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Q&A: Obesity expert from University of Tennessee discusses holiday weight gain

Nutrition expert advises choosing small amounts of special holiday treats and filling up on healthier items.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: December 8, 2012

What about the egg nog?

Not only should you keep in mind the amount of food you're eating, Zemel said. It's also important to keep in mind that drinks can be high-calorie, too.

Holiday drinks, regardless of whether they're alcoholic, tend to be calorically rich, Zemel said.

“If you're going to have a drink, I'd rather see people stick to something like a glass of wine, but not as many of the fancy drinks,” Zemel said. “It's a question of indulging but not losing yourself in the indulgence.”

What is the long-term impact of obesity?

It's important to be mindful of your health, regardless of what time of year it is.

Not all fat is bad, though, Zemel said. The fat in your body is a highly active endocrine organ that produces a range of hormones, he said. When your fat cells are small and healthy, the hormones they produce help keep you healthy, balance your appetite and regulate your insulin.

“But when your fat cells get overfilled, they start sending out different messages, really bad messages,” Zemel said. “They start sending out compounds that lead to inflammation all over the body that increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and even a number of kinds of cancers.”

If you're looking ahead at New Year's resolutions and have 30, 50 or 90 pounds to lose, Zemel recommends setting small goals. Research shows people who set small goals for weight loss are more likely to be successful.

And losing that initial five to 10 pounds can bring substantial health benefits, including lowering blood pressure and risk of diabetes, he said.

“Will you get more benefit from losing all the weight you would like to lose? Of course,” Zemel said.

by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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