Explain my gain (weight) and my loss (motivation/sanity).
February 16, 2009 11:49 AM   Subscribe

I gained 6 lbs. overnight. WTF!

I am a committed runner and healthy eater who lost 50 lbs. over the last year by changing my lifestyle and eating habits completely. I am now at a weight I am happy with and work to maintain it.

On Saturday night I snacked A LOT because I was, heh, a tad inebriated and stopped policing myself so damn vigilantly. I ate chips, bean dip, salsa, carrots, grapes, even some m&m's. A LOT of all of it especially considering I'd had a big, indulgent dinner.

All the stuff I ate was from Trader Joe's and so it was mostly the not so bad for you kind of bad for you food--flax seed chips, blue corn tortilla chips, bean dip, salsa and crackers with good ingredients, etc. However, I ate a ton and I felt totally manic while doing so. Having lost a lot of weight and becoming somewhat obsessive about maintaining not just my weight, but my commitment to eating mindfully (I used to be a wicked bad emotional/bored/anxious/angry eater), it feels horribly bad to overdo it like this.

I guess my question is how did I gain 6 lbs in one night? Will this weight stick or is it water retention weight from salty snacks? I'm already 2 lbs. lighter, so I guess it's already showing itself to be not "real" weight gain. I am trying to think of this as "relapse is part of recovery" and use it as a good reminder to not go crazy like this. My other question, if it's kosher to ask something related, is can you help me see this in a different way and not be so down on myself about it that I lose motivation or beat myself up? Obviously I need to lighten up a bit on myself and not let it run the rest of my weekend (which, yeah, it did) because I'm obsessing about what I ate or what I should eat/not eat to "compensate" for the binge.

Thanks, a lot, hive mind. I'm going a little crazy.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (36 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I would definitely say its going to be water weight that will drop off in the next few days. To gain 6lbs in weight thats 21,600 cals. I am confident you didn't put away that many cals!!

We all have little lapses now and again from the diet. I know i certainly do! once a month I will end up pigging out at the local mexican or going nuts on some chinese food. But for the other 20 days off the month I eat right so I dont worry about it.

As long as you dont lapse everyday you will be fine!
posted by moochoo at 11:54 AM on February 16, 2009

Have you taken a poop yet?
posted by jellywerker at 11:55 AM on February 16, 2009 [9 favorites]

i meant 30 days, damn i should preview before posting
posted by moochoo at 11:55 AM on February 16, 2009

i fluctuate by 5 lbs all the time. Like weigh 5 lbs more in the morning than I do at night or visa versa. It's totally just water weight or whatever. A think a 5 lb range is pretty normal. or i am a freak :)
posted by ChloeMills at 11:59 AM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yeah, you're probably retaining a lot of food bulk (depending on how fast your guts work) and water. The water is due to all the extra salt you took in - chips, crackers, salsa.

Really, your body can only take in so many calories in a given amount of time - you don't make enough digestive juices to take in any more than 6000 calories in a given day (which is why Tour De France cyclists are so grotesquely skinny by the end - try riding 8000 cal/day and maintain weight!).
posted by notsnot at 12:01 PM on February 16, 2009

I believe there's an upper bound to how many kcalories worth of food your body can metabolize in a day, so it's almost cerainly impossible (if not practically improbable) that you gained 6 lbs in fat. moochoo is right -- it's probably water weight. In fact, if you were drinking beer, that probably accounts for a good part of the weight difference. Also what ChloeMills said -- people tend to fluctuate about +/- 2.5 lbs in water weight day-to-day. When are you weighing yourself? You should do it in the morning after going to the bathroom for a consistent reading.
posted by spiderskull at 12:02 PM on February 16, 2009

Weight yourself at the same time every day -- ideally just when you wake up. Wear the same type of outfit.

Every week, average out your weight for the week.

I personally don't think people should care about their weight, but if you're going to, this is the number you should focus on, not the daily, or even hourly fluctuations.

(Also, keep running and don't sweat it. You're doing fine.)
posted by Damn That Television at 12:04 PM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

You didn't gain six pounds overnight. 3500*6=21000 calories.

