Dear Doc: I’ve been trying to lose weight for years. I’m a construction worker, I lift heavy things all the time. I try to eat right but I still can’t get weight off. Lately, I tossed the Mountain Dew — I was drinking at least a quart or two a day in the summer — and switched to Diet Dew. You’d think the weight would just drop off, but it didn’t. I’m just as heavy as I ever was.
Now, you’ll tell me to eat fewer calories and I’ll start to trim up. Well, that isn’t working for me. What’s wrong? – Q.M. from Oklahoma City
Dear Q.M.: First off, good choice to stop that Dew. Every ounce of a regularly sweetened soft drink has about a teaspoon of sugar, 15 calories. So if you drink 32 ounces of Mountain Dew a day, you’re getting 32 teaspoons of sugar — close to 500 calories — which is, by the way, the calories in a Big Mac. These are wasted calories.
Now, you would think using artificial sweeteners would allow you to lose weight, but study after study has shown they don’t work for weight loss even a tiny bit. In fact, a recent study out of the Canadian Medical Association showed that long-term use of the stuff increased the risk of getting high blood pressure and heart disease and becoming fatter.
Some theorize this is because sweeteners cause your metabolism to slow down, affect your gut bacteria (which we know so little about; how this influences our health is more important than anyone thinks) or just ramp up the appetite center.
And here’s a bait and switch many people mistakenly fall for: fruit juice. I see patients in my office all the time who say orange juice is great (which it is) so they drink a ton of it (which they shouldn’t). Every juice is a concentrated form of nutrition and, therefore, should be taken in concentrated amounts. A glass of O.J. should be like my mom gave me, 6 ounces.
My spin: Toss the diet stuff and head for water, straight up or bubbly. Flavor with a little fruit juice, just a splash, if you like, or just drink it plain.
Dear Doc: I’ve always loved to read and watch movies. Since I’ve been retired, I’m not nearly as active. I know I don’t get anywhere near those 10,000 steps you always talk about. I feel guilty.
At one time, people thought it healthy just to tighten your muscles while sitting. I wondered if I stand up while watching TV or reading will that help? – D.M. from New York
Dear D.M.: Anything you do other than sitting helps. Sitting is the new smoking. Study after study shows it’s an independent risk factor for premature death — from heart disease to stroke and colon cancer.
So to answer your query, yes, standing will help but it’s not enough. Get an activity tracker (I like the MisFit because it’s inexpensive and uses a small battery so you don’t need to charge it every night) and get those feet going. You need to be over 1,500 steps to maintain even minimal health; 10,000 is a laudable goal, but even 2,500 or 5,000 will get you on the right track. Get moving. And stay well.