New to Vegas? There’s a reason your clothes are a little tighter

Paid the security deposit and the first month’s rent. Took care of things down at the DMV. Found a few candidates for your soon-to-be-favorite coffeehouse and bar.

Welcome to Las Vegas. All that’s left is to check off the final item on your newcomer’s to-do list: Wait for the Vegas 15 to arrive.

The Vegas 15. Second cousin to the Freshman 15 and a depressingly accurate description for the extra pounds many newcomers gain after moving to the land of fine food, 24/7 coffee shops and ubiquitous buffets. And while you won’t find it in the scientific literature, many longtimers can remember all too well the physique-changing effects moving to Las Vegas wrought.

“I gained weight the first couple of months I was here,” recalls Damon McCune, who moved from Michigan to Las Vegas in 2004 and now is a dietitian and director of the didactic program in nutrition at UNLV.

“I want to say it was fairly substantial,” he adds, and its arrival was a shock.

“It was about 20 pounds,” McCune says, “and that was because I was trying everything.

“I think that happens to a lot of people. We have world-class food at every price point. But, for me, personally, I just loved food and wanted to try all of the new things.”

Dr. Jeffrey Ng, a Southern Nevada family practice physician, is wary of turning anecdotes into a syndrome. But he, too, has noticed that patients of recent Las Vegas vintage often do put on a few pounds three to six months after their arrival.

“I have patients who come in for a lot of weight issues,” Ng says. “I would say roughly 30 percent of my visits are directly (related to) weight. A lot of it is contributing to (high) blood pressure and diabetes, and usually a lot of joint pain and back pain, just because of the extra weight.”

“So, I probably focus a lot on weight loss and nutrition,” he says, and through proper nutrition, physical activity and weight loss, “I can probably eliminate a lot of medications doctors normally give.”

“We hear everything when it comes to what brought people in,” says Heather Avila, a leader and chief operating officer of Weight Watchers of Las Vegas.

“A common struggle we hear is people frequenting buffets. That can be either a challenge on how to navigate them or, what we hear once people start living on a program, is how easy navigating a buffet is.”

Granted, it’s not like new Las Vegans are the only diners who overindulge. McCune says statistical studies generally place Nevada in the middle of the pack in state-by-state comparisons of obesity rates.

And moving to any new city can be stressful, which can trigger overeating. For any newcomer, Avila says, the challenge would lie in “not knowing how to navigate our valley best to find those healthy (dining) choices.”

Still, Las Vegas newcomers also face a few temptations newcomers to Des Moines or Omaha don’t. For example, while newcomers everywhere are apt to incorporate food — church suppers, going out to dinner, inviting neighbors over for coffee — as a means of making friends and becoming familiar with their new homes, few cities have the sheer glut of always-open food purveyors found in Las Vegas.

Also, McCune says, here, “the places don’t close, so I can stay there and potentially consume more.

“Vegas is a 24-hour town, which is great. But it can cause some pitfalls. You can eat whatever you feel like, and whatever kind of food you want at 4 a.m., there’s a chance (a restaurant) is open. The same thing with alcohol. We don’t stop selling it, and there are a lot of empty calories in alcohol.”

“I used to work in Connecticut, and restaurants all closed at 9 o’clock, so if you don’t eat by 9 o’clock, there’s not much for you to eat,” Ng says. “Here in Las Vegas, you can go to Chinatown, you can go on the Strip, you can go to Red Rock casino and there’s something open.”

Southern Nevadans’ work schedules also can play havoc with healthy dining routines.

“A lot of times, people tell me, ‘I don’t have time to cook, so I go out to eat a lot,’ ” Ng says. “A lot of people are busy at their jobs and they don’t have time to sit down and have family meals.”

Ng says it’s common for patients to have insomnia and sleep apnea, both of which can be related to weight gain, and “I have to train my patients and say, ‘OK, if you’ve got to move from swing to graveyard, you’ve gotta eat differently.’ ”

Yet, Avila says, “we have seen that even shift workers can maintain healthy weight in regard to what time they eat.”

Las Vegas’ summer heat can be a problem, too, “especially for people who are moving here from other areas and aren’t used to the heat,” Avila says. “It’s a challenge for them to find a time of day they can get physical activity in the outdoors.”

Another potential problem: Newcomers to Las Vegas may embrace for a bit too long a tourist’s mentality that can make overindulgence routine.

“New folks come in, and all of a sudden it’s like you’re in Adventureland and you’re like a kid in the candy store, and you’ve got all of the stuff that you’re going out and trying,” says Tom Rosenberger, chairman of the hospitality management program at the College of Southern Nevada. “For the first few months, everybody overdoes it when they come to Las Vegas.”

“I was in Kansas City for two weeks and we went out and tried all of the places, and I put on five pounds, easy,” he adds. But Rosenberger was able to come back home and drop those pounds, while newcomers to Las Vegas already are home. So, careless newcomers easily can hang on to those new pounds for a long time.