If you're serious about maintaining your weight over time, it can really help to keep a running average of your weight, in order to filter out the kind of daily fluctuation (likely due to water, fiber and bulk) that you're talking about here.
posted by OmieWise at 12:04 PM on February 16, 2009

To answer your pony/last question, since you've already hit your target weight, think about maintaining that weight by keeping it within a certain range. A while back I lost twenty pounds to be at the weight I am now. Instead of trying to keep my weight at this exact number, I have told myself "well as long as I keep it between five pounds below this and five pounds above this" then I'm doing fine, and it allows for a little overeating every once in a while. So far I have not had a problem. The only time in the last few years I have approached the upper end of the range, I would just scale back on the calories and take walks.
posted by greta simone at 12:04 PM on February 16, 2009

A pint's a pound the world around. So you are retaining 5 pints of water, probably due to salty snacks and water absorbed in grains that are still digesting.
posted by Gungho at 12:04 PM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's water weight. I don't believe it's physically possible to gain that much actual body mass in a single day. I've lost nearly 80 lbs in the last couple of years from running too (and will be running my first marathon this spring!), and I see my weight go up and down by as much as 4-5 pounds regularly (though not usually in a single day). A binge at a party is no big deal, assuming you don't go to parties like that every week. It's the long term pattern that's important, not how far you've run or eaten on a given day. Congratulations on your healthy lifestyle changes - you should be proud of yourself!
posted by dchase at 12:09 PM on February 16, 2009

Go read The Hacker's Diet, especially The Rubber Bag, but also Signal and Noise:
Every day your body ingests plenty of water and disposes of even more. Most of the changes in weight you see from day to day on a scale reflect nothing more than how much water is in the rubber bag at the moment. Consider: if you pig out to the extent of three slices of pizza before bedtime every night for a whole month, you'll gain about four pounds as the lingering souvenir of your month of wild abandon. Yet even that extreme weight gain is less than half your daily intake and disposal of water.
posted by PercussivePaul at 12:09 PM on February 16, 2009 [3 favorites]

I've been using the weightbot iphone app for the past month so I record my weight everyday. It fluctuates by a few pounds almost every day.
posted by special-k at 12:11 PM on February 16, 2009

I think you should simply commit to exercising a little more after you indulge. Not as punishment, just as an agreement with yourself: I will indulge today and work a little harder this week. That's the end of it. In moderation, this is a helpful tool that will keep reiterating that you get to make these choices every day and you can choose differently today than you did yesterday without all of your hard work falling apart. Because you get to choose again tomorrow! But I also hope that bargaining with exercise won't transfer your food "obsession" to an exercise obsession.

Your relationship with food sounds complicated. The problem sounds like it is less about how to make up for the indulgence and more about how to avoid allowing this to run (or ruin?) your weekend. You say you used to be a "emotional/bored/anxious/angry eater". You need to look at the way you feel about food now and make sure that you really aren't falling back into those traps. It's good to check in on yourself when you know you have those tendencies.

You've done some amazing work and changed your life in the last year! Congratulations. Be proud of yourself. And forgive yourself. And give yourself a little more room to live, fluctuate, and be happy now that you have reached and maintained your goal.

Just to be clear, I don't mean any of my quotation marks in a mocking manner at all. I just wanted to mirror the language you used.
posted by juliplease at 12:18 PM on February 16, 2009

You're worried about the amount of fat on your body, not the absolute weight of your body and it's contents. Water and food sitting in your stomach shouldn't be your concern. And yeah, there's no way you ate 21,600 calories worth of food in one sitting!
posted by delmoi at 12:24 PM on February 16, 2009

At this point in your regimen (if you're just maintaining) it's probably counter-productive to weigh yourself every day. I understand the need to weigh yourself daily during weight loss, its great for keeping you honest, but the fluctuations will kill you. Weigh yourself every 3 days or so and look for a consistent change over a couple of weigh-ins before you start to worry.

