
- Socializing: summer lends itself to spending quality time with friends at the beach, in the back yard, etc. All of the sudden everyone who lives in my neighborhood is outside, happy and social. All of the sudden, al fresco dining is out in complete force throughout New York city. It's hard not to get swept up into the revelry, only to find myself at the wrong end of about 17 bad nutrition choices.
- Vacation slothfulness: a bit cliche, but this is nonetheless a truism for me.
- Push exercise a little over the edge: given the extra socializing, I need to plan to increase the calories burned part of the energy deficit equation. For me that means keeping up with my existing routine of weights and gym-based cardio and adding on the outdoor activities that I love. In my case, that's primarily cycling and secondarily tennis.
- Staying busy on weekends: starting with the aforementioned outdoor activities, I plan to add a range of chores, projects and excursions/walks to keep me out of the house as much as humanly possible. Even reading at the local pool has it's benefits as it is a full three miles from my refrigerator.
- Staying disciplined during meal time: just because it's summer does mean that my beloved oatmeal/fruit medley has to hibernate until it gets cold again. Same goes for my regular lunch.
- Get my fruit on: I am lucky in that I am a person who lives for fruit, all fruit, any fruit. Keeping a big inventory in the home and at the office will help me stay righteous.
- Look forward to light foods: summer should be an easy time to make good choices, and will be if I stay on the look out for them when I'm out. For me, this means lots of fish, grilled vegetables and salads with non-fat dressing.
- Keep getting weight-in's: when I'm out of my normal routine, it's more important than ever to man-up and get on the scale on a regular basis so that I have an early intervention system in place should I go off course.