“I have friends here who have great restaurants that I stay away from on a regular basis,” Rosenberger jokes. “No. 1, I can’t afford it, and No. 2, I can’t do that regularly.”

But, looking at things from a wineglass-half-full perspective, McCune says Las Vegas also probably has a “higher availability of, quote, healthier options when eating out.”

Attribute that, in part, to the comparatively large number of entertainment industry workers here — from performers in shows on the Strip to nightclub hostesses and models — for whom keeping slim is a job requirement, McCune says.

Similarly, every buffet and coffee shop in town is apt to have more nutritious items on its menu, as well as the caloric favorites.

“We, as dietitians, really try to emphasize there are no bad foods, and there truly is a way to incorporate any food into a healthy diet,” McCune says. “So even if you go through the drive-through, it doesn’t mean you can’t order something that’s, quote, healthy.”

Also on the upside, Las Vegans enjoy easy access to prime outdoor recreational venues ranging from city and county parks to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and Mount Charleston, “so you can be very active here,” McCune says.

And, unlike many other cities, “one of the things Las Vegas has is 24-hour access to fitness facilities,” McCune says.

For newcomers and longtimers alike, keeping the Vegas 15 at bay requires making smart food choices, watching the size of portions and maintaining physical activity. McCune says such strategies as walking the length of a buffet before filling your plate also can help, as well as remembering that “just because it’s all you can eat doesn’t mean you need to eat all you can.”

In the end, McCune says, remember that “you’re not a tourist anymore.”

Read more from John Przybys at Contact him at and follow @JJPrzybys on Twitter.

Rev. Father Seraphim Ramos talks about Greek Orthodox icons during an interview with the LVRJ
Rev. Father Seraphim Ramos talks about Greek Orthodox icons during an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Holiday poultry with Tim and Chemaine Jensen of Village Meat & Wine
Holiday poultry with Tim and Chemaine Jensen of Village Meat & Wine
Catholic Charities hosts early Christmas meal
Students from the Bishop Gorman High School football and cheerleader team helped to serve food at the Christmas meal sponsored by the Frank and Victoria Fertitta Foundation at Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada on Sunday. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Incarcerated Christmas
This is the fourth year HOPE for Prisoners has worked with the Nevada Department of Corrections to create a Christmas for prisoners to visit their families. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
2018 Homeless Vigil
Straight From The Streets holds its 23rd annual vigil to remember the 179 homeless individuals who died in Clark County this year.
Getting through the Holiday blues
Psychologist Whitney Owens offers advice on keeping your mental health in check during the Holiday season in Henderson, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Operation Homefront Holiday Meals for Military
Operation Homefront Holiday Meals for Military program gave meal kits to 200 families at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10047 in Las Vegas Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. It all started with a chance encounter in a supermarket in Utica, N.Y., near Fort Drum. A soldier, his wife and infant had a handful of grocery items they couldn't afford. A Beam Suntory employee picked up the $12 cost for the groceries. The program has grown from providing 500 meal kits to military families in 2009 to providing more than 7,000 nationally this holiday season.K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal @KMCannonPhoto
An elegant Tea Party for substance abuse and homeless women
An elegant Tea Party for substance abuse and homeless women at WestCare Women Children Campus in Las Vegas. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Former 51s manager Wally Backman chats about new job
Former Las Vegas 51s manager Wally Backman talks about his new job with the independent league Long Island Ducks during the Baseball Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Dec. 10, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Inside the kitchen at Springs Preserve
The staff of Divine Events do party preparation in the kitchen at Divine Cafe at Springs Preserve. With nine parties the following day, this is a particularly busy time for the crew. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pearl Harbor survivor Edward Hall talks about his memories of Dec. 7, 1941
U.S. Army Corps Edward Hall, a 95-year-old survivor of Pearl Harbor talks about his memories of that horrific day. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Roy Choi on cooking for Park MGM employees
As he prepares to open his new restaurant Best Friend later this month at Park MGM, celebrity chef Roy Choi took the time to cook for the resort’s employees Tuesday. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Best Friend Menu Reveal Wednesday
Chef Roy Choi tells us what to expect from Wednesday’s Facebook Live Menu Reveal for his new Park MGM restaurant Best Friend. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Great Santa Run
People participated in the 14th annual Las Vegas Great Santa Run which raises cubs for Opportunity Village.
World Holidays Exhibit At The Natural History Museum
Migratory Bird Day teaches adults and kids to celebrate birds
Different organizations offered activities for kids and adults to learn about birds and celebrate their migration journey at Sunset Park. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
"Jackson: The Red Rock Canyon Burro" is a children's book about Red Rock Canyon
"Jackson: The Red Rock Canyon Burro" is a children's book about Red Rock Canyon (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Interfaith Amigos speak in Las Vegas
Celebrity photographer dedicates dance book to Las Vegas shooting victims
Behind the scenes with local celebrity photographer Jerry Metellus as he talks about his Dance For Vegas coffee book dedicated to the 58 victims of the October 1 shooting. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like