You should be able to indulge once a week without a problem. Some will even say its a good habit to "shock the system" every so often to keep your metabolism in good shape.
posted by bitdamaged at 12:26 PM on February 16, 2009

You haven't said what you weighed yourself on. Unless your scales are medical-grade (and therefore pretty expensive) they can't be entirely relied upon. Mrs Morte, who has a small business helping people lose weight, found that her old scales tended to be very temperature-dependant - driving to a client's house in cold weather would cause the scales to show several pounds below the correct weight. I remember when I was losing weight that sometimes I could get on and off the (completely different set of) scales and gain or lose two pounds over a period of seconds. Just another possibility to add to the list...
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 12:28 PM on February 16, 2009

I will nth the "weight fluctuates" comments. I am trying to get in better shape, and I am constantly frustrated by the fact that my weight doesn't go in a straight downward line.

What I should probably do is just weigh in once a week, but I can't resist doing it after every workout. So my system is this: no one weigh-in "counts" on its own. I average my weight over three or four days and that is my weight for that week. Using this system, I see at least a small loss every single week.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:36 PM on February 16, 2009

here's another little piece of info: a gallon of water weighs about 8 pounds. that you should be carrying 6 pounds of water weight after a night of eating salty snacks seems quite reasonable. you'll sweat it out soon enough, just keep on keepin' on with your regimen.
posted by fancyoats at 12:43 PM on February 16, 2009

Stop weighing yourself so often.
posted by sunshinesky at 12:45 PM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Water weight. Glycogen complexes with a lot of water when it is stored in the liver.
posted by NucleophilicAttack at 12:48 PM on February 16, 2009

Stop weighing yourself so often.

Actually I disagree with this. Because weight is an inherently noisy measurement, the best approach is more measurement, not less. Less frequent measurements could give a false impression if you happen to be above the mean several times in a row. You have to recognize that every time you step on the scale you are going to be +- 5 pounds of your "real" weight, which means that going from one day to the next it might appear that you've gained (or lost) as much as ten pounds, when in fact there has been no "real" change. The answer is frequent measurements and a moving average so the real trend is visible. Plot your weight on a graph every day so you can see how it's changing over time. (It's all in The Hacker's Diet.)
posted by PercussivePaul at 12:56 PM on February 16, 2009

I agree with you on an intellectual level. I should have said "stop caring so much".
posted by sunshinesky at 12:57 PM on February 16, 2009

As you can see, people who diet are obsessed with numbers. Don't weigh yourself or count calories. It creates stress. Stress creates fat. If you know you're eating well and exercising, the weight will drop off regardless.

Measuring, weighing, calorie-counting, ridiculous "iPhone apps" all make dieting much more difficult than it really has to be.

You don't need science to lose weight. You need common sense.
posted by Zambrano at 12:57 PM on February 16, 2009

It's undoubtedly water weight and poop. I mean, flax seeds and bean dip? I hope you have a book by the toilet. You might be in there for awhile.

Don't listen to PercussivePaul--there are really good psychological reasons for not weighing yourself daily, namely that you'll flip out if you're dehydrated or haven't shat or, say, haven't showered (you'd be surprised by how much you sweat out in a normal shower) and, if you're female, weight fluctuations due to your menstrual cycle and this could all lead you to a cycle of self-loathing and into eating disorder territory. In fact, what you did last night sounds like binging--particularly the manic part--which suggests that it's not a change you're going to be able to sustain indefinitely, because you're probably depriving yourself too much. If you have to weigh yourself you can easily track progress by doing so once a month (if you're female, at the same time in your cycle).

It's really, really rare that I agree with Zambrano about anything weight related--I'm into intuitive eating and health at any size and haven't owned a scale in years because it made me crazy--but he's right. You're generally eating well and exercising. Focusing on micromeasurements of "success" (calories and weight) is just going to stress you out needlessly.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:48 PM on February 16, 2009

