Is it OK to go into winter with a few extra pounds? - (11/2/2021)

By Dr. Ron Gasbarro 

Three bears came into the pharmacy and went up to the pharmacist. The pharmacist was not afraid, however, because they were his patients. "Did you boys come in for a flu shot?" the pharmacist asked. "I think Benjie got one," said Andy Bear, "But I haven't gotten one, and neither has Charlie Bear." Then Benjie Bear growled, "What we are really here for is to talk about our winter medications! You see, I will be going South for the winter," said Benjie. "Would the pharmacist down there be able to transfer my prescriptions if I need them?" "Yes," said the pharmacist. "Just have your pharmacy call me." "I need to put my prescriptions on hold because I will be hibernating in my cave by the lake," announced Charlie Bear. "I will just be hanging at home this winter," said Andy Bear. "Winter is my favorite time to flop in front of the TV and do nothing."

The pharmacist was aware that the bears were bulked up for the winter. And going into the winter already overweight can be tricky, depending on how one spends that season. Remember, wintertime is replete with food-oriented holidays, lots of downtime, and snowstorms that can restrict one's physical activities. Research shows that we (the people, not the bears) tend to gain an average of 5 to 10 pounds during the winter months. However, like the bears, the amount of tonnage we accumulate during the frigid doldrums depends on our activity level. 

Example: Benjie Bear is going South for the winter. He will be swimming, playing tennis, and eating a combination of green salads and plump snowbirds (high in protein!) during his getaway. The same goes for humans. Take advantage of the excellent weather you paid good money for by being outdoors a lot (slathered in sunscreen) and hitting the tennis and basketball courts. Pools are aplenty (wear goggles). Bypass the potatoes and reach for the veggies and fruits. But remember, you can pig out at one meal a week and even one breakfast if you were super groovy. 

But most bears, like Charlie Bear, hibernate during the wintertime. These animals generally fatten up in the autumn. They significantly reduce their energy needs during hibernation by slowing their heart rates and dropping their body temps. If there is food around, they may wake up and forage. Since humans do not sleep all winter – as tempting as that is – one is wise to keep the caloric intake down. Warning, exercise is good only if it is taken slow and easy. Scoop your summer clothes off the treadmill and start walking sensibly. Do you think occasionally shoveling 4 feet of snow off a 50-foot walkway is exercise? Then, dial 9-1-1 first so that the ambulance guys can collect your dead body before rigor mortis sets in. Snowblowers are helpful if you are careful not to grind off a paw. 

Later that week, Andy Bear came hobbling into the pharmacy on a crutch, a bandage around his head, a cast on one arm, and his wife, Honeybee on the other arm. "What the devil…?" asked the pharmacist. "This lunkhead tried to get off the couch," Honeybee responded gruffly. "Then, he slipped on a jalapeño popper that was on the floor, banged his dumbbell head on the coffee table, and broke his arm trying to save his cheeseburger!" "It's lucky he is alive!" exclaimed the pharmacist. "His doctor has advised him to lose weight," Honeybee said. "At least, we could find a cave to hibernate in like Charlie Bear. But no, this meathead said he would miss all the sports shows. Benjie Bear said he would fly back up North and kick his bear butt, which is what he needs," warned Honeybee. 

Of course, what Andy Bear needs is recovery time. He also needs the help of a nutritionist to lose weight and change his lifestyle. Then, he will live longer and won't have to worry about Benjie Bear's attack on his behind. So, is it OK to go into winter with a few extra pounds? You choose the winter bear you want to be. 

Ron Gasbarro, PharmD, is a recovering pharmacist and writer-in-residence at Rx-Press.


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