Vail Daily column: Getting to the root of weight gain |

Vail Daily column: Getting to the root of weight gain

I was reading the news the morning after a successful Thanksgiving dinner with close friends and family.

Several news headlines highlighted articles with tips on how to mitigate the risk of holiday weight gain. Most of the advice I read was counter to a lot of the instruction I provided in last week’s article for navigating this time of year, and some advice was fairly common knowledge discussing the virtues of moderation, exercise and practicing regular eating habits.

Here is the problem. What are regular eating habits? What is the ideal exercise program? There are more than a few diet and self-help books on the shelf today that clearly conflict one another. After all, if there was only one way to eat right and exercise, then there wouldn’t be a market for so many books that promise success.

Some years ago, I trained a middle-aged woman who was reasonably fit. She possessed several measurable qualities of fitness that were developed well above fit peers of similar age. She was 20 pounds overweight, though. I remember her coming in for a morning workout fully wiped out and unable to perform the exercises planned for the day.

I asked her why she was so tired. She had hiked several miles up the mountain in the middle of the night hours before. She attempted a four-hour snowshoe tour because she felt guilty about eating an entire loaf of bread for dinner. The snowshoe adventure was a consequence to help burn off the bread that would’ve ultimately ended up on her rear end. By the way, this woman struggled with this teeter-totter effect for years.

She was consumed with exercise to combat the struggle with food addiction. Or was it the other way around? Was she addicted to exercise, and the demands exercise placed on her body signaled for increased food intake that left her feeling guilty?

We have a problem with obesity in this country that has far greater implications. If we as a country look at obesity as a nail because we only have a hammer as a tool, then we’re going to continue to miss it. When I struggled with my weight when I was a child, it wasn’t because I was hungry all the time. It had nothing to do with being inactive, lazy or because of a slow metabolism.

I skied, played hockey and participated in every other youth sport around. Physical inactivity has nothing to do with these issues. I struggled with my weight because food was my drug of choice to cope with family problems that surrounded my youth. Excess weight is often a symptom of a much larger problem for people who struggle with this issue. When you dig deeper, every single person who struggles with weight has emotional and spiritual issues, a few outliers notwithstanding.

We don’t need another book or guru to tell you how to live a healthy life. Even though I have strong opinions on proper diet, it’s really not complicated in the grand scheme of things. People must find a way to eat less. As you recover from the Thanksgiving hangover, ask yourself the following.

Why are you eating so much in the first place? What area(s) of your life is out of order that is replaced with food as a coping mechanism? What about those of you who cope with life from exercising too much?

Exercise is great at combating stress, and I clearly approve of this habit. But a lot of us take it too far and have very unhealthy relationships with exercise, too.

I’m not telling you that you shouldn’t indulge this holiday season or other times of the year. I’m not suggesting you ought to feel guilty about it either.

This is merely a reminder that during this holiday season, or anytime for that matter, perform an inventory on your life to seek to understand the underlying issues surrounding your inability to be your best and maintain a healthy weight. Understanding these issues can help guide you to take the right steps to overcome struggles with weight or other fitness related problems.

Have a happy holiday season!

Ryan Richards has a B.S. from Ohio University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the personal trainer at the Sonnenalp Golf Club and the owner of R2HP, an athlete consulting and personal training company. Richards’ passion comes from overcoming childhood obesity and a T1-L3 spinal fusion. Contact him at and 970-401-0720.

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