Changing Weighs                                                                              

© 2005 Katherine Poehlmann, Ph.D.


If you look at movies from the 1980s and earlier, the stock footage street scenes show, for the most part, rather trim people. Similar street scenes today, a generation later, reflect the obesity problem that’s afflicting our society. What’s different? Here are a few things we can all readily observe:

Years ago, we got in/out of the car to open/close the garage door and got up to change the TV channel. Now we have “clickers” to do this remotely.

Kids used to bike to school. They played basketball or baseball after school or gathered at the roller rink. Now they plunk down in front of the computer and play Internet games. Office workers relax after a long day by surfing the net rather than joining the kids for a Frisbee toss in the park or shooting hoops in the driveway.

Replacing neighborhood stores are shopping malls like small cities where you don’t need to walk far to find everything you need. The food courts offer a tempting array of high calorie, high fat, sweets and treats.

Drive-through restaurants are cheap and convenient. Kids stop by after school for a snack of a couple of 99-cent burgers, fries, and a soda totaling more calories than their total recommended daily allowance. Instead of a fruit snack, kids like to microwave a calorie-packed frozen pizza. On campus, vending machines offer a wide variety of fattening, sugary goodies. These machines are real money-makers for the school, which gets a percentage of the take.

It’s obvious that the more weight we carry, the more strain on the joints that support that weight. It can be extra body pounds, or a heavy backpack, briefcase, or purse.

Today’s textbooks are designed to be “edu-tainment”. They are full of colorful illustrations and large cartoons. Wide margins encourage students to write notes directly in the books. I compared a three-pound 1995 Geometry text with a math book from the late 1960s. After deducting reasonable margins and keeping all diagrams, I found that the newer book has 22% white, unused paper. The older book weighs one pound, and includes not just Geometry but also Algebra and Trigonometry. There are no cartoons or wasted space. A generation ago, students used scratch paper rather than damaging the textbooks.

Imagine a typical high school student’s backpack filled with 7 textbooks. That’s 21 pounds, of which 22% or about 4.5 pounds is blank paper. Add more pounds for school supplies, snacks, gym clothes and shoes, etc. Today’s kids are hunched over with these heavy backpacks. If they are also overweight, they are setting themselves up for joint problems later in life. Bone misalignment leads to the wear and tear of cartilage. That in turn results in the bone-on-bone friction of osteoarthritis.

Combating weight gain shouldn’t be a major project or commitment to a grueling dietary regimen or questionable fad diet.

Often, if you feel hungry, your body may actually be craving water. Drink a full glass of water and wait 20 minutes to be sure before raiding the frig. Eat only when hungry, not by the clock, and then only until satisfied. Eat several small meals per day rather than the traditional “three squares”.

Forget what you were taught about the “Clean Plate Club.” The restaurant will pack your leftovers to go. Resist the urge to supersize your meal or make repeated trips to the buffet just because it’s a bargain.

Hidden sugar is the nemesis of dieters. Keep in mind that bacteria thrive in a sugary environment. Get in the habit of reading labels for sugars, fats (especially trans-fat), and salt. When a product lists an ingredient whose name ends in “-ose” (lactose, sucrose, fructose, etc.), this is a form of sugar. Beware of corn, which is a grain, not a vegetable. Corn syrup solids are sugar equivalents. Popcorn is a high carbohydrate item. According to the label, each microwave popcorn packet contains three servings.

Realize when you’re eating “comfort food” because of stress, boredom, depression, anxiety, or emotional upset. People smoke for the same reasons. Consciously choose another outlet for this oral need. One trick is to chew gently on sugarless gum or wooden popsicle sticks. When nervous appetite strikes, try doing deep breathing or stretching exercises. If possible, take a quick walk around the block. Don’t keep fattening snacks handy in the house or in the office.

Just switching lunch for dinner will gradually melt pounds away. Make that midnight snack a glass of fresh water. This has been shown to assuage hunger in 90% of cases studied.

Consciously chew your food ten percent longer, savoring each bite. Try not to eat while distracted by the TV or reading material. You’ll end up eating more than you planned.

Set a goal of 12 times your ideal, desired weight for daily total calorie intake.

Rather than take that second helping, brush your teeth. The sweet aftertaste will be “dessert” and the brushing will add a note of finality to the meal.

A few simple lifestyle changes will gradually shed pounds without pills, potions, or plastic surgery. 




Dr. Poehlmann is the author of Rheumatoid Arthritis: The Infection Connection, available at and major bookstores, or click here to order now.


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