I would respectfully ask that you read the Hacker's Diet before deciding whether to listen to me or not, since I'm only trying to briefly summarize it and perhaps failing to convey what I see to be the elegance of its argument, being that better measurement and understanding of the processes in your body can remove the psychological power of the numbers on the scale (which are inaccurate anyway).
posted by PercussivePaul at 2:08 PM on February 16, 2009

nthingn-th power normal daily weight fluctuation from fluids. I was also going to link to the Hacker's Diet on this, but I see PercussivePaul linked there upthread.
posted by zippy at 2:09 PM on February 16, 2009

as everyone has said a gallon of water weights 8.33 lbs. You eat some salty foods and retain some extra water a long with some drinking you will start absorbing pounds of water.
posted by Black_Umbrella at 3:01 PM on February 16, 2009

follow-up from the OP
- I weigh myself on the same scale each day (naked!) as soon as I wake up which is generally between 6 and 7:30 a.m. My initial reason for doing it every day was actually so that I can be sure I'm no longer losing any more weight. However, it is driving me a little crazy as people in this thread have suggested it may and is having the total opposite effect, which is that I am overpolicing. So, I might start to do it twice per week and average.

- Several people have pinpointed my unhealthy relationship to food/weight. I am aware of it and put into place various practices to try to manage them or make myself "better" about food. But they end up just being something that makes me obsess more. Weighing myself daily is an example of this.

- Does any one have any recommendations for books or other resources (practices, activities, anything) that I can use to help me have a much better/healthier relationship to food and eating? My unhealthy overindulging has become unhealthy underindulging and it builds and builds until I need a release that ends up making me feel very guilty. What's more, I fear that as I get more and more serious about running, I am not eating enough/right to fuel my exercise. I know I need to address this but I just don't know how.

- I'm in therapy. Any food/eating/weight-specific resources for being healthy, maintaining weight and maintaining a healthy attitude would be greatly appreciated.

- Thank you, everyone, especially juliplease, dchase and Damn That Television, who offered helpful suggestions and very supportive and caring comments. It occurred to me once I read the comments in the thread that I was as in need of support as I was answers. Not appropriate for AskMe, so I apologize, but I only realized it after the fact.

- If this thread is getting too complicated and off track and anyone would like to contact me, I can be reached at sixlbswtf@yahoo.com and appreciate any and all help and support.

- Thank you all so very much.
posted by jessamyn at 3:28 PM on February 16, 2009

Speaking as an occasional binge eater with very little self control when it comes to food, I can tell you that every time I've had one of those completely out of control, glorious-yet-disgusting and shameful eating marathons, the weight didn't stay with me for more than a day. It'll all pass through. Just don't make a habit of it. Enjoy it for what it was.
posted by HotPatatta at 3:43 PM on February 16, 2009

A really good app to keep track of your weight is Google 15 which does a running 14 day average of your weight so a day to day fluctuation is nothing but a blip. I've had weeks where my input is a roller coaster, but my running average was still trending down. Helps you to keep your sanity.
posted by hindmost at 4:09 PM on February 16, 2009

If you want to learn more about our relationship with food, you should watch Frontline's Diet Wars.
posted by HotPatatta at 4:12 PM on February 16, 2009

It might be worth checking out Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food (a very different way of looking at food and nutrition compared to the way I, and I suspect you, grew up) and Mark Bittman's Food Matters. Both will probably be checked out of your local library (very popular right now) so try giving them a browse at your local bookstore.

Take care!
posted by wintersweet at 6:11 PM on February 16, 2009

I've heard good things about In Defense of Food. I'd also try reading The Obesity Myth and Kate Harding's Shapely Prose blog. The arguments you find there might be jarring--they're all about loving your body fat or thin and instead focusing on being healthy and functional, both psychologically and physically, but if you find yourself seriously undereating (and if you're a runner, you need fuel!), it might be a topic worth exploring.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:07 PM on February 16, 2009

Go run.

Carbs allow your body to retain water. One reason we tell athletes to carbo-load is to have your body suck up water before an event. All that retained water will help hold off dehydration. (A really good book on this is Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes by Monique Ryan.) You ate a ton of carby stuff, now your body is puffy with extra bloat. Go run and put that hydration to good use.

Don't beat yourself up about this, but consider what might have led you to the choice to overeat.
posted by 26.2 at 10:58 AM on February 17, 2009

Salty food + beverages = water retention.
posted by theora55 at 11:53 AM on February 17, 2009

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